Being good has never been easy. And it's not getting easier — unlike many things in this age of mass technological empowerment. If it were, presumably, there would be more good and less evil — unless evil is more attractive?

The monthly Sapio has dire fears on that score. Japan, it says, is being "swallowed up" by a "black society" — "black" in the sense of good people's worst nightmares come horrifyingly to life. You wonder as you read why civilization after thousands of years, or science after hundreds, or hyper-technology after tens, has failed to speed our evolution past this ugly and primeval stage.

"Good" and "evil," of course, are elastic terms. One age's good can be another's evil. An example fresh in the collective memory is this month's Supreme Court ruling striking down a Civil Code provision denying full inheritance rights to heirs born out of wedlock. The rank injustice of discriminating against children born, quite unwittingly, to parents not legally married seems glaringly clear, and in fact the ruling was unanimous; yet in 1995, less than 20 years ago, the same Supreme Court ruled the discrimination was right and just, a necessary protection of the institution of marriage, without which society might descend into a state of feral chaos.