Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Japanese Heartache - The world sends its deepest posturing and sincerest platitudes

Is anyone having as hard a time of me figuring out what the fuck is going on these days? I'm sorry for starting with such a vague and aggressive phase, but when I look around at media, the news, and politics lately, I cannot understand why anybody is saying what they are saying, what anybody means, or where their motives and intent lie. Not to mention the difficulty I have figuring out who they think could be so stupid to buy it and how they can descend to such pitiful depths inside the bowels of the human psyche. That covers the five basic questions of journalism, the W5H, that you ask yourself when you want to know more about something. I just want to know what the f--- is going on, and based on my recent experience, no one wants us to know anything about anything.

In the sorry ass world of Canadian politics, the government seems to be pouring all of its energies into a character assassination of the leader of the opposition, Michael Ignatieff. That government. Never there when you want them, during the two prorogues and just about any other time that you want to speak with them under circumstances which they do not control and script every single aspect of, but they manage to put this trash all over prime time all the time. To tell me what? That he compared our flag to a beer label? That he wouldn't rule out a tax increase? Here's the question - Do I care about a flippant remark made ten years ago? More to the point, do I need to be hearing this from the government? I don't know who they think they're fooling; with the 40 billion+ structural deficit they've created, someone should talk about some way to generate money for a country living beyond its means (which the guy they're attacking did, for the fleeting seconds of that quote), but what do I know? I live in a "democracy" run by a democratically elected government who deliberately lies to and misinforms the population on a constant basis, and my self-doubt and incredulity are symptoms of this. These attack ads are so obviously irrelevant to the challenges our country faces and a waste of everyone's time, yet we've accepted a constant debasing of our country's civic and democratic traditions by allowing them to continue.

"You stupid liberal! You just don't like the ads because they show what an out of touch, ineffectual loser Ignatieff is."

Maybe he is out of touch with ordinary Canadians, because mentioning a tax increase would mean he is in touch with reality, which conservatives, when faced with the numbers, are not. So when you look at the sitting government's debt and deficit, and the national consumer debt levels which break previous records every month, the liberal-basher is probably right. The government is more in touch with the average ignorant, apathetic, over-indebted suburbanite because, like them, it is completely out of touch with reality. But if it is the right thing to do, why do liberals pain themselves to appear as though they don't want to do it?

If the liberals, or any of the "other guys" took the high road, if they ignored this childish slander and didn't engage in it, then they would maybe have a shred of a case. A leg to stand on, in vernacular. If it was only as simple as not liking those bad conservatives who raid the airwaves with those awful attack ads. Maybe that would assist me in figuring out what's going on.

Yet today, I saw those ads that I read about in the paper the other day. The ones with a faceless Tim Hudak, leader of the provincial conservatives, being exposed as a Bay Street lapdog. Don't vote for the party of those big, bad bay street businessman, or we'll have another Wisconsin on our hands.

Hmmm...but the big 5 banks on Bay Street have been making record profits under a Liberal regime for eight years. In fact, a couple of them have released such results in recent weeks. What could be so bad that they feel the need to turn on the government that presided over these conditions?

Oh, probably its because its that same government that has an $18 billion structural deficit and employs more than 1 million people in various indexed-wage, high paying, defined benefit public service cartels. We don't want another Wisconsin, all right. That state is probably a third as economically productive as Ontario and yet its workers have gamed the system just as bad. It is not pretty all across the fifty states who are coming to terms with their finances no longer being viable, but all we can do now is watch it go. We are not far behind.

"You capitalist pig! You right-wing, union busting, neo-con bastard who doesn't care about workers rights and hard working families."

Sorry, I call bullshit on you people too, because you don't have the courage to follow your logic to the end. The only wages and livelihoods you care about are your own, at the expense of everyone else's and the states insolvency. So guess what? Your attack sucks as much, if not more, than those of the people you claim to be so morally superior to.

As humanity builds more castles in the air on house of cards foundations without the slightest regard to future consequences' constraints on its designs, this idiotic simulacrum of polarized society debate we have in North America is interrupted by disasters with increasing frequency. Such as North African political revolts and, most recently, disturbed nuclear reactors on the coastline of the most earthquake-prone archipelago on earth. No need to tell you a massive earthquake ripped through the country a few days ago, and most of the messages the media has been passing onto me have been troubling. The pathetic public discourse in North America during election year I can account for. The reactions to this natural disaster I cannot.

When this happens to poor countries you see a massive pouring out of sadness and generosity. When it happens to Japan, the world's "3rd biggest economy", you see a lot of posturing. While battleships and supplies were swiftly sent over by the Canadian and U.S. leaders, the biggest headlines I've been reading are about the stock market and the recovery in relation to the disaster. Because it was a "global recession" it is a "global recovery" ostensibly participated in by Japan as the "3rd biggest economy".

Japan may look big on paper because many of its big companies (Mitsubishi, Sony, Hitachi, Honda, Toyota) are profitable, and most of these profits are made overseas. The United States, the "largest economy" with half of its corporate profits "earned" abroad and 50 million domestic unemployed, knows a thing or two about real people's real lives and numbers and figures that give people confidence and make them feel good. But what ails Japan is much different than what ails America. Without ever visiting there, here's what I know.

-Oldest population in the world
-One of the lowest birthrates in the world
-No immigration
-Technocratic society with "jobs for life". An employee's lifelong loyalty to company and unquestioned deference to staff senior to him taken for granted. KarĊshi is a unique word in their language for "working yourself to death", and it is so common that they are one of few countries to keep separate statistics on this.
-As a result, there is little family cohesion. Infidelity and vice are rampant, clandestine aspects of millions of Japanese' lives.
-Young people (the much smaller number of them that there are) leave school with little hope to break into the grinding mega-gears of Japan Inc., entrepreneuralism is scant, disillusionment high.
-The Liberal Democratic Party that ran Japan uncontested and unchallenged for 55 years (structured like its companies) collapsed 5 years ago, and the country has lurched from shaky government to shaky government, changing every year or so since.

Oh, and one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in the world.

So to say that the earthquake doesn't bode well for the recovery is to make an absurd and pointless statement, because who the hell could look at those data and honestly tell himself that they were the recipe for a recovery? And aside from the fact that "recovery" was, is, a statistical impossibility in this country, since when did 10,000+ people's lives only become relevant in that context?

The other thing I witnessed today on the elliptical BNN ride was the now well-known "disaster capitalism" philosophy at work. Some smug overweight 40 year old virgin with a lisp who also happens to have a hot stock tip blog right now out of New York came on the network to trumpet about what stocks he was buying up in the wake of this. The worst part was he interrupted his spiel to say "You know, obviously its terrible when something like this happens but at the same time..." Seriously, why even bother saying that? Don't you mean, "I don't actually give a shit about any of those people, but when they do disrupt people trying to gamble and make money, that is a serious fuckin' buzzkill dude. And if it turns out I can actually make money, great. I'll just have to mutter a meaningless platitude so people think I have a conscience or a heart or something" As KRS One says, go ahead and be a hero. Get your cheddar.

I know that even when reality hits Japan's demographics and its population decreases from 129 million to 75 or 80 million or whatever, they will survive. They will survive without the doomsday banter of North American stock market pundits. I don't underestimate their toughness, though. This is the only nation of earth that withstood an attack on them where the enemy used weapons of mass destruction.

But I feel bad for all the sadness and heartache I know is in that nation, and not just because of earthquakes. Its a nation with an intensely insular and foreign culture, a hierarchical and traditional society which has adopted the worst elements of ours and created the chemical reaction causing its woes today. It adopted the boringest western sport, the boring western attire, the desire to grow and speculate and make profits at any price (remember, they still haven't got back to where they were when their housing and stock bubble burst in '89), and acquired with obsessions with things we could take or leave, like cheap trick and comic book porn. They couldn't take on the good stuff, like ethnic restaurants, gay marraige, and the option to say "take this job and shove it". I think when the Japanese come out of the economic, demographic, and political nightmare that is theirs, they will be successful when they learn to enjoy themselves again. Which will happen when they learn how to be themselves again, not obsessive compulsive secretly hedonistic westerners oriental only in language and appearance. Not to say that their bullet trains and digital blinds aren't cool; what I'm trying to say is, Japan has always had a lot to teach and offer the world, but the time of them doing that in Western ways on Western terms is over. You have to be deluded North American politician to believe it is not.

And over here, back across the atlantic, we will continue to have pointless debates about headshots. Although poor Max Pacioretty is an engaged and outspoken young man, according to Elliotte Freidman now that he has opened a twitter account. That is all it takes now to join the public debate and speak your mind. All Harper's ministers on there, Gilbert Gottfried and 50 cent are making inappropriate remarks about Japan on there, and everybody with nothing to say but lots of nonsense to sputter out is on there. I think it is a major negative factor in all we discussed today.

This just in, Prime Minister says an election in Canada would have the same effect as Japanese Earthquake. Hell, he probably tweeted it. See what I mean?

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