You Are A Friend, Teacher or Whatever Until …

By Richard Posner

“True goodbyes are the ones never said or explained.”
~ Anon

Japanese people can be extremely warm and accommodating to a stranger who becomes their sensei (teacher), or any other authority figure foisted upon them through proper channels.

You can teach them, boss them, and share feasts for years with them, but one day they decide that you are disposable and they disappear from your landscape like a thief in the night.

From their perspective, they are avoiding confrontation, explanation, and the uncomfortable feelings associated with parting ways.  To many westerners, however, this Japanese approach to difficult separations is feeble and insulting.

What you must learn the hard way if you live in Japan any length of time is that you are either in the group and protected or outside the group and easily disposed of on a whim.

Ironically and quite surprisingly, the Japanese are just as cold and calculating with their own tribe.  The myth that Japanese companies offer lifetime employment and a family-like setting has been a boldfaced lie for a long time.

Most corporations used to carry dead-wood employees until 62 or so.  Many now strip parasites (perhaps rightfully) of their titles in their mid fifties, then slightly to drastically reduce their wages, and finally offer a somewhat generous -though deceivingly not optional – early retirement buyout.

Most of those targeted quietly retire early rather than face humiliation in the workplace.  They may have significant savings, if their company is doing well, but they have lost their self-confidence to be somebody other than a lapel-pin loyalist to a corporate slave master.

The good news is that more Japanese are waking up to the painful reality that lifetime employment is a Faustian choice they needn’t make. 

There are alternatives to being a blind follower of a bankrupt, outdated, unworkable system that will leave many poor and disillusioned in the years to come.

We must believe in ourselves – our skills and ability to find and exploit opportunities – without depending on a crumbling, socialized corporate structure. 

That awareness in our self-worth will be the key to our survival and prosperity in the next generation.