Young people today are taught to expect things but are not taught their value or how to secure them, and adults are at fault for overprotecting and spoiling their offspring, according to psychiatrist Shizuo Machizawa.
This, he said, is made even worse by a society that values results over process.
Machizawa, upon whose recommendation the mother of the 17-year-old bus hijacker in Saga Prefecture had the boy institutionalized prior to his fatal attack earlier this month, said in a recent interview that he thinks the boy reflects the pathology of Japanese society.
The parents of today’s young people “believed that just giving (their children) love and whatever they wanted was the best way to raise them,” said Machizawa, a professor at Rikkyo University.
Adults who grew up during the decades of economic growth put priority on satisfying their children’s material needs and were generous with affection and commodities, he said. “But parents also must teach their children basic things, like the meaning of responsibility and discipline.”
Machizawa’s remarks indicate some factors believed responsible for juvenile delinquency, the causes of which are becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend.
Machizawa pointed out that while today’s kids are treated like kings at home, they are clumsy about relationships outside those walls because they are not at the focus of all that happens.
Such self-centered children lack the ability to sympathize with others, he said.
According to Machizawa, the teenage hijacker could not establish comfortable relationships with others but managed to make himself stand out by getting good grades during his junior high school years.
But he was the victim of escalating bullying, and after failing to gain entrance to the high school of his choice, the boy lost confidence and closed himself off from society, Machizawa said.
“Today, kids either have to look cool or get good grades to attract others’ attention in school. If you can do neither, chances are high that you’ll go unnoticed there,” Machizawa said.
The hijacker is reported to have left high school, his second-choice, after just over a week.
The boy reportedly turned to online chat rooms for escape, only to become another target of abuse there. “We’re really pissed off with you. Get lost and die!” read one anonymous message to the boy.
“Many kids who close their doors to society tend to escape to the virtual world and start communicating there,” Machizawa said. “But in the case of the bus hijacker, he has also become a target of online bullying. I guess the boy had nowhere else to escape to.”
Failing to make himself stand out through positive action, the boy instead decided to become what Machizawa calls a “negative hero” and dared to do something wrong but big because it drew attention.
Machizawa is critical of the social system, which places a greater value on the academic career of individuals than on their other abilities, saying it nearly forces children to focus their lives on studies to enter prestigious schools — a goal forced on them by adults.
But what they are taught in school is to memorize the right answers to questions, neglecting the thinking process, he said.
“It’s an all-or-nothing society,” Machizawa said. “Once they drop out of the ideal category and feel they’ve lost people’s attention, some kids get very depressed and life loses meaning to them.”
Today’s youth are caught in a dilemma, trapped between their parent’s overprotection and high expectations, and are suffocating.
Machizawa stressed that Japanese society must change, and tolerance must be taught to kids through the process of problem-solving.
“Finding the answers to life is difficult, but you need to be very tolerant to get on with it. Japanese should value the process of things over the results and teach all kids that they are precious individuals,” he said.