Thought for today:
"The Aokigahara Forest lies at the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji. It is a haunted forest known as the 'Sea of Trees' which is embraced by dense vegetation that threatens to constantly smother it. If dying is a lonely experience for any man, then dying here is certainly the loneliest of all imaginable acts. The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and it has grown to be a notoriously common suicide site in Japan.
Each year the authorities remove as many as 100 bodies found hanging at the country's suicide hotspot, but others can lie undiscovered for years. After Seichō Matsumoto wrote a book in 1960 called 'Kuroi Jukai', which describes the suicide of two lovers in Aokigahara, the haunted forest has been the most common place for mostly Japanese men to kill themselves. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza (a powerful Japanese criminal organization of gangsters and racketeers) pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. The authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mount Fuji and is too dense and dangerous to patrol more frequently.
I recently read that the greatest cause of death today for British men in their 40s and 50s is 'suicide' and that death by such means is now higher in this age group than any other age category, whereas twenty years ago, suicide was more prevalent in the younger person. Married men in their 40s and 50s are now almost two and half times as likely to commit suicide as the rest of the population, official figures suggest.
A generation of middle-aged married men today find that their working lives have been book ended by recession; frequently leading to loss of job, home, livelihood and often followed by marriage breakup and eventually, all loss of self respect.
Experts are of the view that the decline of heavy industry in the 1980's and early 1990's, the closures of the nation's pits and steel works, along with other major social changes affecting the workplace and family, appeared to have combined to put this generation at particular risk. New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the total number of men aged between 45 and 59 taking their own lives was almost 40 per cent higher in 2012 than it was less than a decade earlier.
A number of things about Japan and England strike me as being a little more than peculiarly coincidental when looking at the increase of suicide rates in this particular age section of the two respective societies. There is no doubt that the whole world has been subject to an economic downturn during the past fifteen years, but were I to pick the greatest national trait shared by Japan and England in their glorious past, it would be a high regard towards honour, civic responsibility, dignity and personal respect. There is no doubt today, that these two nations, each of which once placed the highest of premiums on class, culture and pride, have currently found themselves under the influence and control of a contracting market place during times of economic recession and increasing austerity, and where materialism plays too high a place in the lives of their people.
Deeply entrenched in the psych of Japan and England however, I strongly suspect that pride of one's position in the community, responsibility towards family, self respect and personal dignity are the governing factors of the actions of middle-aged married men whose life circumstances have drastically changed to the extent that they now view committing suicide as their only escape.
No credible historian of the Second World War could possibly doubt the 'suicidal' aspects of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots who flew their planes directly into the American war ships during 1944. Many army leaders who lost battles would often follow the samurai honour code and commit Seppuka (a slashing of the stomach). This was an act of suicide by disembowlment; preferred by them as either an act of punishment for having failed their emperor and country or to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy if the battle was lost.
And what about the 'suicidal' aspects of the British during the Second World War? All historians would marvel at this little island of shopkeepers, standing alone against the German giant aggressor in 1939; the Goliath who threatened Western civilisation and posed the risk of world domination unless stopped! Despite being greatly outmanned and outgunned by the Germans, we British entered into battle, and during our darkest hour, we somehow prevailed against overwhelming odds!
When the entire British Expeditionary Force was marooned on the beaches of Dunkirk and facing annihilation in May, 1940, 700 private boats known as The little ships of Dunkirk sailed from Ramsgate in England to Dunkirk in France to rescue more than 338,000 British and French soldiers who were trapped on the beaches under heavy bombing and artillery fire and facing certain annihilation. We got our soldier boys back home, rebuilt our army and regrouped, ready for the next battle in the skies above London.
Between July 1940 and May 1941, far fewer and much inferior British aeroplanes to those of the German luftwaffe fought the 'Battle Of Britain' in the English skies, and again, despite the odds, we won through. Despite bombing our cities nightly in the most sustained air attack ever mounted, the might of Germany could not break the British morale and the country kept its spirits high.
As for our Dad's Army brigade of civilians, those men left back at home prepared for the eventuality of a German mainland invasion, armed with little more than wooden guns, the odd farmer's shotgun and a pitch fork!
I have no doubt that given the massive odds against the British soldiers, sailors, air force and civilians holding off the German forces on land, sea and air, this response by our brave men and women might possibly have been seen by non British as the country embarking upon a 'suicidal' mission, in which few of its fighters were ever expected to return.
In my lifetime I have personally known of many folk who have experienced a 'broken heart' through the loss of love, and yet whose heart was eventually mended when new love was again found. I have never however, in the whole of my seventy three years ever known of a 'broken spirit' who was able to find their way back once that feeling of impotence, despair, loss of worth, purpose, dignity and self-respect had joined in deadly combination to convince them they were worthless. It is this lethal cocktail of dejected feelings that are instrumental in leading them towards their darkest forest." William Forde: November 13th, 2015.