Bad day

People can die

I have had a rough week. I had to miss training on Friday.  My right elbow was nearly broken and is quite sore, I have a gouge on my neck that could use an extra day to heal, my muscles are sore and my back hurts. I am not complaining, I just needed an extra day to heal. Besides, my physical condition is not what made this week tough.


J. was going through my mail, which is being forwarded to her in my absence. Despite my strong urging that she not waste her time on junk mail, she opened a letter from a mortgage company and read its contents. The company was advertising its services to people whose homes were in foreclosure. This got me to thinking that I hadn’t received a property-tax bill this year. So, via the Internet, I investigated. Much to my horror, I learned that not only were this year’s taxes overdue, but the previous owner had never paid last year’s taxes. My house was in foreclosure and was scheduled to be auctioned in three days’ time. The opening price, $1,017: In three days, my house was going to be taken away from me for as little as a thousand dollars.


After stressing for hours, waiting for the Illinois Department of Revenue to open, I confirmed that indeed I had three days to pay the back-taxes or my house was gone. Luckily for me, J was able to take care of everything. Putting her day’s plans on hold, she obtained a cashier’s check, navigated the Department of Revenue’s bureaucracy to obtain a copy of the tax-bill (required by the aforementioned bureaucracy), and was able to pay the back-taxes.


If she had waited three days before going through my mail, or thrown out the junk-mail, or if the IDR had scheduled my house to be auctioned earlier in the month , I would have lost my home.


On Friday, as I was checking my credit card bills, again via the Internet, I discovered almost $4,000 in charges to an online auction company that were not mine. After speaking to the company, UBID, it became clear that someone had stolen my credit card number and had gone on a fraudulent shopping spree. What interests me most about this is that the first fraudulent charge occurred on the very day I left the country. This is a credit card I have not used for many months and was in no way part of the purchases leading up to my departure (ticket, apartment, etc.). It’s almost as if the person who did this had my number for a while and knew when I was leaving.  


Hatsumi says that training is very dangerous; people can die, and have. We need to take responsibility for this danger, he says, and if we cannot, we should leave… Now.


Interesting; to me, at least. I have been thinking about what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions and decisions. When I cross the street, or go out at night, or argue with a stranger in traffic; I could die.


How wide a net do we cast when we consider potential consequences; how much is invisible to us out of habit and denial?  And, since I am in Japan, what do we recognize as being our community and do we consider the consequences of our actions on that community?


Well, as I read over this e-mail, I see that is almost without merit. So allow me to try to make amends by including the following.


As everyone knows, the Japanese are very (relative to America) homogeneous and that the notion of homogeneity is integral to their conceptualization of community. Consider the following (which I plagiaries from a book that J gave me as a going-away gift):


As of 1997, surveys revealed that ninety percent of Japanese consider themselves middle-class, 87 percent say they like to look like everyone else and 84 percent confess themselves unable to turn down requests from other people. Ninety-nine percent of households had color TV and a washing machine; 98 percent had a refrigerator and a vacuum-clear. The same percentage of households made New Year offerings to the gods.  85 percent of couples were married in a Shinto ceremony.


Less then 2 percent had a yacht, BMW, home help or a lawnmower; played chess, bridge or billiards; went in for body-building, Aikido, Judo, Karate or Kendo; opposed the Emperor or belonged to the communist party; or were divorced or admitted to having an affair.




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