Written by Lu Te-Hsing ＆ Vosot Ikeida
Lu Te-Hsing：Originated from Taiwan, he is currently a post-graduation student at Southern California Institute of Architecture, dedicating to filmmaking in Los Angeles, especially "Last Choice / Mogaki" for now. Working span many fields, including publications, films, space design, event planning and art exhibitions.
Lu Te-Hsing Homepage：https://lutehsing.com/
Vosot Ikeida ：Originated from Japan. Hikikomori. His memoir as a hikikomori for over 30 years can be read in another series "The Odyssey of a Hikikomori".
…Continued from Round 3
Parent-Child Relationship Peculiar to the Asian Hikikomori
Vosot Ikeida Last time, in Round 3, you mentioned your friend who may be a hikikomori, feeling guilty to his parents, and that is why he would like to become rich to reassure them. Though I say I no longer feel like that, I do understand what you are saying and what your friend is feeling. I used to be like that, and my friends of hikikomori in Japan are mostly like that too.
However, when I talk with hikikomoris in the Western society, like France, Italy, or the U.S, I don’t hear they have such a sense of guilt to their parents so often. Sometimes I hear so, but their sense of guilt is not so strong. The triangle of relationships made by the hikikomori, their parents, and the society, seems to have a different shape in the West from in the East.
Therefore, I assume the sense of guilt to parents may be one of the characters for the hikikomoris in the Asian society. That is no wonder because our countries are equally under the overwhelming influence of Confucianism historically, which teaches us that a child must respect one’s parents, and a younger must respect one’s elder.
I think that Confucianism had proposed a harmonious relationship in a parent-child relationship originally long ago, because I hear there used to be the word "孝慈 xiao ci", which is the combination of "孝 xiao / kou" : filial piety, or child's devotion for one's parent, and "慈 ci / ji " mercy, or parent's love to one's child. It was a premise that those two concepts functioned in pair. However, as time goes by, even the parents who did not practice "慈 ci" started to demand the children to practice "孝 xiao".
Some parents misunderstood that pressing on their own self-realization to their children might be their love for children. I think that it came to be considered that the Confucian parent-child relationship is that a child devotes his parents without any return, and the society affirmed and recommended it. It must have been even convenient for those who lived in the feudal age.
However, this should not be Confucian values in nature. Nowadays the word ”孝慈” is never used generally in Japan. If Confucius was living in modern times, I think he might have said, " 親不慈子不要孝 (There is no need to devote for parents who don't have mercy)".
Absolutization of Community Unit called "Family"
Lu Te-Hsing Yes, it makes a sense. I think a lot of people take “family” as a basic unit of the society, and a family should stay together and act like how the society expects it to be. To me, I consider it a very dangerous idea. What if the parents don’t like their kids? What if the kids don’t like their parents? Even just because of a tiny mistake. What can they do to release themselves from that invisible chain to avoiding them hurting each other? Sadly, people avoid talking about this topic because a person should not “not like his /her family member.” This mentality happens especially in Asia in my observation.
Worldwide Common Factor for Hikikomori Phenomenon
Vosot That’s interesting. In December 2017, I founded the GHO; Global Hikikomori Organization(*1) on the internet, to make it easier for all the hikikomoris or hikikomori-related people in the world to get to know and contact one another. There, I learned that the phenomenon of hikikomori is not occurring only in so-called developed countries but also in developing countries as well.
It seems there are some common structures or factors worldwide in the process how a hikikomori is made up, though it is not easy to put it in words. But on the other hand, there must be a part of the factors which is not common, just like the influence of Confucianism that is possibly contributing to the Asian way to produce hikikomoris indirectly.
Anyway, many things are not known about hikikomori yet. When we can collect more exact data and cases of hikikomoris from all over the world, probably we may be able to find out the truth in this kind of field, I guess.
*1.GHO (Global Hikikomori Organization)
Development of Artificial Intelligence and Increase of Hikikomori
Lu I appreciate what you have done in this field. Well, let me take another point for hikikomori, which is probably common worldwide. It’s the relation between technology and hikikomori.
Vosot Wow, it sounds magnificent, but what kind of problem is it exactly?
Lu Well, I have a question like this. Do you think that technology like mediums, anime, manga or immersive technology like VR are a factor to becoming a hikikomori. There is a movie called "Ready Player One" describing the technology like this. There is a lot of people blaming modern medias that they create a comfortable environment for people to withdraw themselves. What do you think about this kind of opinion?
Vosot First of all, as I said earlier, there had been no internet by the time I became a hikikomori. So the fact that I became a hikikomori and the fact that all those technologies are well advanced and developed are not straightly connected. There is no direct connection between being a hikikomori and all those things. Apart from that, your question sounds like a question to civilization. Isn't that so?
Lu I think so. Maybe I didn’t think about it in a very obvious way not even until you mentioned it. But when I think about it now, it can be so.
Michel Foucault's Prophecy
Vosot Such a profound issue, isn’t it. I think the development of technology brings us many conveniences. Thanks to that, for example, you and me could meet up today like this. Without the internet, it wouldn’t be so easy. But obviously, there is another aspect that the technology will be depriving us of human nature from ourselves.
A French philosopher, Michel Foucault, said in 1964 that it will be only 150 years more that we can be human beings. We can't help admitting that it is well predicting when we look at what is happening in the world nowadays, which is only over 50 years later. Let's see things like AI; Artificial Intelligence or many human tasks done by robots and computers. So we sometimes don’t know what we are living for like this and what we should do. The development of technology may be taking the reasons away from us to live like before.
But on the other hand, it’s connected with the increase of hikikomori as well, I think. Because there is a certain percentage of the young generation of hikikomori, who don’t express clearly but they look like feeling that, “OK, I am going to let AI deal with that kind of annoying tasks. Then why do I need to work? Why do I have to do that labor?” The development of technology started to give us the choices about whether we should work still or not. It might be one of the reasons that hikikomoris are increasing worldwide.
Meanwhile, honestly speaking, a hikikomori like me has a slight disappointment with the development of AI as well. Probably it won’t be only me. I feel the field we can do will get smaller and smaller. It will be funny if someone overhears me saying this, because we are not supposed to be working. They would think “Isn’t only the working people qualified to get disappointed with the fact that the job we human do is getting less and less?”
I suppose this episode may tell us that a hikikomori is not simply a person who doesn’t want to work, but who wants to work in his or her own autonomous way.
Solving the Hikikomori Problem by Basic Income?
Lu I heard that you were talking about international basic income. Jacques Attali talked about a speculative future in his book "A Brief History of the Future" in 2006. He predicted a future without borders, where everyone has a basic income because AI, robots, and algorithm replace all the labors. In such society, people can be fulfilled without the confinements of nationality, class, race or gender. That is a beautiful speculation, but it is also extremely hard to achieve. Do you consider these new technologies, for example, international basic income, can be the solution for hikikomori in the future?
Vosot That would help a lot for the solution of the hikikomori issues. However, I am hesitant to affirm that is just the solution for us, because being a hikikomori has many aspects in it.
It is not only that there are many types of hikikomoris, but also that there are many periods of pattern of hikikomori even just one hikikomori life. For example, as I told you, I started to be a hikikomori at my age of 23, but my patterns of being a hikikomori have differed in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and now. In my 30’s, I was scared to see even the daylights. I was afraid to see anybody. In those days, the internet had already emerged, but I didn’t have any device to access it, so I was totally alone.
But I preferred to be isolated. I never wanted to meet any person except myself. It didn’t matter so much if other people in the world are working or not, as long as they don’t come up to me.
If the Attali’s speculation was realized in the future, people in the world would not be working anymore at that time, then it would be possible enough that hikikomoris are no longer blamed for not working. So it sounds like to be a solution for hikikomori.
But what would happen on the hikikomoris who are afraid just of seeing other people? Even in the society where there is no more work to do, it may be still normal that people will meet up each other and one another for pleasure and socializing. Then, one likely thinks that gregarious people have broader and more respectable minds. It may become a new cause or motivation that people still look down upon the guys who don't or can't socialize a lot, like hikikomoris.
Human Alienation by BI
Vosot After all, it sounds me to be better than to introduce the basic income system, to make the normal people revise their way of thinking of us, and to create the society where any way of living is accepted as far as one doesn’t bother other people’s living, and where being a hikikomori is no longer a problem.
If we want to realize the Attali’s speculation, we will have too many hardships. The rich countries would be relatively easier to achieve the plan of basic income, but then many immigrants would flood into rich countries from poor ones. So it must be international to achieve it. Then we will have to overcome the economic gap by nation for the start.
Even in the small, -- I dare say, small -- European Union, they are struggling so hard to integrate and not successful yet because of the economic gap by nation.
In Japan, a trial calculation was conducted for the case that the basic income was implemented domestically. I forgot the exact figure, but I remember the amount of money which one Japanese citizen can receive by the basic income system would be much lower, obviously, than the one a citizen receives now by the social welfare system, which guarantees so-called "the minimum standard of healthy and cultural life in Japan", stipulated by our Constitution.
Then, surprisingly, a lot of objections against the basic income came up from the poor class, saying “The basic income makes us poorer”.
In the meantime, I know many Japanese hikikomoris who say this kind of opinion for the basic income.
“If the system is realized, we will be paid without working, and that sounds good. But I will feel like I am expelled from the society by the people saying ‘OK, we will give you this money, so please go away with it. This is the place for working people, so don’t disturb us.’”
I mean, there are some hikikomori who want to participate in the society but don't know how they can, and they may feel to be estranged as human existence by the introduction of the basic income system. Being a hikikomori is a provisional choice to postpone the solutions of the internal problems in many cases. They hold a lot of contradictions inside while being a hikikomori. Those contradictions may spout out when the basic income is introduced.
Some People Want Borders to Exist
Vosot A human usually wishes "I want to make my life meaningful", don't we? That is why some people depend on working. By working, they can convince themselves like this, "I am doing this job. I am contributing to the society and the world through this job. Therefore, my life has a meaning".
However, what would happen if they were told one day, "From now on, your job is done by this AI. You don't have to do it. You only have to just keep on living, with receiving this basic income"? They will start to have a problem, "I can't think my life has a meaning"
From that point of view, we can think that a hikikomori is a person who cannot feel that a meaning is given to his or her life by depending on working, because of the influence from the upbringings or some other reasons. They don't go out of rooms symbolically, since a meaning of life cannot be given outside from working to their life.
This episode will also tell us that a hikikomori is not simply just a person who don’t want to work, but rather who wants to work in his or her own way with holding one’s subject.
That is why I am very prudent for the idea of the basic income, and also I think it will be a long way to go if we introduce it, and I doubt if the idea is straightly the solution for hikikomoris.
Lu So you think there is still a distance.
Vosot Yes. If we are aiming the international realization of the basic income, we will have to do something with the international disparity at first. There, we can think of the abolition of the national borders, as you said. But looking at the current movements against the EU or the world free trade, there are still many people feeling their identities in belonging to their nations. So it will be a long way to go. I also think that we, humans, tend to need something to project our own selves on. Even if the national border is disappearing, people may create a new border, to distinguish the community on which we project ourselves, from everything else, instead of one's own nation.
...Continued to Round 5
...To the Japanese Version of this article
...To the Mandarin Version of this article