Tell Me, What's Your Take on This?

Noishiki Haruka
Shonan Shirayuri Gakuen Middle School

ΑNr e

Have you ever felt there was something you wanted to say but you could not? Not because you could not phrase it but because there was some reason that held you back? For me, this happens so often that I have gotten used to it. Recently, however, I have been trying to approach these situations in a different way. I say to myself,  Speak up! Today, I would like to talk about why we should speak up and what we need to practice.

A while ago a classmate of mine was bullied, and at first I did nothing. My fear of social judgment stood in the way of supporting her. I could not gather up the courage to confront the bullies because my classmates appeared to be enjoying their  little game. Standing up against the majority seemed to me as if I was sacrificing my reputation and my position at school. Back home I seriously thought about how terribly she must be hurting inside. The seemed importance of my class position faded away. So, I persuaded friends of mine to stop. It was successful and she is not bullied any more.

This experience taught me that speaking up against the main stream requires a tremendous amount of courage. Though it is hard to do, it can bring about positive consequences.

Then, what prevents us from speaking up? In my opinion, the answer is peer pressure. Peer pressure is probably even stronger in Japan than in other countries, for the Japanese social trend is typically to join the crowd. The need to blend in is especially intense among teenagers. There is an expression,  KY, which is short for  Kuki-Yomenai, meaning unable to read the air. A person labeled  KY cannot go with the flow and do what is expected. Fear of judgment by fellow students keeps us from speaking our true thoughts.

I believe we must create an atmosphere that encourages anybody to speak up without the worry of social judgment. It will foster an environment that accepts and treasures diverse ideas. Strengthened social tolerance for the open expression of beliefs will surely encourage us to speak up.

So, how do we change the present restrictive atmosphere in Japan?

In my view, there are three key strategies for the change. First, patiently listen. Good listeners give speakers confidence. Second, encourage tentative speakers. It is easier to speak your mind when asked for ideas. Finally, keep in mind that everyone s ideas are worth being heard; men and women, the young and the old, introverts and extroverts  everyone should feel at ease to share their ideas.

There are many benefits that Japan can reap from this social movement. As we will have a wealth of opinions, there will be more options in means of finding solutions to problems. The difficulties we are facing today on the global scale, such as the environment and poverty, are so vast and so complex that we need people to come together, share ideas and explore solutions. Communities now face serious issues in terms of providing care for elderly households. Open discussions at a local level can lead to finding the best solution for each community.

By putting your ideas forward, a change for the better will begin. And that change could be just what is needed to save a friend or to make our world a better place to live. This revolution could start right here in this hall. This is my message to you; let us speak up and let our friends speak up! Friends, teachers, parents, lend me your ears and I will lend you mine.

(1-14 Speech in 65th Contest, 2013)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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