The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, June 09, 2008

Is Japan a culture of misery?

The first thing you should know about Japan, is that a lot of Japanese people kill themselves. By doing so, they declare, most potently, that something is not right in Japanese society.

Last year, 30,777 Japanese citizens made the ultimate criticism of their society: they killed themselves to get away from it. In a nation of 127 million Japanese, that is a rate of one person in 4,140 killing themselves every single year. Think about that number. Think about how many people you have met in your lifetime. If you were living in Japan someone - or perhaps several people - that you had personally met and known, would kill themselves, every single year. That is most sobering. Only Russia - a country of many troubles - can "boast" of a higher suicide rate.

I have never lived in Japan. I have never experienced what it is that makes so many Japanese people so miserable. However, I have met many Japanese people who have escaped from it, to some degree, for some time. What they say, is very telling.

I once knew a member of the government of a large Japanese city. He was living and working in Singapore. I asked: "When are you going back to Japan?"

"Never, I hope.", he said, with a surprising passion.


"Japan is a terrible society." His lips were tight with unpleasant memories.

"But you work in government!"

"I know."

I didn't get a fuller explanation out of him, unfortunately. He mumbled something about it being a "very unforgiving society" and wouldn't clarify more.

There is something awry in a country, when members of its own government perceive it as a terrible place.

What has brought me to discuss this matter is an event many of you will have heard of: the stabbing of 17 people - seven of whom have since died - by a 25 year old Japanese man, Tomohiro Kato, who was "tired of life" and wanted to take as many people with him as he could. He first crashed a vehicle into pedestrians in Akihabara - an electronics and maid cafe district in Tokyo - then jumped out and began stabbing the three people he had just run over. Then he rampaged through the area stabbing out at random, roaring all the while.

Shocking as this murderous event is, it is not an isolated incident in Japan. It is becoming a bit of a Japanese tradition. Japanese youngsters, sick of life, and sick of Japan, are taking up weapons and going out and killing their fellow citizens (or is that fellow sufferers?)

A clue as to what is happening is that Japan is a very conformist society - perhaps the most conformist in the world. You are either in, and accepted, or you are out - and rejected. If you are one who does not fit in, Japan can be a very cruel place. It seems that some outsiders - or people who have "failed" in Japanese terms, in some way - are taking their frustrations out on random strangers.

This does not look like a trend that is going to go away. Suicide rates are rising. Japan shows no signs of dropping its insistence on absolute conformity - and people are still, consequently, becoming absolutely miserable. The death penalty - which Japan has, and has used in similar cases - is no deterrent for precisely one reason: the perpetrators are sick of life and SUICIDAL, as well as murderous. The fact that they get the death penalty for their crimes is actually giving them exactly what they seek, anyway.

So, in Japan's case, harsh penalties are unlikely to be the answer - however a gentler society is. If Japan were a kinder culture to its people; if it were more inclusive, more forgiving and less prone to rejecting those that don't fit in, there would not be any such rampage incidents. People would be happier, more fulfilled - and suicide rates would begin to fall.

Japan should stop focusing on materialism, as its societal goal, and start focusing on happiness. If the people were happy, they wouldn't kill themselves in huge numbers...nor would they kill each other. Such deaths are a sure sign of a society that has taken the wrong path. It is time Japan changed direction, before it loses, perhaps forever, its erstwhile reputation for being a safe, low-crime society.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:00 PM 


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