The fact that you could tell this same story in 2023 America, and have the only implausible part be the generosity of the police, is truly infuriating.

japan, 1930, japanese


That Night’s Wife

This film was made in the middle of the Great Depression, in a country that had no, or a very limited, safety net. It was one of many films calling attention to the struggles of ordinary people, in an attempt to shine a light on their problems. The story is one of theft, but only so that a father can pay a doctor to help save his young daughter’s life.

Of course, it’s no longer the Great Depression. Japan now has an excellent social safety net. No one should be forced to rob in order to get basic medical care of their children. That would be barbaric. Can you even imagine a society working like that? It would be madness! Madness! Is that enough sarcasm for you? Because I happen to live in one of the few “rich” countries in the world where it’s completely possible.

This storyline doesn’t feel like something from almost a hundred years ago if you live in America. It feels like something that not only could be happening today, almost certainly is. If it’s not crime to pay for a doctor, then it’s bankruptcy after having tried. This country has the most material wealth of any society in the history of the world. And yet we allow a completely unhinged level of economic inequality.

Two thousand years ago the Romans understood this. You can be a cruel empire, but you cannot be cruel to your own people. Of course I would strongly prefer no cruelty to anyone, but if there is any possible justification for the actions of empire (spoiler: there isn’t), then it has to be to provide a better life for the people who are the empire. We don’t even have that.