Sunday, July 30, 2017

Murder Threats That Ingrid Johnsen 'Ledingham' Issued Publicly, And Her Other Public Morbid Gestures, Warrant Concern

Trigger warning:  I normally mock trigger warnings, but one truly is applicable in this case.  This blog post discusses issues pertaining to murder threats, child abuse, rape, incest, suicidal gestures, and mental illness.


Stuart K. Hayashi


Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham (Ingrid J from BiggerPockets) and me
before I learned the full extent of the physical danger 
she poses to herself and others (there were 
already troubling signs visible then, though).



This is a revised version of a post from here.  The difference is that, this time, I name names.  The reason is that there is evidence that there is a greater danger in my not doing so than in my doing so.

Some years ago I became very close to someone who suffers from a dangerous pathology -- demonstrably a physical danger to herself and others.  Unless she returns to regular psychiatric care and is forthcoming to acquaintances, co-workers, online correspondents, and people in general about the dangers that her condition poses -- having a history of suicidal, self-harming, and even homicidal ideation, all of which she has expressed publicly for years -- this is not something to let go.



Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's Murder Threat for Her Mother, Lillian Johnsen, Made Publicly Viewable By Ingrid Herself
In 2004 in the town of Tromsø, Norway/ Norge, Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" -- daughter to Mark Ledingham, Tromsø kommune Web coordinator whose photography of the aurora borealis is internationally recognized --  put up this threat to kill her mother Lillian Johnsen.  Despite Norwegian being her first language, Ingrid wrote the murder threat in English and it has been publicly available on the World Wide Web this entire time.  It is not one of those terse threats that people write on Twitter or YouTube, along the lines of, 'You disagree with me? Then I hope you die!'  Though the threat is grammatically inept in composition, it is nonetheless serious in tone and intent.  Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" does not say that she has some long-term plan to kill.  Rather, she envisions that one day she will become so incensed by Lillian Johnsen's nagging that she will take a knife and thrust the knife into Lillian Johnsen.  This is described in graphic language as so:


Ingrid Johnsen "Ledingham" of  Tromsø threatening the life of her mother Lilian Johnsen; click on the link to enlarge.


The murder threat that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham wrote for her mother, Lillian Johnsen, is documented and archived.  There are copies of it available, saved in multiple locations.

I have mentioned this to other people before -- including people whom both Ingrid and I mistook for friends of hers.  Those people turned out to be sycophantic "Nice Guys™"; they said it was evil for me to discuss Ingrid's situation with anyone else, even when I hid her name.  Those people elide the fact that a right to privacy does not extend to violent threats, especially not violent threats  made as publicly as the threat that Ingrid issued -- a murder threat Ingrid took the initiative to make publicly visible to a billion people -- even if that particular violent threat ends up not being acted upon (it may still be acted upon at a later date).  It is also everyone's business that Ingrid went around accusing a classmate of violently threatening her; a false accusation of violence is itself an initiation of the use of force, as someone falsely accused can be met with retaliatory force, such as by police or by a court summons.  As I have explained before, violent threats cannot be privatized, meaning they are necessarily everyone's rightful business to know about.  That applies if a relative raped you and you still try to shield that relative from the repercussions of that (my explanation).

Some people in our respective circles have rationalized that the murder threat that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham put out is "long past." After all, they say, it is more than ten years old.  Moreover, four months after Ingrid wrote her original death threat, she wrote a follow-up post on that same thread where she claims to be all better:  "...im happy that i allowed myself to hate her [the mother]. otherwise nothing would have changed. I now love my mom to death like many other precious people in my surroundings."

But it wasn't all better.  Ingrid made it all too obvious she is not recovered.

For me, my fear is not that Ingrid will necessarily kill her mother; it's that she put up that murder threat at all, and just left it up for posterity.  Should Ingrid go untreated, there will easily come a day when Ingrid can do something extreme to anyone to whom she has felt emotional attachment (explanation below).  And it might not be direct violence on her part; it might come in the form of accusing someone falsely of a crime (that is also explained below).


Years After Threatening Her Mother Publicly, Ingrid Continued Exhibiting Publicly the Fixation on Violence and Death
I knew Ingrid when she was on Oahu from 2008 to 2012.  Her legal name was not "Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham," but "Ingrid Johnsen."

In late 2010, Ingrid got one of her enablers, the corpse artist Erlend Anker Barstad Mørk of Trondheim, Norway, to upload onto YouTube a video where she gives a monologue about being a neo-fascist "of the Fourth Reich" (Fourth Reich being a continuation of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich).  Ingrid had recited this monologue to me before, telling me it was a joke.  It was very disturbing even then.  From Erlend Anker Barstad Mørk's upload, it is not obvious that it is a joke, despite parts of the monologue sounding very strange; Erlend listed the video as "News and Politics."  And I am sad to admit that this was far from the first instance in which Ingrid boastfully compared herself to a neo-Nazi. :'-(

That Ingrid calling herself a neo-fascist "of the Fourth Reich" in the video was some joke is especially unclear for another reason: Ingrid and Erlend got embroiled within a sleazy Far Right political circle in Norway whose most prominent figures regularly demanded that Norway's government block immigrants from North Africa (evidence of the xenophobia here, here, here, and here; much of this relates to Kjetil Knausgård's pro-bigotry "Libertinius" page).  If you don't want people thinking you are a neo-Nazi, it's not wise to associate with a circle that promotes xenophobic propaganda.  (Sadly, Ingrid actually first heard of that political organization from me, before it became so brazenly sleazy and took on such a stridently bigoted position against north African immigrants; I heard about it under the false pretense that it was about promoting a free market.)  People in the xenophobic political circle are among the sycophants who wanted me to go along pretending that all of Ingrid's public morbid gestures were safe and fine.

Around 2014, Erlend "privated" the disturbing video.  But as I type this, Radaris retains a record of the video's existence -- complete with Ingrid's birth name (more about that later) -- and Radaris's record of it is documented and archived.  Again, there are multiple copies of this.



Since you're probably not Ingrid's mother, you are probably wondering, 'Why the hell should I care?'  Until Ingrid confirms that she has returned to psychiatric care on a regular basis, there are grounds to be concerned that Ingrid continues to pose a danger to colleagues with whom she networks, such as on the BiggerPockets real-estate investing forum. That could be you. Explaining this requires more context.  (If you want to learn an additional reason why Ingrid likely continues to pose a  physical danger both to herself and to others, that is below under the heading "The Accusation Against the Classmate.")



The Beginning of the Story Behind This
Before Ingrid showed me the murder threat and the disturbing "Fourth Reich" video, over a period of months she slowly introduced more and more clues indicating the danger.  First, she explained why she was born with her mother's last name instead of her father's, her father being an expatriate from Minnesota. (As should be clear by the end of this, this family history seems very pertinent to Ingrid's public suicidal, dysmorphic, and homicidal gestures.)

This is the story:  around the 1950s, there were three brothers in Minnesota (around Duluth but also around Woodbury and Brooklyn Park):  Wil Honkala, Maynard Duane Honkala, and Delbert Honkala. (Their other siblings were Clarence W., Marvin, Vivian, and Dory.)  Maynard Duane Honkala was supposed to care for the siblings Cheri Honkala (a radical left-wing political activist, U.S. presidential running mate with Jill Stein for the Green Party in 2012, and mother-in-law to a famous actress) and Cheri's older brother Mark Honkala.  This Mark Honkala suffered from depression and killed himself by jumping off a bridge.  According to various publicly available interviews and memoirs of Cheri Honkala's, both Cheri Honkala and her mother received domestic abuse.  When it comes to disclosing this, I am not disclosing information that Cheri Honkala herself has not availed to the public.  This is from Washington City Paper:

When an alcoholic stepfather stepped into the picture [for Cheri Honkala], physical and sexual abuse soon became household routines. . . . 
[Cheri] Honkala says she was hospitalized every year as a consequence of abuse. By the time she was 13, in 1976, Honkala told her mother that she had been abused not only physically but sexually as well.
Cheri Honkala's son, Mark Weber, is named after Cheri's brother.  (Mark Weber has also appeared in such famous motion pictures as Scott Pilgrim Versus the World.)

As Cheri Honkala's birth father left her mother "a couple of months" after Cheri's birth (page 215), Cheri received the last name of her stepfather: Honkala.

Maynard Duane Honkala's brother Wil Honkala (he spells it Wil with only one L) married Doris Ledingham.  They raised four children:  Nancy Honkala (now Nancy Henderson Honkala), Julie (now Julie Flynn), Brian Honkala, and Mark Honkala.  Yes, it appears that the two brothers each raised someone named Mark Honkala.  This Mark Honkala was brought up believing that Wil Honkala was his biological father, but that was not the case.  Again, Ingrid didn't tell me all the names of her aunts and uncles; I learned those names later.  But I give the full backstory now to get it out of the way.

Ingrid didn't tell me about Cheri Honkala or Maynard Duane Honkala either.  Nor did she tell me that there was more than one "Mark Honkala"; I learned about all that later.  I put that here now because, seeing this in retrospect, the context is much clearer if I state it all now.

This is what Ingrid did tell me directly, though initially her  telling of this was vague, leaving out some important details: Doris Ledingham Honkala had an extramarital affair, and this other Mark Honkala was the result.  After this Mark Honkala learned what had happened, he tracked down his biological father, but his biological father wanted nothing to do with him.  Around this time, Mark Honkala decided to change his last name to "Ledingham" -- his mother's maiden name.  He moved permanently to Tromsø kommune, Norway, where he became something of a civic figure, and where he took nature and landscape photos that have since become internationally renowned.  There, he married the divorcée Lillian Johnsen, and their daughter together was Ingrid Johnsen.

Ingrid said, "When it was the time to decide what name went on my birth certificate, my mom said to my dad, 'If we give her your last name, how do we know you won't just change it again? We'll give her my last name; it's simpler!' "  Ingrid laughed as she told me this.

Despite Ingrid writing in that follow-up in April 2004 that she was all better now,  she continued, between 2008 to 2012 on Oahu, displaying morbid and even violent gestures.  By late 2010, she made the morbid gestures very public. Many of these morbid gestures remain on the Web, and have been documented and archived. There are also copies of this evidence available as well. Of course, in the beginning the morbidity was not so obvious to me, though Ingrid was already making some isolated but bizarre hints at it.

When telling me about her father's history, Ingrid sounded vulnerable for the first time. She said that she puts on a front of bravado to hide her inner demons-- that she tries to make herself appear to other people that she is in a position of authority and responsibility, because she believes if people see her in such positions and seeming confident and professional, they will not question her judgment or sanity.  No red flags went off for me; I reassured her that there was nothing unusual about nursing self-doubts.


The Accusation Against the Classmate 
In the weeks that followed her telling me about the story behind her last name, Ingrid increasingly showed an obsession with child molesters.  The first joke she ever told me happened to be what she identified as her favorite signature on online postings:  'The internet is where men are men, women are men, and small children are undercover FBI agents," alluding to online sting operations against child predators.  Then Ingrid would reminisce about an ex-boyfriend back in Norway, Fritz.  She said that Fritz was a deep, caring person who empathized with everyone, a man of upstanding good taste.  Then she stared at the ground and giggled approvingly, "He always joked that he was a pedophile trying to lure kids into sex with him."

Then in February of 2010, Ingrid came to a professor and me, and told us a troubling story about a classmate of hers in that professor's class.  (I know the classmate's name but, for the time being, I won't provide it here. I might change that if later I find that it's necessary.)  Ingrid told the professor and me that the classmate had sexually propositioned her and, when she rejected him, he grew angry.  She continued that, based on his boasting about killing people in war and about his womanizing, she was afraid the classmate wanted to rape her.  They got into an argument and Ingrid had grown direly afraid of him.  A week later, Ingrid came to the professor and me and said that she was proven right to fear the classmate as violent, because he threatened her, "If you tell anyone what happened that night, I kill you!"

Ingrid insisted that we not go to the police (in retrospect, I should have reported this to the police against her wishes) but that she wanted the professor to keep the classmate and her separate from one another.  She did not file any formal complaints with Hawaii Pacific University (HPU), but she did go around informally circulating this accusation among several other schoolmates.  I completely believed the accusation at the time. (It's still important to listen.)

This is not the end of the classmate story; nor have we even reached the most disturbing part of it.  That is below, under the heading "The Danger Posed to Colleagues."

Then Ingrid told the professor, several other schoolmates, and me a troubling story where she accused her writing instructor of invading her personal space as he flirted with her.  Again, she did not file a formal complaint, and sternly insisted that none of us confidantes do so, either.  I completely believed this accusation as well.

I told her, "Ingrid, that's sexual harassment."

Then she laughed and replied, "No, no, no, no!  I would never say anything to get him in trouble."

I thought, Never say anything that could get the writing instructor in trouble? You just made that accusation right in front of a faculty member.



Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's Repeated (and, At the Time, Seemingly Random) Mentions of Child Molesters
One night in April of 2010, when Ingrid and I were going out for an evening stroll, she said, out of nowhere, "Why are people so bigoted when a convicted child molester moves into the neighborhood?"

My eyes shot wide open and I sputtered, "Whah? . . . Wh-wh-wh-what do you mean?"

Ingrid explained, "Whenever someone who, as an adult, had sex with a small child moves into the neighborhood, people immediately want to run him out.  They should consider that the child consented to the sex."  She argued that a prepubescent child should be recognized as contractually competent to consent to sex with an adult caregiver.  She would not be swayed from this opinion, at least not this night.

Later, she also told me that when she was thirteen, she was groped by her then-best-friend, also thirteen years of age at the time.  She attributed her fear of men to the incidents of her friend groping her, though those incidents did not explain her obsession with child molesters in particular, nor her apparently fearing American-born men more than Norwegian-born men.



The Danger Posed to Colleagues (The Latest News Indicates This Danger Is Ongoing As This Is Posted)
Another night that same month, Ingrid was telling me about her day and then she said, very casually, that she bumped into the classmate.  I mean the same classmate she previously accused of threatening to kill her.  I was alarmed.  As calmly as I could, I asked her to go on.  What happened?  Ingrid said that she and the classmate had a nice talk, and he was just a nice, fun, friendly flirt.  Then she started into space, giggled, and said, "Hee-hee! I . . . like [Classmate's name]!"

I was stunned.  I couldn't say anything in response.  Ingrid only responded to the awkward silence by changing the subject.

Ingrid also frequently talked about how she has had a long history of wanting to die.  In high school, she threatened to kill herself several times.  Moreover, she mentioned hating her body and that this hatred for her body goes back to her early childhood, long before the boy groped her when they were both thirteen.  She mentioned that ever since she was little, she thought that female anatomy is disgusting because it makes her vulnerable to predatory males.  She did not elaborate on whether she felt threatened by one or two predatory males in particular.

The next day, I went to the professor to address him about Ingrid talking up that classmate as if she did not remember her allegation about him.  The professor brushed off my concerns.  Even as Ingrid made increasingly obvious and public morbid gestures, which the professor saw up close, the professor acted as if it was safe and acceptable.  For those reasons, I have lost a lot of respect for this man and, after years of closeness, have grown estranged from him.

Throughout May of 2010, Ingrid oscillated back and forth in her memory of the classmate. First she switched back to saying he violently threatened her, and she went around telling other schoolmates about this.  The next day, she oscillated to resuming talk about the classmate being just a nice, fun flirt. Two days later, she resumed saying he was violent and dangerous.  Every time Ingrid changed her story, she sounded as if she did not remember what she said the previous time, even if that previous time was no more than the day before.

Ingrid also showed me something else.  Years earlier, Ingrid Johnsen Ledingahm wrote this disturbing blog entry condoning rape:

Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham wrote this disturbing blog entry condoning rape;
click on the image to enlarge it and make it more readable.


My conjecture on this is that Ingrid is still being affected by something inflicted upon her before she was thirteen and that boy groped her, and the scenario she imagines, wherein Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham recasts herself as the rapist, is her way of trying to regain a feeling of power and control. But judging by the continuing public morbid gestures, Ingrid trying to imagine herself as the rapist has failed to have a lasting therapeutic effect for her.

I do suspect that the classmate acted in a threatening manner toward her.  After all this, I maintain that people need to listen to women when they speak out about having been raped.  I have heard of how there are many cases in which, after being raped, the rape victim continued to be friendly toward her rapist; the rape was so traumatizing to the victim that she tries to rationalize to herself that there must have been sort of some of misunderstanding, and that the the rapist is still a friend to her.  I understand that there are many cases where a rape victim tries to shield her rapist from facing the social repercussions of the public learning of what happened, especially if the rapist is a close relative.

If Ingrid was similarly rationalizing the incident with the classmate, that would not preclude the need for an intervention.  Most rape victims do not put murder threats for their mothers on the World Wide Web, keep those murder threats publicly visible for years and years, and then show those murder threats to you while trying to tell you that you are betraying her trust if you don't play along and pretend that the homicidal and self-harm gestures are safe and normal. Ingrid's original accusation against the classmate being true would not make her behavior in this situation any less dangerous.

By the autumn of 2010, Ingrid became very insistent on wearing the same garment to university class almost every day.  She had previously taken me to her apartment and she showed me all her clothes. It was not that she had lots of garments that looked alike.  No, it was the same black garment every day.  Then -- encouraged by the same enabler in Norway who uploaded the horrid "Fourth Reich" video -- Ingrid uploaded photos of herself photoshopped to have a chalky white face like a corpse.  Two of the corpse photos even went on Ingrid's LinkedIn account, next to her résumé, and one of them appeared on the official website of Hawaii University's SIFE chapter (SIFE later changed its name to Enactus).  I think some people tried to assume Ingrid was "just being a Goth or a Black Metal fan."  However,  Ingrid has a history of wanting to be dead literally (this is something Ingrid has documented publicly).  For that reason, I could not dismiss this as Ingrid "just being a Goth"; I had to take this seriously.

Here are the corpse pictures; you can judge for yourself if I overreacted.






The corpse image on the bottom is the
chronologically first photo
Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham
put on her LinkedIn page.
For some reason, people were
expected to interpret
the corpse image as
looking very professional
and businesslike.

Remember that this is from Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's blog:

I wanna die... i wanna die.. 
i dont want this.. i dont wanna be alone.. im such a looser.. I`m gonna cut myself [cut her wrists with a blade] so bad tonight.. 
no point of this shit.. 
my "b/f" [boyfriend in sarcastic scare quotes] just called.. got me wondering if i was supposed to be at work tonight.. i owno.. [sic] hope not, i wanna just die, and cut [my wrists]


Ingrid had some other interesting (that is putting it euphemistically) posts on her blog. This blog post refers to the body dysmorphia:

cut my face up [ . . . ] 
wish i could get hold of a knife so i could cut up that "little pretty" face of mine.. Cut it up and make it ugly, just as ugly as I feel.. then shoot myself in the head so I no longer ever would be able to analyse or think FOR SHIT. [. . .]  I wish I could kill myself. [. . .]  I know how fucked up it is having to have some stupid bitch around u talking about killing herself. [. . .]

i wanna fuck my face up so no1 [no one] will ever recognize me..  [ . . . ] i hate you audio [Audio is short for Ingrid's username at the time, Audiobuster].. i swear to god u deserve a knife

Thankfully, Ingrid did not slice up her face. However, as you can see from the corpse-face images, Ingrid did find another morbid method of "fuck[ing] my face up so no1 will ever recognize me."

She told me (and this is briefly mentioned on her blog) that, often she will perform morbid gestures very openly but people around her will go on pretending everything is safe and normal.  She said she is of two minds about it.  On the one hand, she said, it's disconcerting to her that no one confronts her compassionately about her mental illness. On the other hand, she said, it's good that people are too cowardly to confront her because she fears confrontation, and the other people's tacit acceptance of her pathology makes it convenient for her to continue the self-destructive behavior. This is how she phrased it years earlier:

its so strange.. i live with two other people in this house, i go to school 450 pupils, no1 [no one] and i mean no1 [no one] notices the wounds on my wrist or the scars. [It turned out this was self-deception on Ingrid's part; people noticed but pretended that they didn't. --S.H.] its great really 
i`m wondering if i should cut it deeper... it hurts like a bitch but.. maybe I`ll go..
or die if u prefer that word.
I resolved that I would not be one of those idle bystanders who played along in pretending that Ingrid didn't need help when she does.



"A Lot of Abuse in My Family's Past[,] Including Sexual Abuse" 
--Ingrid's Aunt Julie (From the Honkala/Ledingham Pedigree) 
By this time, I already lost trust in Mark Ledingham's judgment. I did notice, though, that on Twitter he was following an eccentric woman from the same home state in the USA that he was from -- someone named Julie Flynn.  (This was before I knew the names of Ingrid's aunts and uncles.)  What got my attention was that the woman's website purported to be for a charity she set up, one for helping at-risk teens and twentysomethings (Ingrid's age range at the time).  All of the mental illness symptoms that this Julie Flynn woman's website described were the same as what Ingrid had either admitted to having or had exhibited to me directly. I thought, Who is this strange woman? Is she perhaps a psychologist with whom Mark Ledingham had consulted about Ingrid's problems in Norway?  About symptoms that are now becoming strong and publicly visible once again?

I contacted Julie Flynn. I told her I was interested in her website, because I had a friend in her twenties who was exhibiting the symptoms the website described.  I mentioned to this Julie Flynn woman, though, that I am worried that if she is a psychologist, she might consider it a conflict of interest for me to describe my friend's situation, as I think this Julie Flynn woman knows my friend somehow.  Julie Flynn replied she is not a psychologist and it is OK for me to tell her what concerns me.   I told her about the morbid gestures but had not yet mentioned anything about the accusations about the classmate, the fear of men in general, or the obsession with child molesters.  On September 4, 2010, she wrote, "I've figured out you are talking about my neice [sic] Ingrid."

Aunt Julie remarked that Ingrid's situation was both familiar and unfamiliar.  The situation was unfamiliar in that, this entire time, Aunt Julie was unaware that her Norwegian niece was going through all this. Yet, Aunt Julie continued, what I described was indeed familiar in one respect:  when Aunt Julie described mental illness symptoms on her own website, she was describing her own symptoms, and she was startled by how Ingrid's symptoms were similar to her own.

Before I could say anything about the child-molester fixation or the accusation about the classmate, Aunt Julie asked me whether Ingrid exhibited a prominent hang-up about sex.  Aunt Julie Flynn said (also on September 4, 2010), "There is a lot of abuse in my family's past[,] including sexual abuse." Throughout the months, Aunt Julie revealed that both a cousin and uncle of hers killed themselves, though in different ways. The cousin very deliberately committed suicide by throwing himself off a bridge (this was the other Mark Honkala, stepson to Maynard Duane Honkala and brother to Cheri Honkala). The uncle was Delbert Honkala, brother to Maynard Duane Honkala  and Wil Honkala.  Julie Flynn has written of having memories of being sexually assaulted by Uncle Delbert; Julie Flynn mentions that on her own website over here,

Between the ages of seven and twelve, I was sexually abused by two family members. It didn't last the entire time, one was one incident and the other I honestly don't remember as of yet how long it lasted. 
The incident I'm having trouble remembering, was done by my uncle who committed suicide when I was about the age of eleven [this isn't Maynard Duane Honkala].

Later, Aunt Julie alleged explicitly that not only Uncle Delbert, but her father Wil Honkala himself sexually abused her. She added that when she talked to Mark Ledingham about this, Mark Ledingham professed -- not entirely convincingly -- no knowledge of this.

I asked Aunt Julie if Ingrid had ever been left alone with Wil Honkala; Aunt Julie replied that that might have happened.

Julie Flynn went through the following pattern.  Every few weeks, she told me she would have a compassionate conversation with Ingrid about the public morbid gestures, and about their having so many symptoms and traumas in common.  But, last minute, Aunt Julie would delay this.  Then she would start talking to me about something else, such as her co-workers irritating her.  Eventually she told me that she would have the compassionate conversation after she had her own confrontation with Wil Honkala and Doris Ledingham Honkala -- with Wil Honkala for sexually abusing her and with Doris Ledingham Honkala for being an enabler who looked the other way as the abuse took place.  Aunt Julie planned on confronting her parents with this through a snail mail.  She typed up a draft and e-mailed it to me.  I still have the entire draft in my possession.

At the last minute, though, Aunt Julie decided against mailing the letter. She rationalized that Doris was in poor health and the confrontation would worsen it.  Then she became uncommunicative and rude, and I do not think the compassionate conversation with Ingrid ever happened.  It might have dawned on Aunt Julie that if she looked further into the matter with Ingrid, she might uncover something incriminating about a patriarch other than Wil Honkala, Maynard Duane Honkala, and Delbert Honkala.

Here is part of the draft.





Click on the image to enlarge it and make it more readable.


I have printed out Julie Flynn's letter; I have hard copies of it.  I have also saved all of the aforementioned information in multiple places.

Doris Ledingham Honkala died in October of 2016.

It took an embarrassingly long time -- more than a year -- for me to admit to myself that the sexual abuse that Julie Flynn and Cheri Honkala  alleged at the hands of Wil Honkala and Maynard Duane Honkala respectively might be connected to Ingrid's repeated and obsessive (and, at the time, seemingly random) mentions of child molestation.  It took me more than a year to acknowledge to myself the possibility that Ingrid's disturbing behavior might not have been fully attributable to that boy groping her when she was thirteen -- horrible as that was -- but that the disturbing behavior might have roots going back to something inflicted upon her much earlier in life, and possibly inflicted by someone closer to her than that boy.



Having to Go It Alone
It was up to me to have a compassionate conversation with Ingrid.  Most other people in our circles noticed the public morbid gestures but were too intimidated to say anything; they became perfect sycophants who helped Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham pretend that all of her public morbid gestures were safe and acceptable.

When I tried to talk to Ingrid about this, she feigned memory loss, pretending not to remember what she had told me about her obsession with child molesters and death and fear of men.  Then she added that by raising the topic with her directly, I was being more evil and frightening than the classmate who threatened to kill her.  She added that my confronting her about this was more evil and hurtful than all of the misogynistic epithets her ex-boyfriends hurled toward her.  Soon after saying all this, she again feigned memory loss, this time pretending not to remember being angry just minutes earlier.  As if she didn't know how the conversation started, she began talking casually about her day and then put on a smile and asked me how my day was.  I reminded her of what our conversation was about -- her violent and morbid gestures.  She then grew enraged again and intoned ominously, 'This is not over!"

For the sake of my physical safety, I had to cut off ties to Ingrid. But I never stopped caring.

Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's public morbid gestures reminded me of what she wrote on her blog about the self-cutting.  When it came to her making the more recent public morbid gestures, she was again two minds about it:  making very obvious cries for help in public and, yet, when confronted about it, trying to cover up something -- and this time perhaps the horrible truth  struggling to reveal itself was not only about her, but also about someone else.



BiggerPockets.Com:  Where the Danger of Continued Violence Remains
More recently when I looked at the BiggerPockets real-estate investing forum, Ingrid -- of all people -- popped up.  She talked about how she is a big shot real-estate investor who owns a parking garage in Norway and who is interested in New York.  She finally stopped using the horrid corpse pictures for her avatar.

However, she changed her name; she now goes by "Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham."  To someone unaware of the context, that must seem a touching tribute to a man of obviously large meaning in her life.

But based on Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's repeated unsolicited (and, at the time, mysterious) references to child molesters, and also based on what her aunts said about the patriarchs of the family, I am afraid that the name change appears to be yet another -- albeit subtler -- morbid gesture.

She has been talking about networking for her real-estate business.  This reminded me of what Ingrid said back in 2009 about how it's important that she project an image of being responsible and in charge, hoping that this will preclude anyone from questioning her sanity ever again.  If you network with Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham as a colleague, it would be prudent to remember her behavior with respect to her classmate and the writing instructor.  As long as Ingrid refuses to take responsibility publicly for her public morbid gestures -- including, but far from exclusively, the still-online murder threats and photoshop-corpse photos -- there is probable cause in concluding that the danger remains.

On Facebook, I noticed Ingrid Johnsen's mother, Lillian Johnsen.  I wrote her a private message re-introducing myself (Ingrid mentioned her to me before) and telling her about how Ingrid's murder threat for her is still on the Web for everyone to see.  Hours later, Lillian Johnsen blocked me. It was tempting to think, "Well, if Mrs. Lillian Johnsen is going to be like that, then I guess she deserves to face the repercussions of Ingrid's public morbid gestures going unaddressed, as hazardous as those repercussions could be."  But no, the truth is that Lillian Johnsen is not the only person in danger; the violence is something that can be directed toward anyone to whom Ingrid has felt some emotional attachment.

I wrote to BiggerPockets.Com about this. I didn't mention Ingrid's name, but I did mention that I recognized a person posting on the BiggerPockets website who still has a murder threat publicly viewable on the World Wide Web for everyone to read in English.  I wanted to add that, based on the incident with the classmate, I think it's dangerous for real-estate investors to network with my friend if she isn't openly receiving treatment for her condition.  Scott Trench of BiggerPockets replied to me that as long as the morbid gestures aren't on the BiggerPockets forum itself, none of that is his concern.

Because of Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham's refusal to return to psychiatric care concerning her condition, I had no other recourse but to bring this up publicly.

First off, falsely accusing someone of a violent crime is itself an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is this.  If X goes to Z and accuses Y of having committed violence against X, then Z may easily respond with violence toward Y, either doing the violence himself as retribution or going to the police (remember that government action is backed by the threat of violence).

Furthermore, every impassioned public threat of violence -- such as the one that Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham put on the Web publicly for her mother -- must be taken seriously.  Serious public threats of violence count as an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is that, although not all violent threats are acted upon, there is probable cause to judge that the person who issued the threat might still act upon it one day.  Even if Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham doesn't carry out her violent fantasy regarding her mother, she has given enough reason for people to suspect she might do something equally dangerous or retributive to someone else to whom she feels emotionally attached. You cannot justly hide behind the phrase 'This is my privacy and none of your business!' when the matter involves violent threats you have issued publicly against your own mother, particularly when you have continued, throughout the years, issuing public gestures indicating a continued obsession with death and violence.  And no, the right-wing Norwegian cliques' reinforcement of her suicidal, self-mutilating, body dysmorphic, and homicidal gestures does not constitute free speech -- as I argue here, reinforcement of someone's self-harm is not something to which that self-harmer is competent to authorize.

The implicit message behind Ingrid Johnsen
Ledingham's public morbid gestures.


If you have come into contact with Ingrid Johnsen Ledingham, even if only on a forum such as BiggerPockets, and truly care about her well-being and the safety of those around her, don't be like that professor and those phonies in that right-wing Norwegian political circle: don't play along and pretend that the situation with her is safe. That is not being a true friend but a sycophant. Please, please, please confront her compassionately and firmly (pardon that redundancy) about how her happiness, her being able to accept herself and her past, without all these evasions, is most important, and that the courage to return to regular psychiatric care is worth it.  Ingrid's internal well-being -- not putting on the image of being a big shot of a real-estate investor -- should be the priority.  Be an in-patient if that's what it takes to address the lingering fixation on child molesters and incest. People around Ingrid -- even if only co-workers or acquaintances, and if they only know her through online communication -- do have a right to know about her violent threats and the inconsistency in her accusations about crime, and they do have a right to expect (a) that she be in regular treatment for her condition and (b) that, for their safety, she be transparent with them about her condition.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Honda Motor's Founder Behaved and Spoke Like an Ayn Rand Hero

Stuart K. Hayashi


 A Honda Motor logo; image courtesy of Pixabay.

Much of this blog post, especially the section on Soichiro Honda, is adapted from a Facebook Note I originally published on November 27, 2009.



Back in January of 2003, Thor Halvorssen -- who would later go on to found the Oslo Freedom Forum -- asked the question, "Is John Galt Venezuelan?" He was referring to how, at the start of the year -- back when The Guardian (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), Bernie Sanders, Michael Moore (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Jeremy Corbyn (1, 2, 3, 4), Noam Chomsky, Salon magazine, Anita Sarkeesian sidekick Jonathan McIntosh, and Nobel Prize-winning former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz were still singing Hugo Chavez's praises -- there was already a noble rebellion underway against the Marxist dictatorship. The nation's largest labor union teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to effect a nationwide strike to force a referendum on Hugo Chavez's power.

Amy Chua, who would eventually become an overrated darling to the USA's social conservatives and its political Right, inaccurately proclaimed at the time that the strike "was instigated by Venezuela's wealthy business elite," specifically Venezuela's middleman minority that is wealthier than the majority ethnic population, comparable to Jews in the West, "Chinese in Indonesia, whites in Zimbabwe and Indians in Kenya..." Hence Amy Chua sneered that the strike's leitmotif amounted to "Power to the Privileged." We know the unfortunate outcome:  Chavez and his Marxist regime remained in control, and now we see the final results of that, results so terrible that not even The Guardian and Salon can cover them up.  As what is going on in Venezuela very much mirrors the events described in Atlas Shrugged, Thor Halvorssen's question was prescient.  And it inspires me to ask a similar question:  Is Hank Rearden Japanese?

While Japan is famous for its commercial success, it is not a culture that immediately comes to mind when one inquires as to which countries other than the United States does one most expect Ayn Rand's philosophy to gain popularity.  Since the Middle Ages, Japan has been known for its social collectivism, and that has not changed even as Japan emerged as a liberalized commercial republic subsequent to the second World War.  Throughout the 1980s, many politically collectivist American commentators even proclaimed that for the United States to reclaim its competitiveness, American companies should learn to embrace Japan's cultural collectivism.  Yes, Japan is commercially successful, they said, but one should not credit laissez-faire individualism for this.  Rather, Japanese business succeeds exactly because Japanese are taught that the individual must be subordinated to the social collective -- that the individual must sacrifice for the well-being of the corporation and, far better, sacrifice for the society and the wilderness ecosystem at large.  These same American collectivists also added that much of Japan's success should be attributed to government interventions on the part of MITI (the Ministry of International Trade and Technology); we shall revisit this claim about MITI by the end of this post.



Japanese Business Succeeded Because of Collectivism and Conformity? 
Representative of the collectivist mindset for which Japan is known are these remarks from Mitsubishi managing director Tachi Kiuchi,

The economic bottom line only exists to feed the social bottom line. 
My philosophy is this: We don't run our companies to earn profits. We earn profits to run our companies. . . .

That suggests the final lesson I learned -- so far -- from the rainforest: 
The mission of business -- the mission of civilization -- is to develop the human ecosystem sustainably. . . . What I learned from the rainforest is easy to understand.. . . Consume less, and be more. It is the only way. . . . They are the Japanese omote and ura, the Chinese yin and yang, Christianity and Islam, product and process, economy and ecology, mind and spirit -- two halves. 
Only together can we make the world whole [emphases Kiuchi's]. 

The website that published those remarks describes Kiuchi rather disingenuously as "one of Japan's most iconoclastic corporate executives." Iconoclasm is not demonstrated in the remarks the site published -- those are platitudes spoken by almost every Asian businessman, probably by almost every Asian-American businessman.  That very collectivist mindset is described very negatively by an actual Japanese iconoclast, Masao Miyamoto, in his worthwhile book Straitjacket Society:  An Insider's Irreverent View of Bureaucratic Japan.  He warns,

The [government] bureaucracy is the biggest trade barrier to entry into the Japanese market, since the bureaucracy controls the entire market through a system of regulations and permits. If the market were truly open, it would enrich the lives of consumers in both Japan and the West. But this would mean downsizing and restructuring, to which the bureaucrats would never agree. . . .  
To expand Japan Inc., the [government] bureaucracy introduced the philosophy of messhi hoko, or self-sacrifice for the sake of the group. This philosophy requires the subordination of individual lives to the good of the whole. Since all Japanese invariably belong to some sort of group, through this philosophy they end up sacrificing their personal lives, voluntarily or otherwise [New York: Kodansha International, 1994), 20].

Contrary to the American left-wingers who boosted Japan in the 1980s, it was not because of that general collectivist mentality, but in spite of it, that Japan ascended to prosperity in the postwar period.  Japan indeed has had its share of independent-minded freethinkers who are comparable in stature to Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Polaroid founder Edwin Land.  In this post I will provide case studies of two Japanese individualists in particular who behaved very much like Ayn Rand heroes -- the latter of whom even talked like an Ayn Rand hero.



"It Seems Like Serious Inventors...Get Persecuted"
Toyota Motor Corporation was started in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda, but the family fortune behind this company was built much earlier by Kiichiro's father, Sakichi Toyoda.  Growing up during the Meiji Restoration, as the old shogunate's power waned and gave way to openness to Western technologies and imports, Sakichi was enamored with industrialization.  Tinkering with his grandmother's hand loom, Sakichi directed his efforts and attention toward devising methods to improve upon its design.  As I wrote earlier, innovative entrepreneurs seldom start out by saying "First I'm an entrepreneur; now that that's settled, I have to figure out what to sell..."  Rather, the innovator simply started out as some weirdo who was really obsessed with something and then later developed a strategy for monetizing that obsession.

At the start, Sakichi was almost entirely alone in having confidence in this project.  His father was a carpenter and, as was customary, the father expected Sakichi to follow in his footsteps and become a carpenter as well.  Sakichi instead pursuing this foolhardy mission broke Toyoda Senior's heart, the only consolation being that Sakichi applied what he had learned of carpentry to the fashioning of wood for his looms.  As everyone knew everyone else in this small village, the other villagers did not take kindly to this young inventor showing such impertinence to their patriarchal neighbor, to the man who provided the seed that brought Sakichi into existence in the first place. Sakichi's breach with tradition caused his neighbors to view him as strange at best and selfish at worst.

As elaborated by a book officially approved by the company, "Despite opposition from his father and many of the villagers, who largely regarded him as an eccentric, Sakichi's enthusiasm for inventing only grew" (Toyota: A History of the First 50 Years, [Tokyo, Japan: Toyota Motor Corporation, 1988], 25).  Sakichi's nephew Eiji, who would go on to become Toyota Motor's CEO, confirmed in his own autobiography that Sakichi was "regarded as an eccentric all his life..."

Such social disapproval and ridicule did not daunt Sakichi; he forged ahead.  His improvements on hand looms led to his development of various automated looms.  Although Japan still had a reputation back then for producing low-quality items, Sakichi's looms were coveted even in the West.

Reminiscing of his early entrepreneurship, Sakichi said, "I was like a man possessed. People around me probably thought I was some kind of a madman" (ibid.). It appears that Sakichi would have appreciated the first several paragraphs of Howard Roark's courtroom speech, as Sakichi concurs with the general thrust of them:

It seems like serious inventors always end up being poor and being cut off from others; sometimes they even get persecuted. It’s as if an inventor has to have his fill of hardship before he can fulfill his ambitions [ibid, 26].

Sakichi gained success as an inventor of power looms but his ambitions were not sated.  Upon a visit to the United States, he caught his first sight of an automobile.  Marveling at it, he understood that this new machine would be the future of civilization.  His son, Kiichiro, decided to become an engineer and inventor as well.  However, in his final years, Sakichi told Kiichiro that the next great industry in Japan would be the production of automobiles, and that it would ultimately be more lucrative than the loom business.  Taking such wisdom to heart and mind, Kiichiro took the money his father left him and founded the Toyota Motor Corporation.

Toyoda is Japanese for "rice field," and Kiichiro thought that Japanese consumers would not be able to associate rice fields mentally with automobiles, and that is why, for the sake of convenient branding, he gave the company the name Toyota with a T instead of Toyoda with a D.

Kiichiro's shifting of investment capital from the loom business to a new auto plant was not something that his father's business associates immediately commended; they had their doubts.  As Toyota's official history notes (p. 47),
...Kiichiro [Toyoda] asked Risaburo Toyoda [his father's old company] to convene an emergency board of directors meeting. At the meeting, Kiichiro submitted his plan to move into auto production and asked the board to call a general stockholder meeting to obtain approval. ... Aware that even Mitsui and Mitsubishi had abandoned their efforts to enter the industry, some directors opposed the idea, but Kiichiro argued his case convincingly.

At the motor company, the trend of innovation continued.  Kiichiro found assistance there from his cousin -- and Sakichi's nephew -- Eiji Toyoda, also an engineer.  In 1950, Eiji got to tour a Ford Motor Company factory in Detroit.  At the time, Toyoda Motor could only turn out 32 auto units a day, whereas Ford produced 8,000 units a day.  For a period of six weeks Eiji pestered the engineers and assembly workers with questions.

Through his research, Eiji ascertained that the secret to maximizing high-quality output had to do with the system of inventory-taking.  Eiji and Kiichiro thus pioneered in using Just-In-Time (JIT) Inventory.  By timing every step of process so that new auto parts arrived at the plant at precisely the right moment where they would be added to production, Toyota managers could efficiently move the highest number of quality-controlled units within the very limited factory space that they had.  Eiji and Kiichiro were able to have this process commence speedily, for they had the assembly line workers signal to one another using special cards with special labels, the special labels indicating which step of the assembly process they were presently in, and indicating which auto parts immediately needed to be resupplied.

By 1980, the roles were reversed -- Ford Motor Company sent 8,000 engineers to a Toyota plant to take notes on Toyota's inventory system.  As I said above, Eiji Toyoda would succeed his cousin as CEO (Mark Weston, Giants of Japan: Lives of Japan's Great Men and Women, [New York: Kodansha International, 1999], 58).  To this day, Just-In-Time Inventory is employed with the production of a variety of products, including personal computers.

Although the Toyodas exhibited independence in their business decisions,  they were not so independent in their ethical philosophies.  When Kiichiro laid out the corporate philosophy of Toyota Motor, it sounded much the same as Mitsubishi's Tachi Kiuchi, mouthing the same platitudes about the company's growth being justified by nothing more than the collective benefit of society as a whole.  The Toyodas were very much like Howard Roark in their professional choices, but not so much in their personal philosophies of what constitutes ethical living.  However, Japan has had at least one inventor-engineer-entrepreneur who was not only like an Ayn Rand hero in his professional choices, but even talked like an Ayn Rand hero when explaining the philosophy behind his overall approach.  That was Soichiro Honda, who founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd., decades after Toyota's head start.



"To Hell With the Specified Industry Promotion Law!"
Twelve years Kiichiro Toyoda's junior, Soichiro Honda started off as a boy who was monomanical about machines, particularly motorcycles and automobiles.  On days when he was particularly inspired in his tinkering, he lost track of time, spending endless hours in the garage and, in the words of one journalist, seeming "a hermit" (Tesuo Sakiya, Honda Motor:  The Men, the Management, the Machines, trans. Kiyoshi Ikemi, [New York:  Kodansha International, updated 1987 mass market paperback edition {1982}], 54).  Soichiro eventually decided he wanted to start his own business making vehicles of his own design; he had to decide between motorcycles and automobiles. He chose the former. His reasoning was that in the 1950s, very few Japanese households could afford a whole automobile, but a motorcycle was within their price range.

Following the Second World War, the country had many small engines left over in surplus.  Soichiro refitted them for his small bikes.  They caught on in Japan.  Emboldened by this success, Soichiro sought to export these machines to the West, but encountered some new problems.  He had to face that there was a great stigma against them in the United States. First, they were commonly associated with criminals, specifically motorcycle gangs.  Secondly, the engines were considered too loud.  To his good fortune, Soichiro was able to produce relatively benign motor bikes with silent engines.  (If you come across a motorcycle today with a roaring engine, be aware that the noisiness is not an inexorable consequence of something that motorcycle engines must do to function; the owner might have gone out of his way to supe it up to call attention to himself.)  Thanks to the marketing genius of his investor and partner Takeo Fujisawa -- himself known as "a loner" -- Soichiro was able to market motorcycles in the United States to middle-class households .   To demonstrate the safety of his own models, Soichiro entered his motorcycles in official industry-sponsored races . . . and drove the motorcycle himself in many of those races.

For his part, Takeo Fujisawa cautioned against trusting in someone just because he seems to be in a position of social authority:
"President"...isn't a rank expressing greatness in a person. When some people become president, however, they start strutting about like they're field marshal. President is the most hazardous occupation known to man.
Honda motorcycles sold well, but this was not enough for Soichiro.  In 1963 he announced that at last he could take his profits and re-invest them as capital for the production of what he wanted most of all:  automobiles. "I am not satisfied with being number one only in the motorcycle world," he explained. "Progress is when you go forward, when you keep graduating from one stage to another" (qtd. by Mark Weston, Giants of Japan, 46).

Yet Soichiro's dream of producing automobiles faced another obstacle -- the government.  Doing the bidding of the regulatory agency known as MITI (the Ministry of International Trade and Industry), the Japanese legislature -- called "the Diet" -- sought to pass a regulation restricting competition.  MITI decided that Japan should only have three auto manufacturers -- Toyota, Nissan, and a third one that would result from the State-forced merging of all the smaller auto companies.  As one website tells the story,
MITI and the Department of Transportation tried to discourage Honda from adding to the number of companies, but he persisted. He won MITI's permission by coming out with a low-priced small sportscar, the S 500, which was different from anything produced by the other companies [that is, Soichiro initially tried to exploit a loophole; the S 500 was so much smaller than conventional automobiles that he hoped he could get away with having it classified as a type of vehicle not subjected to the regulation over whom could manufacture conventional automobiles]. He followed it up with other sports models. His company was still very small, producing only three thousand cars in 1966 -- half of what Toyota was turning out in a week.

This is from Soichiro's own recounting of these events:
I deluged him [the MITI bureaucrat] with complaints, because I couldn't understand it at all. To hell with the Specified Industry Promotion Law! I had the right to manufacture automobiles, and they couldn't enforce a law that would allow only the existing manufacturers to build them while preventing us from doing the same. We were free to do exactly what we wanted. Besides, no one could say for certain that those in power would remain there forever. Look at history. Eventually, a new power would always arise. I shouted at him angrily, saying that if MITI wanted us to merge (form a joint venture with another company), then they should buy our shares and propose it at our shareholders' meeting. After all, we were a public company [he means a privately owned company that is publicly traded on the stock market]. The government couldn't tell me what to do.

The government couldn't tell him what to do? If only! As always, the government most certainly did tell him what to do.  Fortunately, Soichiro won:

The basic MITI policy regarding Japan's car industry was compiled into the Temporary Measures Bill for the Promotion of Specified Industries in March 1963, and was submitted to the 43rd Session of the National Diet. However, the session was adjourned in July without a resolution. The bill was resubmitted to the 46th session starting in January 1964, but did not pass. The bill was eventually abandoned without anyone really knowing its ultimate destiny.

Justice prevailed, which is why the economy did as well. Can you imagine how much worse off Japan, the USA, the planet, and common decency would have been had that regulation been enacted?



"The Most Important Thing for Me . . . Is Me! 😃"
On January 12, 1987, the New York Times published an inspiring article about the man.  Susan Chira interviewed him first-hand, and the Times published the English translations of his replies to Ms. Chira's inquiries.  These are among the tidbits from Soichiro published:

  • "Generally speaking, people work harder and are more innovative if working voluntarily..."
  • "'I think it's very important to be sensitive to seemingly trivial psychological matters."
  • "I have some ideas. But I always find out that younger people have done them already. Young people are wonderful -- I just can't beat them. They've learned from our experience, and then they add their own ideas. Many older people talk [disparagingly] about 'kids these days.' I have never used that expression."

Still smarting over the MITI's initiative to constrain him, Soichiro protested that government regulators too often "become an obstacle when you try to do something new." I know many left-wing people who assume that all businessmen say that. Ah, if all businessmen said that, the world would be a wiser place. Soichiro's opinion is the minority opinion among businessmen throughout Japan, the United States, and the world -- it is especially the minority opinion among American businesspeople of Japanese ancestry. Most businesspeople, at least publicly, repeat the favored platitudes of Mitsubishi's Tachi Kiuchi: "Conventional wisdom is that the highest mission of a corporation is to maximize profits [lie --S.H.], maximize return to shareholders [lie; that was never the conventional wisdom, not even in the nineteenth century --S.H.]. That is a myth. It has never been true. ...profits are not an end" (emphasis Kiuchi's).

And in complete contrast to what the Japan-boosting American left-wingers were saying in the 1980s, Soichiro added that Japan's greatness could never be based on any notion of the individual sacrificing him- or herself to a corporation or a nation.  As the Times quotes Soichiro,
First, each individual should work for himself -- that's important. People will not sacrifice themselves for the company [nor should they --S.H.]. They come to work at the company to enjoy themselves. That feeling would lead to innovation. The most important thing for me, is me [boldface added].

Although the quotation is traced originally to Soichiro's interview with Susan Chira for the Times, I first heard of it from Edwin A. Locke's excellent book The Prime Movers:  Traits of the Great Wealth Creators.

In his book Driving Honda:  Inside's the World's Most Innovative Car Company, (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2014), Jeffrey Rothfeder adds that it was a least as early as 1951, a mere three years subsequent the company's founding, that Soichiro wrote in the company newsletter that a Honda employee is working for his own creative expression.  Soichiro codified this in what he called "The Three Joys," the first of which was the joy inherent in creating something new and useful: "The Joy of Producing: ...the engineer uses his own ideas to create products and contribute to society. This is a happiness that can hardly be compared to anything else" (page 135).

And if some Mitsubishi managing directors might be putting on some pretenses of believing the company's shareholders are subordinate to "society," it would seem Honda Motor's are not. As Rothfeder quotes an unnamed Honda executive, "It’s important to remember that the Three Joys are part of our business model; they are not altruism. We believe in what we say we believe in," and "we’re in business to make money. ...we expect to generate revenue while doing the right thing."

Following the quotation of Soichiro's about the important thing for him being him, Susan Chira adds, "This attitude has not endeared him to bureaucrats." It is also why the sub-headline of the article correctly noted that, at 80 years of age in 1987, Soichiro remained "a fiery maverick."

I showed those quotations to an Objectivist who lived in Japan and who is much more fluent in Japanese than I am.  I asked him what he thought of Soichiro's words.  That Objectivist replied that it is indeed unusual for a Japanese national to make such statements, even in old age (when it comes to moral judgment, senior citizens in Japan are given more latitude in what they say).

That Objectivist mentioned that it would have been interesting for him if what Soichiro said in the original Japanese was recorded, as he could compare the English translation and see how close the transliteration was.  After all, many of the nuances and connotations of words can change in the translation.  I agree with that Objectivist and find it unfortunate that the original Japanese recordings of Soichiro's interview with Susan Chira have been lost to posterity.  Based on the English translations that we have, though, it is legitimate to judge that Soichiro spoke like an Ayn Rand hero, at least much more so that what one would expect of almost any Japanese national (or even almost any Japanese-American other than myself).

I admire that man a lot.  Even the initials of his name are good.😉



Honda Motor's "Respect Individualism" Principle
Soichiro Honda has also gone farther than the Toyodas in that he has inculcated his individualistic psychology into the general corporate culture of Honda Motor, even codifying it in official corporate policy.  Although Sakichi Toyoda, Kiichiro Toyoda, and Eiji Toyoda each exhibited independence in their careers, especially when starting out, it is not obvious that they expected the same sort of independence from their rank-and-file.   But Soichiro Honda did say he wanted such independence from his employees -- and, more importantly, business journalists have witnessed his demonstrating that appreciation for employee independence in his own actions.

As explained by Jeffrey Rothfeder in Driving Honda, a major principle of Honda management is sangen shugi which, in the context of how Honda is run, refers to observance of reality, specifically the Three Realities.  The last and most important one is gen-jitsu, which Rothfeder defines as, "The real facts; support your decisions with actual data and information that you have collected at the real spot. Or, as one Honda executive put it: ‘Make decisions based on reality’" (page 102). Many a reader will consider that very obvious, but just because people say they know the importance of reality, that is not proof enough that they recognize it in practice. The failure of many a Solyndra and Enron attest to that.

Rothfeder devotes a whole chapter to how "Respect Individualism" is a major policy of Honda Motor's:

...Honda [Motor] seeks workers who have charted an irregular course, whose path in life has been a bit odd and unconventional. ... "We want independent people, who can see auto manufacturing with fresh eyes, not blind followers,"" said Honda CEO Takanobu Ito on many occasions. ... Asked for the single most important attribute that an ideal Honda [Motor] applicant should have, Soichiro [Honda] noted that he preferred ‘people who have been in trouble.’ ...he was articulating Honda Motors’s third critical organizational principle: respect individuals and, more precisely, individualism. Since the company’s founding, [Soichiro] Honda has stood alone in aggressively questioning and then breaking the rules for how a successful industrial outfit should behave. . . . 
Such untempered innovation in ideas and practice can only be achieved with employees who, in fact, wouldn’t flourish -- who would, in Soichiro’s words, be trouble -- in organizational models constructed primarily around rules and structured systems, no matter how progressively or intelligently plotted, Honda believes [pages 123-124].

Rothfeder mentions a story from MIT professor James Womack about having met Shoichiro Irimajiri, who was in charge of Honda Motor's North American division throughout the 1980s.  Irimajiri made a theatrical gesture to explain what separated Honda Motor's ideal employees from those of every other company's.  Irimajiri ducked behind a piece of furniture and then ran behind another, explaining that a Honda employee is a "guerrilla fighter.  Honda man loves chaos" (pages 124-125).

One might say that all this talk about valuing individual independence and innovation is just the usual self-congratulation normally done by corporate executives. Although over the past four decades it has become common for corporate executives to tout their own company's own willingness to tolerate dissenting ideas and encourage innovation, management psychologist Jennifer Mueller has found in controlled experiments that the norm is for these same executives to reject bold new ideas.

However, one should not scoff at Honda Motor on this matter, for it remains noteworthy here in two respects. First of all, when Soichiro Honda ran the company from 1948 to the late 1980s, it was unusual for any big business to tout the virtues of nonconformity to its own personnel, let alone a Japanese business. And yet Soichiro was already doing that, praising individualism and psychological independence in the company newsletter at least as early as 1951. Secondly, historians of business can point to how Soichiro walked the walk in terms of promoting and rewarding individualism and independence among his human resources.

As Rothfeder notes, Honda Motor is unusual in that every one of its CEOs "came up through the company’s engineering ranks. And all of them at some time were former chiefs of the automakers’ prized autonomous research and development unit." By contrast,

conventional wisdom among multinationals holds that the most effective chief executives are specialists in marketing, sales, or perhaps accounting, anything but engineering. ... When I have asked CEOs or other top corporate executives how they motivate themselves, more often than not the response is one of the many clichés about successful salesmen: A great salesman can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. ... 
The prejudice against engineers as CEOs is not peculiar to just American or European firms. Many Japanese companies also suffer from this myopia. ... 
Soichiro Honda and the engineers who have succeeded him at the helm of his company reflect a starkly different vision of the executive suite from the one favored by other multinationals. Reared in R and D, Honda CEOs’ strengths lie in product and process innovation, primarily in designing new vehicle models and features and in conceiving fresh techniques for building them faster and better. Typically, Honda chief executives are inveterate tinkerers, more at home sketching a headlamp or front grille than exploring the minutiae of a spreadsheet with a roomful of accountants. . . . And their success as managers is measured by how well they cultivate individual creativity in the organization, which Honda believes can distance a company from its rivals better than a new marketing campaign [pages 125-27].

Former ABC News journalist Mark Weston provides a specific case study of Soichiro's appreciation for independence. In 1969, Soichiro led the company R-and-D department in developing a new car model to be exported to the United States, what would become the Honda Civic. Within the department there was disagreement over what sort of engine should run this new model: an air-cooled engine or a water-cooled one. Soichiro admired Volkswagens, which were air-cooled. He therefore decided on that sort of engine, reasoning, "Who wants pumps and hoses and things that leak?" A then-young engineer in the department, Tadashi Kume, protested Soichiro's decision, contending that water-cooled engines were both quieter and more powerful than air-cooled ones and that, if the company was to make larger car models for export, it would have to switch to water-cooled engines anyway. Initially, Soichiro overruled the junior engineer. But Tadashi Kume was so adamant that he went on a "one-month strike" against the company in defiance, going to a far-off fishing island.

 This was a particularly risky move for Tadashi, as Soichiro took more pride in his judgment as an engineer than anything else. Rather than fire Tadashi for insubordination, Soichiro reconsidered Tadashi's points. Writes Mark Weston, "Honda had created within his company an environment where a young engineer could feel bold enough to challenge a ‘final’ decision by the president. Now [Soichiro] Honda showed his wisdom by changing his mind even though he lost face as an engineer" (pages 46-47). Soichiro went with what Tadashi wanted, and the results proved fortuitous.

Just as the Honda Civics started shipping to the USA, the 1973 energy crisis hit (caused more by President Nixon's price controls than by the OPEC cartel's restriction of output, which had already been going on since the 1950s) and American consumers became more conscious about fuel efficiency. The Honda Civic, with the four-cylinder water-cooled engine that Tadashi Kume designed, directly addressed that concern. This is what initiated American motorists' preference for Japanese auto brands. By 1984, Soichiro named Tadashi Kume -- the same brash engineer who questioned Soichiro's judgment in Soichiro's own area of expertise -- the president of the company. Tadashi was one of those engineers of whom Rothfeder spoke -- an engineer eventually promoted to top management.

For the past forty years, yes, it has become trendy for executives of major corporations to brag that they value and reward entrepreneurial independence in their employees. But historians can cite such examples of Honda Motor executives actually doing so, following both Soichiro's policies and the example he set in his own managerial decisions.



Is Hank Rearden Japanese?
It is true that Japan has too much social conformity and cultural collectivism (actually, the most individualistic countries still have too much collectivism). However, it is entirely inconceivable that post-World-War-II Japan could have become such an innovative economic powerhouse if its private sector didn't tolerate a certain level of Roarkian originality and innovation in business. Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita of Sony are similar to the Toyodas in that, while they did not live their private lives with the same independence as Roark, they nevertheless showed comparable independence in their professional lives. They found a technology invented in the United States called "video-tape recording" (partially invented by Ray Dolby of Dolby Stereo fame), and noticed that no one in the USA utilized it because it was too expensive. Ibuka -- an engineer and inventor himself -- put his best engineers on the project and developed a new cost-feasible model of this invention. The Masao Miyamoto I quoted earlier -- the one who wrote Straitjacket Society -- is right to praise Soichiro Honda and the Sony founders for their "Western-style leadership" (page 156).

Even from the time of the Meiji Restoration to its pinnacle of power during World War Two, Japan existed in what we would consider "Third World subsistence poverty." Were it not for some exercises in Roarkian independence from 1945 onward in the scientific, engineering, and industrial sectors, Japan would not be the wealthy powerhouse that it is today. This is why, as Yaron Brook has documented, Ayn Rand has a fan base even in Japan. Ayn Rand once told a Japanese architect, who wrote to her of his appreciation for the Fountainhead movie, that

philosophical ideas hold true for all people everywhere and...there will always be men who will respond to a philosophical truth in every country on earth. . . .  
Thank you very much for the pictures of your building which you sent me.  I was very impressed with your work and I think that it is an excellent example of modern architecture [letter to Y. Ashihari, February 26, 1951, in Letters of Ayn Rand, ed. Michael S. Berliner, (New York: Plume, 1997), 493].

A common criticism leveled at Ayn Rand goes, "Yeah, it might be a neat story, but in real life there are no people like Howard Roark, Dagny Taggart, or Hank Rearden."  Now you know better.  There was indeed a man in real life who behaved and -- judging by the English translations -- even spoke like those characters, and he succeeded in the sort of culture where one would least expect such a staunch individualist to emerge.

You can find qualities like Hank Rearden's in real people. If you have yet to find such qualities, you might want to consider searching with greater concentration and scrutiny. And it wouldn't hurt to practice such virtues oneself.😊



On Sunday, September 2, 2017 (Atlas Shrugged Day), I added the part about the Three Joys and the entire section on "Respect Individualism" being a policy of Honda Motor's. On October 2, 2017, I revised the paragraph about motorcycles, clarifying that the stigma concerning the alleged criminality of motorcyclists was more of a problem in the USA than in Japan.