My Tribute to the Victims of the Akihabara Massacre

My heart goes out to the victims of the recent Akihabara stabbing spree in Tokyo.

Like the school shootings in US, the random acts of violence are on the rise in Japan.

This is turning into a vicious cycle. It goes like this:

  1. A freaky murder/tragedy happens
  2. Media goes frenzy over the coverage, scrutinizing everything
  3. Government or community officials have to make policy adjustments to tighten security
  4. Everyone becomes more fearful, now that we know this can happen.
  5. The thought of committing such an act gets planted into other unstable minds
  6. The combined energy of everyone’s increased fear and the seeds planted into troubled few leads to a similar tragedy.
  7. Back to #1.

I’ve long feared for the Japanese society, a place where conformity is king and repression is the foundation of everyone’s emotional life. People are more introverted there, and there is really no cultural precedent to tell people to believe in themselves or take care of their own personal needs — we don’t even have language designed for such a message — because the needs of the whole rule over them all. It’s a society that enforces a rigid obedience of its collective cultural code. You fit in first, and then move around within your individual confinement.

It’s just a breeding ground of pent-up rage and desperation. These introverted, socially-inept men (it’s always men who do these things. Women tend to have a lot more latitude in terms of being able to express their emotions and let them out) bottling up a life time of anguish and loneliness. Of having to fit in but yet really not connecting to anyone.

The sad truth is that I can glimpse the kinds of thinking that drive a man to commit such an atrocity. It is an extreme form of sulking, of feeling victimized — to the point where you feel that you’re somehow off-the-hook from even human decency. You feel you have “no choice” but commit such an act because you’re so victimized. I’m sure all of us have excused ourselves from following our code of conduct that way at one point or another. When you feel compromised and let down, then you begin to think that your surroundings are at fault for making you do things that you know are not good.

All the betrayals, disappointments and hurt boil down to that single breaking point — that sense of powerlessness. You give in to your desperation. You give up control of your actions.

How do we turn the tide around? How do we fight this illness?

I don’t think it lies in governmental policies. I don’t think it even lies in tighter security. I mean, I can understand the impulse to control or suppress this behavior with policies, laws and enforcements. But it’s like suppressing the symptom and leaving the cause untreated. When you do this, the cause goes down deeper, festers longer and turns even uglier — if that is even possible.

And regulating games, movies, music and web sites isn’t the answer, either. They are simply triggers for the deep-seated impulses that reside in these suffering individuals. Sure, not giving them any ideas may delay the act getting triggered some, but it’s like trying to ban walking because there’s a land mine buried somewhere. Trying to prevent the bomb from going off by suppressing triggers is another losing battle.

I can’t help but think about telling stories. Personal stories. I’m a strong believer in focusing on solution and not the problem. I don’t know what the solution is in each individual cases, but there are many of us who go down and experience the view from that, cold, damp, dark place deep inside our psyche, where dreams are squashed and hurtful behaviors seem like the only way to spew out the poison you’ve been fed.  Many of us have come back up, though, without destroying ourselves or anyone else. We healed, we improved, we came back to life.

It’s possible. It can happen to anyone.

If that’s not a solution,  at least can it be a reason to hope?

If we spread the stories of triumphs and recovery, people, both the ill and those who are not, can see that it’s possible to change. It may take a excruciatingly long time, and a lot of energy and hurt, but healing is possible. Have “survivors” of mental ills come together and spread the word about their personal resurrection — letting others who are suffering know that it can happen to them, too.

If living with pain seems like an overwhelming thought, I want to say, just wait one more day. Wait one more day, before you kill yourself. Wait one more day, before you hurt someone. What hasn’t happen so far can happen today, or tomorrow. Wait one more day. And after that, try to wait another day.

After all, that’s all any of us does — live each day. At the end of each day, we all ought to pat ourselves on the back, for surviving one more day. Life can be hard.

My heart goes out to the victims. Those who died, those who were hurt, those who lost loved ones.

We owe it to them, to look at the heart of these tragedies in the eye, and dig down to the core.

No, it’s not as scary or complicated or big deal as it may sound. We just need to live one more day, together.

And after that, live another.