7/05/2013

The Hikikomori and the Beautiful Ones

A comment was made on a BBC article featured on Slashdot. A connection was made by user "Universe 25" on the symptoms displayed by hikikomori and the "beautiful ones" described in the research of ethologist, John B. Calhoun on the effects of overpopulation.
The real question that is posed is wether this connection is a causation or correlation in regards to societal overpopulation. I believe that it seems to be much more complex than a reservation based on a population of mice though.

Taken shamelessly from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23182523:

Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?

     "I had all kinds of negative emotions inside me," he says. "The desire to go outside, anger towards society and my parents, sadness about having this condition, fear about what would happen in the future, and jealousy towards the people who were leading normal lives."
In Japan, hikikomori, a term that's also used to describe the young people who withdraw, is a word that everyone knows.
    Tamaki Saito was a newly qualified psychiatrist when, in the early 1990s, he was struck by the number of parents who sought his help with children who had quit school and hidden themselves away for months and sometimes years at a time. These young people were often from middle-class families, they were almost always male, and the average age for their withdrawal was 15.
    "They are tormented in the mind," he says. "They want to go out in the world, they want to make friends or lovers, but they can't."
    When Saito began his research, social withdrawal was not unknown, but it was treated by doctors as a symptom of other underlying problems rather than a pattern of behavior requiring special treatment.
    Since he drew attention to the phenomenon, it is thought the numbers of hikikomori have increased. A conservative estimate of the number of people now affected is 200,000, but a 2010 survey for the Japanese Cabinet Office came back with a much higher figure - 700,000. Since sufferers are by definition hidden away, Saito himself places the figure higher still, at around one million.
    The average age of hikikomori also seems to have risen over the last two decades. Before it was 21 - now it is 32.

....

    "Traditionally, Japanese psychology was thought to be group-oriented - Japanese people do not want to stand out in a group," says Yuriko Suzuki, a psychologist at the National Institute for Mental Health in Tokyo. "But I think especially for the younger generation, they want more individualized or personalised care and attention. I think we are in a mixed state."
But even hikikomori who desperately want to fulfill their parents' plans for them may find themselves frustrated.
    Andy Furlong, an academic at the University of Glasgow specializing in the transition from education to work, connects the growth of the hikikomori phenomenon with the popping of the 1980s "bubble economy" and the onset of Japan's recession of the 1990s.
It was at this point that the conveyor belt of good school grades leading to good university places leading to jobs-for-life broke down. A generation of Japanese were faced with the insecurity of short-term, part-time work.
    And it came with stigma, not sympathy.
    Job-hopping Japanese were called "freeters" - a combination of the word "freelance" and the German word for "worker", arbeiter. In political discussion, freeters were frequently bundled together with "neets" - an adopted British acronym meaning "not in education, employment or training". Neets, freeters, hikikomori - these were ways of describing the good-for-nothing younger generation, parasites on the flagging Japanese economy. The older generation, who graduated and slotted into steady careers in the 1960s and 1970s, could not relate to them.

....

    In any case, the do-nothing approach has been shown not to work. Tamaki Saito likens the hikikomori state to alcoholism, in that it is impossible to give up without a support network.

What about female hikikomori?
  • - Hikikomori are seen as predominantly male - Tamaki Saito says males occupy 70%- 80% of the group
  • - However, an internet survey by NHK found just 53% to be male
  • - Andy Furlong at the University of Glasgow speculates that female withdrawal into the home seems so natural to Japanese society that women hikikomori may remain unreported
John C. Calhoun and the "beautiful ones."

Taken shamelessly from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Calhoun and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_sink:

The Utopian Mouse Universe

    In July 1968 four pairs of mice were introduced into the Utopian universe. The universe was a 9-foot (2.7 m) square metal pen with 54-inch-high (1.4 m) sides. Each side had four groups of four vertical, wire mesh “tunnels”. The “tunnels” gave access to nesting boxes, food hoppers, and water dispensers. There was no shortage of food or water or nesting material. There were no predators. The only adversity was the limit on space.
     Initially the population grew rapidly, doubling every 55 days. The population reached 620 by day 315, after which the population growth dropped markedly. The last surviving birth was on day 600. This period between day 315 and day 600 saw a breakdown in social structure and in normal social behavior. Among the aberrations in behavior were the following: expulsion of young before weaning was complete, wounding of young, inability of dominant males to maintain the defense of their territory and females, aggressive behavior of females, passivity of non-dominant males with increased attacks on each other which were not defended against. After day 600 the social breakdown continued and the population declined toward extinction. During this period females ceased to reproduce. Their male counterparts withdrew completely, never engaging in courtship or fighting. They ate, drank, slept, and groomed themselves – all solitary pursuits. Sleek, healthy coats and an absence of scars characterized these males. They were dubbed “the beautiful ones”.

(Unfortunately, Dr. Calhoun was a religious man and many of his theories have been taken up by Conservative Right Christians and eugenics supporters in relation to a human societal collapse. An alarmist congregation can use his experiments to maintain fear. - my opinion).

Calhoun's work became used, rightly or wrongly, as an animal model of societal collapse, and his study has become a touchstone of urban sociology and psychology in general.

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