I have just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s book, An Artist of the Floating World published in 1987 and it is as relevant today as then.
Integrity, a value which isn’t discussed very often these days is a thread that weaves through this story. Masuji Ono, a retired artist, believes he is an honourable man who is challenged by the shifting values of the world he is now living in.
Having survived the Second World War in Japan, Ono takes the reader with him as he reminisces about his early life as an artist and the actions he took during his professional career. Slowly, falteringly as an older person might speak, we begin to understand his concern for his daughters and the impact his pre-war propaganda painting career could have on their future happiness. He remembers family, old friends and rivals, and explores past relationships secure in their values while trying to accommodate the rapidly changing attitudes of the post-war Japanese generation and their attraction to the Americanisation of their culture even to discussing Popeye with his grandson.
Ishiguro nudges the reader to consider their past lives through Ono’s thoughts and conversations including those on a compatriot’s suicide and of his turning in a pupil to the authorities for anti-war activities. In these days of virtue-signalling, you the reader are forced to consider your life and the decisions and actions you may have taken when viewed from the perspective of current values which have changed. It made me wonder how my life will be judged by the next generation who will not have the background knowledge to understand why I lived my life as I did.
I do not know what you personally will be held accountable for, but I think our generation will be asked why we did so little to slow down climate change, to reduce inequality, and to help refugees and immigrants.
I would be happier if I didn’t believe that many Governments around the world make decisions based on political opportunism. These three very complex concerns that have no simple solutions. Hindsight bias might lead the next generation into overconfidence, with a tendency to oversimplify these problems believing them to be more predictable than they are. They shouldn’t ignore the uncertainty factor.
SOUNDS like a GREAT READ!
I can not even READ the NEWS today…………..my BLOOD PRESSURE explodes!
This generation is different from what ours was…………..and I don’t think its for the BETTER!
Most of our children’s generation are wonderful but I worry about the shallowness of many peoples lives. Consumer envy is so insidious and destructive that I wonder if it promotes a negative attitude whereas we should be happy with what society has achieved even if we aren’t content and be willing to always improve rather than simply be critical and destructive.