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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Falsification scandals a reminder of the need for honesty

Rika Kayama

Many buildings including public facilities across Japan were found to contain earthquake shock absorbers with falsified data. Leading manufacturers of such dampers fabricated quality inspection data and allowed equipment that failed to meet quality standards to be used in those structures.

    The buildings we thought "were safe because they had devices installed to prevent damage," were actually using defective products. What would happen to the structures if a massive earthquake struck? The lives of the people inside those buildings could be at threat.

    "Did they think it was fine to fake it if it went unnoticed? It's so scary," I said to my students. One of them answered, "But aren't other companies and government offices doing similar things?" I didn't know how to reply to that.

    Indeed, just the other day many government bodies in Japan were found to have padded disabled workforce figures to make the ratio of employees with disabilities seem greater than the reality. These ratios are set by law, and private companies would have to pay a fine if their numbers don't meet the required levels. It's very surprising that such manipulation had been taking place in administrative bodies, which are in a position to show leadership in encouraging the employment of people with disabilities.

    However, if these kinds of falsifications continue, we might get used to it without even noticing, just like the student I spoke to. They can only think, "here we go again," even upon hearing that something had been falsified or was a fraud.

    That in itself is the real tragedy. Our society is built on the basis that people usually abide by the rules even without surveillance. Chefs pay careful attention to hygiene while cooking and construction workers build roads and houses according to set procedures without being monitored. What if it became normal to think, "Let's cheat if no one's watching"? In no time many problems would pop up everywhere, and the world would be thrown into chaos.

    It's dangerous to become nonchalant about scams, and to think "not again," without being surprised or getting angry. I want to talk to students again about "what it really means for data on quake shake absorbers to have been falsified." I also want to ask myself, "Have I ever slacked off or faked something because no one was watching?" We should be honest even if people aren't observing us. That's an important message that shouldn't be forgotten. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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