The Wisdom of “Making Free Choices”-Reflection from Japanese Culture

 By Chion

Under the vaccination freedom culture, many countries experienced different waves of protests.  When I thought of the story of typhoon forecast, there was a dilemma of making choices.  For example, the local government only provided the weather forecast, warnings on the waters/mudding, as well as the regions where people must to withdraw.  However, the information or the instruction with this nature is not as straightforward as the ones from the Hongkong government where they give a clear direction about whether the students or workers should go to school or work.  Under this circumstance, I called a friend, asking for help.  She said “whether you choose to evacuate or getting out of your door” is a personal choice since the government already provides warning and safety measures, but the government does not want to force an action. You are responsible for your own life.  In Japan, the weather forecasts are different across regions.  Most people still choose to work if traffic is normal.  I myself still chose to go out.   However, I felt lost about “the freedom to choose” policy.

“The freedom to choose” is great, but you have to also be responsible for your own choices.  Freedom to choose is good, but making a wise choice can be most beneficial.

Here is a story that happened when the covid-19 was still not under control yet.  The outdoor concert which attracted 8,000 young people received intense criticism. At the time, organizers offered free alcohol drinks without asking people wearing a mask.  As well, they did not do a good job handling mounting garbage which would lead more spreads of virus.   As for the Japanese ways to handle things, the organizer first made a apology without making a judgement about who was right or wrong.  They acknowledged that they did not do a good job about virus prevention since they did not foresee a huge amount of garbage.  As a result, they were not able to fully clean the garbage with limited staffing.   Because of this, the performers responded with an acceptance of all criticism.  The performance was originally arranged as live performance but the key performers did not regret his own choice despite others’ disapproval.  He said he felt accomplished since he was able to support his fans.  But he did not take pleasure for any personal attacks.

The long-waited live performance with the unexpected huge crowds (singers and audiences) received a huge satisfaction.  However, such a freedom driven event brought a huge dissatisfaction or outcry for everyone else: they accused that the concert participants were not responsible since they paid no attention to personal safety issues as well as the ways to disposal garbage.   Yes, abnormal behaviours from those young people were their expression of dissatisfaction or a form of protests.  In other words, inappropriately attending a big scale concert and deliberately dumping garage were indeed their form of pretests.   In Japan, on the traffic roads or in public venues, you would normally see people wearing a mask, or you rarely see any garbage dumping on the street.  People learn to take their garbage to home since their kindergarten time.  For so many years, people know how to put others’ interests ahead of their own and they also have the culture of being clean, so all young people know those invisible rules they took pride for many years.  Therefore, using the “freedom” to ignore Covid-19 risks and attending a big scale concert leaving the garbage behind was indeed considered as a form of small-scale protest.

At the same time, the government continued to advise the citizens minimize the opportunities to visit public spaces although they did not put specific restrictions or prohibition.  So, when the weather was good, many people would get out to visit the parks and rivers, enjoying camping and sunshine.   Since the suburb did not have too many food stores, barbecue became trending things especially when many affordable good quality outdoor equipment became available.  Such affordable outdoor equipment was very popular for many families and lovers.   But the problems subsequently emerged, they did not know how to put off fires though they knew how to light up a fire since most of them did not have much experience to handle outdoor camping fires.  As a result, those fires were not completely put off.  They caused fire accidents from time to time along with that uncleaned garbage.  So the question is: you can have freedom to choose your own ways to handle pandemics.  But when the individual freedom caused disastrous results on pubic, we need to be very careful about our ways to define the “freedom”, can we fully account for everything we committed to do?

Recently the police successfully arrested 23 youngsters aged 14-19, accusing them for high-speed motor driving and making noises.   Following the lead of a group of bad people, the kids who are under 20 years old believed they would not subject to legal actions.  So, the kids drove “motorcycles” and worn no masks to be “cool”.  Those flying motorcyclists made them feeling free, high and fun.   Seeking personal freedom is fine, but when those freedoms damage themselves and others’ life, law enforcement would be required for public protection.

Our Heavenly Father who is our creator, blesses us the freedom to do what we like to do and eat the food we like to eat.  But the wise king Solomon knows the hearts of all young people for every generation: mankind always aspires for freedom.  He advised young people to make a good use of time and enjoy the life following your own heart.  But when you enjoy such freedom, you have to discipline yourself and be responsible for your own actions.   He particularly advised that “You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.  Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, you know that for all these things, GOD will bring you into judgement” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).    Perhaps, right now, nobody would make a judgement about what you have done.  But in the end, everybody would have to give an account to the Heavenly Father, since God will make a judgement for all the deeds including the hidden things whatever are good or evil.

King Solomon once said “So then, banish anxiety from your heart, and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things, GOD will bring you into judgement” (Ecclesiastes 12:10).   When you are young, emptiness is a reality, we need to accept human limitation, we can not change the environment.   Living within those limits, we have a freedom to choose a better life by removing all unhelpful attitudes such as endless protests or unrestrained indulgence.   Every choice you made today will have an impact for the rest of your life.  So, when you enjoy your life with a long-term view, do not commit anything that could negatively impact your physical health, moral standing and personal spiritual beliefs, so that you will not regret in your senior years.

You can do everything, but only do things that are beneficial to you and others.