Monday, July 15, 2013
Seeing Through No-color Glasses
If the events surrounding the recent Zimmerman trial had transpired as a scuffle between two white people, or two black people, or two hispanic people, or......, most sane people would find it a hard call to determine if a murder had taken place. At best, they'd suggest that a jury with all the facts presented from the prosecution and defense would best be able to determine the most just outcome.
Enter, race. Now everyone is conjuring an decision as to who is a hero, victim, or villain.
'Just plain dumb.
The Innocent Tyranny -- or Perpetual Inconvenience -- of the "Community"
It's Sunday and I had the good fortune to sleep in (though 9:00 isn't what I'd really consider "sleeping in"). There's a little park near our house and upon looking out our window at that early hour I could see a mob of about thirty people crawling about on the ground carefully pulling up weeds and crabgrass from the parched excuse for a lawn that partially covers the park. I rolled my eyes when I became aware of what was happening. I see it every year and it's always a surprise. My wife's retired father is tuned in to this sort of thing and thus makes the showing for our household while the lazy American (me) selfishly indulges in one of the many fruits available to a truly free person -- the ability to sleep in on Sunday ("the horror!").
You'd think that a country supposedly so dominated by American culture could at least pull off a decent copy of the concept of applying tax receipts to simple things like park maintenance.
I'm sure more than a few westerners would look upon this communal activity as the epitome of cooperation and sense of belonging. I think it's pathetic. It's not the only action or sacrifice of time made under a phony cloud of obligatory "volunteering." In Japan, the concept of "peer pressure" isn't the same as what we understand of it in America and much of the west. There's no sense of "pressure" because it's simply a done deal. You just obey, sacrifice, "cooperate," and bow to conventions -- because that's the way it is and no one would think to question it. Meanwhile the drones of government on all levels take in mega-tax receipts (and barrow twice the country's GDP) to pay huge annual bonuses to bureaucrats and dish out cash to crony capitalists. The crony capitalists then pay politicians to keep the flow of tax money going to the companies that have covered Japan in concrete while weeds and grass remain uncut in "parks" and along highways.
This rant isn't to bust on Japan specifically. Like all countries, it has it's strengths and weaknesses. The innocent neighbors pried from their beds to pull weeds in a not so beautiful park are simply fulfilling the role of all drones who have been convinced that obedience and sacrifice is good and questioning it an act on par with treason.
Each local community has a system that organizes such banal and unnecessary effort (I think maintaining parks is one of the few things a tax-funded local government should actually be doing if it insists on taking their money). Every year or so a leader takes their compulsory turn shouldering considerable responsibility and time organizing the detailed activities and events of this pseudo-government within a government. There is a treasurer also burdened with time and headaches, collecting money for annual festivals and such (something citizens of the U.S. and elsewhere would call block parties - arranged privately by people genuinely volunteering to have fun). Several people are chosen to dispense information, on foot, as well (the "information" is top-heavy in mere advertisements).
I remember a student of mine who was a widowed mother working full time and raising three kids getting stuck with one of these stupid collectivist con-scheme chores. She, like many others I've known, made it clear; one can not simply say "no." The (completely unneccessary) burden is to be accepted unquestioned.
The local community annoyance structure reminds me in some ways of the neighborhood snitch system set up in country's like Cuba (clearly it's not currently so ominous). The interface with the organs of the real government is there but there are currently no "enemies of the state" to seek, reveal, and destroy. In harder times or if a more authoritarian style state were to ever emerge, Japan is ready to go. In such circumstance, the hierarchy's call for morning weed pulling could easily morph into the call to the locale police and propaganda bureau regarding Watanabe- san's reluctant support for, " the people" or the party. Certainly Japan is nowhere near that at this time, but I have a feeling that such a conversion here would be relatively easy given the Japanese respect for (obedience to) unquestioned authority. No doubt such a con could be imposed in the U.S. at some future time as well. But there I'm comforted by the fact that many would either roll their eyes up or openly say, "This is bullshit!" We can see who, in America, would be the most tolerant of authoritarian decree and "management." If one has ever stood quietly and listened to a fervent supporter of Obama and "Hope and Change" one could get an idea of what they'd be like as a neighborhood guardian of community solidarity.
Some people I've known in Japan will actually defend the whole "community" scam here as part of "Japanese culture." It's a classic response among many citizens here to view any socialist/corporatist political dictate as somehow being an attribute of "Japanese culture." As if corruption and compliant bending over were somehow on par with the tea ceremony and flower arranging.
Concepts like genuine volunteering, maintaining parks, and communicating local information transpires smoothly in places like the U.S. without forcing people into various levels of sacrifice. My intention is not to note a specific comparison between Japan and America (the country I happen to be from), as there are many countries -- albeit dwindling -- that afford effective local vitality and atmosphere without intruding upon citizen's personal time and energy.
I had a student that was cosmopolitan and sensical enough to realize he was being screwed over by this community nonsense, so he looked up the history of it it found that it was originally no more than a public mobilization scheme cooked up during the Second World War to rally communities to the war effort. During the American occupation the networks were outlawed (for obvious reasons). After Japan gained its independence, some bureau-minded clowns with a nostalgia for that old time obedience reinstituted the framework, this time applying it to more banal things (like pulling weeds and organizing glamorized block parties).
I realize that many (especially citizens of Japan) would find it offensive that I, a foreigner living in Japan, would criticize what has become an entrenched part of their society but, when the time comes, I'll be out there bright and early some morning "volunteering." But, unlike the others, I'll be rolling my eyes as I often do when I see so many around me so oblivious to the fact that they're being conned by the same mentality that brings us excessive taxation, inefficiency, corruption, and intrusion into our personal lives.
...down on your knees. It's to help the "community."
Friday, July 05, 2013
This about sums it up.
I'd only add that much of these transgressions against constitutional freedom were perpetuated by charlatans who fancied themselves champions of the oppressed and guardians of moral perfection.