Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflection on the past year

So for those of you who know me, know that I have somewhat of an borderline asperger's love affair/ obsession with music.
I recently watched a documentary on Quentin Tarantino, and how he got his career started. For those of you who don't know, he was a high school drop out who was obsessed with watching movies. He eventually went on to work at a video store, and it was there that he continued his study of film, into eventually writing, financing, and directing his first film.

They were interviewing his co-workers at the video store, who would say that if someone asked him about a movie, he would know when it was made, who directed it, who wrote it, who produced, three people who starred in it, and he could probably reenact some lines from the movie, as well.
And I thought "That is so cool, to have such a great love and obsession with something that you just live and breathe something like that. I wish I had that."
Then I realized that I do have that...
albeit with music.
I realized music is sort of like a memory anchor for me.
I look at music sort of  as like a time-stamp, or a marker for memories in my life.
I can hear a song and instantly be transported to the first time I heard it, the feelings that I was feeling at the time, where I was, the people in my life at the time. But because these songs make me feel so much, and add so much beauty to my life I am curious about them as well, and the people that actually created this music as well.
Who were the musicians, who were the people actually recording it, where did they record it, what was going on in their lives when they recorded it, etc.
That's why chances are if I hear a song I can probably tell you who wrote it, who played on it, who recorded it, what album it was from, what year it came out, and a few lines of trivia about it.
So tonight I was listening to my iTunes, something I do everynight.
And seeing that the year is almost over, I decided to look back at, what I can only call the memories of my life decoded in song-list, and see what music I had added to my iTunes library this time last year. (You can see "date added to library", which basically organizes song by date, and shows you the date a song was added to library).
Come to find 12/19/14 I added what I consider one of the most anticipated albums I have ever had:
D'angelo's "Black Messiah" album.
For those that don't know about D'angelo, he is somewhat of a enigma in the music industry and an absolute musical genius, as well.
His first album came out 20 years ago, in 1995, with "Brown Sugar".


It was a good album, with creative parts, but he had not reached his full level of artistic creative expression. 
That is until, he recorded his next album, which would come out a full 5 years later: 2000's "Voodoo"


"Voodoo" was (is) one of the greatest R & B albums of it's time. He was doing things with soul music nobody did before, and nobody has done since.
...And then he just disappeared. 
That is, until he released "Black Messiah" somewhat as a surprise to everyone toward the end of 2014 (somewhat around this time year)
It was his third album, released nearly 15 years since the release of his last album.


Originally, D'angelo wanted to release it in 2015, but because of the timely (and almost forgotten in our societal memory bank) decisions in the Ferguson and Eric Garner court cases prompted him to release the album sooner, so as to make a statement, which is what this album fundamentally is. 

In this day and age, it's so rare to find an album. 
People don't listen to albums, they listen to songs. 
People rarely take the time to sit down and listen to an album, song for song, as one whole work of art.
To be fair, that aren't that many true albums  released; albums where every song is great, and flows together one after the other, and where the album as a whole has a common theme. 
D'angelo's "Black Messiah" is an album. 

Being as "Voodoo" changed the face of music, and then D'angelo sort of left of all of us, and disappeared into the ethos with all of magical, musical genius potential, in a time that really needed it. 
"Black Messiah" was his first album in nearly 15 years, so needless to say, people were excited, including me.
I remember when it came out, I treated it like an event.
For me it was. 
I was excited because I knew it was going to be an important work of art. 
I knew it was going to include sounds no one has heard before. 
I knew it was going to challenge people's ears by offering delight in the form of unmet expectation and surprise.
This album would be almost like a savior to the music industry.
It was exactly what people most needed, in this sea of uncreative, pre-polished, fabricated commercial rock, that doesn't sound unique, it doesn't surprise you or challenge you, and most importantly, it doesn't make you feel anything. 


Well to be honest, when I put on the new album and heard the first track, I wasn't all that impressed at first.
Sure, it sounded great, but it didn't sound like something new.
It sounded exactly how a D'angelo song should sound.
Albeit, despite how "mediocre" I thought it was, it still did sound better than 95% of commercial music released today, and I knew it was also more important than 95% as well.
But what I noticed are the little details. 
Little details that you notice more and more in each listen.
For example, in "Ain't That Easy", the first song off the album, the sound that the snare makes, only sometimes. 
Little details like that are like little spices that you put on food.
So I kept listening. I challenged myself, in the way that good music wants to be challenged, and wants to challenge you, as well.
The next song I heard was "1000 Deaths"


This is where the album started to get real.
This is where it gets challenging. 
This song was meant to challenge you.
For an R & B song, the drum beat goes so against what's acceptable for an R & B song. 
But I knew that the message would be the most challenging part.
I knew right then, what the album "Black Messiah" was all about.
It was about sending a message. 

Here are the lyrics to "1000 Deaths" at the beginning:
"When I say Jesus, I’m not talking about some blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned, buttermilk complexion cracker Christ. I’m talking about the Jesus of the Bible, with hair like lamb’s wool. I'm talking about that good hair, I'm talking about that nappy hair. That his body would be like beryl. Another scripture said his body would be like jasper. Another scripture said his body would be like fine brass, as though it had been burned in an oven. Jesus: the Lord, the Savior, the Master, the Redeemer. Jesus, the Black revolutionary Messiah. Taken up on the hill, up on the mountain by Satan, by the Devil. And the Devil talked about a New World Order. The devil talked about giving Jesus all of this world out there, if Jesus would just seek an alliance with him, if he would just bow down to him. And I say to you here tonight, devil: get thee behind me, Satan. Get thee behind me, Satan."

"Black Messiah"

"Black people need some peace, white people need some peace. And we are going to have to fight, we're going to have to struggle, we're going to have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace because the people that we're asking for peace, they're a bunch of megalomaniac war-mongers, and they don't even understand what peace means. We've got to fight them, we've got to struggle with them to make them understand what peace means."


These are not messages you are going to hear on a Katy Perry or Justin Bieber album.
These are real thoughts, that challenge you, whether you agree with them or not.
Just like the music, which offers you new sounds you have not heard before, and may break down your pre-conceived conventions of what music should sound like, the message is equally as important.
It makes you think things, and see things in a way you haven't seen things before.

I kept listening to the album, and it did keep impressing me, because each song was doing something new, and each song was breaking down conventions held in soul and R & B music. 
But, as I said before, each listen gives you something more each time.
Each listen, you start to notice these little details even more.
Like for example, this song "Another Life":


You can hear, prominent instruments such as the piano, the drums, and the bass.
The melody is something that is very pleasing to the ears, and the sound of the piano chords are so clean and delightful.
But there is so much more than the sound of a simple piano chord, and the memorable melody. 
For example, do you notice the sound of a sitar?
It is one of the most prominent instruments on the song, but unless you have it pointed out to you, you might not have noticed it.
The piano is also played like someone rolling up and down the black and white keys with ease as well, in between the sound of the piano chords and the drums being hit like a one-punch boxing hit.
It really is ....beautiful.

Unless you play music, you might not fully appreciate it.
How hard it is to play music like this, with such ease.
And unless you have tried to write music, you might not appreciate the song craft. It's not easy.
And unless you have tried to record a song, each sound separately, you might not understand how much work goes into it. This is especially not easy, either. 
With all of these things in mind, you might be able to more appreciate music like this.


The last thing I ever notice, are the lyrics of a song.
But on some songs they add a whole other dimension of beauty and poetry.
For a person like me, I'm interested in music, because of the way the sounds make me feel.
For example, I'm not interested in that a song is a G chord, a C chord, and then a D chord.
I'm more interested in how the G chord sounds, and how it makes me feel.
Does it sound like something I've never heard before, and does it transport me someplace I have never been before, either. 
For example, here is Nirvana:


Three members of a band, playing guitar, bass, drums.
Playing a song with only three chords, and distortion.
...That's about it.
But what's important about this song, is the intensity with how it was played.
You can feel it. 

What was important about punk rock, was it broke down the conventions. 
You didn't have to be a good musician. You just had to have passion.
Nirvana were also important because they challenged conventions.
They looked and sounded completely new, and made the music that was popular before them irrelevant.

Now take a listen to another one of my favorite bands: My Bloody Valentine.
This a band of 4 people, but roughly the same dynamic: 2 guitars, bass, and drums.
But just listen to the sound these guys have created, with just guitars, bass, and drums:


It's incredible!
It's one thing to just play a G chord, but what if you play a G-chord, add 10 levels of distortion, add thirty different levels of reverb and echo,  re-record that sound in a hallway, and then leave the tape out in the sun so it can get a little warped. 
It's amazing. That's essentially the sound they created.
How does one create that sound?
Anyone can play a G-chord, but not everyone can play a G-chord the way these guys play a G-chord. 

So obviously I get all of this beauty by just listening to the feelings the sounds evoke in me. 
For me paying attention to lyrics is like noticing that there was a beautiful poem hidden in one of my favorite paintings that I never noticed before.
So my favorite song of the album is "The Charade".
Just listen to how the song makes you feel, and if you want pay attention to the lyrics, also, it adds a whole new dimension of beauty:



Crawling through a systematic maze to demise
Pain in our eyes
Strain of drownin', wading through the lies
Degradation so loud that you can't hear the sound of our cries (doo, doo)
All the dreamers have gone to the side of the road which we relay on
Inundated by media, virtual mind fucks in streams

[Chorus]
All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we've walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade

[Verse 2]
Perpetrators beware say a prayer if you dare for the believers
With a faith at the size of a seed enough to be redeemed (doo doo)
Relegated to savages bound by the way of the deceivers
So anchors be sure that you're sure we ain't no amateurs

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
With the veil off our eyes we'll truly see
And we'll march on
And it really won't take too long
And it really won't take us very long

[Outro]
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade
All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade
All we wanted was a chance to talk
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade
All we wanted was a (the charade)

-------
It's a very powerful statement about what it feels like to be a black man in America today, something I know nothing about.
But like a good novel, I can feel it.  
I am transported to somewhere new, and I can feel something new, and in that I can grow as a human, and learn from it.
This is what good art is all about.


Well, there I go like Quentin Tarantino ranting about my passion.
(Seriously, go watch a video where Quentin Tarantino talks about movies, it's fascinating)

All of this, is a reflection of my past year. 
D'angelo "Black Messiah" has been the album that I have listened to the most as a whole this year. 
There have been so many times where I have talked with people about this album; whether I have recommended it to them, or have literally put it on for people to listen to.
This album has so many memory anchors for me this year. 
I can literally tell you everywhere, and with who I listened to,  or talked to, with this album. 
But I'm amazed because so much has happened this year.
This album came out in a time, as a protest for two people killed by police.
As of today, there have been 1,190 people killed by police this year in the United States. 
But it's more memories than the French roommate I had, going back from crazy United States, back to Paris, where he would be around not one, but two terrorist attacks. 
There's so much more that happened to me personally, and I can't believe because it seems like years since this album came out.
This album came out before I fell in love with my girlfriend.
It came out before our first date.
It came out before our first kiss.
It came out before our love grew (and continues to grow).
This album came out before three of my friends got engaged.
It came out before my brother found out he would be having his first child.
This album was here before I moved to a new country, that country being Japan, of all places.
This album was here before I started working in Japan.
This album was around before I started going to school in Japan.
This album was here 365 days ago before I knew any of these things would happen. 

And in a way, it was there all along, ready to be played during these memories.
And it is still here now, as I listen to it while writing this. 
And it will be here in 50 years, after many of the people who I love in my life will no longer be here.
And I can listen to this album and think about this time in life, and I can think about what has happened since.
I could think about all the new memories I will make listening to this album, and I will think about all the billions of people who may also potentially share their own unique memories and interpretations of the exact sounds I will be listening to.

This is what is so beautiful about music.
It is endless and eternal.
It connects us with out past, present, and future selves.
There was a time before this album existed.
Before the first note was even just an idea in D'angelo's mind.
And there we were, too, in a sense waiting for this album to be made so we can here it.
If you are reading this, in a sense you have been waiting your whole life to hear it, too.
Take some time, to appreciate that the reason you are here now, reading this, is no accident. 
It was meant to happen.
Enjoy the memories of the past, by listening to music that brings those memories back to life.
And appreciate the ability for you to have your own personal soundtrack in life, by playing beautiful music in the background of new memories you will form this coming year.
Happy new years everybody.
I appreciate all the times we have spent together with music, and I look forward to the coming years, and the music that we haven't yet heard together. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Amae, Gaman

Interesting stuff: I am doing a research project on the State of Mental Health in Japan. One of the fundamental reasons Mental Health, I think, is so scarce is due to two concepts engrained into Japanese culture and society:
1. The concept of "amae"


The Anatomy of Dependence (甘えの構造 Amae no kōzō?) is a non-fiction book written by Japanese psychoanalyst Takeo Doi, discussing at length Doi's concept of amae, which he describes as a uniquely Japanese need to be in good favor with, and be able to depend on, the people around oneself. He likens this to behaving childishly in the assumption that parents will indulge you (Doi 2001:16), and claims that the ideal relationship is that of the parent-child, and all other relationships should strive for this degree of closeness (Doi 2001:39).
Amae (甘え) is the nominal form of the verb amaeru, which Doi uses to describe the behavior of a person attempting to induce an authority figure, such as a parent, spouse, teacher, or supervisor, to take care of him. The word is rarely used of oneself, but rather is applied descriptively to the behavior of other people. The person who is carrying out amae may beg or plead, or alternatively act selfishly while secure in the knowledge that the caregiver will indulge him. The behavior of children towards their parents is perhaps the most common example of amae, but Doi argued that child-rearing practices in the Western world seek to stop this kind of dependence, whereas in Japan it persists into adulthood in all kinds of social relationships.[1]
Doi developed this idea to explain and describe many kinds of Japanese behavior. However, Doi states that while amae is not just a Japanese phenomenon, the Japanese are the only people known to have an extensive vocabulary for describing it. The reason for this is that amae is a major factor in Japanese interaction and customs.[2] Doi argues that nonverbal empathic guesswork (sasshi 察し), a fondness for unanimous agreement in decision-making, the ambiguity and hesitation of self-expression (enryo 遠慮), and the tatemae–honne dynamics are communicative manifestations of the amae psychology of Japanese people.[3]
Doi translates amaeru as "to depend and presume upon another's benevolence." It indicates, for Doi, "helplessness and the desire to be loved." Amaeru can also be defined as "to wish to be loved", and denotes dependency needsAmae is, in essence, a request for indulgence of one's perceived needs.
Doi says,
"The psychological prototype of 'amae' lies in the psychology of the infant in its relationship to its mother; not a newborn infant, but an infant who has already realised that its mother exists independently of itself ... [A]s its mind develops it gradually realises that itself and its mother are independent existences, and comes to feel the mother as something indispensable to itself, it is the craving for close contact thus developed that constitutes, one might say, amae."[2]
According to Doi and others, in Japan the kind of relationship based on this prototype provides a model of human relationships in general, especially (though not exclusively) when one person is senior to another. As another writer puts it:
"He may be your father or your older brother or sister ... But he may just as well be your section head at the office, the leader of your local political faction, or simply a fellow struggler down life's byways who happened to be one or two years ahead of you at school or the university. The amae syndrome is pervasive in Japanese life."[4]
Amae may also be used to describe the behavior of a husband who comes home drunk and depends on his wife to get him ready for bed. In Japan, amae does have a connotation of immaturity, but it is also recognized as a key ingredient in loving relationships, perhaps more so than the notions of romance so common in the West.

And most importantly 2. The concept of "Gaman" which roughly is translated as "perseverance", "patience", tolerance, or "self-denial".[2] A related term, gamanzuyoi (我慢強い gaman-tsuyoi?), a compound with tsuyoi (strong), means "suffering the unbearable" or having a high capacity for a kind of stoic endurance.

"Gaman is also used in psychoanalytic studies[18] and to describe the attitudes of the Japanese. It is often taught to youth and largely used by older Japanese generations. Showing gaman is seen as a sign of maturity and strength. Keeping your private affairs, problems and complaints silent demonstrates strength and politeness as others have seemingly larger problems as well. If a person with gaman were to receive help from someone else, they would be compliant; not asking for any additional help and voicing no concerns."

This led me to this book called "Dependency and Japanese Socialization: Psychoanalytic and Anthropological Investigations Into Amae" by Frank A. Johnson. 



Also there is:
Taijin kyofusho (対人恐怖症 taijin kyōfushō, TKS, for taijin kyofusho symptoms), is a Japanese culture-specific syndrome. The term taijin kyofusho translates into the disorder (sho) of fear (kyofu) of interpersonal relations (taijin).[1] This culture-bound syndrome is a social phobia dealing with social anxiety. Those who have taijin kyofusho are likely to be extremely embarrassed of themselves or fearful of displeasing others when it comes to the functions of their bodies or their appearances. These bodily functions and appearances include their faces, odor, actions, or even looks. They do not want to embarrass other people with their presence. This culture-bound syndrome is based on fear and anxiety.[2]
The symptoms of this disorder include avoiding social outings and activities, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, panic attacks, trembling, and feelings of dread and panic when around people. The causes of this disorder are mainly from emotional trauma or psychological defense mechanism.[3][4] It is more common in men than women.[5] Lifetime prevalence is estimated at 3–13%.
Taijin kyofusho is commonly described as a form of social anxiety (social phobia), with the person dreading and avoiding social contact, and as a subtype of shinkeishitsu (anxiety disorder).[6] However, instead of a fear of embarrassing themselves or being harshly judged by others because of their social ineptness, sufferers of taijin kyofusho report a fear of offending or harming other people.[7][8] The focus is thus on avoiding harm to others rather than to oneself.
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), taijin kyofusho is listed under 300.2(F42) "Other Specified Obesessive Compulsive and Related Disorders".[9]
One source[which?] even breaks taijin kyofusho into two different subtypes: neurotic and offensive. The first subtype can be broken into two parts that are classical type and avoidant type. The classical type being afraid of being judged negatively because of physical signs of anxiety and feeling shame due to anxiety. The physical signs that can cause fear of being judged include sweating and tremors. The second subtype deals with people thinking something about them is offensive. Some of their fears include body odor, gas, excessive or insufficient eye contact, blushing, etc.
In the official Japanese diagnostic system, taijin kyofusho is subdivided into the following categories:[10]
Japan psychology also recognizes additional types of taijin kyofusho based on severity:
  • Transient: This type of taijin kyofusho is short-lived and moderately severe. It most commonly appears in teens, but may occur at any time.
  • Delusional: This is the most common type of taijin kyofusho and is the most similar to social phobia. It is chronic, often begins before the age of 30, and varies in severity from moderate to severe.
  • Phobic with Schizophrenia: This is a more complicated disorder. In such cases, rather than a phobia, taijin kyofusho is a manifestation of schizophrenic symptoms.[11]
A person may be diagnosed with taijin kyofusho if they feel as if their attitudes, behavior, and physical characteristics are inadequate in social situations. As a result of these feelings, they also experience persistent suffering in the form of emotional distress through shame, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, and other tense feelings that occur when confronted with social circumstances. In addition, individuals also worry about being unable to maintain healthy relationships with others. When it comes to socializing, taijin kyofusho sufferers avoid painful social and interpersonal situations, while simultaneously being averse to doing so.[5] Those likely to develop taijin kyofusho have more of a temperamental characteristic of being hypochondriacal.[13] The balance between introversion and extroversion in hypochondriacal temperament is geared more towards introversion. The introversion causes sufferers to focus on themself and problems they have, and by fixating on their weaknesses they become more anxious and depressed.[13]

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

"A Land Without Guns"

(This is an article I did not write, but copied from The Atlantic, written in 2012 after the Aurora Colorado shooting)
I've heard it said that, if you take a walk around Waikiki, it's only a matter of time until someone hands you a flyer of scantily clad women clutching handguns, overlaid with English and maybe Japanese text advertising one of the many local shooting ranges. The city's largest, the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, advertises instructors fluent in Japanese, which is also the default language of its website. For years, this peculiar Hawaiian industry has explicitly targeted Japanese tourists, drawing them away from beaches and resorts into shopping malls, to do things that are forbidden in their own country.
Waikiki's Japanese-filled ranges are the sort of quirk you might find in any major tourist town, but they're also an intersection of two societies with wildly different approaches to guns and their role in society. Friday's horrific shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has been a reminder that America's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world's 23 "rich" countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America's ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America's.
But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.
Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptionstend to become big national news stories.
Japanese tourists who fire off a few rounds at the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club would be breaking three separate laws back in Japan -- one for holding a handgun, one for possessing unlicensed bullets, and another violation for firing them -- the first of which alone is punishable by one to ten years in jail. Handguns are forbidden absolutely. Small-caliber rifles have been illegal to buy, sell, or transfer since 1971. Anyone who owned a rifle before then is allowed to keep it, but their heirs are required to turn it over to the police once the owner dies.
The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it's not easy to do. The process is detailed in David Kopel's landmark study on Japanese gun control, published in the 1993 Asia Pacific Law Review, still cited as current. (Kopel, no left-wing loony, is a member of the National Rifle Association and once wrote in National Review that looser gun control laws could have stopped Adolf Hitler.)
To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you'll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don't forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.
Even the most basic framework of Japan's approach to gun ownership is almost the polar opposite of America's. U.S. gun law begins with the second amendment's affirmation of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" and narrows it down from there. Japanese law, however, starts with the 1958 actstating that "No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords," later adding a few exceptions. In other words, American law is designed to enshrine access to guns, while Japan starts with the premise of forbidding it. The history of that is complicated, but it's worth noting that U.S. gun law has its roots in resistance to British gun restrictions, whereas some academic literature links the Japanese law to the national campaign to forcibly disarm the samurai, which may partially explain why the 1958 mentions firearms and swords side-by-side.
Of course, Japan and the U.S. are separated by a number of cultural and historical difference much wider than their gun policies. Kopel explains that, for whatever reason, Japanese tend to be more tolerant of the broad search and seizure police powers necessary to enforce the ban. "Japanese, both criminals and ordinary citizens, are much more willing than their American counterparts to consent to searches and to answer questions from the police," he writes. But even the police did not carry firearms themselves until, in 1946, the American occupation authority ordered them to. Now, Japanese police receive more hours of training than their American counterparts, are forbidden from carrying off-duty, and invest hours in studying martial arts in part because they "are expected to use [firearms] in only the rarest of circumstances," according to Kopel.
The Japanese and American ways of thinking about crime, privacy, and police powers are so different -- and Japan is such a generally peaceful country -- that it's functionally impossible to fully isolate and compare the two gun control regiments. It's not much easier to balance the costs and benefits of Japan's unusual approach, which helps keep its murder rate at the second-lowest in the world, though at the cost of restrictions that Kopel calls a "police state," a worrying suggestion that it hands the government too much power over its citizens. After all, the U.S. constitution's second amendment is intended in part to maintain "the security of a free State" by ensuring that the government doesn't have a monopoly on force. Though it's worth considering another police state here: Tunisia, which had the lowest firearm ownership rate in the world (one gun per thousand citizens, compared to America's 890) when its people toppled a brutal, 24-year dictatorship and sparked the Arab Spring.