I always wanted to be a hikikomori.
It's funny seeing some American anime freaks (many of whom have claimed the term 'otaku' for themselves) proudly claim to be hikikomori, as if they think it's something cool and exotic to be.
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I read an interesting article about this phenomena that I can't find right now. From what I remember, it said that becoming a shut-in is the only acceptable way for young people to rebel when they fail to fit into Japanese society. In other words, disciplined solitude is the Japanese version of loud obnoxiousness and blatant attention whoring. It's still depressing but it makes Japanese losers seem a little more noble.
I don't know if "rebel" is the right word, really. Freeters and people learning a language with the intention of getting the fuck outta Japan might be said to be rebelling, but shut-ins, in the admittedly limited experience I had, are just chewed up at some point along the way, usually childhood. If you fall out in Japan it's crazy difficult to get back in, because life moves within circles that rarely mix and don't easily admit strangers. We're very lucky in the west to be allowed so many way to escape and remake our identity, at so many points in our lives, and to even be celebrated for doing so. In a lot of places you can only do so by migrating, internally or externally. From what I've read, shut-in recovery programs begin by re-socializing them with each other, to give them a group to identify with, and then just sort of giving them things to do together, coaxing them out. Like abuse victims.
I'd like to read that article, by the way, if you could find it!
It's important to remember that Japanese culture isn't like our culture. For example, we complain a lot about racial discrimination but there are more than a few businesses in Japan where you won't be let in the door if you're not racially Japanese. Sexual harassment that would be met with jail time in our country is considered just part of the way women and men interact with each other.
Imagine you're a young adult and someone comes up to you and says, "Hey how ya doin'? What have you been up to recently?" and you have to say, "I can't get a job, all my college applications were rejected, I'm not married and don't have a girlfriend, I don't have a car, I'm too cowardly to join the army and if it weren't for the fact I still live with mom and dad I'd be sitting on the sidewalk, panhandling." Everyone you know is going to tell everyone else, "You remember [your name here]? He's still living with his parents. Worthless bum." In other societies someone would respond, "You don't have a job but the unemployment rate is really high. You're not in school but you don't owe tends of thousands in student loans for a degree that can't get you a job. You aren't married but you don't have to pay alimony to your ex-wife and well... I'm... kinda too cowardly to join the army too. We should hang out together."
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