I do not point out episodes like this to ridicule the individual involved.
Unless I believe someone to be clearly and purposefully cruel and evil, in which case I confess to occasionally reveling in their misfortune, human frailty goes and comes around enough for me to usually avoid Schadenfreude. All of us have inner-jerks capable of being revealed, and — perhaps out of superstition — I generally avoid ridiculing other people’s screw-ups in the hope that my inner-jerk won’t be the next one exposed!
But what do you say about a performance like the one by Shoichi Nakagawa?
The world economy is in shambles. Every word out of the mouth of a head of state or finance minister from Lagos to Reyjakvik can send economic shockwaves around the globe. And Monday at the Rome G-7 conference of finance ministers, the Japanese finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, acted erratically, slurred words and even momentarily went to sleep at a press conference. Drunkenness is not an unreasonable conclusion.
Set aside his monumental irresponsibility. What was his staff thinking? In the instantaneous world of early 21st century media, you can’t do something like this in private and not have it broadcast around the world, much less go bonkers at a press conference in front of hundreds of millions of people.
As I write this at 12:40 AM EST on February 17th, the Nikkei index is down 109 points and Minister Nakagawa has announced his intention to resign.
A final point because I have students from Japan and many other countries: This minister and his inexcusable behavior could have come from anywhere. Someday I’ll tell you the stories of Wilbur Mills and John Tower.
I will give him some benefit of the doubt: While I don’t understand Japanese, he did fall asleep during a question of such length that perhaps sleep was the appropriate response.