Death Notebook Reveals Harsh Side of a 'Model' in Japan 死亡筆記本 揭開日本「樣板」黑暗面

◎黃裕美 輯譯 |2007.10.21
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In a thin notebook discovered along with a man's partly mummified corpse this summer was a detailed account of his last days, recording his hunger pangs, his drop in weight and, above all, his dream of eating a rice ball, a snack sold for about $1 in conve-nience stores across the country.

今夏在一名男子幾已像木乃伊乾縮的屍體旁,有一本薄薄的筆記本。上面詳細記載他在世最後幾天的日子,記下他飽受饑餓折磨,他體重銳減,以及最重要的,他夢想要吃飯糰,這種在全日本便利商店賣的小吃,一個只要一美元(台幣32.69元)。

"3 a.m. This human being hasn't eaten in 10 days but is still alive," he wrote. "I want to eat rice. I want to eat a rice ball."

「凌晨三點。我這個人已有10天沒有進食,但還活著,我好想吃飯,好想吃個飯糰,」他寫道。

These were not the last words of a hiker lost in the wilderness, but those of a 52-year-old urban welfare re-cipient whose benefits had been cut off. And his case was not the first in Kitakyushu in Japan.

這些話可不是什麼迷失在荒郊野外的徒步旅行者最後的遺言,而是領市政府社會救濟金的52歲男子,他的福利金被刪除,而且他的案子絕非日本北九州第一起。

One man has died in each of the last three years in this city in western Japan, apparently of starvation, after his welfare application was refused or his benefits cut off. Unable to buy food, all three men wasted away for months inside their homes, where their bodies were eventually found.

單單是在日本西部北九州這個城市,過去三年,每年都有一名男子顯然活活餓死,在他申請社會救濟金遭拒或福利金被刪除後。這三個人由於沒錢買食物,在家裡一連數月日漸消瘦,直到最後在屋裡發現他們的屍體。

Only the most recent death drew nationwide attention, however, be-cause of the diary, which has embar-rassed city officials who initially de-fended their handling of the case and even described it as "model."

但由於這本日記,最近這個死亡案例才引起全日本關注。這使北九州市府官員倍感尷尬,他們原本還振振有辭,為他們處理這個個案辯護,甚至形容它是個「樣板」。

In a way that the words of no living person could, the death diary has shown the human costs of the eco-nomic transformation in Japan. As a widening income gap has pushed up welfare rolls in recent years, struggling cities like Kitakyushu have been un-der intense pressure to tighten eligi-bility.

以一種活人所說的話辦不到的方式,這本死亡日記本凸顯出日本經濟轉型,人民所要付出的代價。近年來,由於所得差距日益拉大,使社福救濟金的名單愈來愈長。財政困窘的城市像北九州更是面臨沈重的壓力,必須緊縮申領資格。

Japan has traditionally been hard on welfare recipients, and experts say Kitakyushu's practices are common to many other local governments. Ap-plicants are expected to turn to their relatives or use up their savings before getting benefits. Welfare is considered less of an entitlement than a shameful handout.

日本一向對申領社福基金者審核從嚴,專家並說,北九州的做法對其他很多地方政府早已司空見慣。申請人應先向親戚求助或用光積蓄,才能拿到福利金。社會救濟一般認為比較不是應得的福利而是可恥的施捨。

"Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to citizens," said Hiroshi Sugimura, a professor specializing in welfare at Hosei University in Tokyo. "To them, those in need are not citizens. Only those who pay taxes are citizens."

「地方政府傾向認為,用納稅人的錢來幫助有需要的人,對市民來說,是一種幫倒忙的行為,」東京法政大學社會救濟金專家杉山大教授說。「對他們,那些需要幫助的窮人不是市民;只有完糧納稅的才配稱市民。」

With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that ex-ist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan's tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.

日本沒有宗教行善的傳統,因此施粥站或其他收容貧無立錐之地者的地方少之又少。目前有的通常由南韓基督教傳教士或日本一小撮基督教人口主持,多半為無家遊民而設。

Like the diarist, the other two men were sickly, and they seemingly starved after their applications for welfare were rejected. One, 68, was found lying face down in his apart-ment, where the gas and electricity had been cut off half a year earlier. The man reportedly told neighbors that he had been denied benefits even though he had prostrated himself be-fore a city official. At his death, he had lost about a third of his weight and had only a few dollars.

一如日記作者,另外兩名死者也身罹重病,並似乎在申請社會救濟被拒絕後就斷糧。其中68歲的老人被人發現,氣絕時趴在公寓,瓦斯和電半年前就被切斷。這名男子據說曾告訴鄰居,雖然他全身拜倒、匍匐在地,向一名市府官員求情,福利金仍被刪除。他死時,體重銳減約三分之一,而且身上只剩幾文錢。

The application of the third man, 56, was rejected twice even though a city worker trying to collect an un-paid water bill reported seeing him weak and crawling on his apartment floor. Neighbors who last saw him said his legs had withered to the size of bamboo poles. His mummified corpse was discovered four months after his death.

第三名男子56歲,他曾兩度申請遭拒。一名市府官員去催繳積欠的水費時曾指出,看到他身體羸弱,只能在公寓地板上爬行。鄰居最後一次看到他兩腿骨瘦如柴。他如木仍伊的屍體則是在死後四個月才為人發現。

Between 2000 and 2006, as Japan's welfare rate grew to 1.18 percent from 0.84 percent, Kitakyusha's rate grew microscopically — to 1.28 per-cent from 1.26 percent. That ranked it toward the bottom among major cities even though its economy was doing poorly. To the central govern-ment — which bears 75 percent of welfare costs, began cutting benefits in 2003 and plans to rein in more — that made the city a model.

在公元2000年和2006年之間,日本領社會救濟的比率從0.84%增為1.18%;北九州則只從1.26%微幅成長至1.28%,在各大城市中排名幾乎殿底,但它經濟表現很差。中央政府要負擔75%的社會救濟金,因此在2003年開始大砍福利金,並計畫進一步緊縮,這也使北九州成為樣板。

The diarist, a former taxi driver, qualified last December after receiv-ing diagnoses of diabetes, high blood pressure and a bad liver brought on by alcohol abuse. He lived in a dilap-idated row house whose walls and roof had partly collapsed. Electricity and gas had been cut off. The case worker's goal, in keeping with the welfare office's practice, was to get the man off welfare within six months.

至於這位日記作者。他原本是計程車司機,去年12月經診斷有糖尿病和高血壓,並因酗酒肝功能有問題,之後他才合乎領福利金的資格。他住在破舊不堪、快要倒塌的排屋裡,牆壁和屋頂已部分傾頹。瓦斯和電早就斷了。社工的目標是照福利部門的規定,要他在半年內停止領福利金。

Three months after he started re-ceiving benefits, the man signed a form saying he no longer needed welfare. The city said it was voluntary, but an entry in his diary belies that. Writing that he was about to start looking for work, he added: "I was just about to give it a try when they cut me off. Are they telling the needy to die as quickly as possible"

在領福利金三個月後,這名男子簽了一份表格,同意不再領錢。市府方面說他是自願的,但日記記載的並非如此。寫到他將得開始找工作時加了一句:「他們砍了我的錢之後,我得試著找工作,他們是叫窮人早死早超生嗎?」

Perhaps out of shame, the man with the diary did not turn to his relatives or neighbors for help, even though he had lived all his life on the block.

也許自慚形穢,日記男並未向親戚或鄰居求助,雖然他一輩子一直住在這一帶。

"2 a.m. My belly's empty," he wrote on May 25, some 45 days after his benefits were cut. "I want to fill my belly with rice balls." He added: "Weight is also down from 68 kilo-grams to 54 kilograms."

「凌晨兩點,我肚子餓扁了,」他在5月25日寫道,距他福利金被砍已45天。「真希望有飯糰果腹。」他又寫道:「體重已從68公斤減為54公斤。」

(摘譯自10月12日紐約時報)

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