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Apologies go a long way

Two weeks ago, commuting by bus, a woman in her late 60s placed her two heavy-looking bags on the seat in front of me and remained standing. I moved to the window seat and motioned her to the one I just vacated. She declined thankfully and explained politely that her back hurt and couldn't sit down.

The next 25 minutes were like being in a cinema watching a terrible community drama. With full of emotion, she narrated how her daughter’s motorcycle accident caused their family un-describable pain and hardship. Her daughter was only 17 years old (this was nearly 20 years ago) and went for a motorcycle ride with a male friend of her age in the countryside not far from their home. The driver took off leaving her on the ground bleeding and bruised. She got home by crawling and limping, and stayed in the hospital for several months. This devoted mum said with watery eyes "If that coward didn’t leave her alone and she had medical attention right away, she would have recovered earlier and better."

I asked her what happened to that “male friend”. "He now has a good job and in a relationship, but my daughter lives with me because she can’t look after herself. I wish I had brought them to court; but at that time, I was just glad she’s alive. I did admonish him saying that if she had died, I’d have killed him."

Did he apologise? No… "Of course not."

Why didn't he? How about his parents? Why didn't they apologise or talk him into doing it?

嘘で、あかるい未来はつくれない

吉村洋文(大阪市長)‏Verified account @hiroyoshimura この件に関して、僕は政党会派を超えて自民、維新関係なく、正当な行動をとるべきだと思います。先祖、子孫の名誉にも関わります・・・」

ヨーロッパで、たえず私は失敗をしてます。「失敗」とか「失礼・無礼」とは思いもよらず、周りに指摘されて気づくことも多々あります。でも「失敗は成功のもと」と思い、年をとってきました。

60年続いた姉妹提携の件で、大阪市長に気づいてほしい。市長には広い世界の怖さをわきまえ、考察のゆきとどいた温容な判断をしてもらいたいたかった。

欧米の親日家が考えそうな然るべき「正当な行動」について、関西弁で書いてみますね。「事実でないことって?性奴隷のこと、知らんの?ホンマに知らんの?知らんふりしてンだけ、ちゃうのん?そりゃ日本の歴史で恥ずかしいこと、あったで。証拠もごっつう、あるし。でもあんたらがしたことと、ちゃうやん。なァ、昔の恥を認めたくないんやろ。それを認めへんあんたが、今、めっちゃ恥ずかしんやんか。わかるか。ひゃあ、知らんという認識もでけんもんらしい。そーか。そらあかんわ。ほな、教えてあげまほか。おんなじスカタン、繰りかえんさんよぉに。按配したげるでぇ(ここで無残に記念碑がたつ)」「市長。つっぱってんと、あんじょう謝りや~」まァこんな感じかな。

。。。下につづく

これからの社会保障-ケイパビリティの視点から

clinic

ブリュッセルからルクセンブルグへの帰り道。列車内は混みあっているが、本が読めないほどうるさくはない。隣の4人がけの座席には、こども連れの老婦人がいた。

彼女の両脇には、孫のロイック(7歳)とジャック(3歳)。やさしく声をおとしたおばあちゃんの読み聞かせに、たのしげな笑い声がたえまなくひびいて、彼らの幸福感が通路をへだてた私にまで振動して伝わってくる。いつまでも聞いていたいような小気味よい笑いの音曲に、体がほぐれていく気がした。ふと耳にはいる会話をたどるうちに、彼女の忍耐強い養育態度にひき寄せられた。

聞いたところでは、フランスからブリュッセルへ孫をむかえにきたらしい。一週間(万聖節の休み)、彼らをあずかるという。絵本の読み方からも、教養のある女性であることがわかる。7歳のロイックはフラマン語もイタリア語もわかる。そこに彼女が、英語で説明をくわえる。私も調子に乗って、ルクセンブルグ語では、日本語ではこういうのよと言いそえた。経済的にはもちろんのこと、文化的にもなんと恵まれた家庭だろう。彼らは、次世代のリーダーとして育っていくのだろう。

隣席で私が読んでいたのは、阿部彩さんの「子供の貧困II」(岩波新書、2014年)である。日本には、100まで数えられない高校生がいるという。なんということだろう。財務省のお偉い方々がいったという。「『阿部さん、わかりました。では、何をすればよいのですか。具体的に、どのような政策を打てば子供の貧困は解決するのですか。それがわかれば、私たちだってお金をつけますよ』その時、言葉が出なかった。それが今でも悔しくてたまらない」(page. iv)。

。。。下につづく

Summer of culture and history

You've probably heard about the simplicity and generosity of Polish people; well, I've been a recipient of these admirable human traits. I recently spent a week in Gdansk in the company of a cordial and considerate Pole and her mum.

Gdansk is one of the five big cities in Poland with about 470,000 inhabitants. (I'd like to visit its capital, Warsaw, one day). This country, which is rich in mineral and agricultural resources, is often referred to as "ex-eastern European nation” when geographically it lies entirely on the north European plain and is in the central European time zone. It’s one hour ahead of standard Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the winter months, and two hours ahead from late March to October due to daylight saving time.

I've been told by my hosts that winter in Poland is very cold and summer is not-so-warm. I agree with them concerning the later; I haven't experienced the former yet. I was there in the middle of August but always carried a jumper when I went out. I was lucky to experience several sunny days promenading in the famous Royal Way which included the Old Town Street, where Polish kings used to parade; the Golden Gate; the Torture House; the Prison Tower and Neptune’s Fountain.

The majority of Poles are Roman Catholic, so there are churches and places of worship in almost every corner and street; I went to half a dozen of them. Some Poles belong to the Polish Orthodox Church and various Protestant denominations, such as the Lutherans. Of course, there are also members of minority religious groups.

5分でわかる改憲案

スペインの軍事独裁政権でのお話。

死の床にいた独裁者のもとへ、信奉者たちがわかれを告げにつどい寄った。「われらがリーダ。フランコ将軍よ。アディオス。アディオス」

それを耳にしたフランコは、その場にいた医師に問いただしたという。「さよなら、さよならって。彼らはどこへ行くのだろう」

この混濁した意識と方向性を見失った様子は、同胞・日本人を「こんな人たち」と呼んだ秋葉原での安倍さんとかさなるように思う。

最近、集団的自衛権や自民党の改憲案について、少し読みとってきましたが。忙しい人には、これが一番わかりやすいように思います。まったきを得た5分のビデオを、ぜひ多くの人たちに見ていただきたい。

。。。下につづく

Realistic Optimism - Every ending has a new beginning

Last July 8, I attended a retirement party; and like most farewell gatherings, it was filled with joy and sadness. The honouree was a gentle, kind and caring person who had helped many people, including me. There were always cakes and sweets on her desk for anyone who needed a boost on a hectic day. I often had it out of ‘gourmandise’ (greed). I miss her and her chocolates, and it’s strange not to see her grin anymore.

Everything has an ending; however, this ending has also a beginning. Today may be your last working day, but it’s also an opportunity to start something you have been wanting to do for a long time, such as going to the gym, reading a book, jogging, travelling or relaxing on a sofa or hammock, etc.

The passing of time is inevitably fast that no one is far from any ending. Most situations that herald the end of something, like retirement, retrenchment, graduation, leaving home, holiday, relationships, entertainment or sporting events, mean ‘change.’ The majority of people are anxious about changes because of fear of a possible loss, uncertainty and anxiety (though 90% of these worries don’t happen). We should consider the end of any event or situation as a change that has a silver lining even when it looks sombre.

With any change, positivism is the key. Our thoughts, emotions and feelings affect our body. While positive thoughts and emotions encourage calmness and physical activity, negative thoughts inhibit peace and efficiency. Positivism involves restructuring our perceptions and thinking process so that any problem or negative situation, such as change or end of a situation, is accepted as having benefits or as a stepping stone to something better. After all, change is the only constant in life.

Health and Well-being

Last June 19 - 22 was Well-Being Week at the European Parliament and there were exhibitions and information sessions held to inspire and help people to be healthy and happy. June 21 was Music Festival not only in France and Luxembourg but in many parts of the world, and it made many people joyful. June 22 was UN International Yoga Day and it highlighted the useful contribution of yoga to humankind's healthy lifestyle that is harmonious with nature. In Luxembourg, the 23rd was a public holiday as it was the country's national day filled with festivities, food stalls, concerts, fireworks and merrymaking.

These were different events, but had similar goals, which were to inform, entertain and encourage people to relax and be peaceful -- important for our well-being. When we are happy and peaceful, we are stressed-resistant and our immune system functions favourably maintaining a healthy body and mind. My adult students recently did a class project on health and well-being, and concluded that “Healthy workplaces are positive and positive workplaces are healthy.”

You may argue that achieving a work-life balance isn’t easy as it doesn’t only involve you and there are issues beyond your control, such as a demanding job and/or boss. Rightly so, however, this one person (YOU) has choices. We can have positive daily work experience in the midst of deadlines, not-so-caring supervisor and uncooperative or annoying colleagues. At home, relationships can be improved by having open communication, by being honest and respectful, and by showing more empathy and understanding. We have different levels of optimism, but even a half-empty glass has a space that can be filled. If everyone contributes to filling this, it does not take long for it to be full again.

On the global level, The World Economic Forum (Matthieu Ricard) has identified 5 ways to improve health and well-being: (... Read more ...)

What’s wrong with his Japanese education?

What’s wrong with his Japanese education

The video below is a part of Prime Minister Abe’s Q&A session, which I tried to translate as accurately as I could. Feel free to improve it.

A woman asks, “As for the LDP party, what sort of policy do you intend to focus on?” He answers:

“The Preamble of the Constitution of Japan asserts that ‘we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.’ In other words, it says that we leave it to the rest of the world to ensure our own security. And, ‘We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth.’ It does not mean that we think of banishing tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance. The international society thinks so, and that’s how we seek help from them. It is petty. Quite frankly, it is a disreputable/undignified constitution. Because it is not made by the Japanese, isn’t it? Due to such constitution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not obliged [allowed?] to make comments (on the Constitution). That is left to the international community to do so. That’s how the spirit has become. I think that it is important to change from there.”

I know it is quite puzzling. When I saw this video, I was dumbfounded at first, as his answers show a complete misunderstanding of the Constitution. (Or, he lacks a basic understanding of the Japanese language). I now find it quite interesting as this reveals his revisionist logic.

日本の政治がつまらない訳

いや~、おもしろいもの見ました。この野放図もない曲解、論理のほころび。「これって、安倍さんのファンタジー?ネガショニズム?拡大・類推解釈?」混乱しますよね。

「日本人がつくったものじゃない」から、「いじましい」なら「米国のCIAに資金提供をうけてできた自民党は、みっともなくないですか?」「しかも民主主義のふりしつつ、日本もほぼ一党政治ですが?」とか、そこは、ぐっと飲みこみました。

日本人にはもとより、日本語のわかる外国人には、安倍さんの話は意味不明だと思います。国連の報告者のようなエリートなら、この女性のように礼儀として話を受けながさずに、真剣なテーマを聞きすごすのも失礼ですから、まず問いただしたり反論したりするでしょう。一撃であっけなく決着がついて、意味のない話はうち切りになるかも知れません。

。。。下につづく

This can happen to anyone

I’d difficulty deciding on the topic of my blog this month. My heart goes out to Manchester in the UK, especially to families, relatives and friends of those who were at Ms. Ariana Grande’s concert last May 22. More than one hundred people were injured and 22 were killed in that vicious terrorist attack, including an eight-year-old girl and an off-duty female police officer.

Last Wednesday evening, I had a mixed feeling of warmth and sadness watching on BBC Tony Walsh reading his poem ‘This Is The Place’ as a tribute to Manchester city at vigil. His rendition was defiant and resilient for peace. For me, it means not hating and living in fear; but be hopeful yet stand up for your rights.

So, here I am doing my usual routine on the first day of every month.

Most-stressful departure ever

You’ve certainly heard about flight delays and lack of information at airports that angered passengers. You probably know at least one person who has lost a luggage or whose baggage ended up on the other side of the world. How about long check-in lines that make you nervous about missing your flight? The story below is an addition to the list of disappointing travels.

Maria has been an international traveller for over 30 years and has visited about 40 countries with more than 20 stopovers/transits. Stories and anecdotes about unfortunate travelling were foreign to her until last month. Her Expedia-purchased tickets (Brussels-New York) had a very short transit in Montreal. To her surprise, she and her family couldn't board Air Canada because they didn’t have a visa for Canada and their US Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) was not enough to get them into this plane for New York.

属国劇場 ~ 「あれから桃太郎は」

Momotaro

かつて、神国日本をささえた価値体系があった。国の起源を「神話」にもとめた国体論。国家神道。天皇の神格化。天皇を家長とする家族国家観。「皇祖皇宗のために命を捨てよ」と説いた教育勅語と国民総動員体制に盾つかない従順な人づくり。玉砕を強いる人命と人権の軽視。そして学問軽視。

(国のかじ取りをする人が条理明晰な説明ができずに、中身なし・専門知なしの反論だと外国人に指摘されて、逆ギレしたり開きなおったり。今も、あまり変わってないのでしょうか。世界の常識では、「国を愛し、誇りに思う心をはぐくむ」教育と、国際人権規約に抵触しそうな法案を通そうという国は、矛盾があるとみなされる)

「臣民」の童心教育で教訓性や強制力をすりこむのに、こどもたちからひろく愛された桃太郎ほど最良の教材はなかった。国際連盟から脱退を余儀なくされた日本で、その英雄の暴力性は増し、いつしかハチマキの文字も「日本一」から「世界一」に変わっていた。

戦後、占領軍はさまざまな分野の専門家を集め、日本を骨抜きにするための画策を練った。社会科学者たち(ルース・ベネディクト含む)は、「世界に類をみない特別な国」「日本人らしさ」「日本人の誇り」という偏狭な選民意識に目をつけた。それを逆手にとりアイデンティティとして宣揚すれば、日本の国際協調を困難にし、アジアで孤立させることで、常に宗主国のご機嫌をうかがう属国の思想的な下地になると、彼らは70年前に見抜いていた。

。。。下につづく

奥泉栄三郎さん(1940-2013) 「桃太郎と日本文化」

Momotaro

「それにしても、あなたは年寄りの友達が多いねぇ。僕も含めてね」なにを話していたかは、覚えてないが。そう言って、奥泉さんは明るくはじけるように笑った。

彼がいなくなれば、友人関係はそれで終わってしまうものだと悲しかった。ところが、病気になった彼に代わって、妻の圭子さんという友人をあらたに得た。奥泉さんの人生は、この賢くやさしい女性にささえられてきたのだと知るようになった。

その圭子さんが、この春、彼の残した「桃太郎と日本文化」という文書を送ってくれた。

室町時代から語りつがれる民話が、軍国主義を正当化する童話として、GHQに禁じられた時期があったという。「赤鬼・青鬼」は「鬼畜米英」で、「鬼ヶ島」を「真珠湾」にたとえたのだから、ムリもない。ピーチ・ボーイの改変史を知ったのは、近年ジョン・ダワー氏の本を読んでからである。

奥泉さんも、随分まえから桃太郎をみていた。うれしいのと同時に、これは年上の友人からの警告だろうか、と思ったりもする。

つまり「桃太郎人気にご用心」ということだろうか?

。。。下につづく

No individual or nation thrives alone

Four of my friends were born in April. When I was in Australia, April was a month of non-stop partying, gift giving and receiving, and catching up with relatives and acquaintances. It’s widely known that the birthstone of April is diamond. Meanwhile, it’s still a wonder why this fourth month of the year is called as such. One explanation refers to its Latin origin, Aprilis, which is derived from aperire meaning “to open” as in the opening or blossoming of flowers and trees throughout the month of April in Europe (the northern hemisphere). Another theory is that since Aphrilis is derived from the Greek “Aphrodite” and since months are often named for gods and goddess, it can be deduced that April is in honour of the Greek goddess of love (the Romans called this goddess ‘Venus’). (see ''The Mystery Behind April’s Name'' on Dictionary.com)

This year’s April, however, didn’t seem like a month of wealth (diamond) and love for many individuals and families. The Hunger Project reveals that 795 million people, which is one in nine persons in the world, do not have enough to eat; and 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. (reference ''Know Your World: Facts About Hunger And Poverty'' on The Hunger Project)

Last April, you’d surely seen on TV the horrifying chemical attack in a Syrian town that prompted the US airstrikes, suicide bombing of the 2 Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, stolen truck driven by a terrorist into a store in a busy Swedish street, killing of a police officer in Paris, etc. I know none of the victims, nevertheless, these incidents have saddened me a lot and made me earthlier.

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