Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sheltered Society: A Holiday Catch-22


Ya wanna be let in on a delicious, dark secret?

I just heard about a really cool website. Apparently lots of people have been going there. According to its counter it has gotten tens of thousands of hits. It's a photo site. It has lots of cool pics. Pics of teens, to be exact.

Do you know what those teens are doing? (evil grin)

Having lunch. Cleaning the classroom. Doing afterschool extracurricular activities. All fully clothed, of course.

Yes, I know. That was my reaction, too. But judging from the tone of voice of the speaker and the sudden, shocked hush of the people at the meeting, you'd think it was the greatest scandal in the history of teenagers.

My, god...they posted cell phone pictures of each other on the internet having LUNCH!!!! OOOOOH!!!! SOCIETY IS DOOOOOOOMED!!!!!!


Actually, the offending website has been shut down and the culprits are being punished, but they're still making a really huge deal out of it.

Yes, that's the paranoid and privacy-obsessed society we live in now. It's the society in which one of my coworkers is STILL apparently sore at me because two years ago I posted on this blog a picture of her standing next to an Australian policeman. It's the society in which I was told I could be sued because I also posted a (very positive) picture of a student tutoring a child with no names mentioned, but the (kanji) school logo could be seen on her clothing. (Both photos, as well as others, have long since been removed from this site.)

It's the society in which, thanks to this privacy witch-hunt, paramedics, hospital emergency centers, and the police have found their work hampered because they no longer have emergency access to people's health or personal records without their expressed permission...which is kind of difficult when they're unconscious or missing. Services for helping people track down estranged parents, siblings, or other relatives are no longer able to function.

It's also the society in which I'm supposed to send nengajo (New Year cards) to everyone I know and o-seibo (year-end gift) to the people who have helped me the most, but I can't track most of them down because our school no longer gives us a staff directory, and even the phone book white pages no longer include personal phone numbers. Certified deliverers do have access to online directory assistance, but apparently the default is for your address NOT to be listed unless you give permission. Needless to say, it was a very frustrating New Year for me in that regard.

However, I can see the other side of the story. Stories of teachers being attacked by students have never been all that uncommon here, but recently I've been hearing more and more about teachers being sought out and harassed if not parents. We also hear of people tracking down people they've met on online chat sites and causing problems. Although not directly related, the sad fact of schools being turned into walled fortresses in recent years because of teens who can't handle stress, twisted geeks with pedophilic fantasies, and chronically dirty old men with nothing better to do than try to molest little girls are all indicative of a society that has completely lost its moral compass. People not only have privatensphären, more and more they are living in their own, enclosed glass bubbles, buried in their cell phone worlds, shutting out the people around them, living in fear and contempt of their neighbors.

But that only serves to make the problem worse. When you don't need other people, other people cease to matter. If other people don't matter, there's no reason to have any regard for them. If you have no regard for other people, there's no respect for life or property. If there's no respect for life or property, everyone around you becomes either competition or prey.

In short, when people become too obsessed with their privacy, too wrapped up in themselves, civilization falls apart. For all we know it may have already crumbled beyond repair. While developing countries continue to breed and grow, the developed world launches itself headlong into cell-phone self-destruction.

Oh, and by the way: in my own school days a community newsletter publicized a picture of me playing my sax at a school event wearing a very bizarre costume. In fact, now that I think about it, another community publication printed a pic of me and my friends eating LUNCH!!!!

Know what? It didn't bother me at all.


  • It is the invasive and risky nature of the Internet that has brought all this on. I am sure that at first everyone thought it was a good idea. However, over time, people have learned that they need to hide their online identity. This generates paranoia. Then the paranoia carries over to normal life. We are hesitant to say hi to strangers. We remove our names from the phone directory. We look in the rear view mirror while driving, wondering if some person behind us is going to have a fit of raod rage and run us off the road.

    Sometimes I wonder, if we would all be better off without computers and the Internet. But then I think about all the things I would be ignorant of, and instead of the country going to hell this decade, it would go to hell overnight, and one morning, I would wake up in a BRAVE NEW WORLD.

    I hated that book. Got an F on my report. Its a good thing my hand writing was so illegible, because I really spoke my mind. ITs probably the one book that made me the conservative thinker I am today.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:55 AM  

  • It's already Brave New World and 1984 in the states.

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 4:48 PM  

  • What color?

    By Anonymous The Colorman, at 5:16 PM  

  • I dunno, I think it's a learning/exploitation curve.

    With each new technology, there's always scammers figuring out how to get something out of it (stealing someone's ID-financial or otherwise-is another caveat that needs to be mentioned).

    It's just like life, with each new freedom, there are new risks.

    C'est la Vie!

    By Blogger ladybug, at 12:31 AM  

  • I don't know about it being so Orwellian in the states, but with a good bit of resolve and a couple of brain cells anyone can figure out how to protect their identity properly. Buy a shredder, Google yourself and your personal info often, buy a safe and guard your wallet.

    Now, I don't know about public/private photos and blogging, but any photos taken on private property are prohibited from publication due to First Amendment rules. If you take photos on public property or your private property that look onto private property and publish them then you're within the rules.

    I agree with ladybug in that with new freedom comes new risks. I also would add that new responsibilities arise as well. Information has become such a universal exchange that people must be extra careful to protect what is intrinsically theirs: their identity.

    By Blogger lunaliar, at 12:53 AM  

  • Ironic that the technology designed to connect people actually isolates them.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 2:37 PM  

  • So, where's the data trail that'll take me to that picture of you playing the sax and wearing a very bizarre costume? I might want to put it on my blog. :-)

    I know that teachers here in the US have to be so careful about their interactions with students. I agree--the whole thing has gone a bit overboard. How to strike the happy balance? I'm not sure, but I do feel for teachers I know, who have to expend so much energy being sure their opinions and hands are always kept to themselves.

    By Blogger San, at 5:17 AM  

  • It's a difficult balance about privacy issues. I know it feels kind of freaky to google yourself and find all kinds of information...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:10 AM  

  • Well, as an update to this issue, it was announced that the main concern was the fact that students were obviously using cell phones (i.e. cell phone cameras) during school hours, which is against the rules, so they definitely have a point. However, right after that announcement was made, someone else raised his hand and said that was unacceptable, insisting that use of cameras or any other kind of imaging device should be banned. Luckily somewhat cooler heads prevailed, and the administration reiterated its position that, as long as the photo subjects grant permission, there's no problem.

    In other news, my wife just got in trouble at the school where she teaches. Her offense? She gave little Christmas presents to the students in her homeroom. No, it has nothing to do with religion, giving things to students, etc.. The problem was that a kid in another class was upset that s/he didn't get a present. The kid's mother had a fit and complained to the principal that her precious little snowflake had been made upset by my wife's "totally unfair" action. And of course, at just about any school, anytime a parent bitches the administration always caves.

    They just don't pay us enough.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:16 PM  

  • Get use to the modern technology society which is a REAL LIFE.
    “Survival of the fittest!!!” SIR!

    Nowadays, not only kids are too obsessed in their cell-phone(s) world, even some adults are doing the same thingy, e.g. surfing internet ever evening via blogging, face-book, MSN,or my space…etc.

    By Anonymous L.C_D, at 5:31 PM  

  • I feel bad for your wife. My kids sometimes brought home little holiday gifts from their teacher. But some teachers just didn't feel like giving gifts. And the kids didn't seem to mind a bit. Sounds to me like a parent's hidden disappointment agenda is coming out of the closet.

    By Blogger San, at 5:20 AM  

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