June 17, 2014
EDITORIAL: Young Japanese need help to outgrow defeatist mentality
An international survey has offered much reassurance to certain people who are pessimistic about Japan’s younger generations.
Some of these pessimists passionately argue that young Japanese do not take pride in their country because of “self-deprecating views” about Japanese history that have been firmly planted in their minds. Others vociferously claim that the consciousness of social norms among Japanese youth has declined because excessive individualism has prevailed.
They should feel a little easier now given the results of an online survey, conducted by the Cabinet Office from November to December 2013, covering males and females between the ages of 13 and 29 in Japan, South Korea, the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Sweden.
The survey drew responses from around 1,000 individuals in each country.
The findings were included in this year’s White Paper on Children and Young People that has been approved by the Cabinet.
Seventy percent of the Japanese respondents said they are proud of being their country’s nationals, the fourth-highest ratio following the figures for the United States, Sweden and Britain. In addition, 55 percent of the Japanese respondents said they want to do things that will contribute to their nation, the highest ratio among the seven countries.
When asked if they think individuals are free to do anything they want as long as they don’t cause trouble for others, only 42 percent of the Japanese young people said “yes,” a far lower ratio than the average of about 80 percent for the other countries.
Such a survey, of course, cannot reveal all of the views and feelings of young people. But it is still troubling to know that only 46 percent of the Japanese respondents felt content with themselves, compared with more than 70 percent in each of the six other countries.
How should we feel about the unique fact that far fewer young Japanese are content with themselves than those who are proud of their country?
The mind-set of children and young people of today offers hints about what is the invisible but prevailing mood in this society. There is no absolutely correct answer to the question. But we are tempted to think there is a strong undercurrent of a defeatist mentality symbolized by the Japanese word “dose” (anyway, in any case or after all) as used in such a sentence as “Dose dame da” (It's no use, anyway).
The survey found that just 62 percent of young Japanese had bright hopes for their future. Only 52 percent of the Japanese respondents were willing to tackle important challenges with enthusiasm even when success is not certain, while just 44 percent wanted to get involved in dealing with societal problems to make society better, according to the survey.
And only 30 percent of young Japanese said they think their participation may change even slightly the social phenomena they want improve. Japanese ranked at the bottom for all these questions.
“Dose” is a convenient word. If you don’t have high hopes, you can avoid disappointment. This can be described as a “happy” attitude toward life in this age of low economic growth.
If this “dose” mentality spreads, however, many people will view society, which they should shape themselves, as something that cannot be changed.
By playing certain roles in society, people fulfill their desire to be recognized by others and have positive feelings about their lives. A society dominated by the “dose” mind-set probably cannot perform that function well.
The current situation in Japan poses a serious test of the ability of the more-experienced adults to reject this defeatist mentality. They shouldn’t refuse this challenge by saying, “Such a naive approach can make no difference, anyway.”
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17