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February 28, 2007

Gays in China and Japan, homosexuality

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Maureen Fan's article "For Gays in China, 'Fake Marriage' Eases Pressure," Washinton Post, February 23, 2007; P.A12, was a very interesting report on the life and troubles of Chinese gays. Until I read this article, I had mistakenly thought that homosexuality was forbidden in China even today. Fan writes:

Ten years after China decriminalized homosexuality and six years after officials removed it from a state list of mental disorders, gay men and lesbians say one of their biggest obstacles is parental pressure to get married. (web)

Hence, today, it is legal to have a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex in China. This is good news. However, Fan stresses that coming out to one's parents is still very hard for gays and lesbians in contemporary Chinese society. This is one of the biggest reasons why they try to choose "fake marriage" with a person of the opposite sex, who is also gay, remaining close friends inside their home. But because their parents and grand parents do not know the truth, they sometimes expect a baby to be born to the married couple. Fan quotes a woman's words who got married with a gey man:

There's just one small problem. "My mother didn't used to talk about grandchildren, but now she sometimes mentions that she would like one." (web)

Then, what about in Japan? I doubt that the situation is probably the same as in China. There are a great number of gay people in our country, but most of them have not come out to their parents. Kabukicho 2chome, Shinjuku, Tokyo, is famous as a gay town, and a number of gay people come to this area every night, but many of them come secretly. I had an opportunity to interview some of them when appearing as a guest on a TV program. They said they had not come out to their family. It is still rare to see a gay couple walking on the street hand-in-hand. When I went to Amsterdam some years ago I was surprised to see gay couples walk hand-in-hand in the central area of the city. A couple of years ago, at a cafe in Osaka city, I saw two young women holding each other just in front of the shop and kissing many times. This was the first, and the last time I ever saw such a scene in a public space in Japan. People passing by were completely ignoring them.

I wonder why Japan became a society intolerant of homosexuality. Before the Meiji period (before 1868), homosexuality was not stigmatized among ordinary people. The Kabuki actors were all males, and they played both men and women on the stage, and some of them prostituted themselves with male customers. Homosexuality was an ordinary love relationship in Buddhist temples and in the world of samurai. In traditional Japanese literature, the word "love (koi)" sometimes meant "homosexual love." Japanese society was, once, very tolerant of homosexuality. But after the Meiji period homosexuality has gradually become a taboo. Some claim that this was because of the homophobia imported from European countries in the Meiji period (19th century). What do you think?

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 20, 2007

Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance, de Grey

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A D N J de Grey criticizes the conservative arguments on life extension in the paper, "Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance," published two years ago, in Journal of Medical Ethics 2005;31:659-663. He stresses that our hesitant attitude towards life extension and age retardation has been deeply influenced by a sort of irrationality, which has been forged by conservative ethicists such as Leon Kass.

He asks whether there are any differences between saving the life of someone and extending one's life span, for example, between curing a young man's leukaemia and postponing the ageing process of an old man, and he concludes that there is no difference between them in terms of ethics. He says as follows:

I must show that it is impossible to argue that we have done anything meaningfully different when curing leukaemia and when postponing ageing. ..... In each circunstance we are giving the beneficiary a greater remaining healthy potential lifespan than they would have if we held back, which is the beginning and end of what we mean when we say we have saved their lives, and also of what we mean when we say we have extended their lives. (p.662)

De grey would be right if we consider it absurd to suppose that there is a "natural process of rise and decline of human development." Even if there is such a natural process, we must say we have already destroyed it ever since we invented medicine and other health promoting activities at the dawn of our civilization. However, at the same time, I would like to add that clinging to age retardation when we get old might look uglier than curing leukaemia when we are young. This might be a similar kind of ugliness we would feel when we saw an old man chasing after young girls. One thing de Grey does not talk about is how to think about our obsession with young and healthy and everlasting life. In other words, he does not ask a question whether adhering to this kind of desire will truly lead us to happiness in the age of materialism and comercialization.

But de Grey rejects this kind of reasoning as self-deception, because it is no more than our unconsciouss strategy to cope with our false belief that our lifespan is theoretically limited. He writes as follows:

It is easy to see why we engage in this breathtaking self-deception: we find it the only effective coping strategy in the face of the ghastliness of ageing, since we remain convinced that ageing is inevitable. Now that ageing is within sight of not being inevitable, our collective hypnosis is no longer a solution but has become part of the problem; it is costing lives. (p.662)

De Grey calls our attention to the fact that he does not say ageing is worse than postponing ageing, however, I must say that the tone of his argument is clearly in favor of age retardation and life extension. He writes, at the end of the paper, that "the cure of ageing will be the greatest achievement of science since it was founded" (p.663).

Conquering ageing and mortality would be an important achievement of science, however, no matter how long we live we must die someday. As the day comes closer, the acceptance of our own death will become a big problem that cannot be solved by science and technology. My frustration with the argument of de Grey and other scholars, who are eager to emphasize the positive aspect of life extention and age retardation, is that they rarely try to talk about the subject of the acceptance of our own death and ageing, which we are going to be faced with sooner or later no matter how far science may progress in the future. What do you think?

Related post: An old man and me and life

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 12, 2007

Ashley X, comments and criticisms

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In December I wrote a comment on therapy performed on a six-year-old girl with intellectual disability. In that therapy, her growth was stopped by adding estrogen, and her uterus and breast buds were removed. Early this year, her parents began their blog, and this case (Ashley X case) became widely known to the public.

On January 26th, Peter Singer wrote a comment in New York Times. He supported the parents' decision and concluded as follows:

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families. (web)

On the other hand, disability groups such as Not Dead Yet and Feminist Response in Disability Activism strongly criticized this therapy. From Not Dead Yet's website:

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group dealing with medical and bioethics issues involving euthanasia, reacted today to the public debate about the so-called "growth attenuation" invasive medical experimentation performed on a young girl in Washington State. These procedures rendered her sterile, prevented any sort of puberty and will keep the girl the size she is now for the rest of her life.

"We are saddened but not surprised by the fact that this was publicized and met with a great deal of public approval," said Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet. "The public is willing to sanction the murders of disabled children by their parents, so it’s hardly surprising they would rush to the support of parents and their medical partners in a matter like this." (web)

One of the most striking comments the parents wrote in their blog is this: (Concerning the removal of the uterus,)

Additional and incidental benefits include avoiding any possibility of pregnancy, which to our astonishment does occur to disabled women who are abused. (web)

I can understand what they mean, however, at the same time, I feel somewhat horrified to read such a sentence because this implies that the parents actually imagine the possibility that their daughter might be sexually abused by someone.

They wrote this is an "additional and incidental" benefit. But I suppose that this might have been the most important reason, on the subconscious level, why they chose this therapy for their beloved daughter. I don't mean to offend the parents, for this is a difficult problem for all of us. In a case like this, what we would fear would be that our daughter becomes the target of sexual assault, and as a result, another human life comes into existence in her uterus. We can find here the darkest side of our sexuality, and this makes me depressed.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

Related post: Should severely disabled children be kept small?

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 08, 2007

The fate of a Japanese painter

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The other day, I went to The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Kanagawa, and saw a series of paintings drawn by modern Japanese oil painters. Japanese painters started learning European oil painting techniques more than 100 years ago. They tried hard to study the techniques of painters who were on the cutting edge of the European art scene at that time.

One of the most curious painters featured at the exhibition was Tetsugoro Yorozu, whose works includes the famous Nude Beauty and Nude Woman with a Parasol. This was my first time to see Yorozu's original paintings. An interesting thing is that his painting style drastically changes year by year, for example, one year it was like Matisse, but after several years it became something like Picasso or Braque (see this painting). This clearly shows that while he tried to import trendy painting styles one after another, he himself did not succeed to establish his own painting style. I love his Nude Woman with a Parasol and his other lovely works, but I am not sure whether these are based on his truly original ideas. Yorozu died in 1927 at the age of 42.

A similar thing could be said about Japanese philosophy and ethics. While Japanese philosophers have tried (and even now trying) to import trendy European philosophies, most of them have failed to create their own original philosophy. Recently, they began importing American bioethics and publishing bioethics papers in Japanese. But aren't they repeating the same thing as did Yorozu a hundred years ago?

I want to refuse to be an importer of philosophy or bioethics. I want to create my own philosophy of life or life studies here and now, and want to communicate with people around the world who are interested in my works. This is the basic motive I run this website and blog in the English language.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 02, 2007

An old man and me and life

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Several weeks ago, I gave a public lecture in Nagoya City. I talked about the relationship between humans and the natural environment, and pointed out that our attitude toward nature has been deeply influenced by current "painless civilization." Then, I had a lively discussion with other two professors in the panel discussion.

After the symposium, we went back to the staff room just beneath the lecture hall. We were having tea and taking a short rest. Then, a staff member came to me and told that a guest was waiting for me in front of the staff room. I wondered who the person was, but anyway I got out of the room to see the guest. An old man of my father's age was standing just outside the room. He talked to me that my lecture was interesting, and that he had read all my books. I was surprised and said to him thank you.

Then he said, "You wrote in your book that you would publish Introduction to Life Studies someday, but when will it be published?" I replied, "Well, I am not sure when it will be because I have not even started writing." He stared at me and said, "I see, but I don't have much time left." Hearing this I was unable to come up with any words, but I tried to say something and said, "Please live long!" He smiled and we parted.

Today, I suddenly remembered that scene. And I am writing this at midnight.

Related post: *John Harris, Immortal Ethics, generational cleansing
                    *Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance, de Grey

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org