The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

It`s a Free World

I watched a most troubling film last night, called, “It’s A Free World” by that master of social realism and sub-conscious activism, Ken Loach.

It was not what I`d call an enjoyable movie, it was hard to watch, hard to see the humanity slowly erode from most of the central characters; hard to watch the disintegration of the England I remember from when I lived there. Not the way many would think either, when the story deals with the massive influx of immigrants to my home country, no I`m talking of the way the goodness of the ordinary person is warped by the demands of capitalism: the need not to merely feed and protect their family but the need to do so by taking advantage of those even more needy and even more desperate. These day  to gain wealth alone seems a failure: people want riches. This ugly trickle down of indifference and further abuse created in part because each link of the chain feels aggrieved at the dishonesty and success of the link above, upon whom they depend, and each sees only their own hardening and cruelty as the way to avoid future trickery and make a profit, however small, that can move them into that next step, the next level of power and respect, and wealth.

No-one comes out of this movie very well, certainly not those at the top that profit from such misery and do not use their money to make anyone else but themselves happy; neither those near the bottom who banish feelings of victimhood by finding new victims of their own. Maybe not even those at the very bottom, those that have nothing yet seem to expect the country they move to to give them everything they cannot expect in their home countries and hate it for so often disappointing them.

Indeed in the film only one Iranian refugee who has been refused political asylum in the UK deserves any questionless sympathy.

By that I mean every single person in the film deserves some sympathy, everyone has a shitty deal in life. And the fact that this is the way many live now ten years into the 21st Century in many developed countries makes me really angry and ashamed.

But what can I do?

More than I am for sure as charity groups like Groupo Esperanca (in the photos above) in Hamamatsu showed me earlier this year when I went to find a story about the hard lives of Brazilian immigrants in Japan and found instead that despite all the hardships they endured themselves some still found energy and goodness in their hearts (augmented by the Catholic church, in a real eye-opening shift in my preconceptions) to feed homeless people in the city. Not only Brazilian homeless either, indeed around eighty percent of the needy people who came to their soup kitchens at the station, park and various other corners of the city were Japanese.

Of course even there, and in different churches to the one I visited I hasten to add, bad people were profiting from the misfortunes that hit the Nikkei Japanese (South Americans of Japanese ancestry) especially hard when the global economy tanked in 2008.

As an immigrant here in Japan, albeit a lucky one by default of the language I speak and the perceived kudos I carry as a white Anglo Saxon male, these subjects attract me and I am keen to explore the stories of others that perhaps don`t get such an easy ride here. Though even all of the above w.a.s.p.ishness doesn`t make life here a complete picnic for me, indeed to some small degree I now understand more of my old friends` frustrations about living England  because most were not from the UK and had a sort of love-hate relationship with the place. As indeed did/do I. And when I move back (one day perhaps) my wife and children will have to deal with a country that seems to have suddenly grown massively intolerant of outsiders without quite realizing the compassion fatigue the Middle Englanders label such hatred with is not actually the result of any compassion they personally gave.

But what can I do?

I recommend the film though to get you thinking.



One response

  1. Pingback: Milking It «

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