I have been having feelings of apathy lately towards human beings. Apathy and a pinch of exasperation. There are many things that I see here in Japan that just blow my mind sometimes. Some of it from the people here, and some of it from people around the world (that I read about via the intertubes).
Japan is very nature based. They respect it in a way that most Americans just don’t. At one time (maybe even to this day) they believed that Kami lived in the trees, rivers, mountains, and etc around them. This causes them to live in such a way that is typically much more environmentally friendly than what I have seen in the US. However, they have some behaviors that are such a stark contrast to this that it seems almost hypocritical to me. An example of this would be their continued tradition of hunting down whales for food.
Now, I realize that this might sound appalling to most anyone who would read this, but this practice was once a vital part of their culture and their people. However, now that almost all (if not all; I don’t know exactly) whales are endangered, I feel this should stop, seeing that 1) they are close to dying off, and 2) it was made illegal, I think. But, I see whale at the super market almost every time that I go grocery shopping. I am saddened and disgusted by this. Obviously, there is nothing that I can do about this by myself (especially when I live in BFN* Japan).
Another example of the contradiction of the culture here is that the Japanese people, I am told, still like using ivory for their hanko (a personalized stamp that is the equivalent of a signature). This is also something that just blows my mind. This is something that is highly illegal also, but it still apparently happens. I have never personally seen this before, and my own hanko is NOT made of ivory, but it’s not a surprise to me that this is something that happens. The Japanese people love luxurious things. Even in BFN, Japan, so many people have name brand items, and high-end shops are everywhere. I suppose ivory would fall under “luxury items”, but I can find no justification for still using it.
All of this came to a head for me earlier this week when I was doing research for a short speech I was going to give my kids. I chose to an article from the BBC news website about how West African lions are now considered critically endangered, which is something that makes me incredibly sad. When I brought up my idea to my supervisor and had him read it, he asked me what this had to do with my students and why should they care? I was absolutely stunned he would ask that. I responded with my opinion, but my supervisor remained unconvinced that this concerned my students at all. He asked me to whether I thought people or animals were more important, and my thought immediately was animals. I was asked if I would let the humans become extinct so that we could let the lions live. I thought, “We aren’t going extinct anytime soon. There are too many of us.” I clearly did not say either of these comments out loud. I had to fight hard to get him to let me have this speech to my students.
I think it says something about me, something that surprises me, that I would so quickly choose the earth and animals, etc. over humans. I am horrified at the way the world is now, and that we have made it this way. Humans do horrific things to not only each other but to the earth for many different reasons, from lack of education to just not giving a shit about anyone or anything but themselves. The worst part is that I cannot do a damn thing about it, not by myself. That is the harsh truth. I can’t make the Japanese stop eating whale or wanting to use ivory. I can’t stop the people in whatever places around the world stop killing each other or to stop poisoning the land. I can’t get those in First World countries to help or to give two shits. This is mighty discouraging.
This is the cause of my apathy towards humans. This is why sometimes I wish I could shake some sense and compassion into humanity as a whole. Clearly, I can’t do this, but I can do things that I think will help the world in what little way I can. The Gods know that I can do nothing more, and even though it kills me a little bit to know that I can only do so much, I will have to content myself with that.
So, I guess the next question I have is: What will you do to help the world?
* BFN= bum-fucked nowhere