Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The Lehman Shock" and "The Crab Canning Ship"

I've been asked by several media organizations for my take on the words or phrases of 2008. I chose "The Lehman Shock" for the world and "The Crab Canning Ship" for Japan.

The world entered a difficult era on September 15, 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed. This triggered a global collapse in stock prices just as a management crisis in the world's largest corporations bubbled to the surface. Bankruptcies spread and unemployment soared. The world was thrown into a recession.

This was the year when the US lost its status as sole superpower. The world has entered a chaotic era. As the US collapses, other countries around the world find themselves inextricably caught up in the mess. The trigger for this global collapse was the fall of Lehman Brothers, or the "Lehman Shock." I told the reporters that this was the one incident above all others that captured the spirit of 2008.

For Japan, I chose the 1929 novel The Crab Canning Ship as my phrase of the year. Japan has fallen into a situation where a great depression looms, large bankruptcies are occurring and unemployment is ballooning. There is nothing in the postwar experience of Japan that compares. Workers are susceptible to the same sort of cruelty that was portrayed in a novel written 80 years ago by Takiji Kobayashi. This is the distinct characteristic of today's Japan.

In 2009, we need to overcome both these problems. We'll need strong spirits to live through this predicament. Let's make 2009 a year when the Japanese people show they still have plenty of life in them.