The Japanese media have increasingly been raising concerns that Japan’s younger generations are no longer the bastions of mindless consumer capitalism they once were, with potentially dire consequences for the nation’s economy; a psychiatrist has even gone so far as to say this is a result of mass schizophrenia.
Psychiatrist Hideki Wada, known for a number of books and television appearances as well as some academic publications, claims the drop in consumption is not tied to anything so mundane as Japan’s long-running economic slump, but is instead a result of mental illness.
When asked what he considers to be the cause of the so-called “consumption collapse” amongst Japanese young people, he claims that it is an “illness” which can be explained through clinical schizophrenia and depression, which he theorises as being endemic amongst Japanese.
Explaining this apparently completely unsubstantiated claim, he theorises that a loss of individuality caused by schizophrenia contributes to making people more susceptible to group trends, and that as a result when young people see others refraining from consumption they follow this trend (he does not approach the issue of why people might be consuming less in the first place).
As a countermeasure he suggests doubling income taxes for workers and then allowing them to claim general consumption as expenses, in order to force people to buy rather than foolishly save their money – “if they don’t spend their money the government will take it from them, so it’ll be best for them to spend it all.”
He also proposes education for recalcitrant consumers – “Previously we taught that saving was a virtue, but we should be teaching that consumption is a virtue instead. We should teach that if people don’t spend, the country will gradually decline.”
For a psychiatrist to abuse the definition of a serious mental illness by applying it wholesale to an entire generation on the grounds that they do not feel the need to own cars or buy Louis Vuitton bags seems particularly grotesque, though at least he stops short of proposing compulsory medication.
Most actual young Japanese can easily propose a plausible alternative explanation: “because we have no money,” though unfortunately the Japanese mass media seem resolutely intent on ignoring such an obvious explanation.