Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Herbivore's Dilemma

The Herbivore's Dilemma
Japan panics about the rise of "grass-eating men," who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks.
By Alexandra Harney
Posted Monday, June 15, 2009, at 2:04 PM ET

Ryoma Igarashi likes going for long drives through the mountains, taking photographs of Buddhist temples and exploring old neighborhoods. He's just taken up gardening, growing radishes in a planter in his apartment. Until recently, Igarashi, a 27-year-old Japanese television presenter, would have been considered effeminate, even gay. Japanese men have long been expected to live like characters on Mad Men, chasing secretaries, drinking with the boys, and splurging on watches, golf, and new cars.

Today, Igarashi has a new identity (and plenty of company among young Japanese men) as one of the soushoku danshi—literally translated, "grass-eating boys." Named for their lack of interest in sex and their preference for quieter, less competitive lives, Japan's "herbivores" are provoking a national debate about how the country's economic stagnation since the early 1990s has altered men's behavior.

It was just a matter of time, I suppose.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Or perhaps it's not such a random link after all. After all, according to Pippin "becoming who you are" entails walking a fine line between alienating individualism and herdlike collectivism.

source: ch. 14

11:45 AM  
Blogger Federico L said...

- Follow-up:
I love that article precisely because the way it looks at identity is so different from all other perspectives on the matter. Rather than treating identities as some sort of decryptable algorithm that can be measured,documented and categorised, Pippin sees as provisional committments; committments to values, dreams, ideas. Consciousness in his view is desire itself. A life of purposeful action goes hand-in-hand with appreciation of art.

- The importance of art, especially in narratives (in literature and film):

"Moments of past time must be lost, however painful that is, so that they can escape the control of habit and habitual associations and then be (apparently) recaptured in moments of sudden, unplanned, involuntary memory. Said another way, the picture Marcel presents suggests that our real life, wherein we can come to understand ourselves, understand what it is to become who one is, is so wholly false, routinized, saturated with habit, familiarity (and the contempt it breeds), as well as, paradoxically, so subject to radical temporal flux, that is can be really *lived* only "too late", afterward, in (mostly involuntary) recollection and a kind of intense experiencing. (We can become who we are only when, in a way, we cease to be, at least cease to be so "in control.") . . . "true paradises are the paradises we have lost" . . . [for] if they are lost, forgotten, they at least have a chance of escaping habit and can reappear with some freshness and vivacity as "true" paradises. [...] The suggestion is that while we like to think of ourselves as living our life forward, as if a life were in the control of a subject, enacting a clear self-identity, in fact that direction would not make much sense unless we were able to live it constantly "backward," too, making sense later of what could not make sense at the time." Pippin, p. 325-326

Art, then, is of critical importance to man's life for it is the means by which we can recover the past, as well as ourselves. Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky mirrors this view:

"Touched by a masterpiece, a person begins to hear in himself that same call of truth which prompted the artist to his creative act. When a link is established between the work and its beholder, the latter experiences a sublime, purging trauma. Within that aura which unites masterpieces and audience, the best sides of our souls are made known, and we long for them to be freed. In those moments we recognize and discover ourselves, the unfathomable depths of our own potential, and the furthest reaches of our emotions." Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, p. 21 ( )

But its useless to try finding oneself through art if there is hardly anything to find. A man must act, he must treat his life as if it were an ongoing work of art. Characters like Donnie Darko, Travis Bickle, and Lester Burnham (American Beauty) are all alike insofar as they break out of their lives of quiet desperation by taking radical action.

7:38 AM  

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