Ooki Akijiro (Jesuit Priest)
A children's doctor from Kagoshima (Japan) visited me. Our conversation fell on the attitudes and conduct of young Japanese and their short temper. Recalling the past she mentioned that, no matter the babies cried for milk, the mothers made them patiently wait till the proper time came. If mothers were so strong, young people would not probably lose their temper so fast.
Children have become intoxicated by been given all day long soft drinks, ice cream and gum, mobile phones, CDs and TV shows. Once those incentives are cut off, people cannot control themselves. It is not a surprise because since early years children have being accustomed to such a life.
It is not only a problem for babies, children or people in their seventies. There are all kinds of intoxication along one's life and many persons fell victims of situations of prohibition. This phenomenon can affect not only individuals but groups also.
About 23 years ago I started a Rehabilitation Center for disabled children in Pokhara (Nepal). I strove to build up a school, from nothing, together with 5 children at that time. The children actively participated with joy in gymnastics, in the curriculum courses, in arts and in out-school gardening. When I was absent because of some business, one of the teachers working in the school took full responsibility without any problem. The children acted submissively and docilely.
At present 25 disabled children attend daily school and 10 teachers, myself included, take care of them, but we continually meet new problems. The cases of disobedient children are clearly increasing.
At one time, no matter how much the children grumbled, most of the poor families did not pay attention to them. The reality was that they would not give even a candy to selfish children. On the opposite, as a matter of fact, children were often kept busy by helping their parents..
Nepal still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Nevertheless, the level of life has risen in such a way that, when children cry they receive biscuits from their parents. Docile and patient children have greatly diminished. The more children that belong to middle or upper class are considered to be educated, the more egoistic they are. They become materially spoiled and are erroneously loved.
Here we experience the negative effects of material abundance.
I am often surprised to meet Japanese visitor students that do not know that, ethically speaking, human nature is good and evil. But a bigger problem is that actual "leaders" lack a clear vision to discern about good or evil, and to hold basic principles for the elucidation of the world's and one's life direction, for reflecting on social issues and in order to understand the human person.
Although human beings have to face death, everybody considers human life as the "most sublime value on earth." It is so much that way that international and social issues are discussed and induced by such a dimension. This belief influences the economy and education.
One can easily find lots of people with alternative value systems to the one of "human life." Their highest value would be authority, material wealth, fame, the family and relatives, their ethnic race or social class, the good of their country or province, the gain of their companies or their political parties. They do not know the basics of society, human life and the human person.
I heard long time ago that Sophia University made compulsory the subject of "humanity" (ningengaku) for all university students.
At one time, when I was a teacher at Eiko School, I helped with the editing of a textbook on "Social Ethics," The Great Human Person, published by the deceased Fathers Hellweg and Tomita, for the Catholic Middle and High schools. The textbook was easily written, and was based on Theodicy and Anthropology of scholastic philosophy. It drew its content from what is called "Philosophia Perennis" of authors like Greek Aristotle and the Five Ways and Methods of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is a study on the Human Person and on the existence of a Transcendental Supreme Being.
Unless there is an understanding of such vital issues, all theories on human life and human existence, on society and the world are, after all, nothing but vain discussions that cannot surpass human reasoning.
At one time, when the General Assembly of the UN discussed the issue of basic Human Rights and voted upon a UN Declaration on the matter, it rejected the proposal of the Communist Block under the leadership of the USSR that was based on materialistic atheism. Instead, the final declaration adopted took as a frame the content of the Philosophia Perennis of the Catholic French thinker Gabriel Marcel.
Issues like the human rights of disabled people, women and children, or the universal use of the world resources and the preservation of the environment, war and peace, humanitarian sense, justice and the economy can be taken as "Modern Good Sense." But all these will arrive to an irrational conclusion when they are based on the natural law of the jungle. A materialistic vision of the human person and an atheistic world's vision are totally unnatural reasoning.
It is no wonder that, when morality does not presuppose human spirituality and the immortality of the soul, there is no working counseling regarding 'patronage dating.' When short-tempered young people question "what is bad about killing?" could judges who only hold human values and a vision, based on the doctrine of evolution, convince the young?
University students in Nepal express it bluntly. "There were 4 different religions in our country: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and a few Christian communities. We have now a 5th religion that is developing fast: The University or Materialistic belief. We are not bound any more by any religious or moral doctrine."
The image that TV shows and movies give on the University students of this country is one of pursuing fashion and pleasure. Students act violently and, getting away from lectures, manage unjustly to end their exams. They give the impression that, if they could be exempted through personal connections, everything has already been accomplished. It is only an image of deteriorated secularism.
There is no compulsory education in Nepal. Out of about 11 million school-age-children there would be near 3 million children attending school, including those who dropped from first and second year of Primary education. And as a result of such an educational environment, those who have access to University should be a blessed elite. Nevertheless, they do not have any ambition or a sense of obligation, neither any awareness of social responsibility. If there were something, it would be a traditional sense of cast, or maybe a sense of superiority cast, based on wealth and high education.
Foreigners that visited Nepal, in the past, got in love with this country because of its naive and unsophisticated people, but nowadays Nepal has become unstable due to the Maoist rampancy.
The country, that had been an absolute monarchy abusing the name of the King, became a democratic institution 10 years ago, but, because the level of education was low (the literacy rate was about 30% only), national development as well as all kinds of reforms did not make any progress. Political leaders, taking advantage of all kinds of corruption and power struggles, do not take any responsibility and the poverty gap is always increasing by geometric progression.
The Maoists, feeling a righteous indignation at the daily do-nothing attitude of the political establishment, raised up, but without holding any theoretical background. Thinking that, "the aim justifies the means," they started a movement of destruction. Their goal is to purify society and the whole country of all corruption.
Japanese visitors put questions like this to me: "What do you think of the luxurious life style of the King and the wealthy families in Katmandu?"
It is said that the average yearly personal income of the Nepalese is about US$200. (In Japan the personal income has reached over US$24,000) The high class in Nepal, 10% of the population, shares 30% of the whole national income. On the other hand, a special elite that constitutes only 3% of the whole population monopolizes 30% of the remaining national income.
The following was my answer to the Japanese visitors. "On one hand, 5 billion people on earth, out of the 6 billion world population, are left with the lowest life style. But, less than 1 billion people use and spend, at free will, over 80% of all resources on earth.If you look at Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, you would criticize the lavish spending and luxury of the royal family and wealthy elite.
But, when you take a world view, would you not criticize our own Japanese people that are also living as luxuriously as the wealthy in Katmandu?" I have to recognize that while I was answering I was perspiring with cold sweat.
I had been teaching ethics to middle and high school children for many years before coming to Nepal. I used the textbook mentioned above, The Great Human Person, to teach the basics of social ethics. At that time I was taking care of the subject, the application of social ethics.
Once people get the basis of social ethics you can deal with chastity and peace and with the theories of economics and politics, with issues of war. With such a basis, one can make others understand issues, like abortion, divorce or the Opium War. At the same time, the eyes of people can become wide open to criticize or even to agree with selfishness, apartheid or events like the ABCD encirclement against Japan during the war. With that ethical basis, one can explain that the natural law and the human way that consists in the acceptance of our souls made in the image of God are incompatible with the law of the jungle. One can make people perceive that radical capitalism and a non-ethical globalization are such a law of the jungle.
People coming to live in Nepal are astonished by the poverty of the ordinary people here. We think that "poverty" is the root of most human problems in the world. We notice the inequality of incomes, or in other words, the existing gap between the rich and the poor, and reach the conclusion that a situation of injustice is the source of all problems.
Some persons that were watching a football match during the last World Cup mentioned the lack of respect and arrogant attitude of some European players towards the African ones. Racial prejudices, an unjust superiority complex, discrimination and all issues concerning divisions between the North and the South are modern social cancers.
Criticism against terrorism is right. But, the attitude of conceiving it to arbitrarily impose force, in the name of justice and to angrily declare war against terrorism, without examining which were the deep reasons that provoked it, have to be considered. This is closely linked to the non-humanitarian official attitude of Israel towards the Palestinians.
Mother Theresa said once in an airport of the United States of America, "Right here in this country there are many of the poorest people in the world." Persons that do not have the things they should have they are poor and those that lack the most important ones, are the poorest. How many people do not possess the most important things a human person should have like, to know God and his love, to experience the love of God.
There is no limit to the numerous problems concerning the individual, families, society and the world, or concerning tragic events, suffering and unbearable pain. Nevertheless these are nothing but one-side phenomena. Could not these be considered a cross or a punishment that human kindness, separated from God or forgetting and despising him, must carry along?
The person that translated into Japanese Thomas Moore's "Utopia" must have been a literary genius. The word "u-topia" comes from the Greek word. It is a combination of two different meanings: "u / ou" means 'non-existing' in Greek and "topia / topos" means 'place.' The ideal land Moore conceived was a place that did not exist in this world. He was convinced of that.
We, Christians, also know that the Kingdom of God is not realized on earth. Nevertheless, we are convinced that, during the span of our lives until we are called to the heavenly kingdom, we are invited to build up a society that reflects the justice of the kingdom of God and somehow implements the will of God. Now, in order to accomplish this, we should not only work to produce better results, but should we not concentrate our efforts in bringing back to God our modern world separated from God? This is the basic foundation that can produce such better results.
As Matthew says "Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness" (Mt. 6:33)
Open your eyes around. People come asking for rice. There are families that have to pass the night wet and piled on each other at one corner of their shelter, because the rain flows through the rotten zinc roof. A baby wrapped in dirty cloth and left on the humid floor is crying. Flies gather around the face of an old woman that lies sick on the floor. She gargles with muddy water from a ditch.
Children go barefoot to school. Most of the children attending public schools do not bring lunch with them. Since they do not pay the school monthly fee they are not allowed to enter the classrooms. If they do not pay the fee for the examination they can not pass the exams at the end of the term. They can not buy a notebook. Give me pencils and erasers.
Teachers tell the students "With such bad marks you cannot proceed ahead. Take supplementary lessons. You have to improve your mathematics and English. Each lesson is 400 rupees." Families with a monthly income of 3,000 rupees have to spend 800 rupees for such lessons. But teachers do not care about how painful that could be.
To go to see a doctor is luxury in the countryside, but even people living in Pokhara spend their lives without seeing a doctor, no matter they are sick. Some groups visit magicians, because they are cheaper than using medicines. Patients go around selling their medicines. Public hospitals charge only 15 rupees for the first consultation, but they are hardly reliable. The doctor's advice to patients who can afford it is, "Come to my clinic tomorrow. Here I cannot examine you well." But, the first consultation in the clinic costs about 300 to 500 rupees. The doctor will see 15 patients before going to the hospital and another 15 more in the evening. There are no Nepalese doctors in other places, except the cities where they can enjoy such side jobs. There are also doctors that practically refuse to examine patients of low cast.
Parents of the upper cast shout: "do not oblige my son to sweep the floors." Guests of low casts are obliged to wash the cups they used after drinking. The "untouchables," no matter their desire to drink water, are refused to do it.
Every day several "terrorists" fall dead to the bullets of soldiers and armed police. Since martial law has been declared, constitutional rights are halted and the prohibition of public criticism of such a policy is also contained in the clauses of martial law.
But, apart from bloody affairs, the fight for political power goes constantly on. The head of the political party now in power, former Prime Minister Koirala, has removed the actual Prime Minister Deuba from the party's leadership, because he does not agree with his policy. Ordinary people are fed up with the upper class so much attached to social status, authority and efficiency that are the basis of tremendous unjust profits.
Ordinary citizens welcome a democratic government and a Prime Minister elected by the people, under the condition that everybody is attended with human respect at the windows of public works, of Post Offices and banks. They will agree with democratic principles when the military and police serve equally the people and when officials take responsibility for the safety of the works of public roads and bridges.
I spend my days in Pokhara repeating the words of St. Paul: "Maran atha, God come to us." (1Cor. 16:23)
===== Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved =====