EUTANASIA A 75 ANNI E SUICIDIO DI MASSA DEGLI ANZIANI
Per sostenere i giovani e risolvere il problema dell’invecchiamento della popolazione in Giappone: una provocazione su cui riflettere anche alle nostre latitudini
Ho visto recentemente il film giapponese “Plan 75” del 2022 sull’idea del favorire con incentivi, promozione su larga scala e sostegno governativo, l’eutanasia degli anziani a partire dai 75 anni. E negli stessi giorni, il 13 febbraio 2023 il NYT (New York Times) ha pubblicato un articolo relativo a una dichiarazione di un assistente professore giapponese di economia alla prestigiosa università di Yale che sosteneva che l’unica soluzione all’invecchiamento della popolazione in Giappone è il suicidio di massa degli anziani, facendo riferimento al “Seppuku”, il suicidio rituale dei samurai disonorati nel 19esimo secolo.
E in una sua lezione Yusuke Narita aveva mostrato il film dell’orrore del 2019 “Midsommar” in cui secondo un culto svedese un anziano veniva mandato a suicidarsi lanciandosi da una alta scogliera. In proposito a un giornalista diceva: “"Se lei pensa che sia una cosa buona, allora forse può lavorare sodo per creare una società di questo tipo".
L’articolo del NYT ha sollevato un putiferio ed è stato ripreso da numerose testate, e in Giappone tocca un tasto molto sensibile perché la società sta invecchiando fortemente ma per assetto socio-economico tradizionale, il passaggio del potere fra generazioni è molto difficile, quasi impossibile.
Il Dottor Narita ha scritto “Avrei dovuto essere più cauto sulle potenziali connotazioni negative.” Sostenendo che, “suicidio di massa” e “seppuku di massa” erano “una metafora astratta”
Il NYT però cita l'editorialista Masato Fujisaki che “ha sostenuto su Newsweek Japan che le osservazioni del professore "non dovrebbero essere facilmente prese come una "metafora"". I fan del dottor Narita, ha detto Fujisaki, sono persone "che pensano che gli anziani dovrebbero già morire e che l'assistenza sociale dovrebbe essere tagliata". Nonostante la cultura della deferenza verso le generazioni più anziane, in Giappone sono già emerse idee sulla loro eliminazione. Un decennio fa. Taro Aso - all'epoca ministro delle Finanze e ora mediatore di potere nel Partito liberaldemocratico al governo - suggerì che gli anziani avrebbero dovuto "sbrigarsi a morire".
E bisogna anche tener conto della storia del Giappone dove parlare “di "suicidio di massa", suscita sensibilità storiche in un Paese in cui giovani sono stati mandati a morire come piloti kamikaze durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale e i soldati giapponesi hanno ordinato a migliaia di famiglie di Okinawa di suicidarsi piuttosto che arrendersi.”
Idee che secondo alcuni aprono le porte a un dibattito necessario sulle riforme pensionistiche e sul sistema di welfare, ma per altri si tratta solo di una sottolineatura del peso dell’invecchiamento della popolazione senza nessuna prospettiva realistica per alleviare la pressione sociale.
“I critici temono che i suoi commenti possano evocare il tipo di sentimenti che hanno portato il Giappone ad approvare una legge sull'eugenetica nel 1948, in base alla quale i medici hanno sterilizzato forzatamente migliaia di persone con disabilità intellettive, malattie mentali o disturbi genetici. Nel 2016, un uomo che riteneva che i disabili dovessero essere sottoposti a eutanasia ha ucciso 19 persone in una casa di cura fuori Tokyo.”
Chie Hayakawa, la regista del film distopico “Plan 75”, che ci si augura non sia “profetico”, aveva fatto un test chiedendo ad amici anziani di sua madre e altri conoscenti: “Se il governo sponsorizzasse un programma di eutanasia per le persone con più di 75 anni, lei sarebbe d'accordo?" “La maggior parte delle persone era molto favorevole", ha detto la signora Hayakawa. "Non volevano essere un peso per gli altri o per i loro figli".
Mi chiedo se la nostra cultura di origine cristiana, che ha nel suo DNA i valori del rispetto della vita e la protezione dei più deboli, riuscirà a controbilanciare la logica dell’eutanasia per ragioni socio-economiche o di “qualità” della vita? Un dibattito su un Plan 75 nostrano forse non è poi così lontano.
Ed ecco una versione leggermente ridotta pubblicata sulla rivista di Caritas Ticino.
E l'articolo del NYT del 13.02.2023 a cui si fa riferimento:
THE NEW YORK TIMES INTERNATIONAL MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13,3023
Scholar Suggests Mass Suicide for Japans Old. Does He Mean It?
TOKYO— His pronouncements could hardly sound more drastic.
In interviews and public appearances, Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale, has taken on the question of how to deal with the burdens of Japan’s rapidly aging society.
“I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” he said during one online news program in late 2021. “In the end, isn't it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?” Seppuku is an act of ritual disembowelment that was a code among dishonored samurai in the 19th century.
Last year, when asked by a school-age boy to elaborate on his
Hits a Nerve Over Carefor a Graying Society
mass seppuku theories, Dr Narita graphically described to a group of assembled students a scene from "Midsommar,” a 2019 horror film in which a Swedish cult sends one of its oldest members to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.
“Whether that’s a good thing or not, that’s a more difficult question to answer,” Dr. Narita told the questioner as he assiduously scribbled notes. “So if you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard toward creating a society like that”
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At other times, he has broached the topic of euthanasia. “The possibility of making it mandatory in the future,” he said in one interview, will “come up in discussion.”
Dr. Narita, 37, said that his statements had been “taken out of context” and that he was mainly addressing a growing effort to push the most senior people out of leadership positions in business and politics - to make room for younger generations. Nevertheless, with his comments on euthanasia and social security, he has pushed the hottest button in Japan.
While he is virtually unknown even in academic circles in the United States, his extreme positions have helped him gain hundreds of thousands of followers on social media in Japan among frustrated youths who believe their economic progress has been held back by a gerontocratic society.
Appearing frequently on Japanese online shows in T-shirts, hoodies or casual jackets, and wearing signature eyeglasses with one round and one square lens, Dr. Narita leans into his Ivy League pedigree as he fosters a nerdy shock jock impression. He is among a few Japanese provocateurs who have found an eager audience by gleefully breaching social taboos. His Twitter bio: “The things you’re told you’re not allowed to say are usually true.”
Last month, several commenters discovered Dr. jNarlta's remarks and began spreading them on social media. During a panel discussion on a respected internet talk show with scholars and journalists, Yuki Honda, a University of Tokyo sociologist, described his comments as “hatred toward the vulnerable.”
A growing group of critics warn that Dr. Narita's popularity could unduly sway public policy and social norms. Given Japan’s low birthrate and the highest public debt in the developed world, policymakers increasingly worry about how to fund Japan’s expanding pension obligations. The country is also grappling with growing numbers of older people who suffer from dementia or die alone.
In written answers to emailed questions, Dr. Narita said he was “primarily concerned with the phenomenon in Japan, where the same tycoons continue to dominate the worlds of politics, traditional industries, and media/entertainment/journalism for many years.”
The phrases “ mass suicide" and “mass seppuku,” he wrote, were “an abstract metaphor.”
“I should have been more careful about their potential negative connotations,” he added. “After some self-reflection, I stopped using the words last year."
His detractors say his repeated remarks on the subject have already spread dangerous ideas.
“It’s irresponsible," said Masaki Kubota, a journalist who has written about Dr. Narita. People panicking about the burdens of an aging society “might think. ‘Oh. my grandparents are the ones who are living longer,’” Mr. Kubota said, "‘and we should just get rid of them.'”
Masato Fujisaki, a columnist, argued in Newsweek Japan that the professor’s remarks "should not be easily taken as a ‘metaphor.” Dr. Narita’s fans, Mr. Fujisaki said, are people “who think that old people should just die already and social welfare should be cut*
Despite a culture of deference to older generations, Ideas about culling them have surfaced in Japan before. A decade ago. Taro Aso — the finance minister at the time and now a power broker in the governing Liberal Democratic Party — suggested that old people should “hurry up and die."
Last year, 'Plan75 "a dystopian movie by the Japanese filmmaker Chie Hayakawa, imagined cheerful salespeople wooing retirees into government-sponsored euthanasia. In Japanese folklore, families carry older relatives to the top of mountains or remote corners of forests and leave them to die.
Dr. Narita's language, particularly when he has mentioned “mass suicide,” arouses historical sensitivities in a country where young men were sent to their deaths as kamikaze pilots during World War II and Japanese soldiers ordered thousands of families in Okinawa to commit suicide rather than surrender.
Critics worry that his comments could summon the kinds of sentiments that led Japan to pass a eugenics law in 1948, under which doctors forcibly sterilized thousands of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or genetic disorders. In 2016, a man who believed those with disabilities should be euthanized murdered 19 people at a care home outside Tokyo.
In his day job, Dr. Narita conducts technical research of computerized algorithms used in education and health care policy. But as a regular presence across numerous internet platforms and on television in Japan, he has grown increasingly popular, appearing on magazine covers and comedy shows and in an advertisement for energy drinks. He has even spawned an imitator on TikTok.
He often appears with Gen X rabble-rousers like Hiroyuki Nishimura, a celebrity entrepreneur and owner of 4chan, the online message board where some of the internet’s most toxic ideas bloom, and Takafumi Horie, a trash-talking entrepreneur who once went to prison for securities fraud.
At times, he has pushed the boundaries of taste. At a panel hosted by Globis, a Japanese graduate business school, Dr. Narita told the audience that “if this can become a Japanese society where people like you all commit seppuku one after another, it wouldn’t be just a social security policy, but it would be the best ‘Cool Japan' policy.” Cool Japan is a government program promoting the country’s cultural products.
Shocking or not, some lawmakers say, Dr. Narita’s ideas are opening the door to much-needed political conversations about pension reform and changes to social welfare. “There is criticism that older people are receiving too much pension money and the young people are supporting all the old people, even those who are wealthy,” said Shun Otokita, 39, a member of the upper house of Parliament with Nippon Ishin no Kai, a right-leaning party.
But detractors aay Dr. Narita highlights the burdens of an aging population without suggesting realistic policies that could alleviate some of the pressures.
“He’s not focusing on helpful strategies such as better access to day care or broader inclusion of women in the work force or broader inclusion of immigrants," said Alexis Dudden, a historian at the University of Connecticut who studies modem Japan. “Things that might actually invigorate Japanese society.”
In broaching euthanasia, Dr. Narita has spoken publicly of his mother, who had an aneurysm when he was 19. In an interview with a website where families can search for nursing homes. Dr. Narita described how even with insurance and government financing, his mother's care cost him 100,000 yen — or about $760— a month.
Some surveys in Japan have indicated that a majority of the public supports legalizing voluntary euthanasia. Bui Mr. Narita's reference to a mandatory practice spooks ethicists. Currently, every country that has legalized the practice only “allows it if the person wants it themselves,” said Fumika Yamamoto, a professor of philosophy at Tokyo City University.
In his emailed responses. Dr. Narita said that “euthanasia (either voluntary or involuntary) is a complex, nuanced issue.”
"I am not advocating Its introduction,” he added. “I predict it to be more broadly discussed.”
At Yale, Dr. Narita sticks to courses on probability, statistics, econometrics and education and labor economics.
Neither Tony Smith, the department chair in economics, nor a spokesperson for Yale replied to requests for comment.
Josh Angrist, who has won the Nobel in economic science and was one of Dr. Narita's doctoral supervisors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his former student was a “talented scholar” with an “offbeat sense of humor."
“I would like to see Yusuke continue a very promising career as a scholar,” Dr. Angrist said. “So my main concern in a case like his is that he’s being distracted by other things, and that's kind of a shame.”
The New York Times June 17, 2022
Chie Hayakawa’s film, “Plan 75,”
THE SATURDAY PROFILE
A Filmmaker Imagines a Japan Where the Elderly Volunteer to Die
The premise for Chie Hayakawa’s film, “Plan 75,” is shocking: a government push to euthanize the elderly. In a rapidly aging society, some also wonder: Is the movie prescient?
Chie Hayakawa in Tokyo. Her new film “Plan 75” takes on one of the biggest elephants in the room in Japan: the challenges of dealing with the world’s oldest society.Credit...Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times
By Motoko Rich
June 17, 2022
TOKYO — The Japanese film director Chie Hayakawa was germinating the idea for a screenplay when she decided to test out her premise on elderly friends of her mother and other acquaintances. Her question: If the government sponsored a euthanasia program for people 75 and over, would you consent to it?
“Most people were very positive about it,” Ms. Hayakawa said. “They didn’t want to be a burden on other people or their children.”
To Ms. Hayakawa, the seemingly shocking response was a powerful reflection of Japan’s culture and demographics. In her first feature-length film, “Plan 75,” which won a special distinction at the Cannes Film Festival this month, the government of a near-future Japan promotes quiet institutionalized deaths and group burials for lonely older people, with cheerful salespeople pitching them on the idea as if hawking travel insurance.
“The mind-set is that if the government tells you to do something, you must do it,” Ms. Hayakawa, 45, said in an interview in Tokyo before the film’s opening in Japan on Friday. Following the rules and not imposing on others, she said, are cultural imperatives “that make sure you don’t stick out in a group setting.”
With a lyrical, understated touch, Ms. Hayakawa has taken on one of the biggest elephants in the room in Japan: the challenges of dealing with the world’s oldest society.
Close to one-third of the country’s population is 65 or older, and Japan has more centenarians per capita than any other nation. One out of five people over 65 in Japan live alone, and the country has the highest proportion of people suffering from dementia. With a rapidly declining population, the government faces potential pension shortfalls and questions about how the nation will care for its longest-living citizens.
Aging politicians dominate government, and the Japanese media emphasizes rosy stories about happily aging fashion gurus or retail accommodations for older customers. But for Ms. Hayakawa, it was not a stretch to imagine a world in which the oldest citizens would be cast aside in a bureaucratic process — a strain of thought she said could already be found in Japan.
Euthanasia is illegal in the country, but it occasionally arises in grisly criminal contexts. In 2016, a man killed 19 people in their sleep at a center for people with disabilities outside Tokyo, claiming that such people should be euthanized because they “have extreme difficulty living at home or being active in society.”
The horrifying incident provided a seed of an idea for Ms. Hayakawa. “I don’t think that was an isolated incident or thought process within Japanese society,” she said. “It was already floating around. I was very afraid that Japan was turning into a very intolerant society.”
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To Kaori Shoji, who has written about film and the arts for The Japan Times and the BBC and saw an earlier version of “Plan 75,” the movie did not seem dystopian. “She’s just telling it like it is,” Ms. Shoji said. “She’s telling us: ‘This is where we’re headed, actually.’”
That potential future is all the more believable in a society where some people are driven to death by overwork, said Yasunori Ando, an associate professor at Tottori University who studies spirituality and bioethics.
“It is not impossible to think of a place where euthanasia is accepted,” he said.
Ms. Hayakawa has spent the bulk of her adult years contemplating the end of life from a very personal vantage. When she was 10, she learned that her father had cancer, and he died a decade later. “That was during my formative years, so I think it had an influence on my perspective toward art,” she said.
The daughter of civil servants, Ms. Hayakawa started drawing her own picture books and writing poems from a young age. In elementary school, she fell in love with “Muddy River,” a Japanese drama about a poor family living on a river barge. The movie, directed by Kohei Oguri, was nominated for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards in 1982.
“The feelings I couldn’t put into words were expressed in that movie,” Ms. Hayakawa said. “And I thought, I want to make movies like that as well.”
She eventually applied to the film program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, believing that she would get a better grounding in moviemaking in the United States. But given her modest English abilities, she decided within a week of arriving on campus to switch to the photography department, because she figured she could take pictures by herself.
Her instructors were struck by her curiosity and work ethic. “If I mentioned a film offhandedly, she would go home and go rent it, and if I mentioned an artist or exhibition, she would go research it and have something to say about it,” said Tim Maul, a photographer and one of Ms. Hayakawa’s mentors. “Chie was someone who really had momentum and a singular drive.”
After graduating in 2001, Ms. Hayakawa gave birth to her two children in New York. In 2008, she and her husband, the painter Katsumi Hayakawa, decided to return to Tokyo, where she began working at WOWOW, a satellite broadcaster, helping to prepare American films for Japanese viewing.
“The mind-set is that if the government tells you to do something, you must do it,” Ms. Hayakawa said.Credit...Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times
At 36, she enrolled in a one-year film program at a night school in Tokyo while continuing to work during the day. “I felt like I couldn’t put my full energy into child raising or filmmaking,” she said. Looking back, she said, “I would tell myself it’s OK, just enjoy raising your children. You can start filmmaking at a later time.”
For her final project, she made “Niagara,” about a young woman who learns, as she is about to depart the orphanage where she grew up, that her grandfather had killed her parents, and that her grandmother, who she thought had died in a car accident with her parents, was alive.
She submitted the movie to the Cannes Film Festival in a category for student works and was shocked when it was selected for screening in 2014. At the festival, Ms. Hayakawa met Eiko Mizuno-Gray, a film publicist, who subsequently invited Ms. Hayakawa to make a short film on the theme of Japan 10 years in the future. It would be part of an anthology produced by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the celebrated Japanese director.
Ms. Hayakawa had already been developing the idea of “Plan 75” as a feature-length film but decided to make an abridged version for “Ten Years Japan.”
While writing the script, she woke up every morning at 4 to watch movies. She cites the Taiwanese director Edward Yang, the South Korean director Lee Chang-dong and Krzysztof Kieslowski, the Polish art-house director, as important influences. After work, she would write for a couple of hours at a cafe while her husband cared for their children — relatively rare in Japan, where women still carry the disproportionate burden of housework and child care.
After Ms. Hayakawa’s 18-minute contribution to the anthology came out, Ms. Mizuno-Gray and her husband, Jason Gray, worked with her to develop an extended script. By the time filming started, it was the middle of the pandemic. “There were countries with Covid where they were not prioritizing the life of the elderly,” Ms. Hayakawa said. “Reality surpassed fiction in a way.”
Ms. Hayakawa decided to adopt a subtler tone for the feature-length movie and inject more of a sense of hope. She also added several narrative strands, including one about an elderly woman and her tightknit group of friends, and another about a Filipina caregiver who takes a job at one of the euthanasia centers.
She included scenes of the Filipino community in Japan, Ms. Hayakawa said, as a contrast to the dominant culture. “Their culture is that if somebody is in trouble, you help them right away,” Ms. Hayakawa said. “I think that is something Japan is losing.”
Stefanie Arianne, the daughter of a Japanese father and a Filipina mother who plays Maria, the caregiver, said Ms. Hayakawa had urged her to show emotional restraint. In one scene, Ms. Arianne said, she had the instinct to shed tears, “but with Chie, she really challenged me to not cry.”
Ms. Hayakawa said she did not want to make a film that simply deemed euthanasia right or wrong. “I think what kind of end to a life and what kind of death you want is a very personal decision,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that is so black or white.”