We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.
An Economics professor has come under fire for suggesting mass suicide for the elderly to tackle Japan’s ageing population problem.
In an online news programme on the channel ABEMA Prime, Yusuke Narita, an Assistant Professor at Yale University, said: “I feel like the only solution is pretty clear. In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?”
What is seppuku?
For context, seppuku, which may be more popularly known as hara-kiri, is a form of ritual suicide originating from the samurai —Japan’s ancient warrior class.
It involves stabbing oneself in the belly, slicing open the stomach and then turning the blade upwards to ensure a fatal wound.
Warriors performed the ritual following battlefield defeats as a means to avoid capture, but this later evolved into a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed crimes.
Suggesting geronticide is probably as extreme a position as anyone could take, but twitter user T.Katsumi (@tkatsumi06j) explained why Yusuke’s comments were particularly problematic.
“自決” has two meanings in Japanese; 1) “the act of determining its own mind/path” and 2) the act of “killing oneself”. National self-determination is termed as “民族自決”
, whereas “自決” when used in conjunction with the mass “集団” could only mean “mass suicide.” pic.twitter.com/jDzmFJuwa9
— 💫T.Katsumi🏳️🌈📢 (@tkatsumi06j) January 12, 2023
Additionally, they suggested that making those comments on a channel popular with younger viewers may add to an already worrying trend of elderly being killed while in home care.
Lastly, matricides/patricides of the elderly under homecare are increasing in today’s Japan. Prof. Narita’s remarks may or may not have impacted this trend since the comment was made a year ago. There is no way to prove the influence but the resurgent trend may. Look up 集団自決
— 💫T.Katsumi🏳️🌈📢 (@tkatsumi06j) January 12, 2023
Statement apparently a metaphor
In an interview with the The New York Times, Yusuke said that his comments had been “taken out of context”.
He said that he was referring to a growing effort to push the most senior people out of leadership positions to make way for the younger generations.
However, viewers have found evidence that Yusuke may have meant his words quite literally:
In an undated Zoom meeting, Yale professor Yusuke Narita explains his ideas of ‘mass suicide of old people to deal with the aging society.’ He says: “I mean it quite literally, NOT a metaphor. Think of the novelist Yukio Mishima, who committed harakiri.” cc @motokorich https://t.co/b0oGZaqGSM
— Thoton Akimoto ソトン秋元 (@AkimotoThn) February 15, 2023
An employee of a publishing company called Gentosha drank with Yusuke Narita and tweeted that the title of his next book was decided to be “A Plan to Kill the Elderly.”
The photo shows Yusuke Narita and a publisher employee. pic.twitter.com/QVlTFZZKF9
— FFMatudo💙🌻 (@FFMatudo) February 15, 2023
Japan’s entrenched age hierarchy
Japanese society is known to have a rigid age-based hierarchy, and its workplaces are no exception.
In a labour market based on lifetime employment, the Japanese have one of the longest lengths of service with the same employer in the world.
These factors combined mean that the most senior positions in companies are occupied by older people, which has led to frustration among younger workers.
“Even if you don’t have a lot of abilities, there are people who have been at the company for 10 or 20 or 30 years who are in very senior positions, and with these people in power, there is a tendency when they say something that everyone else in the room just shuts up and feels they can’t say something,” said Ryutaro Yoshioka, 27, in an article by The New York Times.
In a survey of 300 Japanese workers aged 20 -39 by consulting firm Shikigaku, 49.2% said that they had an “old guy who doesn’t work” in their companies.
When asked why, 41% of these respondents said that it was because their company increases salary based on seniority rather than performance.
This sentiment seems to be supported by data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which found that Japanese workers enjoy one of the highest wage premiums in the world for job loyalty.
Gender roles and ageing population
Japan’s ageing population woes have also been well-documented.
The situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, as women in Japan become increasingly reluctant to marry and have children.
While there have been more economic opportunities for women in the workplace, expectations of them to take on housework and childcare continue to persist.
This combination of factors make it difficult for women to balance work and family life, with many choosing to shun marriage instead.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Japan estimates that the age dependency ratio will hit 60% (three aged dependents for every five workers) by 2036, and nearly 80% by 2060.
Sparked public outrage
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Yusuke’s comments have sparked a public outrage.
What sort of human is Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor in Japan, telling the over 75s they should commit suicide as they are a burden to the state…..even suggesting that euthanasia be compulsory.
I suggest he is not a human with either heart or conscience.
— Antoinette G (@karmamum1) February 13, 2023
TikTok user Keegan M (@call_me_keegs) posted a video in which he said: “I’m really starting to suspect that maybe an economist anywhere, is a threat to human rights everywhere.”
@call_me_keegs consider: immigration? #greenscreen #leftist #economics #politics #ivyleague #university ♬ Elevator Music – Bohoman
Some have turned their criticism toward his employer, Yale.
Your university’s assistant professor Yusuke Narita is a sick human being, suggesting old people genocide, he calls on mass suicide. We wanna know Yale University’s comments about your assistant professor’s mass killing idea.
— Rino (@Rinonex) February 14, 2023
Amazing that #Yale allows this sick human to continue promulgating his #massmurder plans for the #elderly. One wonders: shall we remind him of his own suggestion when he hits #retirementage? #YusukeNarita #economics #ivyleague #selfhating #japanese https://t.co/oH7UrEnsp0
— LifeBlossom Coaching & Admissions (@LifeblossomC) February 14, 2023
Others are questioning why Yusuke is still allowed to make public appearances on Japanese TV.
An insane Japanese TV station puts Yusuke Narita on the show at this time.
“On Sunday, February 19, at 10:00 p.m.
Yusuke Narita, a genious assistant professor at Yale University, will give a special lecture.
How to raise your salary?
and more!”https://t.co/eZwTcu1NqE pic.twitter.com/DNo3J9Jmk3
— ParkSJ 朴勝俊🌹GND 脱原発！グリーン・ニューディール (@psj95708651) February 13, 2023
This user is probably right:
I feel like that’s probably not the only solution
— David Szymanski (@DUSKdev) February 13, 2023
If you or someone you know are in mental distress, here are some hotlines you can call to seek help, advice, or just a listening ear:
- SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1-767
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
- Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)
Top image via Cyber Agent Capital, DLKR/Unsplash and @karmamum1/Twitter
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