Recently when I was riding a train, a small child, presumably preschool age, said to their mother, "It's too crowded to keep social distance!" From the chatter of a group of high school girls, I heard the word "rebound" and thought they were talking about dieting, but then I heard them say something to the effect of, "I heard that there were 400 people in Tokyo, too," so I guess they were talking about the number of coronavirus cases.
In the past year, words that had never existed before were created and the meanings of words changed. A typical example is the "three Cs" (of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings). I wonder what people would think if I took a time machine to go back in time and said, "Be careful of the three Cs." I'm sure they'd be puzzled and ask me what I meant.
The use and meaning of even a single word changes with time and society. I think it is the same with human beings. There is a proverb that goes, "The character and traits of a child do not change over time," but after meeting many people over the years in my doctor's office, I often think, "Oh, this person has changed a lot."
Most of the time, the changes are in a positive direction, such as growth, improvement, and gaining kindness and gentleness. There are many people who shed tears, saying, "The way I have been living and thinking thus far may have been wrong." And I have never had the experience of thinking, "I thought they were a good person at first, but the longer we were together, the more they started to behave dishonestly." My theory is that "people will always change for the better if they take the time to look at themselves."
There is a Japanese politician who is facing trial after being arrested over an election bribery case. He initially denied the accusations, but at his recent trial, he changed his attitude and admitted that he had bribed people. Moreover, he commented, "I deserve to die 10,000 times for having betrayed everyone's trust. I am ashamed of my abysmal character in that I thought I could 'buy' people's hearts with money."
There were many comments on the internet and elsewhere about the case, such as "I can't believe it" and "He's probably trying to make a good impression so that he can run in an election again." However, based on my experience in the doctor's office, I believe that this person has also learned to face himself carefully and admit his mistakes and weaknesses in the days since his arrest, detention and release on bail.
You may laugh and say, "That's too optimistic," but I want to believe it. People can always change for the better. I would like to continue to grow and mature myself.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)