An Abyss of Despair

An Abyss of Despair

Quote from inventor Thomas Alva Edison. (Photo: AZ Quotes)

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.

— American track athlete Wilma Rudolph

The assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was unfortunate and unexpected and in truth, his slaying reeks of absurdity as his killer denied any political motive for his dastardly deed though proudly confessing to his crime.

We watched in a news report over television the hearse transporting Abe’s body as it arrived at the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo. It marked the loss of a friend to the Filipino people, who had not been selfish and openhanded in giving help to our country.

That fatal day of Abe’s killing began with an unusual flock of helicopters flying over the heads of the inhabitants of Japan’s historic Kansai region on Honshu Island. This vast area in the southern-central part of the island lays claim to the earliest beginnings of Japanese civilization for it used to be the political and cultural center of Japan for many centuries and includes the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe.

People lined the streets to watch the dazzling aerial display, not expecting anything unusual. Then the news struck, seemingly almost just a rumor: Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister, had been shot while delivering a speech in support of candidates of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Nara.

At the same time, it took for the news to be actually verified, and most Japanese failed to comprehend what had happened as most couldn’t believe what they heard at that moment.

They said, “Not here in Japan, not an attack, never a firearm.”

But this was far from the truth as Abe’s assassin, 41-year-old Testuya Yamagami, hit his target twice in the chest and at close range, leaving Japan’s erstwhile leader fatally wounded with no hope of survival from the brutal attack. Rushed to the nearby hospital in Kashihara to save his life but it was useless as he eventually expired while under treatment.

So a lot of people wonder what would happen to Japan now that its monument of national politics in the person of the former prime minister, who, because of his charisma and a good sense of leadership, was the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history. Just a stone’s throw away from Nara’s Yamato-Saidaiji train station, he had been gunned down right in front of a small crowd of about 30 people.

And indeed experts ponder about the deed because Japan—the vaunted Land of the Rising Sun—is a country that boasts little crime, moreover of assassinations of its venerated leaders. Japan, for a fact, is peopled with honor-driven individuals and it is a country where rallies are organized in front of an audience that looks emotionless. The low numbers of those who exercise their right to suffrage prove it.

But above all, Japan is a country where firearms are only allowed to the matagi, or deer hunters, who live in the cold northern provinces.

In Japan, street terrorists have a recognizable profile because they are mostly male, between 20 and 40 years old, suffer from very low tolerance to stress, are prone to anger, and are resentful towards a society that has aged and lacks the vibrancy of youth. For these immature few, life in the country with several urban centers translates into the suspension of human relationships and neighbors exchange greetings in indifferent relationships that are frozen in a cold and impersonal trend of traditional etiquette.

Japanese life has become an environment indifferent to the fate of individuals and above all, what unites terrorists and what makes Japanese workaholics most suspicious, is the lack of employment which seems true in the case of Tetsuya Yamagami.

It is no coincidence that after the 2007 crisis or what everyone in Japan calls the ‘Lehman Shock’, there was an explosion of a severe pathological form of social withdrawal known as hikikomori. This triggered an era of shushoku-hyougaki—the evocative expression that the Japanese used to define “the ice age of hiring” or the period of economic stagnation.

Added to the troubled time when young people find it difficult to look for a job, there was logic when they came to pay homage at Yamato Saidaiji and express words of gratitude for former Premier Abe, specifically for the efforts he made in the direction of bringing back a stagnant economy from the previous 20 years. Slowly, he had succeeded. He even initiated the winning policy of convincing Japanese women, who have always preferred the dining room to the office, to enter the job market. But today, Japan is suffering one of the lowest birth rates in its history and yet, these two things are not at all unrelated.

So, in contemplating what has been happening and will be happening in the Land of the Rising Sun, we Filipinos look to the current Philippine situation. There are striking similarities and some fear what has happened to Abe could happen as well in the Philippines. We think this because we fear for the life of a former president, who could be a victim despite having scored the highest acceptance percentage among Filipinos.

Isn’t it true that there are those who disagree with him on account of the bloody anti-drug war that has claimed thousands of lives he initiated? These are the people who have found themselves in an ‘abyss of despair’.

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