Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Safest Country in the World to be Murdered in

A British woman who lived in my city has been brutally murdered. Lindsay Ann Hawker lived in Funabashi with a Canadian and an Australian roommate. She worked at the private English-language school/syndicate Nova in neighboring Ichikawa. Her killer escaped police, and remains free. Japan Probe is reporting and aggregating the news reports of the case, including embedded videos of Japanese TV news reports, good for as long as the copyright holders don't pull the YouTube files. The case has some similarities to the Lucie Blackman tragedy of a few years ago, although Lucie was working illegally as a hostess and Lindsay was working legally as a teacher.

Some reports:
Times Online, March 27
Japan Today, March 28
Times Online, March 28 story
Times Online, March 29
Daily Mail, March 30
Japan Today, April 1
Japan Today, April 3
Daily Yomiuri, April 3

My condolences go out to her family. Lindsay was entirely innocent, and did nothing wrong and nothing more dangerous than most of us do in any year of our lives or trips abroad. By the way, despite living in Funabashi, I did not know her personally, never met her beyond possibly seeing her on a train, and haven't spent much time in Nishifuna other that once or twice in the past few years.

Although I have commented on the remarkable fact that trainloads of young women can safely walk home alone after midnight, nobody should think Japan is 100% safe. Extremely sick and increasingly bizarre crimes are reported at least weekly or monthly, quite often against children. For example, in the Lucie Blackman case, her murderer, Joji Obara, had videotaped himself raping around 200 women whom he had lured to his apartment; Lucie may have died under sedation.

It seems reasonable and practical in our everyday lives to assume that most people are basically benign. If we didn't think so, it would be difficult to even ride an elevator with a stranger. However, as a conservative assumption, one person out of a hundred is bad, evil, or criminally insane. Seeing a beautiful face, they fantasize about smashing it with a hammer. A lovely child will elicit thoughts of rape and murder. The pleasure most people derive from friends, lovers, conversation, books, food, wine, and other joys of life, some derive from sadistically incomprehensible cruelties. Why? They may have been deprived of love. They may feel powerless, and need to prove to themselves that they exist, by imparting pain to others, or taking others' lives. They may be a small but inescapable percentile of defectively formed psyches, or may be formed by some historical echoes of past suffering. I don't know the cause, but anyone who lives in a city or encounters more than 100 people a day can assume that they pass a sadistic sociopath, of the likes of the BTK killer or Dick Cheney, on a daily basis. Japan has its share of mental cases, even if rampant violent crime is kept down by the general prosperity, relative equality of income, values of social harmony and self-control, and unavailability of push-button-simple death-dispensers such as firearms.

Being a foreign woman in Japan will necessarily be a different experience that being a foreign man, although in both cases, being highly visible will draw attention, including the unwanted attention of crazies. Most people feel safer here than in the United States, although a few western women discussing this case have said that they feel safer in central London than in Japan.

There is no perfect defense against the criminally insane person who runs into a kindergarten or daycare and stabs as many children as possible because he wants to show the parents how absurd the world is where that is possible. You can't reason with the person, and begging for your life is as likely to turn him on or encourage him as it is to discourage him. Being a racial minority makes you a target for the unhinged person who may have internalized racist attitudes or paranoia. Also, the English language has too many irregular verbs. It's a strange cause to die for--but what isn't?

Postscript: International Murder Comparison: Japan shamed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita
These stats would obviously often be different for expats than the local bumiputra population. An American has to be safer in Minnesota than in Saudi Arabia. Race and gender would interact with local racism and sexism, etc.

Update! 2007-04-04
Jason Gray has an amazing post on this topic, based on a personal experience!
Another blogger on the story: whereischristopher.

Another related story:
English school syndicate NOVA (employer of Lindsay Ann Hawker as mentioned above) has been ordered to refund the money they make by cheating customers. NOVA is well-known for exploiting the demand for English-language instruction in a business model that cheats students.

Top court rules Nova policy illegal
School must fully refund cancelers
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that major English school Nova Corp.'s method of settling early cancellations of its courses by using a higher unit price than when the contract was signed is illegal and violated the Specified Commercial Transaction Law.

The ruling followed a case brought by a 39-year-old man from Kita Ward, Tokyo, who tried to cancel a contract and demanded the company refund the 310,000 yen he said he was owed for classes he had not taken.

Presiding Justice Kohei Nasu ruled it is illegal to settle a contract by charging more for each unit taken than was agreed on when the contract was signed. He dismissed the appeal by Nova, and upheld and finalized the first and second rulings ordering the return of all the money demanded.

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