I was recently surprised when I held class discussions with my students about inequality. In class I brought up the issue of cities for the wealthy being created in America for people dissatisfied that their taxes are being used on the poor. A few such cities have actually been created, and the average income of residents there is equivalent to about 10 million yen. In these cities they are able to receive high-quality healthcare and security services.
However, after the wealthy have gone on to make their own cities, the places left behind with the poorer populations are hit by a drop in tax revenue and forced to cut back on public services like hospitals and garbage collection. The inequality gap consequently grows.
Some students said this problem couldn't be helped. A student who said, "My job hunting isn't going well and it seems like I could definitely end up among the poor people," also said, "I can understand that they don't want the money they worked hard to earn to be used on the poor. If I became poor and couldn't receive healthcare, I would accept it."
There were also students who said, "Japan will probably become the same way" or "Japan is already becoming like that." When I asked, "So how can this spread in the inequality gap, or rather the separation of these different societal classes, be prevented?" no one could provide an answer.
I had this discussion in a few classes, but no one got angry and said, "This is wrong! It's unforgiveable!" Instead the students accepted it as something that was not good but was unavoidable. When I asked, "Then, what do you think about people who use their relatives' connections to help them get employment?" almost everyone just accepted it, they were even positive about it, saying "I envy them," or "I think they're fortunate."
Of course, people are not equal in all ways. Obviously there are differences in the environments in which people are born, in their abilities and in their personalities. I don't think, however, that we have to passively accept that the inequality gap is growing and some people benefit tremendously while others lose a lot.
When I say, "When I was a student, people protested angrily about inequality," the students look at me surprised. Is it not an unchanging principle that people at the same university or in the same town should have, as much as possible, the same opportunities for studying and for leading their lives? Or, from the view of young people, is even that a "dream of the old generation?" (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)