“Adult bullying is not going away. It is growing increasingly cruel,” says Tokyo Metropolitan University sociologist Shinji Miyadai in conversation with Spa! (Dec 24). Spa!’s subject is “adult bullying hell.”
The magazine narrates episodes which the reader’s first instinct is to dismiss as exaggerated, if not made up altogether. Then one remembers the grotesque bullying of junior teachers by senior colleagues at Kobe’s Higashisuma Elementary School, which came to light in October after having gone on for a year and a half, and Spa!’s stories seem less implausible. Miyadai’s analysis provides further authentication.
Still, doubts remain. If the stories are true, and if they describe not just a few very extreme cases but conditions under which many Japanese employees are compelled to work, then “hell” is a fair description. “Slavery” would be another.
Here is Spa!’s “Case 1.” Upon graduation, “Megumi Ito” (a pseudonym) entered a company that makes office equipment. That was four years ago. She was 22. From very early on, it seems, she had two persecutors. One was a cleaning lady in her 70s. Another was a part-time employee in her 50s. Somehow they took a dislike to her. We’re not told why. Jealousy of her youth and full-time status? That’s just a guess. The cleaning lady would splash water from the toilet onto Ito’s bento. She came down with norovirus five times before discovering the cause.
The part-timer was openly vicious. “She’d scream at me, kick me, spread filthy stories about me: ‘I see the slut meeting men at the train station and going to hotels with them.’”
Why would she bear this in silence for so long? One reason given is that the cleaning lady was the boss’ neighbor, which apparently – in the victim’s mind at least – afforded her a measure of protection. At last she roused herself to action. She collected evidence –photographs, recordings – which she submitted to head office. Last year, the offenders were fired. But by then Ito was psychologically worn down. She quit. Whatever she’s doing now, hopefully she’s happier.
“Case 2:” “Katsuya Sakamoto,” 37, has made up his mind. He’ll quit “within the year.” If that meant 2019, he may have quit already. He worked for a small printing outfit whose atmosphere he likens to a dictatorship. The dictator is a woman in her 40s who married the boss and more or less seized control of the firm. “If she takes a dislike to you,” he says, “you’re dead.” She disliked him. Again, if there was a reason, we’re not told what it was. Maybe there was none. She issued “absurd” orders, impossible to carry out. Then she’d slander him in front of customers and colleagues: “He’s incompetent, stupid, useless!”
Sakamoto mentions another victim who suffered worse – a forced head-shaving in front of everyone, insults raining down on him. It’s reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
Miyadai, the sociologist, doesn’t comment directly on either of these two “cases,” but confirms the generality that the social ambiance is growing toxic. It’s rooted, he says, in the high economic growth of the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Community ties withered, families splintered, until the individual was either entirely on his or her own or related only to like-minded friends who were more likely to encourage each other’s excesses than to check them.
The rise of the internet offered a new forum for the slander of “outsiders” who threatened one’s security and self-esteem. As automation progresses and artificial intelligence gears up to endanger more and more jobs and raise already-high uncertainty levels to dizzying new heights, the desire to lash out at anyone perceived as vulnerable is more likely to rise, short-term, than to fall, Miyadai fears.© Japan Today