By Letter to the Editor on December 28, 2019.
“Life is a river. Nothing endures but change” said Heraclitus (philosopher, fifth century BCE). You have to keep paddling hard to stay at the same place. In life change never stops. When it stops, it’s the signal that you are dead.
It’s not easy: Remember the time when you moved to a new school or a new job? I hated it. I got used to it eventually and felt normal. Nothing stays the same. Even the familiar word of a well-known prayer changed with economy. “Debt” was a sin requiring forgiveness in the old Lord’s Prayer. Now debt is the engine of economy, to be encouraged. It’s called credit. So the wording had to change to “trespass” in deference to private property. Likewise ethics change with time. No more can you put an adulterer to death by stoning.
Another example: It bothers me that tattoos are in fashion and ubiquitous. As a self-anointed “progressive person,” my antipathy to the tattoo is puzzling. I think it is because memories still influence my subconsciousness. In Japan only the members of “Yakuza” have tattoos. Yakuza, like Italian Mafia, are organized gangs who have controlled gambling, debt collection and protection rackets for centuries. Hot-spring resorts refuse anyone with a tattoo. They are reluctantly tolerated on foreign tourists: they go home anyway. How much that perception controls me surprises me.
Having suffered many centuries of bloody internal conflicts, small island nations like Britain and Japan value stability that order guarantees. I have realized that I am Japanese, therefore a born (small “c”) conservative. This is a puzzle. I am a son of a man who got into trouble with the fascist police for singing the socialist anthem “International” when he was a theological student. He supported the Japanese Socialist Party all his life. So I thought that leftist ideology was in my DNA. But I like square values like cleanliness, a clean desk, good manners, punctuality, an orderly kitchen, proper dress, respectful language, and a smile. So, I understand the bitterness of conservative people. It feels like things are falling apart. They move too fast. You see moral decay everywhere. You feel you are no longer respected.
Change is upsetting but it is reality. I was born conservative but I know I have to persuade myself and others that changes are normal and necessary. It is like a river.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui