GOING AROUND ONCE

Opinions - March 3rd, 2005
tokyoweekender_Governor

Civic responsibility? Not likely Governor, says Robert J. Collins

THE POWERS in Tokyo, in presumed agreement with the beloved Governor Ishihara, have con­cluded that we humble citizens don’t have enough to worry about. Our lives only have eight or nine hun­dred rules, regulations, or pieces of advice to remem­ber the moment we crawl out of bed each morning.

“Bring out the correct garbage or die, stand back from the moving platform, walk to the left, you can’t smoke here, she said yes but she means no, he said no but he means yes, you can’t have a ham and cheese sandwich, gifts must be reciprocated ad infinitum, do you want a drink? ah, I’ll have a beer, you can’t smoke here, I know it’s a lawyer’s office take your shoes off, I know it’s a hospital keep your shoes on…” And so on.

To add to all this, the powers in Tokyo are now preparing a campaign to convince us that we have direct responsibility for the behavior of our less-man­nered fellow citizens. Crime on the streets is becom­ing rampant, at least by comparison to the past, and something must be done about it. Passers-by must get involved. (Yikes.)

Picture this: two elderly ladies, stooped and shuf­fling, encounter a young man in a T-shirt and tiger tattoo ahead of them in the supermarket aisle. Elderly Lady #1 informs the young man that he should not be taking groceries from the shelves and putting them directly into his backpack. Elderly Lady #2 points out that smoking is forbidden in the store.

The young man turns, bares his teeth (which drip), and growls as if rabid. His eyes, red-rimmed, spin. He then….

Okay, maybe that wasn’t a good example. Picture this: The junior high school girl is on her back on a subway seat. One great big boy in a black uniform is holding her arms. Another great big boy in a black uniform is holding her legs.

A third great big boy in a black uniform looks to be friendlier with her than she might want. A half dozen great big boys in black uniforms are loung­ing about, smoking and swinging from the overhead luggage rack. The concerned salaryman, so refined his wrists are transparent, walks over and points out that smoking is not allowed on the train. Then…. well wait a minute, this isn’t a good example either.

Imagine, if you will, waiting to diagonally cross the big streets near the dog in Shibuya. You are nearly six feet tall, and in all respects a remarkably stunning blonde. It is a fine Saturday afternoon, and you are closely surrounded by perhaps a thousand fellow humans.

The purse-thieving fiend, trousers at low mast, pushes his way up to you and grabs your purse — wrestling to pull the strap from your shoulder. You scream and hit him. He nearly pushes you over but then runs off with your purse as the lights turn.

How many people, you ask, could be counted on as witnesses? (a) Nearly a thousand fellow humans, or (b) no one because a stunning six-foot blonde went totally unnoticed in the crowd, plus everyone was in a hurry to race away to an appointment? Somehow we know.

It ain’t easy out here in the field, Ishihara-san, and I think it will take time and effort to whip up the populace to the level of commitment we’d all like to see.

In the meantime, an ATM machine in my neigh­borhood was ripped from its moorings by a bulldozer and dragged, trailing wires and chunks of cement, across the street to a parking lot. It was then appar­ently opened by blow torches.

No one, neither man nor beast, noticed anything odd about the event as it was happening — includ­ing the people in the 24-hour convenience store next door. It’s gonna take awhile.