Paradox of Safety

Food for Thought

During our brunch at an Albanian restaurant, Alex said Japanese people appear childish on film. My wife has echoed the same sentiment before. It’s true; not just on film, they are generally childish by American standards. I don’t think it’s because they are shorter on average. After all, in Japanese films, we only see Japanese actors. It’s not like Vin Diesel is standing next to them for scale. I think it’s because the country is exceptionally safe.

In America, where the homicide rate is 26 times higher than Japan’s, you are more likely to be taken advantage of if you look weak. I’ve come across situations where I wish I were Vin Diesel. Being big and tough is still useful in America. It hasn’t changed much since the days of Tarzan.

In Japan, someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger would have no opportunities to show off his strengths. He would just be a freak awkwardly taking up space on subways. Japanese women are attracted to more feminine men because masculinity has no selective advantage. Most Japanese heartthrobs look like women. I think this is what it means to be civilized. In other words, women are more civilized than men.

In Japan, women, too, are more feminine. Even mature women act like little girls, but if you are familiar with the context, it feels appropriate. Someone behaving like Wonder Woman would be laughable, like using an axe to cut tofu.

Philosophically, this is a paradox. Growing up in a greenhouse-like environment means you are unprepared for the outside world, but if the objective of the human race is to become more civilized, the problem is the outside world. The kids who grew up in war-torn countries might think New York kids are childish, just as New York kids think suburban kids are childish.

We value toughness, but perhaps our goal should be to become weaker. Today, colleges have “safe spaces” to protect our kids psychologically. If colleges were to become safer, no such spaces would be necessary, and students wouldn’t need to be tough in any sense of the word.

In heaven, I assume courage and resilience have no value. We could act like infants, and we would be happy. Or, would we?