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Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008

COUNTERPOINT

Lack-of-rage rage is all the rage in apathetically raging Japan


A few weeks ago a Sydney radio station held a phone-in about rage. I was floored as I sat and listened to the people who called in to vent some spleen.

Foremost among them, of course, was that routine form of frenzy known as road rage. This is when drivers behave recklessly, generally threatening those in cars around them. There is apparently even a phenomenon called rage payback, which occurs when a driver-victim of another's road rage sees red and goes on a road-rage rampage themself — tailgating the erstwhile rager, flashing rude digits, and so on. According to some authorities, 68 percent of road ragers consider their actions justified.

Another oft-seen case of losing it is supermarket-trolley rage. I'm sure we have all had the odd ankle rammed by just such an unrepentant rager. These trolley ragers stalking supermarket aisles often come armed with a mean-looking toddler standing in the trolley to give the wheeled weapon more ankle-crushing inertia. This form of rage is known as the collaterally damaging trolley-with-toddler rage. The only way to avoid it is to shop at trolley-free convenience stores.

Every country has its own unique forms of rage. In the United States there is moose-skinning rage. If you feel incensed, go out and skin a moose. You'll feel a lot better; and you'll become an instant expert on Russian foreign policy.

As for Russia, there is vodka rage, which inflames those who drink a lot of the clear spirit and get pissed as a Siberian newt. Russians are very traditional when it comes to their rage.

So what about the Japanese? Well, dear reader, I have been able to identify several unique forms of Japanese rage. You may know some others; and, if you do, please get your hackles up and write to the Editor with your heated wisdoms.

First there is two-party rage. This is felt by those Japanese citizens still entertaining the notion that there is more than one political party in Japan. This is a growing form of rage, especially among two-party ragers anxious for a change of government. They have maintained their ire for 50 years, and may yet have to pass it on to future generations before anything happens to ameliorate it.

Meanwhile, another postwar form of Japanese upset is Northern Territories rage. This was kept alive for years by big trucks cruising the streets with massive speakers blaring, "Give back the Northern Territories." The so-called Northern Territories refer, of course, to the islands just north of Hokkaido that were taken by Russia in 1945, and which Tokyo and those noisy truckers maintain are Japanese. As with two-party rage, it may be some not inconsiderable time before this temper is cooled.

Then there is the more recent sumo wrestlers' rage. Sufferers from this are in a lather over allegations that the Japan Sumo Association has been giving money to contestants to take a dive when the situation calls for it. Some people have been giving lip service to this; though in the sumo world it is referred to as "cheek service."

Needless to say, some forms of rage are not funny at all, and Chinese- food-product rage is one of these.

It is outrageous that some food products grown or manufactured in China are a health hazard. Being enraged about this is natural and necessary. But it is important as well to be outraged about Japanese food products that are equally inferior in quality, mislabeled or dangerous to consume. Food-product rage should be blind to the country of origin.

Pension rage was all the rage last year, when it was announced that more than 50 million accounts relating to people's pensions were lost. Working people who had been paying into their pension fund for decades were in danger of not receiving money upon retirement. The government, however, assured these "phantom pensioners" that their cases would be looked into one by one. By my calculation, judging by the speed at which Japanese bureaucracy works, it will take 17 generations for all these cases to be reviewed. Not to worry, though: The Japanese are very patient folk.

Returning to politics, we must now officially recognize politician-gaffe rage. This occurs when Japanese politicians make derogatory remarks about people of other nationalities, genders, occupations (such as teaching), etc. This is an entirely new form of rage. Previously, no distinction was made in Japan between "derogatory gaffe" and "official statement."

And don't forget stock-market rage. This latest form of fury is by no means limited to Japan. People all over the world are up in arms about the rash and greedy behavior of the investment banks. In America this rage is referred to as "FM Rage," where FM stands for both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. (Some people have used the more visceral term "Greenspan's Revenge.")

If you invest in the market and have stock-market rage, I advise you to put it into perspective and heed the old maxim: "Bulls make money. Bears make money. But pigs never make any money."

When all is said and done, however, there is one specific form of rage peculiar to Japan. In fact, virtually all Japanese are afflicted by this bizarre and highly enervating condition. It is known as chronic lack-of-rage rage. (Oh, the very name sends shivers down the spine.)

Chronic lack-of-rage rage presents itself with several clear symptoms, so you Japanese readers will instantly recognize it. They are, apathy in the face of injustice; an inability to get angry about issues that affect the overall society; and an unwillingness to get involved in problems that are outside one's own small circle of concern.

In reality, all Japan is raging wild with this so-called rage of indifference, which, as I mentioned, often presents itself in the guise of apathy and inaction. I have never seen a country so overtaken by a form of rage — or perhaps more correctly, anti-rage — than this one.

This is a truly pernicious form of rage, which, if left unchecked, will ensure that nothing will change here for the unforeseeable future. My hope is that Japanese people will fight against this awful chronic lack-of-rage rage and find something to get angry about.

Japan has been in the doldrums for nearly two decades. Japanese politics should be, for all citizens, "a tale of resentment and bitter rage." Where are the people who will rage against the dying of the light?



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