Perhaps all of the issues I have with Japan can be reduced two denominators: Fear and ignorance. Both are extremely troubling and diminish the quality of my life here something terrible but for the purposes of this entry I will focus on the former: fear.
I think one of my favorite writers, Frank Herbert, said it best in one of my favorite books, DUNE:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Not to suggest that fear is a Japanese issue. That would be asinine. It’s indeed a human issue and we all suffer from it. Yes, even I. Every day, in fact. And this is why I’ve decided to write about this.
I fear fear. Let me say that again. I’m afraid of fear. They say there’s nothing to fear but fear itself…well, that’s what I fear: Fear itself!
A patrol car, patrolling the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, one evening receives an alert over the radio that two black youths have held up a bodega at gunpoint, pistol-whipped the owner and made off with a everything in the till. The cops race to the scene, as per their job descriptions. When they arrive they see two black kids running. Both cops are a little edgy. A cop was killed a year ago just around the corner near the projects and several have been wounded in gunfights with teenage drug dealers over the course of the past summer…
I don’t even have to finish this scenario, do I? Y’all already know what happened. This kind of thing happened way too often where I grew up. The cops are scared. The kids are scared. And the streets are watching. Not that I have it in for cops. I don’t. I truly believe that most of them are good people trying to make the community safer. But, a good number of them are afraid, too afraid to do their jobs effectively, to think clearly in a crisis, to make critical decisions, and their fear causes mistakes to happen.
I’d never been feared, at least not directly…not until I came here.
I remember in one my favorite movies, The Godfather, Don Corleone tells an Undertaker who comes to him for help: “…And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies then they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.“
Yeah, The Don ruled by fear, and I admired the hell out of him. So did my older brothers. They were both feared in the ‘hood where I grew up. Fear was always easier to achieve than respect. My oldest bother used unpredictability and sociopathic tendencies to achieve fear. My other brother utilized devious cleverness and ferocious prowess to achieve it. People feared his mind and his hands. No one was afraid of me. I was just protected because the fear of them placed me and anyone with me withing a sphere of safety. In the Godfather, I would have been Micheal before The Don got shot. The college boy, soldier boy, lover boy, good boy…
Then I came to Japan!
I must admit, at first it was an exhilarating experience, awesome and corrupting…fear is power, a power I had only known vicariously until I came here. Nor had I ever sought it really. I was aways more of a ‘you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar’ kind of person. I would much rather have people respect me than fear me. But, without my consent or complicity, I’m suddenly notorious. I’ve got a rep. I’ve got a gun. I sell drugs. I assault people at random. I rob people. I’m a bad boy! (at least that’s the impression I get from the Japanese based on their behavior) Only, I’m none of these things.
The idea of being feared is a delicious one and my brothers savored it…But, I have always been a little if not very afraid of it. Even within that so called sphere I grew up in I felt the fear of those around me. I feared that the enemies my brothers were making would eventually find their weak point-me- to retaliate against. The fear they generated could have very well made me a target. Fortunately everyone knew I was a “civilian” so to speak, and my brothers went out of their way to make it clear to all that I was not in the game.
But the fear I generate here scares me. Being on a train with Japanese people is like being in a cage with rabid poodles, insanely convinced that I am a threat, only they have no teeth or paws or eyes…it’s their sheer number that scares me. They can’t bite me or maw me or even see the real me but they can smother me or…I don’t know, lick me to death. Of course this is all metaphorical. Sometimes I’m afraid the smothering and death by licking is occurring mentally.
To be continued…