Dai-bosatsu Tōge, Book II (1929)

§.00 Book II of Dai-bosatsu Tōge (Great Bodhisattva Pass) by Kaizan Nakazato (translated by C. S. Bavier), begins directly after Shimada’s decimation of the New Levies at the end of Book I, with Ryunosuke and Hama and their son, Ikutaro, who is yet still a babe (indicating that not much time has passed between the end of Book I, and the beginning of Book II). Tensions have considerably subsided between husband and wife, so much so that Ryunosuke and Hama are introduced singing to the tune of a traveling bard. Their idyll is interrupted by the appearance of a much-agitated Kamo Serizawa, Captain of the Band of New Levies (a organization which Ryunosuke joined in the first volume). Serizawa informs Ryunosuke (now going by the moniker ‘Ryutaro Yoshida’) that Toranosuke Shimada must die for making such a mockery of them, regardless of their own blunder in mistakingly targeting him for assassination. Serizawa then tells Ryunosuke that Bunnojo’s brother, Hyoma, has declared his desire for revenge. Ryunosuke is irked, if only slightly, not because someone wishes to kill him, but because Hyoma’s band makes his return to his homeland more difficult. Unsurprisingly, Hama—who overhears a portion of her husband and Serizawa’s conversation—is deeply distressed.

At the same time as this is occuring, it is revealed that the massive but kindly Yohachi and the spirited and bereaved Matsu (under the guise of ‘Midori’) are still working at the amoral pleasure house of Kamio Mansion. Matsu is so unhappy at the site of debauchery that Yohachi suggests she leave and he go with her. The two then steal away in the night and encounter none other than Yamaokaya of Hongo, Matsu’s Aunt, who is both guilt-stricken and pleased to meet a relation whom she had treated so coldly. Yamaokaya (or Aunt Taki) invites Matsu and Yohachi to her home, a tenement in Sakumacho. While there, Matsu falls gravely ill and Yamaoakaya runs out of money and so conspires to use the ailing Matsu as her cash-cow as Yohachi searches for a doctor. Matsu, being no fool, is fully aware that her aunt is trying to squeeze money out of her, yet, being also abundant in compassion, gives away all of her money. This blind trust (as all blind trust) turns out to be foolhardy as Aunt Taki gives Yohachi the slip and sells Matsu into slavery.

The thief Shichibei, is informed that Matsu gave her previous, wealthy employer the slip and, that she has turned to amorality. Shichibei, knowing that Matsu must have had her reasons, sets out to uncover the truth of the matter.

Not long after this, Hama, fed up with Ryunosuke’s lack of concern for her and the child, demands a divorce. Ryunosuke swiftly agrees and then informs Hama that he has a parting gift for her and tells her he has recieved a challenge from Hyoma Utsuki, her former brother-in-law. Hama, knowing full well that Hyoma stands no chance in a duel with Ryunosuke, and wracked by guilt in recalling the death of Bunnojo, determines to kill her husband in his sleep. However, before she can plunge her dagger into Ryunosuke’s chest, he wakes and wrests her from him; in the broil, a lamp is broken and the house catches fire. Hama, flees, but is swiftly overtaken and begs for mercy. Shortly, she changes her mind, and instead, asks Ryunosuke to kill her, and then allow Hyoma to win the duel. Without a word, Ryunosuke kills his wife as his house and Hama’s babe burns in the distance.

Ryunosuke leaves the area, as Hyoma arrives for their duel, only to find Hama dead. On his rainy travels, Ryunosuke chances upon a young woman who bares a striking resemblance to Hama, who is accosted by unscrupulous palanquin men. In an act of uncommon kindness, Ryunosuke, offers to pay the men to leave her alone; when they still attempt to extort the young woman, Ryunosuke intervenes and scares them off. This event leaves Ryunosuke haunted by thoughts of Hama and whether she caused him to err or whether the reverse was true.

§.01 As with the Book I, the strangely clipped lines which occasionally arise are the chief strike against the work, for in all other regards, it is every bit as fascinating as the preceding volume; for example, lines such as, “I borrow just two ryo out of this” (p. 156), as opposed to the more natural, “I’ll only borrow two ryo out of it/this,” or the more egregious, “Dark the night was it was now near daybreak” (p. 190). It is possible that this was how Nakazato wrote the line in the original manuscript, but seems unlikely; it strikes me as more likely that these oddly clipped lines are products of ‘best-fit’ translation. Regardless of the reason for them, they prove distracting.

§.02 The consistent theme throughout is guilt, and whether or not the feeling of it is justified. Hama, before her final confrontation with Ryunosuke, comes to believe that Bunnojo’s death was her fault, that the sin was, as Ryunosuke says, born out of her evil nature. Though he is correct, he is also to blame for the affair, for it was Ryunosuke who cajoled Hama into infidelity, as well as he that struck the killing blow upon Bunnojo (albeit, in self-defense). Hama’s foolishness is revealed in her suicidal impulses and murder attempt on her husband, as she gives no thought to the life of her child without her care. Her demise does nothing to remedy her betrayal of Bunnojo, and is driven only by the intensely selfish desire to escape from the pain of her guilt. A skillful illustration of the futility of self-destructive escapism.

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.1

One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).

Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:

  • 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
  • 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
  • 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
  • 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
  • 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
  • When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).

When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.

From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!

But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.


Sources:

Harris Poll: Americans’ Sense of Alienation Remains at Record High

Rising Morbidity & Morality in Midlife Among White, non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.

Nautilus: Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

Jisho