Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
J.W. Goethe’s 1774 novel of pathetically unrequited love, The Sorrows of Young Werther, is said to have sparked a wave of copycat suicides among young Europeans of the day. It was called the “Werther Effect,” or “Werther Fever.” That is what is said, anyway. The truth of it remains a debate among literature scholars and historians. But it is true that the book was banned in many places because of its effect, and contemporary adults loudly decried the decline in traditional values and virtues. Adults never tire of loudly decrying the habits of their children or fretting over the end of the world as they know it, even today and even in Japan. It’s a tired old wheel. In America some advocate medicating puberty, as if it were a pathology. Now, in “Armenian police target teenage emo rockers,” January 8, 2011 looks like police in Armenia are continuing the pattern by trying to criminalizepuberty. With neither a basis in law nor in data and with the collusion of schools they are interviewing, searching, lecturing and sanctioning local teenagers based on the authorities’ perception that their tastes in music and fashion make them vulnerable to suicide. It is clearly an atavistic reaction against outbursts of public emotions by young people, a socio-political strategy to manipulate and control public passions - especially spontaneous passions fueled by hormones and boredom which might become manifest in public demonstrations. Visual displays of nonconformity are a common wedge used in every society to perpetrate heavy-handed state manipulation of people, not only young people.
This kind of chronic mendacity almost makes me ashamed to be human.