“老害”引发日本社会不满

英国《金融时报》 利奥•刘易斯
2019.05.15 12:00

最近出现了一段一两分钟的手机视频,拍下了一列拥挤的名古屋通勤列车上,一位老人反复地、似乎是故意地阻止车门关闭。当然,这段视频已经在网上广为传播。

这段视频非常具有戏剧性,慌张的车站工作人员和已经忍无可忍的乘客是这段视频的主要人物。列车的钢门9次试图关闭,但每次都被恶作剧的老人的身躯阻挠。时间一分一秒的过去,自然秩序受到了挑战,日本有名的准时性被打破。

事件本身和其背景并不是那么重要。但突出的地方是,这段视频的线上观众很快得出了一个带有火药味的结论。公众认为,这是又一起“老害”(rougai)事件——日本老年人对日本社会造成的伤害。

虽然对这个词的定义依然缺乏共识,但这个词数年前就已经悄然成为了日本国民词汇的一部分。“老害”不仅仅是人口统计学方面对老龄化人口的担忧。的确,日本的福利制度和经济能否适应其具有挑战性的人口结构,养老问题将如何加重剩下的劳动力的负担,这些巨大而严重的问题多年来一直非常突出和令人困惑。而“老害”更加具体:对一些人来说,它的意思就是“一个烦人的老人”。

有几本书试图对这一问题进行定义。它们将“老害”定义为日本劳动年龄人口所遭受的一系列微小的恼人问题和阻碍。最近几个月,这个词的使用频度加速上升,原因是这个词在网络上被重复使用,以及这个词可以用来简单地概括多种问题。

在使用“老害”这个词的各种人口中,它可以是一个不会使用电脑,却谴责年轻员工不如前几代人的高管的顽固和愚蠢之处;是退休人员猖獗的入店行窃行为;是过气的政客;是在街上不请自来地提供育儿建议,吓唬年轻母亲的老年女性;是触屏售票机前犹豫不决的古稀老者身后的蛇形长队;是在高速公路上逆行导致连环撞车的90多岁的老人。

一家主要商业杂志列出了前十名职场“老害”问题,位居首位的就是“老年人总说他们在所有事上都是对的”。对老害的另一种解释是,如此之多的日本企业的竞争力受到拖累,是因为这些企业中年迈的领导人不愿让位。当日本年轻人认为老年人是令人愤怒的、棘手的和无法容忍的时候,“老害”已经成为了人们最常抱怨的话语。

代际摩擦在人类社会中并不新鲜,也并不是日本特有的现象,但“老害”这个词似乎反映出一种日本特有的感受,即老年人的数量正在超过年轻人。日本政府本月最新公布的一组数据证实这种情况在恶化。目前,日本五分之一的人口年龄超过70岁,三分之一的人口年龄超过60岁,而这种趋势无法被抵消。同时,“老害”制造的大多数紧张往往不会造成社会动荡。不论是出于本能或是习惯,对老年人的尊重往往使年轻人对许多“老害”现象报以沉默、怜悯或尴尬的笑声。

那么,关于年龄的愤怒情绪引起的“老害”呼声有多真实?名古屋列车堵门事件以闪电般的速度被上传到社交媒体,并以同样迅疾的速度被定义为“老害”,这很有启发意义。YouTube和其他一些视频分享网站现在充满了反映日本老年人做出讨厌、危险的行为,或在公共场所制造小混乱的视频,所有这些视频都可以通过“老害”这个词搜索到。

互联网极其有效地将这些丑行整编在了一起,并让观者相信,这种不良行为广泛存在且十分有害。在炮制一个新词并鼓励人们看到处处存在的事例方面,日本有着傲人的记录。

毫无疑问,日本的人口结构将给日本社会带来一系列更加恼人、复杂和令人悲哀的问题。这将是一个巨大的负担,而分享并抱怨名古屋列车堵门事件视频的一代人无疑将承担最重的那一份负担。他们知道自己将会面临什么样的麻烦,至少他们赋予了自己给这个麻烦起名的权力。

译者/何黎

以下为此文英文原文:Working-age Japan’s howl of rage against the elderly gains a name

By Leo Lewis

A minute or two of newly shot mobile phone video captures an elderly man repeatedly and, it seems, deliberately, preventing the door of a packed Nagoya commuter train from closing. It has, of course, gone viral.

The footage, co-starring flustered station staff and passengers at the end of their tethers, is exquisite theatre. Nine times, the train’s steel doors bid for closure. Nine times they are thwarted by aged flesh and mischief. The seconds tick by; the natural order of things is challenged; Japan’s famed punctuality is punctured.

The incident and its background are unimportant. But what stands out is the belligerent conclusion the video’s online audience quickly reached. This was, the masses decided, yet another case of rougai — the harm inflicted on Japan by its elderly.

The word, still lacking consensus on the parameters of its meaning, has been skulking around the national vocab for a few years now. There is more to rougai than demographic concerns about an ageing population. Those big, serious questions over whether Japan’s welfare systems and economy can adapt to its challenging demographics, or how elderly care will burden what remains of the labour force, have been prominent and perplexing for many years. Rougai, meanwhile, is more granular: for some, it simply means “an annoying old person”.

A couple of books have tried to define the issue and positioned rougai as a series of micro-irritations and obstacles inflicted on working-age Japanese. But its usage has accelerated in recent months through repetition online and the way it handily encapsulates multiple problems.

Rougai, in the various mouths of its users, can be the stubborn idiocy of a senior executive who cannot use a computer but decries younger staff as inferior to previous generations. It is shoplifting sprees by retirees. It is superannuated politicians. It is elderly women hectoring young mothers in the street with unsolicited child-rearing advice. It is a snaking queue of septuagenarians dithering over touchscreen ticket machines. It is 90-year-olds causing pile-ups by driving their cars the wrong way up motorways.

When one major business magazine produced a top-10 list of rougai irritations in the workplace, it was topped by “the way old people always say they are right about everything”. Another defined it in terms of the competitive drag suffered by so many Japanese companies whose elderly leaders refuse to step aside. Rougai has become the go-to gripe when Japan’s old strike the young as infuriating, intractable and intolerable.

Generational friction is nothing new to humanity, nor special to Japan, but rougai seems to reflect a Japan-specific feeling that the young are being outnumbered by the old. Government figures, the latest slew of which were released this month, confirm that exasperation. A fifth of the population is now aged over 70, a third is over 60 and the direction of travel cannot be offset. At the same time, most of the tensions created by rougai tend not to be socially explosive. Respect for the elderly, whether by instinct or habit, generally ensures that its many manifestations are suffered in silence, pity or with an awkward laugh.

So how genuine is the rougai howl of age rage? The lightning speed at which the Nagoya train door drama was both uploaded to social media and defined as rougai is instructive. YouTube and other video-sharing sites are now groaning repositories for footage of elderly Japanese being awful, dangerous, or causing featherweight mayhem in public places, all searchable under rougai.

The internet is extremely efficient at assembling these encyclopedias of outrage and convincing viewers that the blight is both widespread and pernicious. Japan, for its part, has a noble record when it comes to bashing-out a good neologism and encouraging people to see examples of it everywhere.

There is no doubt that the country’s demographics will confront its society with an ever more irritating, complex and saddening list of problems. The burden of this will be immense and will surely fall most heavily on the generation that has shared and bemoaned the footage of the Nagoya door-stopper. They know what trouble is coming; at least they have granted themselves the empowerment that comes with giving it a name.

leo.lewis@ft.com

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