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I struggle with my ‘unbending sense of justice’

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company worker in my early 60s. I am struggling with my “unbending sense of justice.”

My motto in life is “Don’t tolerate a world where honesty does not pay.” So I am quick to scold anyone breaching public manners on trains or elsewhere, such as passengers speaking loudly, or thoughtlessly occupying two or more seats.

Last year, after boarding a crowded train home following a dinner party, I saw some students sitting on seats with their legs stretched out.

I usually respond to such poor behavior only mildly by berating them verbally, but on this occasion, I kicked them, as I was under the influence of alcohol. As a result, they restrained me by holding both of my arms in a lock and beat me. While I wasn’t injured, my clothes were torn. When I returned home, a family member on seeing me tearfully said to me: “You aren’t a police officer. Please don’t get involved with such people.”

When I was a little child, we were supposed to be reprimanded by adults when we did something wrong. Today, people who warn others can suffer dangerous consequences. I myself am not a perfect human, but I resent such a society. How should I go on living in this society?

S, Tokyo

Dear Mr. S:

While I cannot recommend taking such actions on your own, I do understand how you feel very well. What’s more, if asked how I would respond, I must admit I have no right answer.

If people were as strong as Superman and had nothing to lose, they would naturally follow their sense of justice. Other people would get help from someone who is enormously strong to help them act out their sense of justice.

However, can we always say that this sense of justice is beyond doubt? This is a difficult question. The answer will depend on who you are, your age and experience, as well as your worldview and how it will change.

If you felt you achieved favorable results for your sense of justice before your views on justice changed, what is the meaning of the past acts from the viewpoint of your new views? Although it is said people’s thinking changes as their positions change, I don’t think this accounts for everything.

I still ask myself — if I find out about something which I cannot tolerate, will I just pretend I have not seen it? Is taking such a position on life justifiable as a life properly lived?

In all honesty, I have no answer.

Will I really achieve anything by risking my life? What meaning will it bring to me, the public, the world or to humanity? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is something we must all figure out by ourselves.

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from Oct. 8, 2016, issue)Speech

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