SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Sim Choon KIat “And, I transformed myself into Sterilization Geek!”

When I come back to my house from university, supermarket or walk, I straightly go to the bathroom, gargle earnestly and wash my hands completely with hand soap. After sterilizing my hands, I put an antibacterial sanitary disposable plastic bag in my hand and return outside again to clean all the places and stuffs that I have touched. I sterilize all the germs, including good and bad bacteria without expression by using an absorbent cotton with antiseptic solution starting from digital number pad and its cover, handle of entrance door, electric switches, faucet of bathroom etc.  Then I sterilize my wallet, coin purse, keys and smartphone from my pocket. Now, even if I commit a crime, I’m confident that all the fingerprints and evidence left on the scene will be erased cleanly and never caught. I became an indiscriminate sterilizer now. I transformed into a sterilization geek now.



Till last month, I was laughing and chilling at people who were anti-bacterial and sterilizing anything. I have looked down on such people saying: “Are you tired of your fastidiousness?” “If you are aseptic, your immunity will be weakened and weakened, and you will become a Neuroses soon!” I was a little silly in my mind. However, life is interesting, and I became such “small fool” in myself now. Since Coronavirus is more cunning, worse and poor-quality opponent than a bacterium. So, it must be destroyed completely with zero-tolerance.



In order to prevent myself from being infected, and especially not to infect other people, we have to declare the war against all the germs. Even though we know that almost all the bacteria are not bad, but we must eradicate them on the pretext of extermination of germs. It’s like a war by between human beings. Especially in Japan, where the number of inspections is very few and cases of unknown transmission routes are very large, it will not be strange for anyone to be infected in anytime at any place. In a sense, it is not different from the war on terrorism. Since I have to forestall against germs and sterilize them, I had no choice to transform myself into “sterilization geek”.



As I often talk about the withdrawal problems in my university lectures, I have transformed myself into “withdrawal in my home”. I can understand feelings of others, who withdraw into their homes, through my experience of their withdrawal. They cannot go out despite they like to go out. They cannot go anywhere despite there are places where they want to visit. They cannot meet anybody despite there are people whom they like to meet. I could realize the state of impatient or uneasy mind. Even though the sunlight is pouring outside, we have to refrain ourselves from going out. This made me remember the lyrics of an old song “sigh again despite we are in spring…”.  



A Japanese word “jishuku” (self-restraint) in dictionary means “to refrain from what you say and do willingly”, It is very ambiguous and awkward. It is up to us whether we are willing to refrain or not as there is no legal enforcement. It is not incomprehensible if there would be any person who says, “As we are in beautiful spring, let us go out!” I personally think that there is a lack of some sense of tension or crisis in Japan. This is big difference from other countries.



We are told that the number of people in the street in downtown, like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza, decreased markedly. They restrained themselves from going out on their own discipline regardless of penalties like foreign countries. However, on the contrary, local shopping streets became busy. And, “shops for necessities of life” in super markets or home centers become amusement parks for children. I fully understand the feeling of parents who like to take their children out as they are not going to school. However, as an indiscriminate sterilizer, it is my honest feeling “Is Japan all right?” The decrease in the number of people who commute to work in the morning has not reached the target and looking at the line in front of the cash register in the supermarket, social distancing is not properly maintained as in overseas. I sigh again deeply saying “Is it really all right in Japan?”  



I think their easygoing and non-cautious attitude arose from the attitude of leaders at questions and answers in the Diet where they read manuscripts by their monotonous voices. Such style of leaders’ speeches doesn’t reach people’s minds and hearts, such as other people’s affairs, has been featured in the media of my country, Singapore, and is conspicuously noticeable in the current world situation. It’s no wonder that you get lots of worried e-mails from your friends in Singapore every time the diet release or issue (“hasshutu” in Japanese) a monotonous declaration that are read hanging their heads. Are there anything that can be done about such “red-tape” word like “hasshutu” when everybody wants easy Japanese now?



I’m also curious about the polite words from the leaders which are too polite or courteous. I think “Thank you for your understanding” is still good, but “I would like to ask for your cooperation” may be too humble, and the sense of urgency may be diminished. If I speak to germs on my hands before sterilization that “Please understand and cooperate with me to kill you (germs)”, my feeling of indiscriminate sterilizer would be eased.



At any rate, I just pray for Japan, which keep following their old-fashioned or half-hearted style of countermeasures, to hold out against the coronavirus. 



Anyway, my sterilization and withdrawal life would come to an end someday but I don’t know when. The intellectuals in the world, including SGRA, are telling that the change of power balance in the world, end of globalization, withdrawal of free market, the rise of autocracy, collapse of democracy, reorganization of economic activities, enlargement of racial and class gaps etc. There is no doubt that it will be a great test for humanity, and we will be faced with grand political, economic, cultural and social experiments, challenges and choices in the future. While working hard from my home, I am always thinking that by such changes or regardless of the changes, whether Corona will inevitably create a new type of human being due to those fluctuations or regardless of their transformation, whether history will reach a major turning point and whether I would transform myself after COVID-19.



SGRA Kawaraban 629 in Japanese (Original)



Sim_ChoonKiat / Associated Professor, Showa Women’s University, SGRA Researcher



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala