September 20, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The potential of humans
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「人間の底力」 /東京

Torrential rain and flood damage recently struck the northern Kanto and Tohoku regions. I happened to be visiting the Tohoku region for work over the weekend, and even looking out from the window of the bullet train, I saw countless rice paddies and fields that had been flooded by water overflowing from streams and irrigation channels. If we were to include everything that wasn't reported, I wonder just how much damage there was.

On television I saw a reporter pointing a microphone at a person who had barely escaped with their life after their home had been flooded. This is a common sight during disasters, but reporters aren't as pushy as they used to be. Now more start off saying something like, "I'm sorry to be asking you at a time like this, but ..."

The people who respond all say things like, "It's the first time this has happened. I was shocked." And many of them make such comments as, "I'm just happy to be safe," or, "I'm thankful to have been rescued."

On TV and on the Internet, one hardly ever encounters people in such disasters getting angry and saying things like, "Why did this have to happen to me?"

Some people give accounts like, "Neighbors have evacuated together and are helping each other," or, "I spent the night in an isolated apartment, but residents brought food and shared it."

Meanwhile, rescuers and supporters -- from the Self-Defense Forces to firefighters and members of local bodies -- have gone beyond all expectations in their efforts to help.

In my consultation rooms, I hear so many tragic stories. "I was abused by my parents," one person says. "I was betrayed by a friend," says another. It leaves me tending to think, "Humans are bad by nature." I get the impression that humans are always cheating someone, always trying to get a good deal for just themselves.

But in the latest disaster, looking at the people who have cooperated with those around them in an attempt to overcome their difficulties, at those who have remembered to thank others amid such trying circumstances, and at those putting a full effort into saving and supporting victims, I'm compelled to amend my line of thinking.

Deep down, surely, people have compassion and kindness, thinking, "I want to help someone," or "I want to tell them, 'Thank you.'" But I guess that as they are forced into tough situations, those feelings are gradually pushed back, and people resort to attacking others or conning them to survive.

I convey my sympathy to those affected by the latest disaster. And in my words here, I leave my thoughts on the potential of humans that I have felt through the disaster.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年09月15日 地方版