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Saturday, 19 October 2013

What does it mean to be half. I consider myself "half". Yet the term is racist for sure and reminds me of all that can never be changed here until a whole new generation of harfus gain control in positions of power....hard for any whose names are not written in kanji and even harder for any who look most different. But until that day, when the government allows us resident harfus to vote; until the day when harfus are truly seen first for their ability and not their appearance...we are living in an isolated camp, a hollow between 2 mountains with one leg stretched wide to one mountain and the other leg stretched out to the other. Perched between 2 worlds and accepted totally by neither.Unable to move for fear of losing one or other or both worlds.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Diagnosing autism using salience network analysis.

If autism can be detected by brain mapping at a very young age (under 6 months) which seems highly likely given recent advances in salience networking (sensory nerve connectivity brain imaging data analysis) this is hugely exciting for parents and carers of autistic children because it offers earlier scientific answers to the years of concern, anguish and worries such as why their child is always playing alone, cannot tie their shoelaces by age four, or cannot structure their sentences as fluidly or quickly as children of a similar age. At the moment, traditional approach to autistic diagnosis involves intensive and emotionally charged interviewing of child and parents along with years of anguish and heartache as teachers and fellow parents may try to explain unusual behaviors with a variety of confusing and hotchpotch hypotheses.

Hyperconnection between neural pathways is seen in brain imagery of autistic people, fact. However, a very highly connected brain can be associated with both autism and genius. Information overload resulting from hyperconnectivity can cause the intensity of vision, synesthesia (overlapping of sensory functions)and specific coping mechanisms like rocking and social withdrawal common in both. With further research and work in specific areas of overlap and connection it is very possible that we could actually discover areas of the brain that are predisposed to outstanding capabilities and I believe eventually map a path of promise for all autistic children to find an area in which they have a unique, if restricted potential for brilliance and genius.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Socio demographic orientation of ASW/ hikikomori notes.

Seeking to identify factors that implicate culture bound theory both in the socio demographic orientation of hikikomori and in the physical manifestation of `opting out` by `shutting in` and including a brief comparison of those factors from a control culture with the related social expectation withdrawal of runaway. I`m using as a baseline for analysis, Japan`s position in 3 of the culture value indices defined by Hofstede, (G.Hofstede: 1980) namely the dimensions of:
Ø      individualism; IDV,
Ø      power distance; PDI,
Ø      uncertainty avoidance; UAI,
trying to analyse how, in conjunction with educational norms, peer behavioral patterns and employment expectations within a society, cultural values can determine how social withdrawal and `opting out` will present. Hikikomori is not a social situation that is disappearing in Japan, even though it is no longer the hot topic of the previous decade. As interest wanes and media inevitably moves its attention on to the next cult like phenomenon among young people who behave differently, the growing hikikomori population of over one million ( ) should not be forgotten. Educators and politicians are in a prime position to facilitate change and question teaching styles that may play a critical role in responsibility for such a huge, national, cultural specific, social epidemic that is not vanishing like its members, but is instead rampant and growing.

Culture-bound is a term that indicates the native countries culture is trigger for a certain social behaviour or trend. By naming a trend culture-bound, it is easier to trace cause and therefore perhaps to find solutions or appropriate ways to respond or not. However, this paper does not seek to offer solutions to the issue of hikikomori or to propose counsel although it does contain opinion. It looks at possible contributing background societal factors and at a juztapositional  social withdrawal phenomenon classified often as `runaway` in an attempt to identify specific enantiomers that lay claim to the theory herein that hikikomori is both Japanese specific and culture bound.
In medical anthropology a culture bound or culture reactive syndrome is a combination of psychiatric and somatic symptoms that are recognizable only within a specific society or culture. “Even though the concept is controversial, the term culture-bound syndrome was included in the fourth version of the Diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders, American Psychiatric Association”: 1994 (Sakamoto: 2005)
Secher in Watts (2002) explains “When you get large numbers of individuals behaving in similar ways, it is generally a cultural expression of some kind”.

Hikikomori is now a well known term. The translation alternatives (apathy syndrome, shut-ins, voluntary seclusion or acute social withdrawal) never caught on for a reason; the Japanese word hikikomori is the term that settled and is most widely used around the world for the phenomenon and this indicates implicitly that it is considered to be either Japanese specific or at least found mainly in Japan.
It is interesting to note the leading specialist on hikikomori psychologist Dr.Tamaki Saito coined the buzzword originally as shakaiteki hikikomori in 1998 (Saito:1998) acknowledging the intrinsic social (社会) or cultural roots.
Originally considered an extension of truancy (不燈侯) it was first treated as a medical ailment with copious quantities of drugs (Zielenziger:2006) but is now widely accepted as a pattern of behaviour of  young people who have jumped off the train of  expected  educational and social norms, as happens in many countries but have confined themselves inside their rooms as an escape from that pressure.
The IDV component.
To isolate oneself is a natural escape strategy reaction for a collectivist low IDV society member. In high collectivist cultures like Japan, context =identity. A person will feel safe and comfortable belonging to a group. Indeed, without answers from a stranger to establish context  with questions like; `What is your name? ` `How old are you? ` and `Where are you from?` it is difficult to establish a baseline connection with another person. Even on television interviewing random strangers in the street, Japanese television will give a person`s age and job details, where in an individualistic culture this would be considered rude, an invasion of privacy or in some cases a human rights issue.

This can be seen in statistics of how trusting people in both culture types are of complete strangers. In a collectivist culture a stranger is not part of a group and so difficult to place or identify. They are met with unease because there is no context. This unease is incidentally often misinterpreted as shyness by those from collectivist cultures who interpret how this unease would be identified in their own self oriented culture. Ignoring outsiders or non members is acceptable because the group must maintain its loyalty above all else and strangers will be met with unease.
In an individualist society, a person relates to a stranger as a `self`, valuing their individual and independent status. A whole group however may conversely be met with distrust.

In an individualist culture like America, Australia and the UK, a person feels most comfortable when they are able to make an individual expression of self because self= identity. There will be hints and comments pertaining to the self which may appear self centered but are culturally ingrained communicative habits in individualistic societies where people choose what to share and are taught that to be assertive with self-needs and opinions is a highly desirable quality.

Zielenziger (ibid) reports on an experiment with photography where a group of Japanese students (low IDV culture) and a group of American students (high IDV culture) were told to photograph a friend. The Japanese students all photographed their friend in an environment of some kind with the background taking more than
60% of the photograph frame. The American students all took closer up shots of their friend, the person took up most of the `canvas` and the background was blurred or inconsequential. This could denote the importance of people in context (typical in Japanese culture) contrasting the importance of people as self (typical inAmerican culture).

Ignoring outsiders or non members is acceptable in a collectivist culture because the group must maintain its loyalty to each other first and foremost like a mother cat guards her kittens. A complete stranger represents a person that cannot immediately be placed in context or group. The Daily Yomiuri (June 13th :2004) conducted a survey on trust in strangers and 47% of Americans responded saying other people can be trusted despite the far higher crime rate, where only 26% of Japanese responded that they would trust a complete stranger. The implication for hikikomori here is that once the person removes themselves from the group for an extended period they will be shut out and ignored because they no longer belong. Likewise, if an individual within the group behaves in a way contrary to group unwritten rules but accepted behavioural patterns for that group, they will be ignored and shut out to the point where they may voluntarily leave the group. This passive aggressive style of bullying is more common in group-oriented cultures and differs from the more violent and verbally abusive style bullying in self-oriented cultures.

A glimpse at historically rooted traditional collectivist culture

In traditional village society in the Tokugawa period, the government divided each village into 5 units of mutual surveillance to create smaller groups within the village
in order to promote mutual dependency and loyalty (⑤人国). The community was divided into these groups and if one person within the group disobeyed rules
or rebelled the whole group would be punished or chastised. In this way, it was taught through the generations that responsibility was for one`s own group (only), and that the individual has little power but as a group things can be achieved well.

By relying on this style of group dependency an individual`s ability to think critically without consulting others, and the opportunities and incentive to create change (which happens when one person thinks or does differently; others see, discuss, adopt and accomodate) and the practice of doing so have diminished.

Closed networks known as shigarami within society bind the groups strongly together so that those at the top, treated with utmost respect born from recognition of the huge responsibility they have over the group`s well being, must forfeit as much as their lives if one member of their group steps out of line and shames the network. This close knit structure can be compared with Amish societies `Ordnung` where rules down to exactly what members can wear, and other some religious cult groups in other countries too, but in Japan (and other highly collectivist group cultures too) this sense of responsibility to the group is so intense that any party not within the network or connected to a group cannot possibly get anywhere in life; where in contrast the option to leave the cult or group is a viable one and often first choice escape route in more individual-oriented countries with higher IDV scores.

While there is nothing new in this theory, the role that this imbedded cultural way is intrinsically implicated in the main isolation feature of social withdrawal/hikikomori is clear. Only by completely withdrawing from all groups can the individual salvage their desire to be different or to behave differently from any group.

By withdrawing from the group they are in turn ignored and outcast and can never again enter a new group in fear of the social stigma trailing and attached to having left one. The final irony however is that the world itself then clumps these individuals into a group and gives them the name `hikikomori`.

PDI component (Power Distance Indice).
Dependence V Independence.
The fact that hikikomori choose to retreat to their own rooms is a curious one from a Western high power distance country perspective. A young person`s room is where we are punished and forced to remain when we have done wrong. It is a punishment `to be grounded`. Yet, if we look at this choice with Hofstede`s  cultural dimension of power indice in mind regarding a high PD culture with no similar traditional confining punishment in childhood, it is easily comprehensible.
PDI rating is a country`s score for how it values dependency. This is connected closely to the other two components of collectivist and uncertainty avoidance but the focus is on hierarchy of a society and how extensive equality is in terms of power. In a low power distance country people will respect independence and demand it. In a high power distance culture (like Japan) people at the top will have great power and positions and rank will be controlled carefully with leaders consistently treated with great respect and obedience. In low power distance cultures there will be more rebellion for equality and change from those who feel powerless and less resistance to that rebellion from those who have the power.
In both cultures, parents teach differing values to their children. In Japan, traditionally although times are changing, parents have taught children to obey the teacher and all rules. An important mantra is not to cause problems for other people and to fall in line to save face for the family. In America and lower PD cultures, children are taught to question the teacher, to question everything and to answer back with an opinion when they disagree, to be a `hero` by protecting a stranger and to `think outside the box`. These are basic differences in the way parents bring up their children and as such, reflect how a society shapes its power distance.
So, it is not surprising that opting out for Japanese young people should be to stay at home. Here, their own room is a private sanctuary away from the peer group and world outside that imposes restrictions on them. Here, they can be semi safe from criticism from superiors` or society`s judgement, in a womb like existence with Mother nearby. The core value of power distance is rejected but the symbiotic relationship with Mother is very strong and offers a tiny thread of that instinctive culture born expectancy that is hard to shake- that of dependency.
In low power distant countries, we have the opposite culture reactive phenomenon in young people; that of `runaway`. It is directly related to power distance because it is chooses to run from all dependents and strives for complete independence even if that means homelessness. As James Lehman, a Canadian behavioural therapist for teens and young adults writes; “kids run away from problems they cannot handle. It`s in our culture. Adolescents often see running away as a way to achieve a sense of power and independence.” (Lehman: 2009).
Both social phenomena are rooted in rebellion or reaction against authority, but hikikomori is unique because it chooses to place the family as a safer haven than the peer group. This in turn, suggests that bullying and school pressure play a larger part in retreat than in the counterpart phenomena of runaway, where perhaps young people are fleeing the pressure from family pressure.
Finally, let us take a look at the uncertainty avoidance indice and how it relates to hikikomori.
UAI component
Rituals of performance.
Japan`s high value of employment stability and lifetime employment is a mental programming statistic, not necessarily found within individuals but a composite factor within the construct described and researched by Hofstede (Hofstede, 1983: 118-119) under the name of `Uncertainty Avoidance`.
The longitudinal (25 years) research that supports culture bound hypothesis in connection with employment avoidance and social withdrawal is documented in approx. 118 articles published in the `Journal of International Business Studies`between 1983 to 2008 (Au,K.Y, 1999;799-812).
UAI is a cultural dimension of toleration concerning uncertainty about the future. At the high end of the scale are cultures in which people feel comfortable with rituals and routines that reduce uncertainty in daily life and in the workplace. Low end UAI cultures are those in which people are happier with fewer routines and rituals and are open to much wider individual variation. In countries where UAI is high, and Japan ranks 92nd out of 100 countries surveyed (Hofstede, 1980) people will demonstrate extreme loyalty to the company or their employer and feel extreme social obligation to participate in group activity.
A high UAI score relates to hikikomori because 100% of hikikomori young adults have opted out of both work and group social activity. They are therefore reacting in a culturally adverse mode, mitigating the relevance of the claim `culture bound`.
The pressure on young people within the typical hikikomori age range of 14 to 30 -to find work and to stay in that work - or to find a club activity and stay in that activity and to co-operate correctly within a rigid peer group hierarchical system (侯輩・先輩) within Japanese society are factors that go towards creating pressure to isolate. As unemployment rates rise and the social stigma attached to any kind of so named drop out continues to prevail, this has created in natural turn a world of so called internet cafe hermits, parasites, neats and hikikomori..
While both social phenomena are rooted in rebellion or reaction against authority, hikikomori is unique because it chooses to place the family as a safer haven than the peer group. This in turn, suggests that bullying and school or work pressure play a larger part in retreat than in the counterpart phenomena of runaway, where perhaps young people are fleeing the pressure from family pressure. Parents in Western cultures usually encourage their children to leave home by 18 where in Japan “parents are happy to allow their children to remain at home and live from their parents` income until their thirties” (Suwa et al. 2003).

In individualistic cultures the trend for opting out sees `runaways` leaving the home and seeking an alternative place to be. In these notes I have hypothesized in a comparative analysis why Japanese hikikomori choose to confine themselves in their rooms within the context of 3 cultural indices as defined by the world famous cultural expert Geert Hofstede. I have tried to confirm my theory that the exact manner `opting out` of society manifests itself in Japan is clearly culture reactive. It is beyond the scope of this paper to develop further the enormous implications that this theory has on socio-economics, education and politics where change could be sought, but it is the foundation for further research into such considerations.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Introduction to a comparative analysis between culture bound reaction to trauma; hikikomori V runaway.

Is hikikomori a culture bound syndrome? How does it compare with the culture reactive runaway syndrome more common in Europe and America? How can we conclude a social phenomena is in fact culture bound or not? These are a few of the questions I have been trying to answer for koeki`s ongoing research into how community service enables living science.

The proportion of suicides among young people in Japan is extremely high in comparison with other countries. Cabinet office figures set suicide as the #1 cause of death for every 5 year age group among people 15- 39. For those aged 15-34 Japan is the only G7 country where this is a fact.

HALF of all the deaths among people in their twenties in Japan are suicides. In contrast Americas highest suicide levels are in the older range group, highest for men over 60.

Suicide is closely connected to hikikomori for many reasons that cannot be applied to runaway.
The pressure on young people within the typical hikikomori age range of 14 to 30 -to find work and to stay in that work - or to find a club activity and stay in that activity and to co-operate correctly within a rigid peer group hierarchical system (kouhai/senpai) within Japanese society are factors that go towards creating pressure to isolate. As unemployment rates rise and the social stigma attached to any kind of so named drop out continues to prevail, this has created in natural turn a world of internet cafe hermits, neats and hikikomori..

Isolation -the key feature of hikikomori- is known to be a primary lead up to suicide (American Psychological Association: David Clark: 1998), where conversely runaway children and young adults seek company in peer groups and suicide statistics are much lower.

While both social phenomena are rooted in rebellion or reaction against authority, hikikomori is unique because it chooses to place the family as a safer haven than the peer group. This in turn, suggests that bullying and school pressure play a larger part in retreat than in the counterpart phenomena of runaway, where perhaps young people are fleeing the pressure from family pressure.

If we look at some of the parental values that parents traditionally instill in childrearing we can see where the shift to inside retreat may start. In Japan, such mantras as `don`t cause trouble for others` (めいわっくしないで)and respect your parents above all...serve as baselines for all Japanese children as they grow up compared to frequent mantras inbred in American, British and other Western country parental philosophy of ;`Be independent, speak your mind, follow your own path`, values which could be said to encourage a runaway response to pressures and problems.

This is of course an oversimplification, but it is a valid core difference that cannot be overlooked in the question we are answering; which is- can hikikomori be called culture bound or culture reactive?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Applied environmental science: community discussion.

 Japan's government today approved a plan to spend $116 billion to jump-start the economy and set the stage for long-term growth. Sources in the Japanese press are hinting that research on renewable energy and on stem cells could land a significant chunk of the new cash. 
 Science Insider. Dennis Normille. 11 Jan. 2013

This is good news. There is so much new technology developing in research departments in Universities all over Japan right now and researchers are hoping to get the funding to put theory into practice, because without financial backing no progress can be made.

Two questions keep coming up here from community members mailing and phoning our research dept.
1.What is `Community Service and Science`?
2.What is there to discuss about it?

These questions are from community members who oppose the University`s mission of replacing conventional energy sources almost completely this half century with renewable energy (wind turbine and solar mainly) here in Sakata. which is already home to the largest solar panel/wind turbine combination campus energy supply system in Japan.

Answer to Q 1. It is the crucial connection point - the `and` between scientific theory and practical application.There is no progress in environmental development without co-operation of communities. There is no progress in community development without initiation and leadership. Initiation or change, follows understanding which in turn follows open minded discussion. No change, no evolution of mankind ever took place without it and no successful change can take place unless it is conducted with great delicacy.

Answer to Q 2. Discussion, at best leads to learning without as much reading. Discussion can of course also be a waste of time.. Discussion is oral thinking ground however always. It is not a place to voice opinions that are fixed, it is a time to listen to all the data from all relevant perspectives and mould opinions like putty or clay in the hands of a potter, so that the newly formed opinion is in touch with the latest theoretical data and fact. Opinions must be fluid in order for change to begin and this is the very first obstacle faced when we live in a society where people tend to have fixed formulated opinions and are relying on environmental science data that is already old as of one month ago..And community members must be involved and contribute.

First, a discussion has an agenda. It must have, in order to have direction. Just like energy sources. Starting with an explanation, remembering that the average human brain is capable of remembering only 3 main points in a speech of a 20 minute duration without interval, this initial speech must be finely tuned and honed to present only the key crucial facts necessary for continuing the discussion`s agenda.

A possible introductory 20 minute speech might include a quick description of the 3 main
types of wind power; mechanical power, electrical power, and sail power. Each one of them generates power by using something called an airfoil. Airfoils are surfaces that create an aerodynamic force – causing a boat to move or rotor blades to turn.Visual aids are an easy way to explain this.

A sail is a simple example of wind energy. It uses an airfoil; wind blows and creates a curved area of high pressure, pushing the boat in a certain direction which we can choose by adjusting the sail. A windmill is made up of several airfoils in the shape of a fan; the wind drives them around in a circle, which rotates the base shaft.Then there is an electrically powered windmill that follows the same concept, but instead turns a generator. Inside the generator, a coil is moved in and out of a magnetic field by the rotation, which is what generates a natural electric current.

Using wind rotation has the long term expedient of becoming almost free after the initial expense of installation, and does not contaminate or harm nature; that same nature world which we are trying to save and preserve to pass on to future generations. This respect is at the heart of the concept of renewable energy. In answer to the opposition of `unsightly` `noisy` and `bad for hearing` (3 commonly held opposition stances)  a power point presentation can compare pictures of comparison energy sources, nuclear power plants and electricity factories:electricity factory pictures

Then there are the stats and data. Best presented in graphs and charts for some audiences but better presented in terms of comparison to daily use of household appliances for most community people.

While discussion path develops along route it has to be led carefully. Some members will want to talk more and others will be silent but have voices that need to be heard. Discussion well led has the potential in this way of recreating community ideals as a team and also has the potential to create hatred and anger if the discussion is not led very cautiously. The most important sustaining line of discussion is to hold onto the validity of long term goals being the ultimate aim over short term gains and this explanation is not one that can be forced but something that dawns autonomously, to some.