Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 88Feb. 15, 1999

From Shimonoseki (12)
WORLD WITHOUT BARRIERS
Hayashi Hisashi
(Jesuit Labor Education Center)

"A switch in local governments from construction business-oriented to welfare oriented bodies". Such was the opening article of "Information" n.11, the newsletter of a citizens' group located in Shimonoseki called, "Building a Welfare Town". The group normally discusses together the rebuilding of their towns, in the midst of the social storming, provoked by business recession, unemployment, diminution of children and aging trends of the population and offers the common thinking of a normal citizen which originates from available research, data evaluation, dialogue and creative action for reforms. Their policies are based on their thinking regarding capital investment. To fight actual business recession, local governments should invest in social insurances rather than in public works. This will result in increases of employment opportunities. But, the prolongation of the actual industrial structures in order to survive, and if things go well, "let's dream as before" the present way of thinking will only accelerate the economic cooling off here.
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Last month, I had a traffic accident and was brought by ambulance to a nearby national hospital where I was interned for a short while. During my stay there I learned many things and I appreciate with gratitude the warm care I received from many people. Due, most probably, to the restructuring of hospitals and their difficulties for survival, the number of nurses can not meet the demands of their work and, naturally, the quality of medical services drops. Elderly persons, unable to use their hands, wait in front of their cold meals, set in front of them for 30 minutes, till a nurse comes to assist them. Patients, from several rooms, ring the bells to call the attention of the nurses and one can hear the favorite sayings of nurses running all over the place, "nurses are busy, you know. You are not the only one interned here". Everybody realizes that, but patients, like myself, that can not move are overrun by stress: "The distribution of the national budget is not fair, is it? If the Welfare Minister could be hospitalized here in this room, many things would change". I asked for a wheelchair to do things by myself, but the old ones had been sent out to be repaired, and the only ones available were too heavy for my injured arm, the brakes were loose and the front wheel was covered with dust. I am not aware of private medical centers, but with regard to local public hospitals, I felt shame that, up to now, I did not involve myself personally in the problems they are facing.

I remember the story of Mr. K, a representative of the group "Building a welfare town", who went by a motor-operated wheelchair to a JR railroad station and bought a ticket there, but then, he found out that, from 8 o'clock in the evening, there were no JR personnel in the station where he was getting off. So, he could not take the train. Instead, he rode by wheelchair the road that night. There are too many barriers in our towns obstructing rich human ties. Citizens of "Building a welfare town" have realized that and they are taking action to continue destroying barriers, one by one. Their motto is "Worlds free of barriers". They are, for instance, negotiating now with urban bus companies to introduce low-floor buses, a plan that is meeting with difficulties, due to high costs and driving problems. Since this type of buses have, already, been introduced by private companies, through public funding, in other regions, there is a possibility of good positive results.

There is an interesting book, "Gotai Fumanzoku", written in Japanese, which continues a best seller for the past three months. The author, a hereditary physically disabled person without his 4 limbs, expresses at ease his own life style. First, when his mother saw him after birth, she said "cute!!". He grew in his childhood supported by people and overcoming many strange barriers people had towards him. Quoting Helen Keller, the author says candidly, "A handicap is inconvenient, is not a misfortune, though". This best seller brings hope to today's Japan. It is, because it gives testimony to a sympathetic opening of hearts to the message of the Gospel: "worlds free of barriers".

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From the Editor

§§§ Influenza gets rampant all over Japan these days. From now on, it will seemingly spread to Europe and the American continent. According to North Korean newspapers, the population panting because of hunger is using "honey with ginger soup" as well as "garlic soup" to fight influenza. But the thought of bodily weak North Koreans, due to malnutrition, being attacked by influenza without access to sufficient medicines horrifies me.

§§§ Even thinking of disease, the poor are not equally treated as the rest. Striving for the prevention of flu, I want a world that pays attention to people's suffering.

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