Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I seem to be a health risk in Japan these days. First, Todd Strickland complained that I gave him stomach troubles (“Most nations censor textbooks,” June 25), and now Alan Tavassoli moans that I burden him with the malaise of offensiveness (“Leave risprudence to the courts,” Aug. 6). Perhaps I should register with the local health authorities!
Seriously, though, Tavassoli’s is a sound response to my July 13 letter “Crime and Punishment,” although I disagree with him. I think Tavassoli’s mistake is in his understanding of the word “guilt.” Of course, he criticizes me on exactly the same grounds. Our difference seems to be that I interpret guilt as universal and chronic whereas he interprets guilt as being limited to the terms of punishment imposed by society, hedged with the garlands of “human rights.”
My notion of guilt rests largely with the notion of personal responsibility, an aspect of our being that simply cannot be jettisoned without compromising our humanity. It seems that Tavassoli think that it is acceptable to jettison responsibility after punishment is served, and citing human rights he calls this “justice.”
Maybe so. Justice is as justice does, but I feel less concerned with what he calls “justice” than with simple right and wrong. Similarly, I am less concerned with propriety than I am with accuracy. Sadly, we live in an environment today where people seem more and more interested in fiction than f act, where propriety too often takes precedence over accuracy, and where borderline notions of “justice” contradict simple right and wrong.
Now, by persisting in calling Hitoshi Fujiwara a “murderer” I am being kind to him and doing him honor. He chose it for himself and now he’s got it. He is responsible for his life and deeds, and it falls to him to be content with them. Although his punishment may have been served his deed remains intact, and the moment he undoes his crime is the moment he sheds culpability for it.
Published on Sunday, August 10, 1997 as “Guilt lasts forever.”
The writer Alan Tavassoli said that I burdened him with the malaise of offensiveness. Others accuse me of a condescending tone. I admit that I deliberately try to use a high level vocabulary and academic tone in my writing. It is a mechanism to tgry to separate myself personally from the ideas I am writing about - and a little reminder that the ideas I am writing about are not necessarily my personal convictions. Instead, the ideas have a life of their own.
I want to avoid self identification and revealing personal details as another strategy of divorcing myself from the ideas. My position is that who I am personally is of not account. What is important is the quality of the ideas and the eloquence with which I express them.