Less Than Zero

Suicide In September

Yet another lost father has committed suicide, unable to endure the script that the Japanese Child Abduction State had handed him.

He was 37 years old and lived in Kyoto. His baby son is two. Since November or so of last year, the Japanese courts granted him a mere one hour per month to be with his child.

Now this child has to grow up without his daddy to love him, and with a grim mark on his beginnings to darken his life. Presuming nothing about what is and should remain private and particular to the family, we must not now shy from  recognition that the blame for this young man’s death  lies  unequivocally with the Japanese state,  which deprived this father of the livability of his life by removing from his reach what it is his human –   no, more than human –   his biogenetic imperative to assume: to bond with, raise and protect his child. I believe the judge who forced this on him should be confronted with and made to bear responsibility for this death.  It is the  judges and court bureaucrats  who made this  choice — as some are calling it —  to destroy a father and child. What recompense can be asked of the mother, the lawmakers and the enforcers who denied this father? Equivalent suffering to this is systematically spread far and wide. They must be made to put their hands  in the ashes.

Life, less than zero

Just before the end of Inferno, meeting the final levels of misery that lie at the bottom of the world, Dante meets a man whose body remains on the surface of the earth, but whose soul has already been immersed in death. “The soul falls headlong into this tank here, and perhaps the body still appears above of the shade that is wintering here behind me.” Dante, recalling seeing the man alive,  can’t grasp this mystery and disbelieves him, saying “I believe thou art deceiving me, for [this man] never died, but eats and sleeps and drinks and puts on clothes.”

There is a zero level of existence, just above Dante’s place “where the sticky pitch boils”,  that is life in name only.  We like to think sustaining biological life, life at its minimum which “eats and sleeps and drinks and puts on clothes”   affords to people an opportunity for self-redemptive knowing, even action, not unlike tragic heroes who in the end confront their slippage into guilt  for the horrors they discover they are responsible for, too late. Story telling tradition – with all the overlay of dramatic orderliness –   gives them final vision: the clockwork system of fate, law, and social forces are revealed; and redemption of their blindness arrives. But what do real survivors of tragedy do? Forgetting the difference between fairy tales, tragedies, and the way that story penetrates our understanding, in the Real, a chasm opens between  the subjective innocence that is known to us, and the objective “guilt” that is lain in every brick of every surrounding wall. We swear we are not to blame; still,  we are thrown behind the lonely crowd.  Somewhere there is a law, a law of madness and repression no doubt, that imposes what is counter-factual and defies our core of innermost self-regulation, what more than likely structures our responses, inscribed into our DNA. In this case, it is our parental bond. Where our tragic hero finds himself guilty but endowed with wisdom, we unmythical mortals find zero transcendence; only the slow clock tick, revved up inside, with our substance aching or blowing away. How can we not but be afflicted?

We are our children’s parents. To bond with our children, to protect them with priority that puts our self-survival in the service of theirs is in our neurons. To deny or defy this, is brain-damaged.
We cannot all be expected to resolve this conflict internally. It is not merely a steep psychological well we can all pull out of. It is deep, genetically embedded, and violently threatens us.

Primatologist  Frans De Waal wrote this about empathy:

Empathy engages brain areas that are more than 100 million years old. The capacity arose long ago with motor mimicry and emotional contagion, after which evolution added layer after layer, until our ancestors not only felt what others felt, but understood what others might want or need. … As for its origins, empathy probably started with the birth of parental care. During 200 million years of mammalian evolution, females sensitive to their offspring out-reproduced those that were cold and distant. When a pup, cub, calf, or human baby is cold, hungry, or in danger, its parent needs to react instantaneously. Parents that failed to respond did not propagate their genes.

And from Giorgio Agamben, philosopher at the University of Verona, I found this sentence from Article 4 of the Napoleonic Code:

“The judge who refuses to judge, on the pretense of silence, obscurity, or insufficiency of the law, can be prosecuted on the charge of denial of justice.”

Japan’s denial of parental rights has committed yet another instance of judicial murder. A father is dead. A child is half-orphaned and left in his abductor’s care without even a prayer for the love and protection his father wanted so desperately to provide.

Let us not allow fear of the trauma of his suffering to undermine our empathy for the victim of this crime; rather we should now direct our gaze at those who “wrought the treachery” to begin with:

“But now reach out thy hand here; open my eyes.”
And I did not open them for him; and it was courtesy to be a churl to him.

Ah, Genoese, people strange to all good custom and full of all corruption,
Why are you not driven from the world?”

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