Monday, October 28, 2013
**DISCLAIMER: Though I've studied the culture, I've never actually been to Japan, so I would encourage anyone who has to share their experiences and critiques in the comments section below.**
This article came out in The Guardian a few days ago, and as I read it, the fascinating and alarming decline of Japan gave me some insights about the cultural situation in the United States. I highly encourage you to read it in full, but knowing you probably won't, I'll give a brief synopsis here.
Japan is dying, sexually. Young men and boys are growing up in a conservative culture, and do not have the knowledge or skills to start, let alone maintain, relationships. Many of these young men--old boys, really--live with their parents well into their 30's, secluded from the world, recluses, even called "parasitic singles." Of the more successful, independent ones, many are "engaging in a kind of passive rebellion against traditional Japanese masculinity," ditching the tandem responsibilities of a stressful career and romantic relationship entirely. 25% report feeling disgusted at any kind of sexual contact. I was particularly struck by a sex-worker-turned-therapist being interviewed, who said that the first thing she has to do with many of her male clients is to get them to "stop apologizing for their own physical existence."
Women, in the mean time, are beginning to discover their place in the workplace, and often reject marriage (and thus dating more generally) to protect their employment. Supporting a child is such an expensive endeavor in Japan that both parents would need to work to support the child, but 70% of women leave their job after their first child. This is sufficiently incentivized by both the economic demands of parenting and the pressures of a brutally judgmental and conservative culture. According to the author, "romantic commitment seems to represent burden and drudgery," and as a result, 90% of young women hold the single life to be preferable to marriage.
In short, Japanese relationships aren't working due to a combination of archaic cultural norms and the backlash-counterculture response, and as a result, emotional health is abysmal and childbirth rates are dwindling. Given current trends, it's entirely possible that Japan, an economically vibrant, technologically advanced industrial nation of the highest order, might dwindle into a hollow demographic shell of its current self in a single generation.
Let that thought and its implications rest on your mind for a moment.
Now, culture is something that populations grow and nurture over time. What is reaped is often beyond the lifetime or perception of those most responsible for producing it, so it is something we should consider and watch, accept and reject, individually, publicly and often. In the case of Japan, it would seem that an old and clearly inferior culture--in regards to maintaining healthy relationships--was not corrected or rejected soon enough. The expectations and stresses of living the 18th century lifestyle collided with 21st century living, an impossible demand to place on an entire generation.
It was while thinking about the effect of Feminism on Western society, especially American society, that I first picked out this article from Reddit's list of news, so I want to be very careful in how I proceed here. Feminism is not the problem in Japan. If anything, in fact, they could probably use a little bit of second-wave feminism, or a kind of individualistic, rights-based philosophy of some kind to cure them of their sexism and semi-xenophobic racism. To preempt any charges of racism myself, I want to clarify that we're talking about cultures here, not skin color, or place of birth, or whether you have attached earlobes or not (no less arbitrary than skin color), or whatever. Some cultures really are superior to others, and populations that adapt their cultures by taking in the best from others while avoiding the bad parts will end up with better societies. To demonstrate this, imagine that you're a lonely single looking for a romantic partner, and ask yourself whether you'd want to try your luck in Japan or in the United States.
Culture is a double-edged blade however. America is currently going through a viral phase of multiculturalism, which does two things very effectively. First, it takes away the dominant and superior parts of culture's ability to defend themselves on a moral level. Second, it lets in and then actively promotes and supports inferior or minority cultures. In other words, America is doing in a politically radical style what Japan was doing in a politically conservative style: trying to rig which cultural bits would come out on top.
The record of such attempts to plan out what culture should be like is very telling. The socially conservative culture in general is usually supported in order to preserve the family and to protect social order. Japan would be a classical case of central planning accomplishing the opposite of its intended goals (I'm reminded of stories of purity-ring rituals in the conservative Christian south, where society attempts to pressure women to stay celibate until marriage...the same region and culture is naturally home to eight out of ten of the states with the highest teenage pregnancy rates).
But of course, culture isn't solely responsible for Japan's plight. Economics plays a huge role in whether young people decide whether marriage, or sexual life generally, is worth pursuing...but it's difficult in this instance to talk about economics without talking about culture, specifically gender expectations, and provies a good segue into what's going on in the United States. In case you haven't been following the bitter Feminist/MRA battles, online and in legal policy, and even in video games, I'll attempt to summarize the entire complex history in its relevance to the present subject in two sentences. Feminists, in their effort to protect women and advance their rights, inadvertently put men in a situation where the financial, legal, and cultural incentives no longer make marriage (or even sex, sometimes) an attractive option. I'd encourage you to research this subject yourself, from both perspectives, but suffice to say that the incredible dual threat of alimony and child-support--the latter can be incurred even if it is not the father's own child--coupled with the statistic that most divorces are initiated by the woman, and on the grounds that the marriage isn't "satisfying," and the ever-looming danger of a malicious rape allegation, all of these combine to make marriage a discouraging and unattractive prospect for men, however attractive the lady may be.
Fortunately for our country, biology seems to be winning the battle against rational economics in decision-making, but we'd be better off by far if the two were on the same side. It isn't beyond the scope of possibility that the culture of feminism, if left unopposed, could inch us nearer to the demographic quagmire Japan has found itself in. Given our current economic state of affairs, the timing could not be much worse.