In his March 8 article, “Rethinking the welfare state,” Hugh Cortazzi implies that a Japanese father, mother and son starved to death because they had too much pride. This is an utter misrepresentation of the case (as reported recently in the British press), and conveys a lack of understanding of human nature.
It was not pride in self-reliance or a healthy work ethic that prevented these people from suffering, but rather “false pride’.” A healthy pride is the result of personal mental or physical efficacy. Insofar as the family could not support themselves, they could only cling to an illusion. Evidence of this comes from their fear of what others think. It is a very Japanese quality to give so much weight to what others think. This is not a mark of self-love, but a renunciation of personal standards and values. As much as it might look “disciplined” and “proud’,” it’s a facade reflected in the broken Japanese families nationwide that preserve a pretense of health.
Cortazzi suggests that “Society has a duty to provide adequate help to the destitute.” This is precisely the problem; the epistemology that makes altruism possible is the theory of values that culminated in this false pride.
The solution is for people to live by their own standards and values — and not covet others’ wealth through an extortive tax system to derive pseudo-values.
The same renunciation of mind is what allowed politicians to precipitate the Great Depression, which caused poverty, which demanded welfare statism. Instead, we canvass this illusion of unconditional and intrinsic love.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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