It's no secret that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates on the planet, with people taking their lives every single day in any number of ways. The practice has been a part of the culture for centuries, particularly in the case of "honorable suicide", but very rarely do we hear about someone taking their own life to repent for a grand failure or to prevent being captured by the enemy. Instead, we're hearing about people who are dying to escape massive debt, joblessness, abuse, or mental instabilities. Despite the planet's burgeoning population, people need to have options other than self-cannon.
As someone who has considered taking the easy way out myself, I'd like to make a suggestion to the government of Japan1: allow anyone who requests it a chance to reboot their life once.
Hitting the Reset Button
There is no reset button in life, but this doesn't mean that we can't break from the past and start fresh. The problem is in, for lack of a better term, execution. Starting fresh requires a few things. Psychological strength, a plane ticket, and little bit of money. I managed to almost completely reboot my life at the age of 22 with less than $2,5002, and most people could probably do it for less than $5,000 total. That said, with a little government support, things could be much easier for people who are in much worse shape than I was a decade ago.
Here's what I'd like to see the government do to help out:
- provide a new name and temporary housing somewhere else in the country
- provide a bank account with 500,000円3
With a new identity it would be much easier for people to try and be the person they've always wanted to be, and an address is absolutely necessary. Rent is not free, but charged at a reasonable rate. People will also need a bit of money to float until they can find some work. The money is not a loan, but instead a taxable gift. It would be considered income and subject to the laws currently in place. This should afford just about anyone the time they need to put their brains back in order, even a little bit, and start looking for work.
There would be some stipulations, of course.
- people are still liable for the taxes they owe on income earned before the reboot
- returning to the area or getting in touch with people from the past will be forbidden4 for a minimum of one year
- all online activities from accounts created before the reboot would be forbidden, but new accounts can be made
- personal belongings will be limited to "what you can carry" and no more, which includes real estate and other property
There is no point trying to reboot life if the people from the past are part of that new life, and it should not be possible to abuse this system in order to get out of taxes or other legal obligations.
Naturally, this s the sort of system that could be horribly abused, but this isn't meant to be the 100% solution to the problem. It's just an option. If people can be granted the ability to restart their adult lives completely separated from the people in their past, even if only for a few years, they will be able to get their minds back in order and perhaps even be a contributing member to society. Without some sort of "out" we will continue to see people walk in front of a train or commit some horrible act of arson to kill themselves and the ones who hurt them.
There are always alternatives to suicide. While they may not be easy, we shouldn't be denied the opportunity to try once. If we mess up a second time, well ... there's really not much else a government can do to help. Regardless of how many people fail twice, though, there is one thing we can almost bet money on: people will walk in front of far fewer trains.
Otherwise, perhaps we need to consider Plan B.