The first time I saw this video, it seemed clear to me that the reason behind the decrease in meaningful relationships in Japan was the changing gender roles. I had the impression that the current bi-gender system that has been around for thousands of years had a purpose. For a long time I believed that the expression “opposites attract” also has a societal significance: that the social constructs of male-ness and female-ness were beneficial for society. In other words, two parents responsible for opposite roles in a family were a necessary part of a healthy family structure. While this may or may not be true, I believe I have come to find a deeper understanding of the economic/social drivers for changing gender roles, and it all revolves around one thing: We are becoming too busy for meaningful relationships.
During the four or, in my case, five years that students are in college, I think it’s pretty common to experience a transition from having lots of free time, to having seemingly no free time by senior year. I remember taking a class my first-year where we recorded all of our daily activities throughout a week, down to every half-hour. We used this as a template to maximize our efficiency and be more productive workers. Looking back at this as the framework lifestyle that college life teaches students to embrace for their future careers, I am not surprised that this system pushes students to become machines in a way. We are competing so fiercely to just stay on top, or get on top, that we all lose. We act like machines trying to maximize output, forgetting about the things that matter in life. I digress.
What does “being too busy” do to our relationships with friends? family? significant others? Simply, we are too overworked to maintain those relationships. We start to become selective when deciding whether to spend time with friends. Have you ever decided not to go out because you had a test the following day? I would imagine that everyone has sacrificed time that they could spend cultivating healthy meaningful relationships so that they could stay afloat in the demands that work, college, etc. has. Worklife has invaded our personal lives with the onset of texting, phone calls, and email. Many try to put friends first, but at some point we have to admit that convenience plays a part in our lives that have been forced to maximum efficiency.
Further, we can understand the changing gender roles by understanding that the working class, despite having better techonology than ever before, has not seen a similar decrease in hours in the work week. The increase in need for both parents to work instead of having a stay at home parent, has put an added stress on those trying to financially maintain a family while spending time with family. Children learn a young age through experience or directly taught by their parents of the difficulties of raising a family without the financial support. We propogate the idea of prioritizing work over relationships by words like, “Get a college education and a good job before you settle down” “You can go out tonight if you have all your work done”. Obviously, I don’t disagree with these notions or I wouldn’t be studying at Bucknell. But I can also see the paradox of this age that the Dalai Lama explains.
Do I think that America is headed towards the Japanese lifestyle seen in the video? I agree that our culture is different and perhaps we hold relationships as higher priority than in Japan. However, I think that the seemingly unstoppable invisible hand will force us to begin sacrificing whatever we do not hold closest. It’s a force that pushes us to become more and more efficient without taking into account whether that is what people actually need. So yes, I think that most of the western world is next in line for a similarly disturbing future (dystopia).
I don’t mean to come off as pessimistic in this post, and am actually very hopeful considering the increase in exposure that we have put to these issues recently. Understanding and admitting that this is a problem and that there are negative consequences behind our actions today is the first way to initiate a change.