Sympathy for the Devil

In this age of cheap sentimentality and easy excuses, everything has its apologists, defenders, and even fans. I’ve heard crows and natto praised, mass murderers discussed sympathetically, and even the occasional good word said for JR! For want of something to keep them busy, people are prepared to spring to the defence of almost anything. With one surprising exception, however: the lowly COCKROACH.

When this innocent insect scurries out into the conversation, we enter the realm of flesh-creeping hysteria and pandemonium. Otherwise sane people, will blanch and contort their features into a mask of horror. I’ve even met one girl who cringed in terror at a mere caricature of the long-feelered creature. Everywhere across the country, an infinite battery of slippers, poisons, and sticky little houses with enticing smells, never ceases its incessant barrage against this unfortunate beetle. What unspeakable crimes does it commit to warrant such fanatical GENOCIDAL HATRED? Does it suck our blood like the sneaky mosquito, or strew garbage across the railway tracks as the malevolent crow does?

Is it in some way in league with the Devil? Is it guilty of war crimes? Has it squandered our tax yen in bailing out a lot of incompetent bankers? All around, there are targets more worthy of our revulsion, yet we pour every drop of bile, hatred, and disgust on this resilient, little critter. When faced with such PATHOLOGICAL ABHORRENCE, it is fruitless to look for rational reasons. The cause of this dread goes much deeper. Like most intense hatreds, it is merely a mirror of our own souls!

All the humble cockroach wants to do is help you keep your house clean. That’s why you’ll never find him in a perfectly clean environment. With 100% cleanliness, his reason for existing disappears. Like an action hero from a HOLLYWOOD movie, he always goes where the action is, the action, in this case, being dirt. Biding his time in some discrete nook or cranny, he waits patiently until we are fast asleep before quietly venturing out in search of crumbs and the other rubbish we have carelessly left scattered over the floor. When we awaken, the floor has been picked AS CLEAN AS A BONE, but we scarcely notice the improvement unless we happen to catch a glimpse of our industrious little helper scuttling off to his hidey hole to enjoy a well-earned rest.

Instead of feeling grateful, however, we are seared by a burning sense of SHAME. We have been dirty! We have defiled and sullied our living quarters with every imaginable kind of filth, and the cockroach has merely pricked our conscience! But rather than admit our fault and bear the brunt of our self-disgust, we turn this feeling inside out and transmute it into an irrational hatred for a convenient SCAPEGOAT.

As we reach for the ever handy slipper – probably left lying upside down in a pile of dust balls or empty BENTO trays – the little fellows elegant antenna start to twitch with a sense of our ingratitude, and he braces himself, once again, to run the ever-familiar gauntlet of our unjustified animosity.

Next time you unthinkingly pick up that item of deadly footwear, why don't you slap yourself with it first. After all, your room is dirty not because of the friendly GOKIBURI, but because of someone a lot less tidy.

Tokyo Journal
October, 1999
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