November 9th, 2010

Osaka

A different perspective

"For instance, you hear much about autism these days in the medical world. But I do not see it as a handicap or an illness. People may say they are objectively of low intelligence, but to me, it only sounds like they’re saying these children are difficult to deal with. Yes, there are children with special needs. They require a lot of care. But we call them “problem children” because we don’t want to furnish those needs.
"The same goes for kids who refuse to go to school and withdraw from society. There is no accomplished individual alive who has not exhibited signs of social withdrawal at some point in their lives. Every person who has ever accomplished anything of importance has endured a period of solitude. No one who did not go through such an experience went on to achieve something great. Inventors, researchers are all reclusive. A child may appear unusual, but they possess possibilities."
-Ryuho Okawa, in Happy Science Monthly, October 2010.

This may seem a charitable view of the hikikomori, but it turns out he is not the only one to suspect that the rise of the "shut-in generation" is related to the wave of autism perceived in the western world. Although this seems to be a minority view by far, I think public opinion is colored by a basically slanderous perception of the hikikomori. Do we really know that all they do in their room is watch anime? How many of them are secretly writing poetry or novels, or perhaps drawing? They are unlikely to reveal these activities to those who look down on them, but I bet this is very, very common. Then again I may think so because, well, it could have been me, if I lived in such a conformist society.