PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Featured: Top of Home Page

Baby Dropping (or: the land of any child left behind)


I know that this is a column about travel, but you know from being such faithful readers that voyages of the body, the soul, the mind . . . they all qualify. Still, even by that liberal definitional standard, this entry will be a stretch, since this entry is about journeys of a moral kind. It is a topic that came up recently over here in Japan (where my peripatetic feet generally roost) and I hope you agree it's worth consideration, at least for a paragraph or three.




If you haven't heard, a "baby drop box" was put into operation May 10 by a Roman Catholic hospital in Kumamoto. It was designed for unwanted infants however it made the front page of newspapers when a father dropped off a preschool-aged child on the service's first day.

This abandonment aside, Kumamoto's so-called "konotori no yurikago" (stork cradle) plan has generated both praise and criticism. Is this an example of social engineering noble and visionary, or of a society dissipated and retrograde? Is this a human community committed to the principle of "no child left behind" or, rather, of any child potentially tossed by the wayside?

Collectively, some could argue, we are valuing the child; but is that so at an individual level? Is the drop box only reinforcing drop-out behavior by adults who may have too much adolescent left in them? Maybe the stork cradle is sending the signal that this is a land that tolerates -- even nurtures -- the idea that any child can be shunned. Let this responsibility be someone else's burden. Let's shift the hard work of life elsewhere.

If this is truly the message within the baby drop box, then one can fairly wonder: how is such a society going to ultimately fare?




Hyperbole? Over-the-top melodrama in your bloggy midst? Well, possibly. But in a class I've been teaching this term, that is one of the central concerns. A baseline entry-point of inquiry, one might say. In a word: if we are not all on the same page -- you know, you along with the clown to the left of you and the joker on the right -- then how are any of us ever expected to muster the conviction to take the next step forward?: to obey the stop light dead ahead, or pay for tomorrow's newspaper at the cash register, or deposit the next paycheck in the bank? If no one is going to play by the same rules or cooperate to the degree that we are supposed to in order to keep this ship afloat, in one piece, then what's the point? If I can't trust my neighbor, then there is no surity, and soon very little security. It's a very short hop, step and jump to societal disintegration.

Just ask residents of New Orleans, circa August 2005.

The whole world has fallen into the pisser and I'd better get mine before anyone else beats me to it.

Is that the world we now exist in? A universe of babies being left behind. A dark, dank, jagged cave where when responsibility becomes too onerous, then "effit, I'm outta heah."




In another class of mine -- where students make presentations and contribute to a course blog on weekly topics -- a medical student covered the baby drop in conjunction with the recent (apparent) suicide by a Japanese Cabinet Minister. That story also had received much media play this past week, but trying to connect these two incidents was, I thought, kind of a stretch (even as charitable as I tend to be). Well, at least he didn't try to tackle the 17 year-old who beheaded his Mom, carried her upper-most orb to an Internet cafe where he spent part of the afternoon, then finally turned himself in at a local police station. His wire-service moment was the quotable: "It didn't matter who I killed."

Try telling that to Mom, kid.

Still, the guy (my student, not the psycho) -- well, actually, both I suppose, in their own ways -- ended up bumping into the question "what is the value of life?" (albeit, with very different answers). To be fair, my guy did an exceptional job of making the connection work (as opposed to the psycho kid, who did such a bang-up job of making the disconnection work).

But, you've caught me being flip when, in fact, I wish to project an entirely different emotional coloring. Like my student I'd prefer to be serious. But unlike my student -- who adopted a psycho-medical viewpoint -- I will offer a sociological stance. Instead of appealing (as my student did) to my contemporaries to respect the sanctity of life -- which is, nonetheless, vital -- I want to ask others to view our world in the aggregate; to consider it from a macro perspective. Doing so, I say, it is not enough to optimistically spout: "oh, what a shame that the family didn't want the child, but at least they had a hospital drop box available to them." I have to argue that it is insufficient to conclude in exasperation: "ah, a(nother) Japanese politician was dirty, got caught with his hand in our pants, and decided to treat himself to the high-visibility, 'heroic', 'honorable' send-off."

Nope. I am going to have to go down a different evaluative road; say that it is necessary to look at the causes behind these acts. Let me ask: what is happening inside the socety that leads humans down these behavioral (and im/moral) paths.

Only then can we begin to mend and correct our society.




Unless, of course, I have it wrong. (As is so often true and, therefore, ought not to come as a major surprise to you).

Prompting me to do another thing that ought not to surprise you: take the other side. And say: what if the baby drop really isn't about any child left behind? What if it is living proof that all life is sacred and that any creative measure will be taken to nurture, support, retrieve, and save every member of our human community? Under such circumstances, then there is nothing but sunshine on the horizon. This is a community pulling together; a society that will ensure that it comes through as one, resolute and strong.

Oh, such a wonderful, forgiving, nurturing world that envelops us!

You think? Well, in this great big world of ours, as Jonny Lang says, anything is possible.

And even if it's not, as Monty Python was wont to say, it is always best to look on the bright side of life.

(even if -- even as -- you're hanging on the cross!)




Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.