By Max Vigue
Multimedia Content Editor
What does it mean to be human? For centuries humans have forged societies and cultures out of the efforts for exploration, pride, and greed. Culture generally tends to come and go, remaining inconsistent due to reformation, changed ideals, or flat out abandoned.
As a result, it’s hard to analyze an individual’s morality solely upon cultural values or embedded societal beliefs. Especially if that individual was raised in a different culture entirely. So that leaves me with a burning question. How do you universally measure morality regardless of cultural difference?
More so, what does it mean to universally be a good human being? Although at first, there are certain universal acts that are seen as inherently evil such as murder, petty theft, torture. However, the more you look into the nuances of a culture, each culture has a different take for what they view is right and wrong.
Morality is a grey muddy pond, tainted by the thousands of different perspectives cultures and individuals themselves view morality. Such a divisive topic among us, yet at the end of the day your take on morality is a key part of what makes someone human.
But what happens when someone, even when raised in a very traditionally strict dedicated culture, never develops a sense of morality? When they see peers as creatures, completely unable to comprehend their ideals, motives, and emotions. Someone who masquerades their entire identity, in an effort to study people like a sociopath.
Someone who believes that due to their lack of empathy, lack of morality, lack of personality, and lack of basic understanding of human culture. They consider themselves an enigma, someone born into the flesh of a homosapien, yet with the mind of an alien.
When in reality, they are simply the byproduct of mental illness, social anxiety, and a suicidal mind. Someone who never believed that their eternally questioning of the human being, was an escape to flee their ugly reality. A life haunted by depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, lack of purpose, unrelenting lust, and a massive inferiority complex.
This is the life of Oba Yozo, Dazai’s proxy for his own struggles. No Longer Human is often referred to as Dazai’s “sucide note”. As Yozo’s ordeals are based on Dazai’s own life experiences, yet not exact word for word reproductions. Thus many call this work pure “original fiction”, while also being semi-autobiographical.
Throughout the course of the novel we see the world Yozo grows up in, a world much like our own – a normal 1930’s Japan which is perceived by Yozo as a world ridden with lies and false personas. Viewing humans as not of his own kind, rather as if he was an imposter in mortal flesh.
From his perspective, his journey in life is a case study trying to understand what it means to be a human. What it means to be a morally good person. What it means to have empathy for another person. But the more you read Yozo’s long monologues about his lack of understanding of humanity, the more the reader realizes this is a documentary of his down world spiral.
The book is written in the style of three separate journals throughout the course of Yozo’s life. With the prologue and epilogue being written from the viewpoint of a man who happened to pick up the journals. Much like the rest of the audience, he is baffled by the actions and just the mindset of Yozo.
This book isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s a journey full of hardship. A mind ridden with depression and anxiety, a world view with little to no empathy, and traumatic experiences put to pen. But by the end of that long voyage, you have experienced the darker parts of the human psyche.
A better understanding of suffering in silence, how someone who could be the most outgoing person can isolate their true nature. It provides a window into the deep consciousness of Dazai as a person, without outright speaking on his own troubles.
I would recommend this book as a must read for anyone, but only while in a healthy state of mind. It tackles very uncomfortable but important subjects that are hard to discuss. This book is for a mature audience, specifically from ages 16-17 as a starting point.
No Longer Human is a straight dive into a downward spiral, exploring the dark side of human morals, and looking into the perspective of someone whose views are all but alien. In contrast, it is someone already suffering from deteriorating mental health. Enabled by a life full of vice, and betrayed by their own persona they acted for so long.