TokyoFreePress
      An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan




     
 
Welcome to TokyoFreePress Tuesday, September 23 2014 @ 11:22 AM CDT
  View Printable Version 

Do me a favor, dear cherry-pickers

The true problem of bad faith (self-deception) stems evidently from the fact that bad faith is faith.
- From a chapter titled The "Faith" of Bad Faith of Existential Psychoanalysis by Jean-Paul Sartre


I'm still on a writing binge in the middle of a funny survival game between the dying PC and the dying me, whose rule says whichever survives the other is the loser. Actually I was working on something to be titled Burning desire for international recognition or collective narcissism of the yellow Hottentots. But I suspended it, because as usual I felt it would be useless to come back over and over to my audience trapped in a perpetual mauvaise foi with such a no-nonsense argument. Now, for one last time, let me tell you what the real implication of cherry-picking is for our online interchange. Sorry for my nasty curveball. I'm not good at tickling your ears.

I launched this website solely for my Han-Anpo (anti-security treaty) advocacy. To that end, I was focusing on political issues in early days of my blogging. Then I realized I had to talk more about social issues underlying them. When I learned that didn't work either, I shifted the focus to cultural issues. I talked a lot about art, especially music, but again to no avail. Finally it belatedly dawned on me that our fundamental difference lies in philosophy although I was reluctant to resort to it. When I was young, I studied philosophy a lot. But I knew a retired businessman could be nothing more than a lay philosopher.

Still today the way(s) American visitors to this site view the U.S.-Japan partnership remains unchanged. They don't think it's an essential issue. They think, "Let's keep it there until the problem solves itself; it can't be helped if the ambivalent feelings grow on both sides of the wrong partners. The same thing often happens in our families."

All along I have tried to share my first-hand observation and experience because for better or for worse I am the only one in this community who knows the politics, society and culture of this country inside out. Most of the time you said you understood me, by and large. In fact, though, you didn't, at all.

Not that you were lying

In 1936 Billy Mayhew wrote a lovely song titled It's a Sin to Tell a Lie. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposed a new rule that said: It's a Sin to Tell the Truth. For an intriguing reason, however, the new rule has never superseded the old one that all boiled down to this notion: "Honesty simply means not telling lies." That is why the American people still keep singing the same old tune about the sin. Now it's a sin whether you tell a lie or truth. Actually, you are totally at a loss over what to say to remain innocent. All you can do is to engage yourselves in incoherent talks over invented issues.

Unfortunately, the same intellectual and moral vacuum has spread over the entire Pacific-rim region, from which I'm inclined to exclude China. This epidemic has left Japan in the most disastrous situation because the country is where the East has met the West in the most unfortunate way. Now Japan has turned into a cultural wasteland.

If the climate in the European cultural sphere is a little different, it must be attributable to the fact that unlike the Pacific-rim nations, European countries, including Russia, were immunized against the fake culture reimported from the "New World."

Amid WWII, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an essay on phenomenological ontology titled Being and Nothingness. The French philosopher devoted its Part 1, Chapter 2 entirely to the topic of mauvaise foi (bad faith or self-deception.) Ten years or so later, he wrote Existential Psychoanalysis to elaborate on this point in which he detailed the essential difference between falsehood, i.e. lies, and mauvaise foi.

Sartre argued that although you may say nonchalantly that bad faith is "a lie to oneself," there is a subtle but fundamental difference between the two. There, he almost sounded like saying that lies are far more benign than bad faith, although being an atheist himself, he never implied bad faith is a sin, either. According to him, "a man does not lie about what he is ignorant of." In other words, an ignoramus will never lie.

This really clicks because Hitler wasn't a liar. He was a legitimate leader of the nation who was elected by the German voters under the Weimar Constitution just like the Black Kenyan Monkey was by their American counterparts 76 years later.

Don't take me wrong, however; this is not to say there's anything categorically wrong with your habit of cherry-picking. Apes don't cherry-pick because they will never be in bad faith. The ability of cheating self is inherent only to a creature in a more advanced stage of evolution. Since bad faith is a double-edged sword, you can use it effectively if you have a certain amount of creativity. But if you are one of those change-resistant people, you will end up cutting conjoined twins into two dead pieces.

Let's assume you have two candidates from whom you are going to pick one as your girlfriend, you certainly select the one who falls on your type. But once you've made her your girlfriend, you become aware she has too many shortcomings to be an ideal mate. Now you are prone to developing ambivalent feelings toward this woman. Most likely, you choose to stay with her. Are you not cherry-picking by doing so? Although you are unwilling to admit it, that's exactly what you are doing, a little belatedly, and without success.

Likewise, you often develop a love-and-hate relationship toward something, e.g. the country you live in, the political party you vote for, etc. Here I'm not talking about a business decision where a quantifiable tradeoff between benefits and costs, or opportunities and risks is all that matters. Like Sartre, I'm talking about life.

The former yakuza member I mentioned in my previous post has chosen to stay with his home country he thinks should perish, primarily because he can't live without the welfare benefits and tax-exempt status granted by the nanny state. It's a vicious circle; the more he becomes dependent on the nation, the more his grudge flares up, and the more his resentment intensifies, the more he is addictively attached to the country. To him the only conceivable solution to what Sartre termed "inner disintegration" was to fence himself in a real or imaginary prison, almost voluntarily, where he doesn't have to face his real self in the mirror.

If you are a skillful cherry-picker, you can draw a picture of a utopia while staying with a dystopia, or vice versa. Basically your dilemma is none of my business. Yet, I don't think you are playing it very fair if you keep floating aimlessly back and forth between pros and cons entailed in the subject at hand. It's counterproductive, to say the least. We always go round in circles because we keep speaking the same ill-defined words over and over. We stop only when we get tired. And every time we resume our discussion, we start at the point where we started the last time. · read more (51 words)
  View Printable Version 

No mirrors in the cage

Frequently [mauvaise foi (self-deception)] is [mis-]identified with falsehood. We say indifferently of a person that he shows signs of bad faith or that he lies to himself. We shall willingly grant that bad faith is a lie to oneself, on condition that we distinguish the lie to oneself from lying in general. Lying is a negative attitude, we will agree to that. But this negation does not bear on consciousness itself; it aims only at the transcendent. The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding. A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of.
- From Existential Psychoanalysis by Jean-Paul Sartre


Jesus, I made the same mistake once again. I shouldn't have started my previous post with a mention of MSR before taking the necessary precautions. MSR stands for Mirror Self-Recognition Tests, a method to test cognitive abilities in children and animals.

Most of "US" fear the mirror like some wild animals are scared to death at the sight of fire. Narcissists seem to be exceptions. But actually I suspect narcissism is nothing but the reverse side of the fear of self.

It belatedly dawned on me that I'd underestimated the ferocity of "OUR" instinctive response to the real existential threat only when I was working on a new piece which now deals with "narcissism of the Hottentots." Some forty years ago a former Japanese Ambassador to Argentina named Kawarazaki said in a speech to the effect that the Japanese are the only species that is uglier than the Hottentots. If I remember it correctly, the controversial remarks eventually cost him his job as a diplomat. But nobody could deny he was just too honest. The wicked Queen in Snow White says to the mirror on the wall: "Mirror, mirror, who's the fairest one of all?". Now I'm asking myself: "Why are there so many narcissists in the nation of yellow Hottentots?".

I am not a narcissist myself, whether or not I look pretty much like a Hottentot, or Pigmy. So I don't particularly like to look at my own battered, wrinkled face. But unlike most of US, I don't fear the mirror. Actually I don't even need a mirror in the first place because I already know what I am, inside out. I am an ailing 77-year-old now dying in dire poverty, who is still being robbed of 20-40% of his pension by the municipal government for his consumption of radioactively contaminated oxygen. It has never been the other way around in my lifetime; not once have I extorted someone else's fruits of labor in the way the small-time thieves at the City Hall are doing to me right now. It's a different issue whether it's their fault or mine. But one thing is for sure: this cannot be a paranoiac delusion.

The reason I mentioned MSR, anyway, is because no one seems to care about OUR constant failure in the mirror test. Among a variety of versions of MSR, there is an interesting method called "the Rouge Test" in which an experimenter surreptitiously places a dot, using rouge makeup, on the face of a human child or an ape. Researchers have reported that most of the time the subject before the mirror tries to remove the embarrassing stain from its own face.

They have never thought about modifying the rouge test so it can be used for adults. But if there was such a version around, I suspect most human adults would try to wipe out the red mark from the reflection in the mirror. On the other hand, they would claim the credit for someone else's achievement when they found in the mirror a man with a trophy in his hand. The test result would reveal how the human race has developed its sense of "we-ness."

In the above-quoted passage from his Existential Psychoanalysis, Sartre wanted to say a lie is a conscious falsehood whereas mauvaise foi (self-deception) largely remains unconscious. This is an utter truism. But beware, a truism is sometimes truer than the truth. That is why the French philosopher thought an ontological approach was necessary to unravel the mechanism of self-deception.

POSTSCRIPT: If you are not familiar with ontology, here's my way of defining it. It's something that demands the disambiguation of tricky (or convenient) pronouns, especially YOU, WE, and THEY, as they are used in public discourse. You wonder: "What good would it do to precisely define and redefine these words every time any one of them comes up in our debate?". I couldn't care less if you feel it's unnecessary.

Some ten years ago I became acquainted with a funny guy named Maeda at a fast-food outlet near my workplace in central Tokyo. Perhaps he was in his late-50s or early-60s. He had a big scar on his cheek. We talked a lot about politics which revealed Maeda was a kind of anarchist although his antisocial vocabulary was quite limited and by and large second-hand. On the other hand he was reluctant to tell me his personal background in detail. All I learned in subsequent conversations between us is that he was a former member of a yakuza syndicate, and now he was jobless because he had somehow been kicked out of the organization in which he'd spent his entire "career." He added he was applying for the welfare benefits because unlike company employees, he wasn't entitled to any pension program. He hinted that he had recently kicked the habit of drug abuse.

I don't have the slightest idea of Maeda's whereabouts because I haven't heard a word from him in eight years or so. But my assumption is that although he is now on benefits, Maeda is behind bars for peddling illegal drugs or abusing them himself. If I am right, it's a happy ending for his life because I hear there's no mirror available in jail for security reasons. I sometimes suspect so many people almost voluntarily fence themselves in a real or imaginary prison simply because the mirror scares them to death.

On the contrary, if Maeda's cell was equipped with a mirror by any chance, it would be like living in hell because day in, day out, he would have to face a man who harbors an irresistible animosity against the society which extends a helping hand to him through the welfare program. Nothing can be more excruciating than receiving support from one's enemy. By comparison, the embarrassment caused by the scar on your face is nothing but an April breeze. · read more (82 words)
  View Printable Version 

Which is to Ape Which?



I don't know if it was just out of curiosity when psychologist Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. carried out the mirror self-recognition tests (MSR) in the early-1970s. On the other hand, if you look at this intriguing paper written by Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga of Primate Research Institute attached to Kyoto University, you can tell that they are seeking a clue to the mechanism of intellectual evolution.

In a recent post, I referred to the President of the United States as a Black Kenyan Monkey. At that time I feared I might be criticized by a monkey-rights group for my discriminatory use of the word "monkey." But on the contrary, an American visitor to my website lodged a protest, saying it wasn't the right thing to insult the leader of a nation this way. Although I still suspect it was an undeserved compliment, here in this post, I'll address these creatures that look more or less like humans as "WE," while referring to chimpanzees as "THEY."

I'm very sure that most of US will fail in MSR because it's now evident that WE have lost the life-size view of OURSELVES. WE tend to talk big while actually acting very small. I'm often inclined to ask US these questions: "Who the hell are you? Exactly where are you within this picture you are talking about. Or are you talking about someone else's problem? Then what makes it your business?"

In the video embedded here, the brainless BBC reporter underplays the significance of the findings by the Japanese researchers at PRI. But actually, the learning ability demonstrated by this particular chimp here was already counter-intuitive to most of US. There's absolutely no reason to prejudge THEY won't outdo US in other types of intelligence tests. Toyota's Partner Robots are a different story. These cyborgs are stupid simply because they all mirror their developers. But to US, chimps are not a mirror.

As these researchers admit, their studies on primates have only just begun. There are quite a number of things to look into before they could possibly unravel the mysteries about evolution. The following are some of them.

First and foremost, the researchers should try to find out THEIR ability to conceptualize. Unlike generalization all of US is so good at, conceptualization takes a sharp analytical mind. If chimps fail to pass this part of the exam, what the researchers call THEIR sense of self-agency doesn't mean anything more than it does with some of US who know no principle to which to commit themselves with professionalism. At the same time, the absence of the ability to abstract things hinders THEM from having a sense of purpose, which in turn disable THEM in many ways. Most importantly THEY can't identify the real issue from among many red herrings because now THEY can't internalize anything that is relevant to THEIR own lives.

According to Wikiquote.com, Voltaire once said, "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." If he had been a researcher at PRI, he would have said, "Let's call him just an ape rather than something closer to a human being if he is only good at answering the question we gave him."

Neither will THEY be able to prioritize tasks so as to optimize the tradeoff between selecting one and deselecting it.

Most importantly, THEY, WE, or any other "higher" animals in a certain condition are motivated by the "need of self-actualization" as American psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized, though a little too schematically. When you are motivated by something other than the instinct for survival, you don't need the snacks as "additional incentives" as the BBC reporter puts it.

Another aspect to be looked at is THEIR sociality. There's no communication where there is no dialectical exchange of feedback. As Jean-Paul Sartre observed, communication starts with the understanding that every one of US has his own self-awareness. So the question here is whether chimps are aware that THEY are all Being-for-others.

We already know THEIR learning curve is beyond OUR imagination. But this leaves US wondering how good THEY are at teaching. As a general rule, a teacher can't effectively share his idea with his student if he doesn't have this sense of being-for-others.

When it comes to languages as the tools for communication, I suspect THEY would outperform most of US, especially the Japanese and Americans, in learning a "foreign" language. Judging from THEIR super high-context screech which is very similar to contemporary Japanese and English, it would be a piece of cake for THEM to pick up either language. Especially I'm very sure chimps would by far outperform the Japanese if THEY were taught English in the right way.

Needless to say, communication is the only enabler of the synergy effect to be pursued through a coordinated action.

I am not an animal lover myself. Not that I hate animals. How can I hate them when I know they don't have the worst vice inherent to the human race which Sartre called mauvaise foi (self-deception)? THEY never lie. Sometimes chimps may have a dream like humans. But unlike most of US, when THEY wake up, THEY don't mix up the dream with reality.

Aside from THEIR perfect honesty, I know very little about THEM. Yet I am reasonably sure that some, if not all, of THEM will pass these tests. And that is enough to convince US that the average chimp is as smart as his human counterpart. You may say his brain weighs only 14 oz, 59-77% lighter than the human brain and the neurons in his brain are outnumbered by 20-56% by the brain cells of a human being. But so what? Just compare the simplest form of personal computer of the early-1980s against the old mainframe machine. And think about what the Internet has enabled US. WE have just developed the addictive habit to gather tons of information which is totally irrelevant to OUR lives. It can be that THEY know how to economize the use of the limited resource.

The last and most important test should address this question: Do THEY have the abilities to define THEIR own rules for the game to play, redefine them, and sometimes defy them? Let's pose this question differently: Can WE expect THEM to think and act creatively? WE already know that creativity is something WE can't expect from most of US who can't tell art from crap, for instance. This question brings us back to Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution once again.

Guess what, it will be a real challenge not for the chimps, but for the researchers at PRI to prepare themselves for the final exam in which to gauge THEIR creativity. They've got to be creative and inventive enough themselves in order to come up with the methodologies for their cross-sectional as well as longitudinal studies. In that sense, now it will be their turn to be subjected to the tests. At the same time some of US have to have their brains measured objectively and quantitatively because at this stage the researchers should select human samples as the yardsticks for comparison.

WE already know THEY outperformed US in the MSR tests. But that doesn't necessarily mean THEY will defeat US again in the final exam. As an impartial referee, I can't visualize chimps doing music in the way Hot Club of Cowtown does. Neither is it likely that THEY hold an exhilarating sporting event in a charming setting like Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland. · read more (73 words)
  View Printable Version 

Practical dialectic - PART 3: A book written for nobody

CONTINUED FROM PART 2 OF MY LECTURE ON PRACTICAL DIALECTIC

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
- Henri Bergson


Believe it or not, nobody studies economics, business administration, accounting, computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, literature, psychiatry, and politics for sixty years just in order to become able to crack a witty joke or two, or sharpen his caustic tongue. To emphasize my point here, let me summarize below the basic rules and manners for dialectical interchange.

1. Take serious arguments seriously.
2. Drop all that contempt and cynicism for anything beyond your comprehension, and pay due respect for those who know what you don’t, or who do what you can’t.
3. Always subject yourself to “the pain of study” to catch up with or overtake people ahead of you.
4. Otherwise, go to hell.

There’s nothing particularly lofty or esoteric in this code of conduct. Basically it's a matter of commonsense. Even kindergarten kids at Robert J. Sternberg's psychology class of Yale University will have no difficulty understanding it.

Actually this is the single most important lesson I have learned from Jean-Paul Sartre.

I encountered Sartre 58 years ago. On February 14 three years later, when I was a junior at the school of economics of Keio University, a female student studying English literature on the same campus gave a couple of gifts to her live-in boyfriend, that I was. One of them was a 45-RPM record in which trumpeter Chet Baker and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan played My Funny Valentine. The other item was Sartre's play titled Nekrassov. It's funny, but although I wasn't particularly impressed by the Molieresque farce satirizing the right-leaning newspapers such as Figaro, and French communists at the same time, I think it's this lighthearted play that got me irreversibly hooked on the French philosopher.

Today not a few Japanese still celebrate on July 14 their Pari-sai, Paris Festival, in one way or the other. But in those days, a greater number of people filled bars and restaurants on the Ginza streets, downtown Tokyo, to commemorate the day which the French call La Fête Nationale. These Japanese drunk champagne and sang Shanson, chansons, without knowing courageous Parisians stormed the Bastille on that day in 1789 and that the death toll of the French Revolution reached 16,000-40,000, if you forget about other one million lives lost in the subsequent Napoleonic wars.

Small wonder it was considered especially trendy in the late 1950s through the first half of the '60s to talk about French literature, cinema and philosophy among "educated" Japanese. This lasted until the days Japan started overtaking one West European country after another, GDP-wise. Needless to say, Sartre couldn't escape this bastardization. Against this social background, not a few students of my generation became hooked on the French thinker regardless of their majors. It's no accident that most of them stopped talking about him, at least on weekdays, as soon as they graduated from school. It is true still today we see here and there a small number of Sartrean remnants from the days the Japanese were fantasizing about the French culture. I call them
WEEKEND SARTREANS because that's exactly what they are.

For my part, Sartrean ideas kept haunting me throughout my adulthood. One day, decades after I became a corporate warrior, I realized the short (5 ft 025 in,) cross-eyed, nicotine addicted Monsieur Sartre was still there on my mind. I think the reason I have drifted far away from weekend Sartreans and we have never crossed each other again is because I have a peculiar trait to constantly test my thoughts against reality of life, and vice versa. Although I didn't have a particularly good comprehension of Sartre's ideas as compared to these guys, I learned something more important from his attitude toward life. I call it integrity, but he called it constant pursuit of liberation from mauvaise foi (self-deception.) Throughout his lifetime (1905-80) he strictly adhered to his existentialist principle, while at the same time keeping himself open to the constant challenge from changing reality.

In 1943 he published Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. They say it was meant to be an antithesis to Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927.) I don't know if that was the case because I am not very familiar with the works of the German philosopher. But either way, I suspect Sartre should have attempted to transcend Henri Bergson's metaphysics before anything else. He first became attracted to philosophy, as a teenager, when he read Bergson's essay Time and Free Will.

Sartre's ontology focused almost solely on human consciousness, which he called lêtre-pour-soi (being-for-itself) as against the material world which he termed lêtre-en-soi (being-in-itself.) From this lay philosopher's point of view, his approach was not really flawless. For one thing, since being-in-itself is essentially self-contained, and thus motionless, his ontology leaves you wondering how to explain moving objects. If I remember it correctly, he said a being-in-itself in motion, such as the wind or the sea wave is nothing but a "disease of being." This wasn't convincing enough.

More importantly, he talked practically nothing about animals as if to get around these questions: "Do some of them have consciousness? And if they do, how does it affect the evolution. or extinction, of nonhuman species?". If Sartre hadn't ignored animals, he might have written something that went beyond Bergson's Creative Evolution. However, I don't think it's his fault. The author of the classic of existentialism was too preoccupied with human affairs because he wrote it in the midst of the occupation of Paris by Nazi Germany.

Then in the late-1950s, amid the bloody Algerian Independence War, Sartre found a tough challenge to his existentialist thesis arising from the Third World. Against this backdrop, he published in 1960 Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume 1, to synthesize his thoughts with dialectical materialism of Karl Marx.

There's no such thing as a synthesis that is immune from negation forever. Marx wrote Das Kapital at the height of the First Industrial Revolution. Sartre intended to bring it up to date so as to address issues particular to the second phase of Industrial Revolution, although some of his terminology (proletariat, bourgeoisie, etc.) were almost outdated by that time. By the same token, Critique of Dialectical Reason was soon to be sublated because we were to see the arrival of the Internet Era in a matter of a quarter century. So it's a pity that he died in 1980 without updating Critique of Dialectical Reason one step further himself, or being challenged from that angle by someone else. Judging from the feedback I've received thus far in response to my post titled The Death of the What?, nobody seems to need a philosophy for the 21st century. The yawning gap between technology and its users is further widening at an accelerated pace. This is an unmistakable sign that we have already chosen the path to ruin.

The situation in that respect is even more disastrous in this country. One case in point is a typical Japanese "philosopher" by the name of Yoshiro Takeuchi. He is the very person who first introduced Critique of Dialectical Reason to the Japanese audience some fifty years ago. But it hasn't crossed his mind for a split second that it's his duty to his audience as well as the French author to update it to something that meets the real challenge of the Internet era. This, alone, indicates that he doesn't understand what dialectic is all about.

In the last half century, Takeuchi has made his living by peddling around ideas borrowed from the French philosopher. There's nothing particularly wrong with making money from someone else's ideas. Actually I thought I owed him something. On the eve of Anpo Toso (the nationwide protests against the Japan-U.S. security treaty of 1960,) I contacted the up-and-coming professor of philosophy, that he was, to deepen my understanding of existentialism. He helped me neatly digest Sartre's ideas when we met in person and exchanged letters. But in those days either of us knew nothing about the real world. In the subsequent half century, I've had to change myself, while he has remained unchanged all along because of his physical and intellectual laziness. Now the self-proclaimed Sartre expert is totally out of touch with the reality of the 21st century. Small wonder he still remains a computer-illiterate and is writing letters and manuscripts with a ballpoint pen in his wrinkled hand.

These are why I'm inclined to call him a retired
WEEKDAY SARTREAN. We all know what it's like when a weekday person faces a post-retirement life where everyday is a Sunday. But you can't imagine how a retired weekday philosopher can adapt himself to the reality of life for the first time in his lifetime.

In 2009, I found out on the web that Takeuchi was (and still remains) around living in a luxurious retirement home on the outskirts of the capital. The 80-something-year-old is now presiding over a small "study" group. By now he has exhausted his pet subjects - wars and revolutions overseas, and the class struggle at home, which is an imaginary thing in this classless society. That's why Takeuchi and his half-a-dozen disciples are now focusing primarily on this weird cultural climate characterized by the Tennoist cult. There's nothing wrong with "confronting" it, as they word it. But obviously it's not a task the retired weekday Sartrean and the remnants of weekend Sartreans could possibly handle. The most important thing is that the link between Sartre's ontology or dialectic and their battle against the Tennoist cult is fatally missing. Quite naturally, now Takeuchi looks more like a guru than what he actually is: yet another retiree suffering senile dementia. And his disciples look more like cultists than ordinary citizens suffering juvenile dementia who actually work at the office on weekdays and have fun discussing Sartre on weekends.

I was invited to attend their secret meeting to "size each other up." Sickened by the sheepish attendees at the pointless meeting (there were only three or four of them at that time,) I challenged the guru's lukewarm views of the new administration of the Democratic Party of Japan and Obama's, which indicated he had no sense of urgency. Then the old fart solemnly proclaimed: "You should remember Jesus Christ started with 12 apostles to change the world." The megalomaniac seemed to imply I was Judas Iscariot. I decided it was a total waste of time to mix with these bastards whose wavelength is miles apart from mine. Since then I haven't talked to them again.

I'm too tired to repeat my argument about the terminally-ill nation named Japan. To make a long story short, you can trace back the incurable disease at least to the mid-19th century. The Japanese have since suffered the pathological fixation to the idea of Wakon Yosai (learning from the West while keeping the Japanese spirit intact.) They have adamantly refused to accept tangible and intangible imports from the West as antitheses to the Japanese spirit, though with excruciatingly ambivalent feelings toward them. Another mantra of Fukoku Kyohei (building a strong nation with military might,) which was the real purpose of the Wakon Yosai exercise, had already been in place as an inviolable synthesis.

When the idea of dialectic was imported from Germany, it was standing on its head from the beginning. Douglas MacArthur didn't have the guts to turn all this around. Without straightening out the inversion, he ordered us to replace the military might with the economic might.

Even today in Japan, a synthesis always comes first and remains there until the end of time. At times the same synthesis has to be reconfirmed against possible antitheses. But that doesn't constitute a major problem because the Japanese have unparalleled skills with which to neutralize or sanitize heterogeneous elements. Every time that happens, they conduct the ritual called Dibeto (debate.) As I always say, an issue is debatable here only when the correct answer is given beforehand.

In this country, a man who does thinking is completely out of place like a fish that does walking. · read more (54 words)
  View Printable Version 

Practical dialectic - PART 2: To save one is always better than to save none

CONTINUED FROM PART 1 OF MY LECTURE ON PRACTICAL DIALECTIC

Creativity refers to the potential to produce novel ideas that are task-appropriate and high in quality. Creativity in a societal context is best understood in terms of a dialectical relation to intelligence and wisdom. In particular, intelligence forms the thesis of such a dialectic. Intelligence largely is used to advance existing societal agendas. Creativity forms the antithesis of the dialectic, questioning and often opposing societal agendas, as well as proposing new ones. Wisdom forms the synthesis of the dialectic, balancing the old with the new. Wise people recognize the need to balance intelligence with creativity to achieve both stability and change within a societal context.
- From What is the Common Thread of Creativity - Its Dialectical Relation to Intelligence and Wisdom by Robert J. Sternberg, Yale University (April 2001, American Psychologist)


Where do we find ourselves now?

I may look to have shifted my focus from evolution to dialectic. But believe me, I'm still on evolution and will stay there until the day I finally write myself off. It's hard to explain why I feel that way, but I think it will make a big difference to my last glimpse of the world whether its residents are heading for an advanced stage of evolution or quickly reversing the process of evolution in the last 70 million years as if in the fast-motion trick. Now I'm not concerned about anything else. What good would it do to go find another foe when I'm already bogged down in the endless battle against small-time thieves in the municipal office?

Rest assured, however, nobody begs you to remain a human being if you don't feel like it. I just want to find it out.

Some of you will say, "Don't worry, we will never be tailed animals once again." Maybe you are right about tails. Yet there's no denying some of us look very close to the tailless monkeys, i.e. apes.

It's also useless to resort to our ability to recognize ourselves in the mirror as if it were a distinctive feature of mankind. Apes and many other animals have the same sense of self. Actually the only thing that separates humans from apes is dialectical sense of self.

In his Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre gave man two attributes, lêtre-pour-soi (being-for-itself) and lêtre-pour-autrui (being-for-others.) The real implication of his ontology is that among many other "social animals," human beings are the only species that can interact dialectically with others, and their own selves at the same time.

In order to find out how people are actually communicating among one another, I have collected a variety of specimens on the web and in the streets in the last nine years since I started blogging. By now I have concluded from my observation that I'm not fretting over nothing. 99.9% of participants in online and offline discourse are just shuffling second-hand information purely on an ear-to-mouth basis even without noticing that's what they are doing.

You may say, "But, in fact, we are the only species which is able to do cross-border communication through the network of personal computers, for instance." If you are stupid enough to believe in the same old myth about information revolution, I recommend you read my essay titled The Death of the What?. Unless something vestigial is growing too fast in your brain, you will understand these technologies are all misused, or underused at best, simply because dialectical interactions between the developers and users of new technologies are missing there. Essentially that's what Karl Marx noticed at the height of the First Industrial Revolution one and a half centuries ago.

You will still insist: "What about our ability for trans-cultural communication? Can a chimp effectively communicate with an orangutan?" Let's face it: YES, they can do what we are doing between two peoples with different cultural backgrounds. As I told you here, the "machine translation" available on the web is nothing but a disaster. Now it looks as though Google Japan gives a dictionary to a chimp to have him translate an English text into Japanese, or vice versa. Just for example, the Google chimp totally destroyed my recent post titled Embroideries on a big canvas like this. In theory, even translation between a low-context language and a high-context one should not be an impossible task. But in reality, it is.

Almost for the last six decades, nation's "top-notch" computer scientists and linguists have made strenuous effort to develop translation software. And now Google Japan has decided the technology is mature enough to help English-illiterate Japanese understand English texts. But as any really bilingual person can tell, that is not the case - far from it.

In the last several years Toyota has been working on a series of its proprietary "Partner Robots." The second-last robot was the one who plays the violin. No one can tell what good it would do to ask him to play "music" for you. Most recently nation's flagship car manufacturer unveiled yet another friendly cyborg which is able to converse with people. Toyota proudly says now he is able to answer any question you may ask. It's a shame that robotics engineers in Japan still don't understand a robot can't be any smarter than his creators. The only thing the electronic parrot can do is to mirror these engineers in all their stupidity. It's just that the new robot can field any question because in this country, and the rest of the world to a lesser degree, questions an interviewer asks of the interviewee are 100% predictable and the answers to such silly questions are also planted beforehand. Example:

You: "What are some of your concerns about the situation here?"
PR: "Problem No. 1 is how to achieve the growth target without further widening the budget deficit. Problem No. 2 ...."
You: "Hold on, Mr. Cyborg. How would you fix your Problem No. 1?"
PR: "Hmm ... First of all we should think about further stepping up measures for QE. Then the Japanese currency will weaken against the greenback which will in turn reduce our trade deficit. As a result, the government can expect the tax revenue to grow significantly. Easier said than done, though. But I believe we should try hard to narrow the deficit this way. There's no panacea, you know."

How smart.

These guys are fully conditioned to selectively respond to stimulus words strictly in predetermined ways. And this is what they call COMMUNICATION. It's as though they are taking a multiple-choice exam everyday.

Basically the same thing is happening across the Pacific. Take a look at overly schematized way Robert J. Sternberg "analyzes" the mechanism in which man's intelligence develops. The unintelligent way of defining intelligence, uncreative way of defining creativity and unwise way of defining wisdom of a professor at the prestigious university are an unmistakable sign that America's intellectual decline is no longer reversible. In another paragraph of the same article, he shows the guts to mention Hegel. But it's obvious he hasn't read a single page of the German philosopher. I felt inclined to quote the intellectual rubbish, nonetheless, simply because the empty-headed professor is absolutely right when he says dialectic plays a pivotal role in intellectual development.

Apparently something unprecedented is happening in the "developed" countries presumably because of premature aging of human brains. I don't think it's the right thing to do to give a "quick-and-dirty" answer to the question of this magnitude. If I had time, I would certainly relearn from neuroscientists such as Arnold B. Scheibel about the aging patterns of the human brain, which were revealed only by their longitudinal studies. But in the interim I've tentatively concluded the following are how the overall intellectual degeneration was caused, and accelerated in the last quarter century.

While the context-dependency of a language is, more often than not, inversely related to what Betty Friedan interchangeably calls the ability of contextual thinking or "crystallized" intelligence, a downward spiral was touched off when the East Asians, perhaps excluding the Chinese, started using their high-context languages as if their context dependency were as low as that of Indo-European languages. The Japanese, for instance, invented a funny language often referred to as Japlish or Janglish. Then, the new language spoken in one of the most high-context cultures started to spread westward like an epidemic along with their industrial products. Now flooded with Japlish, English-speaking people are using their mother tongue as if it were a high-context language. A typical example is Twitter. It has a striking resemblance to Haiku, Japanese poems composed in the 17-syllable format. This makes me suspect Netizens are now using technologies of the 21st century to do what the Japanese people were doing 400 years ago. Presumably the gap is even wider. Today we hear everywhere on the web something very similar to chimp's super high-context screech.

I think it's against this backdrop that the collective intelligence of the human race is growing old, prematurely and in the wrong way - the way in which the cells in dendrites are hindered from branching like "dendritic fireworks" as a neuroscientist once described it. This underlies perpetual communication failure taking place everywhere in the twilight years of the American century. The Internet has just accelerated the process.

In the last one and a half centuries East Asian countries have been looking more and more like a vast graveyard of the Western civilization. But now Western nations are quickly turning into a huge junkyard for this cultural wasteland named Japan, and some other Asian countries. That is evident from the insatiable appetite the Westerners are showing to Oriental rubbish such as Japan's manga, anime and AKB48. Now they can't tell art from crap. I know it's the ultimate taboo to mention our intellectual degeneration. But let's face it: there is no evolution where there is no dialectical interchange at work among community members.

Now let me come back to dialectic. The textbook of logic defines the last step of the dialectical interchange as Aufhebung. The German word is sometimes translated as "sublation" but to be more precise it means "transcendence" of both the initial thesis and the antithesis to come up with a new thesis, which is now called a synthesis. This word also needs some explanation because it's somewhat tricky and misleading. As I said in Part 1 of my lecture on practical dialectic, a synthesis will never be reached just by meeting halfway.

Here's a quiz: What is the only thing the ape in the White House could change since he took office in 2009?

It's the hardest part of the entire exercise because in order to transcend the two contradictory propositions at a time, we've got to change ourselves mutually, instead of just converging the two. And you can't change yourself just by changing your terminology and rhetoric. You've got to find some catalyst in order to synthesize the different ideas. Sternberg calls it "wisdom," but it's actually a spontaneous commitment to a creative action.

Answer to the quiz: The definition of the word "change."

In this context, it's no accident that it's almost always with those who define themselves primarily as doers when we come up with a synthesis. Quite naturally, they shy away from our online debates because they are too preoccupied with what they are doing in the real world. Instead of giving a feedback by words, they often react to my theses, or just act on their own as if to call for antitheses from me. That's why I classify them into the third category of the visitors to my website.

My big bosses in the Zurich headquarters used to call doers "Indians." Maybe it was meant to be a pejorative. But I talk about doers with the utmost reverence because I define them as professionals. How it sickens me every time I hear an amateurish activist say that he is working hard to enhance public awareness of injustice or wake up ignorant people to reality. Professionals don't care a bit about other people's ignorance.

There is a trap, however, for these doers: the going concern assumption. As Jean-Paul Sartre warned Albert Camus, author of L'Homme Revolte (The Rebel) amid the bloody Algerian Independence War, whatever is his cause, a rebel is prone to developing a mental dependency on his foes over time. That's why these down-to-earth grassroots activists tend to be too conservative. I think this is where my blog can play the role of catalyst for real change.

But this is not to say an NPO needs no professionalism. Real doers should always seek the best or a better tradeoff between their principle and its practicability. I know by experience that you can't optimize the tradeoff just by compromise. A good tradeoff can be achieved only by dialectical interactions. This is the only thing I learned through my 50-year career as a doer. A self-proclaimed man of deeds without professionalism is nothing but a man of words disguised as a doer - i.e. a liar.


Shihoko Fujiwara (center) at
Foreign Correspondents' Club
of Japan

Lara, Chen Tien-shi at her
new office of Waseda
University

In 2006 I met Ms. Shihoko Fujiwara for the first time when she contacted me seeking advice from this blogger. She had just set up the Japanese branch of a Washington-based anti-TIP (trafficking in persons) NGO named Polaris Project.

My advice all came down to this:

"Japan is a country where TIP, prostitution in particular, is subtly legitimized and highly institutionalized. In the face of this deep-rooted 'chain of oppression,' it's not only useless but also potentially harmful to single out 'illegal' prostitution. Our situation is so unique that it's far beyond the comprehension of your headquarters in Washington, let alone the U.S. State Department, the major sponsor of your worldwide activities. TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) and other U.S. laws mean absolutely nothing here. Neither should you be concerned a bit about fxxking tier placements by Condoleezza Rice (then Secretary of State.)"

Not that I expected Ms. Fujiwara to heed my advice. She was jotting down my words. And that was enough because she was, and still remains, a woman of deeds. I already knew she is a professional activist who knows what has to be done, what can be done, and what can't be done. She didn't look to be one of those daydreamers who refuse to understand you can't do anything without accepting a certain part of the given restraints. It would have meant absolutely nothing to her if I'd said, "Don't single out part of injustice." It goes without saying that to save one is far better than to save none.

Recently I learned from someone at the head office of the organization that PPJ isn't financially affiliated with Washington anymore. Judging from the frequent TV appearances of Fujiwara in recent years, her organization seems to have established itself solidly and is still growing - for better or for worse - which may or may not indicate her approach was wrong. But this leaves me wondering how she's managing the possible shortfall in cash with the subsidies from Washington totally cut off.

I wrote her a mail to suggest some countermeasures.

"They say there is no charitable tradition in Japan. There may be a certain truth in this notion. People who are committed to a cause of philanthropy with Mencius' spontaneity inherent to humanity are rarities in the nation of fake Buddhism. But remember it's not that an ism or a religion drives you to do charity -- it's always the other way around. I think there is a more important factor. If I were rich enough to be a benefactor, I would rather donate to someone who discloses duly audited and fully footnoted financial statements to the public than throw my money in the hat a beggar in the street puts before him. My question in this connection is: Do you have a plan to disclose to the public fullfledged balance sheet and income statement like your sister organization is doing? As you already know, when the Japanese government authorizes your activity as an NPO, it just passes a hot potato to you in exchange for a token grant. But when you have collected a larger amount of donations from wealthy individuals and corporations, you can also expect a larger amount of grants from the government because of the pump-priming effect it has."

It's very uncharacteristic of her, but Ms. Fujiwara hasn't responded thus far. Maybe she is sending me a signal that she no longer needs advice from this blogger, or she is just too busy - I don't know.

I used to attend seminars and conferences she organized, but not anymore. These days it's getting more and more frequent that I receive an invitation. But now it looks more like a fundraiser-type party where donors have fun chitchatting over "modern-day slavery." She may have forgotten that the size of the crowd is not her KPI. Yet I still believe my antithesis to her admirable cause has amounted to something a little more than doing nothing in the last seven years.

Another case in point is Lara, Chen Tien-shi. I became acquainted with her when I wrote a review piece of her book titled Stateless. I signed up for the membership in Stateless Network soon after Lara launched it, because, rather than although, I thought the principle of 1961 UN Convention on Statelessness, on which she'd set her goal, was rubbish, to say the least.

Several weeks ago, the secretariat of Stateless Network sent me a gentle reminder to warn me my annual membership fee was long overdue. In response I sent a mail to Lara, in which I wrote: "I know the Articles of Incorporation say anyone whose due goes delinquent for a certain period is subject to being expelled. At this moment I can't squeeze enough money to meet my obligation. Moreover, I don't want anyone to pay it for me, because that wouldn't solve the real problem. Therefore, please don't hesitate to oust me."

Soon I received her reply mail. She said: "I know we can expect invaluable contributions to our cause from you because you have a lot of experience and knowledge behind you. So let's forget about the money issue for now."

I have made it a rule to refrain, to the extent possible, from being critical about her way of organizing the group's activity. She already knows what I want to say. So It's not her fault that most other members even can't imagine there's something to be added to, or deducted from, the indisputable mantra from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They are just sitting around there to implement what they have been supposed to implement. That's why I don't want to deliver my heretical lecture to these guys - unless invited very explicitly. But just in case, the syllabus is being readied in my head. It goes like this:

"As we all know from the undisclosed income statement of our organization, we have only two income sources: the token grants from the government and the membership fees we are paying. Unfortunately donations remain just peanuts. Just to simplify our financial situation, let's assume our annual income is 1 million yen and that our experience tells we need 500K yen every year to effectively help one stateless person. Then we can't help any more than 2 people. That should mean we should never attempt to save, say, 10 stateless people, because, then, not a single person could be saved with our money which would now shrink to 100K yen per head. Spreading the limited financial resource this thin would be next to suicidal.

"So the real problem facing us is how to select 2 persons from among many other candidates who keep knocking at the door. Now we know we've got to have a set of criteria to avoid selecting these two purely on an arbitrary basis.

"I would say the single most important criterion is whether or not they have the spirit of self-help. The more a candidate recipient is willing to help himself, the more he deserves to be selected. After all you can't help someone who isn't self-reliant enough. If we chose someone just because he looked to best meet the UNHCR's description of a stateless person, it would be something like pouring water into a bucket with a big hole at its bottom."

In the last four years since we first met, Lara has taken me as seriously as I have taken her because of, rather than despite, the fact that our thoughts are miles apart. There's nothing left to be desired anymore.

My friendship with "DK" also started through my blogging activity. But the opposite is also true of our unusual relationship. When I was planning to launch this website back in 2004, I called a small software company in my neighborhood for some technical assistance. This company assigned the job to DK. He helped me find a decent blogging software and a reliable application hosting service provider from among many other alternatives. After the selection was done, he did the necessary configuration of the system for me.

When I financially went under in 2009, DK offered to shoulder an annual 50K yen I had been paying to the blog hosting company. His assistance didn't stop there. When the City Hall of Yokohama started robbing me of a good part of my pension for my consumption of oxygen, he donated me a monthly 70-100K yen over a 10-month period. It's funny, but this person sometimes reminds me that apes never do charity.

Aside from supporting me, DK does what he thinks he should do as an IT professional and the father of his 6-year-old son named Kai. As I wrote in the above-linked post, he recently found Kai a piano teacher after interviewing several candidates. According to him, one of his selection criteria was the ability to arouse Kai's interest in Baroque music not because he wants his son to become a musician, but because he wants to nurture respect for humanity in his son. Obviously DK has learned his lessons from my miserable failure that it's the surest way to conformism and mediocrity to instill, or let someone instill, contempt for civilization in a human being in his developmental stage.

I shouldn't forget to mention other Type 3 users of my blog, especially Dr. Hiroshi Shiono and the dentist. (The dentist's name is withheld because he is breaking the paramount rules of Japan's medical cartel by treating me all for free.) The two men have been doing extraordinary things to me just because my allegation against the cartel has resonated with them.

In the third and last installment of this dialectic series, I'll talk about Jean-Paul Sartre, the author of Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960.) In earlier paragraphs of this post, I said it's unlikely we will reach a synthesis on this website because we are not doers here. But it's a different story when it comes to a philosopher or anyone who is in a writing/speaking occupation. To him words are deeds, and deeds are words.

You may ask: "What about a blogger?" My answer: "Don't ask me." · read more (26 words)
  View Printable Version 

Indefinite Detention Of Americans Survives House Vote

A longtime regular of this website, known by his handle Diogenes of Arkansas, gave me permission to upload an interesting mail he'd sent me over the weekend. I'm responsible for the editing of the original text into the HTML format.


Hi Yu,

THIS, of course, is treason, but it goes leagues beyond treason. This is simply a small clue to something that is unprecedented in all of recorded history, but for the most part, hidden in plain sight. Not that there weren't dictators and monsters in charge of large masses of human beings and real estate in the past, capable of gigantic waves of genocide or enslavement or both, but the global scale of this program is what has never happened in all of history. What I'm about to describe is happening in ALL modern societies, and most people seem oblivious to it.

This occurred last month, but it is still relevant to what I posted to you the other day, which was only the uppermost tip of a very cold and gigantic iceberg. You and I won't live to feel the full effects of the big plan, which is openly spelled out in the U.N. program known as Agenda 21. In it, ALL life, and especially human life, is to be totally and completely controlled. This invisible (Because no media organ, Left, Right, Mainstream, or nearly all "Alternatives" is reporting this) program of enslavement--agreed to by nearly every country in the U.N.--is going full speed ahead. We have to recognize that this program is extremely long-term, generational, and hidden by gradualism, the goal of which is the total enslavement of the entire planet. There will be those few at the top, and the many at the bottom of the pyramid. All historical dictators and emperors--from Emperor Chin to Napoleon or Mussolini--dreamed of this final goal, but failed...until now.

Murder of Kissinger's "useless eaters" will be the order of the day. (This is being implemented right now with GMO food, vaccines, prescription drugs, chemtrails, and invisible to the eye technologies that poison human beings under the cover of cancer, heart attacks, and other conventionally known illnesses. It's a work in progress as it gets refined and/or implemented against the state's enemies--most other living breathing humans. In this country, we (the enemies of the state) can expect to be turned into dust with the DEW that Dr. Wood proved in her research. ALL American addresses are now GPS tagged, which is a military targeting technology. As my old man used to say as he was croaking: Here today, gone tomorrow!" Poof! This program was fully described in Leonard C. Lewin's '70s, fictional book "Triage.")

The big plan requires that ALL humans MUST be herded off the land, and moved into 21st century ideal cities, where everything is controlled--no cars, limited movement within this open prison, and all in the name of the new goddess called GAIA--the new earth religion, coined by that insane Brit. James Lovelock, who, in one of his books that I read, openly stated that (and I paraphrase here) "Radio-active waste is so safe that I would welcome having a brick of it underneath my bed to keep me warm during the cold days of winter. This was said in his argument that fossil fuels were more dangerous to the planet than atomic power. Whose to say which mental institution is suitable for such a madman, yet, he has the full Leftist/Green crowd totally in his control. Dr. Judy Wood's research shows that the control of the weather is total, hence, we see the emergence of Hurricane Erin--a storm that was created and as large and dangerous as the one that leveled New Orleans (also likely created and steered to its final location), but the totally controlled media in all forms ignored it. Thus, we have the fake monster of global warming/climate change to frighten people into submission. "Control of the weather by the U.S. Air Force? Are you insane?" But search the net with the terms "Owning the Weather by 2025" and see what pops up from 1996. Most people don't read, so they can't know what, in this case, Lovelock really says in print. I read. I know. I read all of them, but no one will listen to me. Reading is pointless, an exercise in futility. Yet, we, for example, in the U.S., are in the midst of a an ongoing series of unprecedented weather events that are more than likely being used to convince people of the fake Al Gore BIG LIE, that WE are the cause of these military created events--whose to say that China and Russia aren't in on this? Who can we trust? Even uttering such ideas makes one sound like an escapee from a high security mental institution! THIS...is what I feel like.

Agenda 21, of which Japan is signatory, requires that human beings will be herded from the country into "managed cities," where they will be under absolute totalitarian control. The words treason, evil, and other adjectives can't capture the pernicious sentiment of this insanity. While you and I may know of this global evil, your sons, neighbors, and most fools in Japan and on the planet are ignorant of it. And worse, even if you presented this to them in a lecture, presented with proof and evidence, most people wouldn't see it as being relevant to themselves. In other words, the dumbing down of the global public, a program that has been going on for over 100 years, has been a total success.

Imagine being in your little cubicle and turning on a 100 watt light. In seconds, the phone rings. It's your power company bleating that they have discovered that you are using an illegal light bulb (It should be a poisonous and toxic and/or ineffective light producing bulb instead.), and demand that you turn off your illegal product, or they will cut off your power--all of which can be done remotely with the introduction of smart meters. Yes, the surveillance society is so large that even your power usage is being monitored, unless you move to the country and have candles and/or solar panels for your light source. The power company will know when you are home, what devices you use and when, and will be creating a profile of which Big Brother will have total access to your privately/corporate-generated files. It's already happened here. A power company gave the police--without a legally required warrant--all the power usage of some fools that were connected to smart meters and were growing dope. The key note here is NO WARRANT. This is a total violation of the American constitution, but let's be realistic, we are ALL living in a totally lawless society (ies). Who's going to stop them? Who are these politicians? Are they aliens from outer space? If they have children, they must hate them with a vengeance? What human being would submit their children to such evil? Only psychopaths or space aliens--beings or inter-species predators that are incapable of guilt or shame or are without a conscience.

I could go on, but it would be more manure to pile on an already over fertilized pile of dung.

This is the emerging world in which not you nor I will fully witness. Like a bad fart, we are only getting some of the nasty fumes for now, but it's from a known source. It is with the greatest of luck that we are both very old and will soon die, so that we can't know and feel the experience of total helplessness, like flies caught in a spider's web, waiting for the fatal bite that may or may not come today.

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano describes the fate of those who have already lived this miracle in Latin America.

The Nobodies

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream
of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will
suddenly rain down on them - will rain down in buckets. But
good luck doesn't even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter
how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is
tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or
start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing. The
nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits,
dying through life, screwed every which way.
Who don't speak languages, but dialects.
Who don't have religions, but superstitions.
Who don't create art, but handicrafts.
Who don't have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the
police blotter of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them

RT


[POSTSCRIPT]

For those who have the motivation to confirm or deny the evidence I'm quoting, let me add a list of sites that I've collected for a while that are actively implementing this right now, or are exposing this evil plan. This is hardly an exhaustive list, of course. · read more (1,279 words)
  View Printable Version 

Practical dialectic - PART 1: An audience that isn't there

That myth [about the innate ability of early jazz musicians] is being perpetuated to this day by those who profess an openness to everything - an openness that in effect just shows contempt for the basic values of the music and our society. If everything is good, why should anyone subject himself to the pain of study?
- Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter, jazz critic and educator


An illustration of how dialectic works

I classify the visitors to my website, by their behavioral patterns, into the following categories:

(Type 1) Those who give me their feedback mainly online.
(Type 2) Those who give me their feedback rather offline.
(Type 3) Those who tend to give me their feedback by reaction rather than by words, or initiate their own action which provokes feedback from my side, either online or offline.
(Type 4) Those who just come and go.

Every month I have an estimated 53,000 visitors, including not a negligibly small number of Internet bots. But it seems Type 4 visitors who accidentally hit my website or opt to remain lurkers all the time account for approximately 96% of the incoming traffic. That translates into a little more than a monthly 2,000 visitors who bother to read my posts and your comments on them.

Since I don't intend to make this website a closed community, I bring forward my argument to all visitors regardless of their types, whenever I open a thread. There's no other way to deal with an unspecified number of people.

But at the same time, I could no longer afford to waste too much time exchanging noncommittal opinions as if we were yet another social networking community. I think that is the surest way to get around the real issues. Rest assured, however, I have picked up the skills to economize the time to deal with those people who are too used to "communicating" on the social media. These sociable people take it for granted intolerance of differences will inevitably lead to exchanges of rant. As always, they are wrong. There should be something in between, or to be more precise, something far beyond the comprehension of these kindergarten kids. Like my fellow countrymen who are obsessed with the myth of homogeneity, these kindergarten kids among my audience think a subject is debatable only when Otoshi-dokoro (a predetermined answer) is given beforehand. All I have to do when the ritual is going on is just to keep dancing with them.

On the contrary, communication among mature people always goes through the process which is called dialectical interchange..

A variety of dialectical methods have been advocated by thinkers ranging from Socrates, to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, to Karl Marx, to Jean-Paul Sartre. But the basic concepts underlying them don't differ that much. They all involve the following three steps:

1. THESIS
2. ANTITHESIS
3. SYNTHESIS

Unlike with most other websites, I present a thesis only after identifying a real issue from a myriad of false ones. The basic criterion I use to weed out nonissues is whether or not I can really internalize the subject at hand, so we won't waste our time discussing someone else's problems which can never be actionable for us. As I have reiterated more than a hundred times in this blog, asking a valid question, not giving a correct answer to it, is what my thesis, or any other dialectical thesis, is all about.

One of the typical ways to create a false issue is to politicize or ideologize what should not be politicized or ideologized. For one thing, people keep talking about workable solutions to the questions with energy sources. Some say "we" should stay with the fossil fuel. Some others say they prefer the nuclear energy, or they think "we" should go for recyclable energies. But I think very few of them are the operators of conventional power plants, experts in nuclear power generation, or scientists actually working on the development of alternative sources. They should know the idea that these nonprofessional or unprofessional people can make a difference just by chitchatting over their pet subject, while casting their ballots every second year, is nothing but an illusion.

How is it possible for those who can't even take care of themselves to take care of others? In that respect, the Chinese people are much smarter than the Americans or the yellow Yankees. For one thing, 大学, the Four Books on Great Learning, that recapitulate the Confucian principles put it like this: 修身斉家治国平天下. Most Northeast Asians, except the Japanese, think it's crucially important always to keep the life-size view of their own lives.

In Step 2 of the dialectical process, this demanding blogger expects you to reciprocate by raising a different question on the same issue I have identified, or redefine the same question I have posed from a different perspective. Since any question already includes an answer in it, you should always keep in mind that the answer is inseparable from the question. If you can really relate yourself to the issue at hand, you can't discuss the correctness of my answer without scrutinizing the validness of my question. It amounts to a fraud to insist you have a different answer to the same question.

This way my thesis hopefully leads to another thesis from your side, which is now called an antithesis.

Most recently I uploaded an essay in a multiple-book review format under the title of Embroideries on a big canvas. I thought the two books, Henri Bergson's Creative Evolusion and Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past, were debate-worthy when a massive cultural degeneration is under way in the U.S., Japan, and the rest of the world, to varying degrees. By now, one Type 1 and three Type 2 people have given me their comments. They have invariably said to the effect that my accusation against the 2003 UNESCO convention was baseless because preservation of intangible cultural heritage will always bring about innovation. It's as though they are unaware that old traditions preserved just for preservation's sake are as useless as fossils, mummies, or stuffed specimens exhibited in the museum.

To my dismay, they had totally ignored, either carelessly or deliberately, other paragraphs in which I depicted my firsthand experience as a lifetime educator and Wynton Marsalis' observation to support mine. My experience tells that where there is no dialectical interaction between an educator and his students, there will be no transmission of the understanding that professionalism coupled with innate spontaneity and creativity is the only enabler of a creative evolution. When I reminded them of these reasons behind my take on the de facto conspiracy by UNESCO, they all fell silent as if they hadn't said a word about my essay.

At first, I almost felt insulted by their kick-the-can tactic. But when the blood in my ragged cerebral arteries was about to reach the boiling point, I had second thoughts. I said to myself, "It's not their fault that they have been conditioned to selectively respond, strictly in predetermined ways, to their favorite stimulus words cherry-picked out of the total context. Mr. Obama is the one who should take the blame for the manipulation - so I heard. More importantly, they have the right to remain uncommitted to my cause and the basic rules and manners it calls for."

Now it looks as though we are exchanging non sequiturs between us. You may have learned about the Latin words in the English class. But just in case, I'll tell you what the Canadian schoolmaster taught us 40 years ago at the in-house language laboratory of IBM. He said: "When I first started teaching English here, I was really upset at the communication gap between the two peoples. For instance, I asked a Japanese student which he liked more, rice or bread. He answered, 'I prefer rice.' I asked why. He said, 'Because I am Japanese.' This is a good example of non sequitur."

If someone from among my audience had taken my serious thesis about creative revolution seriously, he would have raised valid questions, instead of looking for a logical flaw to nitpick in my thesis. For instance, he would have said something like this: "Essentially, creation and evolution are two incompatible ideas. Bergson's notion about individual 'embroideries' on a shared 'canvas' is nothing but an analogy for nothingness which is 'eternally prior', and not convincing enough to make the two foreign ideas concomitant."

Certainly this would have put my thesis into a different perspective, and made me expand the scope of my self-imposed reading assignment to Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism and other breeds of determinism such as teleology and mechanism. And most importantly, I would have felt an urge to revisit Jean-Paul Sartre, my lifetime philosophy teacher, so I could possibly convince my audience that man's evolution, or devolution for that matter, is not a predetermined and automatic process.

Another person who also took me seriously might have challenged me with respect to my take on Sheldrake's hypothesis. He would have said:

"As you wrote, the English biochemist fails to unravel the 'profound mystery' about man's creativity and spontaneity. But actually his dilemma is twofold. He also fails to clarify whether everything that appeared in the past is present or only part of it remains there today. There's more to it. You should have added another dimension to your argument if you wanted to zero in on the issue of creative evolution. As you've always told us, Japan is a nation where the East has met the West in the most unfortunate way. That should also mean the past met the present, and the present will meet the future, in the weirdest way in your country."

Certainly I would have really appreciated such an antithesis although what is at issue now is too complex to address in an essay or two.

Actually I have mixed feelings toward the past: its presence and its absence, and my part of the past and the rest of it. Yet, I'm reasonably sure when you lose someone or something you have once become committed to, you don't lose it to anyone else. It's gone forever, unless you find a sophisticated way to reestablish the bond.


The secular cemetery on the mountaintop where the
ashes of my parents are buried now

Some six years ago, I launched Yamamoto Family Websites, the first of its kind in Japan. At the beginning, my family websites consisted of three parts: "Cyber Museum," "Family Reunion Site" and "Memorial Service Site." If you had signed up with its two private parts, you would have seen the images of the secular burial site being sent real-time from the webcam installed there, while hearing musical pieces by Samuel Barber, Johannes Brahms and the like being streamed all the time.

But this setting didn't last more than two years because it didn't take me long to realize it had turned out to be my one-man show.

For one thing, I wanted to mend the protracted family feud by starting the Family Reunion Site. I thought this would help restore the family tradition by passing it down to the younger generations in our genealogy. But contrary to my intention, my mentally neotenized biological son made use of the site to refuel the same old infighting by dredging up his long-held grudges against his paternal grandmother and my siblings, as if to represent his mother, my ex-wife.

As I always tell you, my eldest son is a typical people person. You never know what it is like to have such a child if you don't have one, or you are a people person yourself. His pathology is such that he swallows everything without asserting himself. As a result, it's not that infrequent that he erupts in the face of a situation which a mature person can easily tolerate. Most of the time he directs his anger inward. More often than not, it's an implosion. But that is not to say he never explodes. He doesn't explode simply because he thinks he can't take it anymore. He does so only when he is very sure he isn't challenging the supposedly homogeneous society where harmony prevails. In that sense, his close kin, such as his biological father, or an uncle or aunt as his proxy, is the ideal target. This is the reverse side of his likable personality, which, in fact, mirrors the pathology of his home country.

Another reason I closed down the private sites was because not a single family member but the now-deceased brother-in-law, former Nissan executive, appreciated the Memorial Service Site either in the way I had expected.

As is the case with every Japanese family, we had a family tomb in a "Buddhist" temple where the ashes of all deceased family members were buried. But shortly before I launched the websites, I got involved in a dispute with the temple over 戒名., Kaimyo which means fancy Buddhist titles all of the dead should be given posthumously. At first, I said, "I don't need any Kaimyo for my parents." Their reply: "It's kind of a must for the deceased to have one." Then I asked, "How much would it cost me?" "That depends. But the minimum rate for the lowest rank would be in the neighborhood of 500K yen per body." That's why I had my parents' ashes dug up and moved to a secular burial place on a mountaintop, although I was well aware it would be a costlier solution.

Initially I thought my kids, siblings and in-laws, especially my younger brother who has settled down in Chicago since he was a Vice President at Bridgestone Firestone North America, would appreciate the setting which allowed them to visit his father's grave whenever they felt like it. But actually they let me down by sabotaging what I'd intended with the Memorial Service Site. According to Google Analytics, my surveillance tool, my younger brother, let alone his wife and sons, never visited it either physically or virtually. It looks as though he has forgotten he had a successful career in the auto industry only on the coattails of his father.

This is why in 2009 I wrote off my investment of 4-million yen, a fortune for a humble pensioner. Also this is how I wiped out a substantial part of my past. Now it's all gone like a web-dust.

However, it's not that everything has just disappeared. Now at the crossroads of the past and the future, I can still re-call the finest moments of my life I shared with these adorable faces in unforgettable places in the last seventy-seven years. Now I have realized that lasting creations from the past, such as good music, always help me re-create what has once been lost in the past, or make appear what has somehow failed to appear before. To me, creation, be it an artistic creation or a technological invention, is nothing but re-creation of the past. Plato's epistemology was not as superstitious as it looked when he said learning is nothing but recollection.

This is, however, not to say that creation is an easy task. It's possible only when an old tradition finds a spirit of innovation, or vice versa, either by serendipity or just by accident. That's basically why we can't expect something really new from those noble savages.

When the time comes, I will write myself off without leaving a trace of my physical existence, or at least minimizing it. But until then, I'll carry it on to re-create things that make my life worth living.

I know most of you think I'm lunatic because I constantly mix up my part of the past with the rest of it, and the presence of the past and the future with their absence. Some two years ago, an American visitor to my website gave me an offline comment on my way of thinking. In essence, he said I looked like a schizophrenic. The unlicensed shrink was absolutely right. These days I've been even more haunted by a surreal sense of watching a phantom parade going on before me. But I know I'm not alone.

Shortly before the May 23 crash in Tokyo Stock Exchange, Noriko Hama, professor at the Business School of Doshisha University, wrote an interesting essay for The Japan Times. In this article, she predicted Ahonomics (NOTE 1) is doomed to failure because it's yet another "automatic resort to Rip van Winkle economics (NOTE 2)." She wrote: "A rather terrifying passage from a poem by William Hughes Mearns comes to mind: 'Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.'"

NOTE 1: "Aho" means an idiot.
NOTE 2: Professor Hama called the Japanese system Rip van Winkle economics because she wanted to refer to "the lost two decades." But actually she should have called it Urashima Taro economics.

Obviously the Doshisha professor thought the Prime Minister is just the ghost of his grandfather who was an undercover CIA agent. But at the same time she might have meant to say all other characters appearing in the farce aren't there on the stair. For one thing, Abe keeps saying it all hinges on ordinary people in the private sector whether or not his revival plan, especially the now-famous "third arrow," will succeed. But in fact, we level-headed people know there is no private sector in this country. Now the phantom is expecting his fellow phantoms to resuscitate the dead society.

If some of you had shown the willingness to really participate in the dialectic interaction on the issue, we would have been able to deepen our debate over the presence of the past and the future, or the absence of them, and thus clarify the driving force of creative evolution, or the dynamics involved in devolution of mankind.

Fortunately, though, there still are a small number of Type 1 and Type 2 visitors to this website who opt to share my serious concerns seriously. Last November, for instance, I uploaded an essay under the title of In search of a brand new sociopolitical model. I'd thought it was the single most relevant issue in the wake of the failure of "the American Revolution." At that time one of the regulars from Arkansas, who calls himself Diogenes sent me a 2,469-word-long antithesis. Although the word-count does not really matter, it's unimaginable that you can present your counterargument in the "succinct" format prevalent in Twitter or Facebook. I was glad that Diogenes of Arkansas obviously took my thesis too seriously to brush it aside as a pipe dream. His opposition constituted a real challenge to me. Thus far we have failed to meet halfway, but that doesn't really matter either because meeting in the middle is not the purpose of our exercise.

In PART 2 of my lecture, I'll talk about Synthesis, the last step of our dialectical interaction, which, in turn, makes the first step for the next round of our debate. In that piece I will focus on some Type 3 users of my website with whom I've had fruitful interactions in the last nine years. I'll also touch on Jean-Paul Sartre's version of dialectical method which has always guided me as a full-time blogger in one way or the other. · read more (12 words)
  View Printable Version 

Embroideries on a big canvas

In the animal and in the vegetable world between the generator and the generated, on the canvas which the ancestor passes on, and which his descendants possess in common, each puts his own original embroidery.
- From Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson


Several weeks ago, I imposed a lot of reading assignments on myself, which included Henri Bergson's Time and Free Will and Creative Evolution, and Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past, along with some auxiliary materials such as the websites of Dave McGowan and UNESCO.

To me, reading books involves an excruciatingly painful work both physically and mentally. On the one hand my eyesight still keeps deteriorating, and on the other, I've been blogging for so long that now I can only think a little better than an ape. I don't know exactly why, then, I resumed reading. Maybe that's because I don't want to outlive my alertness as my father did in the last years of his life. And perhaps more importantly, I felt I still have something to learn about life before wrapping mine up.

Also, it would have constituted too much financial burden because these days I couldn't afford to buy a single book. Two men helped me in that respect. The Japanese man I mentioned in my post about the difference between art and crap had sent me 2,000 yen-worth gift certificates in return for what I did to him as a self-styled shrink. That enabled me to buy the Japanese version of Bergson's books one of which I read some 60 years ago. Only after I used the gift certificates, I found websites that give the full English texts of the two books all for free. But it helped me in understanding Bergsonian terminology to crosscheck the Japanese translation and English translation of French words against each other.

As to The Presence of the Past, I could locate the dogeared copy buried deep in my bookcase. Some two years ago, one of my American friends strongly recommended I read it. At first, I told him I wasn't really interested in knowing whether there is the presence of the past, and that I couldn't afford to buy a copy of the book which would cost me more than $30 including shipping charge. Then my friend was kind enough to send me his copy secondhand. This is how I found out that the hypothesis about "formative causation" and "morphic resonance" is not yet another cheap determinism.

On this occasion, I'd like to express my gratitude once again to the two gentlemen.

I knew it would be unrealistically ambitious for a retired businessman in senility to challenge Bergson's interpretation of Darwinism and other forms of transformism, or Sheldrake's take on it. But that's not the purpose of my exercise.

Man is an unmanipulatable creature

According to Dave McGowan, sometime around 1964, hippies were summoned by conspirators to Laurel Canyon to "give the anti-war movement a face that would be completely unacceptable to mainstream America." I don't know if he is telling the truth. Neither do I want to know if that was the case because either way it has nothing to do with the intellectual decline of the American people. The basic premise on which he bases his allegation is that human beings are more or less manipulatable. But almost by definition, man can't be conditioned the way the ape or the dog is. If ever the conspirators look to have succeeded, that should simply mean they conducted the experiment on apes, not humans. Although it doesn't look to have crossed his mind for a split second, McGowan, himself, is an ape totally mind-controlled by the conspirators. Worse yet, I even suspect the guy is actually playing a pivotal role as an accomplice in the conspiracy. In all likelihood, he is on the payroll of the cabal of the conspirators. That is why he untiringly keeps inventing entertaining stories such as what allegedly happened in Laurel Canyon a half century ago, in Nazareth 2 millenniums ago, or in New York 12 years ago, so "mainstream America" fails to see the wood for the trees.

As Voltaire is often quoted as saying, what makes you a human being is your ability to identify what is really at issue for humanity, not your ability to answer it. But there's more to it. Although what Sheldrake conjectures about formative causation and morphic resonance remains a hypothesis, the notion about the presence of the past is an axiom. If you are determined only to believe what you see first-hand with your own eyes, every question you ask takes the past perfect subjunctive mood, such as what if what didn't happen had happened before, or what if what happened hadn't happened before. So even if you still remain a conspiracy theorist, it makes your life much easier because you won't have to try so hard to substantiate what may or may not have happened in the past, by giving us one piece of evidence after another as if it weren't a piece of cake to fabricate them with today's state-of-the-art image-processing technologies.

If I were a conspiracy theorist myself, I wouldn't do it on the web, in the first place, when I disseminate my theories because I know the Internet is at the core of all these conspiracies. One of the few questions I would ask without depending too much on the Internet is what if the communications protocol called TCP/IP hadn't enabled the World Wide Web in the late 1980s. Only then, I would come up with a valid proposition to effectively counter the Internet conspiracy because now I know exactly how the minds of these Netizens have actually been controlled in the last quarter century.

UNESCO Conspiracy

Another large-scale conspiracy I would attempt to reveal as a conspiracy theorist is the malicious plot launched ten years ago by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage sponsored by UNESCO defines its mission like this:

"Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity."

This is a motherhood statement. No one dares to say he finds it objectionable. But actually there's something fishy in the advocacy of preservation of traditions just for preservation's sake. I suspect someone behind the scenes has intended to manipulate the hearts and minds of billions of people living on Planet Earth so they all take it for granted the status quo under Pax Americana is a permanent state of things. Needless to say, entries from Japan by far outnumber those from other countries except China. It's as though they think exotic art pieces from Japan should be treasured more dearly than, say, Baroque music and Bach's counterpoint methods or equal temperament scales.

Evidently, it's a conspiracy to contain man's spontaneity and creativity, which are exactly what separate us from apes. By doing so, UNESCO intends, on behalf of the U.S. government, to perpetuate the Asiatic backwardness and all the sufferings inflicted on African and Arab countries, along with the entire post-WWII regime represented by the United Nations.

Handing down the legacy via education

According to Sheldrake, what you can pass down to posterity via your genes is quite limited. The biochemist basically subscribes to the idea of Jean Baptiste Lamarck that acquired characteristics are also transmitted from a generation to the next. So he does talk a little about education, though in the narrow context of his proprietary hypothesis about formative causation and morphic resonance. He writes:

"On the present hypothesis, skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetical calculation depend on the ordering and patterning activity of morphic fields, just as physical skills and the speaking and understanding of languages do. The learning of reading, writing and arithmetic should be facilitated by morphic resonance from those who have practiced them before us."

Quite naturally, though, Sheldrake stops short of talking about whether, and how, spontaneity and creativity can be transmitted to our descendants.

My father was a born educator, for better or for worse. He applied an abnormally intransigent method to educate his elder son, that I was. As a university professor and fellow researcher in aeronautics, he also used the same method. As a result, he was hated or even feared by his students and assistants. I don't think, though, any one of them hated him more than I did. Not that he was a perfectionist. Actually, he was an ordinary person who was as far from perfection as one can be in his private life. I don't know whether his contempt toward mediocrity and conformism was passed down to me via morphic resonance. But as a matter of fact, I have also been a demanding teacher throughout my adulthood.

As I wrote in this post, parental education of my biological sons is where I miserably failed. Despite my effort to help them grow into mature men, they ended up as typical Japanese who are mentally neotenized. For one thing, my elder son, who plays the baritone sax in an amateur band he has organized himself, does what he thinks is jazz in order to bring band members together, rather than the other way around. And now it's too late for me to make him realize that this inversion of the end and the means has taken a fatal toll on the quality of music they do. He is just following the norm which is deep-rooted in this cultural wasteland. He thinks it's not him, but his dad, who deviates from the norm. Time and again, I have told him to weed out all these impurities from his music, sometimes even referring to Wynton Marsalis. Quite predictably he seems to have hit the wall lately. Most recently I sent him the links to some of the videos of The Hot Club of Cowtown as good examples of impurity-free music. But he wouldn't listen. He just said, "I have inherited this stubbornness from you."

Likewise, my effort to educate young people in the workplace has seldom paid off. Sometimes it was appreciated when I gave them knowledge and skills they couldn't live without, such as how to use the newly implemented computer system. But that's not what I wanted to pass down. The last thing they would understand was that there is no professionalism where there is no spontaneity and creativity, especially in an uncertain world like this one. For several years after retirement, I taught a dozen young ladies how to use the personal computer and how to read and write English. But that didn't last long, because I did it all for free, and more importantly, my students wanted to learn how to use the PC or the language while I wanted to teach them what to use them for.

In the last one and a half years, I gave a lot of free lectures, mostly ad hoc but sometimes prepared, to the people at the Tax-Collecting department of the Yokohama City Hall. Early on I tried to make it understood that the reciprocity principle is what the Constitution is all about. To that end, I told them, over and over again, that I have no reason to pay the income-unrelated Citizen Taxes when my constitutional rights are in jeopardy. When I realized it was like "urinating on the face of a frog," I switched the subject to Pacioli's double-entry accounting method which is expected to be introduced in government entities in the not-too-distant future.

A couple of months ago, my last class took place in a tiny cubicle which wasn't equipped with any audio-visual device on which to show PowerPoint slides. I asked them to bring in the General Affairs manager who is concurrently in charge of Konpuraiansu (legal compliance) and risk management. When I delivered my punch line which went, "You can't have a negative amount of money in your pocket," the manager of the Tax-Collecting department grinned at me. Obviously, he took it as a witty joke. When I was heading for the elevator hall after the class, he chased after me to say, "Do you have an extra copy of the material you used to explain to us the situation in the U.S. and the U.K.?" I handed him my own copy, saying, "Keep this." He said: "It's very nice of you. I'll study it closely." He may have studied it, but that didn't stop him from continuing the robbery of the "delinquent" taxes from my pension. Once again my effort to educate these zombies failed. But what else could I have done?

Only at times, I felt rewarded for my effort like when I took care of the young intern from France, mainly on the job, and when I taught foreign students at an MBA class of International University of Japan. My interpretation of the fact that I have only succeeded when it came to the education of young people from the West is that some, if not all, of them were not as mentally inert as their Japanese counterparts were.

Sheldrake's dilemma

In the last chapter titled "Creativity within a Living World," the author of The Presence of the Past writes:

"Creativity is a profound mystery precisely because it involves the appearance of patterns that have never existed before. Our usual way of explaining things is in terms of pre-existing causes: the cause somehow contains the effect; the effect follows from the cause. If we apply this way of thinking to the creation of a new form of life, a new work of art, or a new scientific theory, we are led to the conclusion that in some sense the new pattern of organization was already present: it was a latent possibility."

These self-contradictory words fail to unravel the mystery about man's creativity and spontaneity.

As Sheldrake admits in the book which was published in 1988, his thoughts about formative causation and morphic resonance are nothing but a hypothesis. I suspect it will most probably remain so until a more provable hypothesis comes up to supersede it. In the interim, however, he shouldn't have tried to defend his hypothesis by adding hypothesis on hypothesis. But that's exactly what he did in the final chapter.

To that end, he selectively turns to Bergson. For one thing, the English biochemist quotes the French philosopher as saying, "The possible would have been there from all time, a phantom awaiting its hour; it would therefore become reality by the addition of something, by some transfusion of blood or life." Sheldrake goes as far as to say that Bergson admitted that this dilemma is "inherent in the traditional European philosophies."

It's no accident that the biochemist opts not to touch on Bergson's observation of nothingness. The author of Creative Evolution writes:

"Existence appears to me like a conquest over nought. I say to myself that there might be, that indeed there ought to be, nothing, and I then wonder that there is something. Or I represent all reality extended on nothing as on a carpet: at first was nothing, and being has come by superaddition to it. Or, yet again, if something has always existed, nothing must always have served as its substratum or receptacle, and is therefore eternally prior. A glass may have always been full, but the liquid it contains nevertheless fills a void. In the same way, being may have always been there, but the nought which is filled, and, as it were, stopped up by it, pre-exists for it nonetheless, if not in fact at least in right."

Another example of Sheldrake's tactic is his tricky words "creative adaptability." But in his Creative Evolution, Bergson observes:

"If I pour into the same glass, by turns, water and wine, the two liquids will take the same form, and the sameness in form will be due to the sameness in adaptation of content to container. Adaptation, here, really means mechanical adjustment. The reason is that the form to which the matter has adapted itself was there, ready-made, and has forced its own shape on the matter. But, in the adaptation of an organism to the circumstances it has to live in, where is the pre-existing form awaiting its matter? The circumstances are not a mold into which life is inserted and whose form life adopts: this is indeed to be fooled by a metaphor. There is no form yet, and the life must create a form for itself, suited to the circumstances which are made for it."

If I were Sheldrake, I might simply say: "We call it a creation when what might have appeared but actually failed to appear in the past is appearing now." It would be just glossing over the dilemma inherent to his way of thinking. But after all, this is his hypothesis, not mine.

The big canvas of cultural traditions

Actually, I think my teaching and learning experience has given me a clue to possibly solving the problem facing Sheldrake. Whenever I succeeded to instill in young people from the West the awareness that nothing is more important than creativity and spontaneity, I noticed that I could learn from my students as much as they could learn from me. If I'm not mistaken, we can get a creative idea only through dialectical interaction, which is essentially the same thing as Jean-Paul Sartre's "totalizing activity" of dialectical reason. It never emerges just out of nowhere, let alone from the mystery zone that Sheldrake calls "creative morphic fields."

It is widely known that the starting point of Bergson's philosophy was his denial of the rationalism of Immanuel Kant. He always based his epistemology on his intuition. That is why his theses and philosophical essays were filled with exquisite analogies. Especially I like his metaphor of the individual embroidery put on the shared canvas. It best explains his idea about creation.

I am of the opinion that when you talk about creation, it is crucially important to have the ability to analogize, in a very creative and imaginative way, abstract ideas such as "Élan vital" (vital impetus,) the words which Bergson seems to have substituted for "nothingness." Think about this: do you believe someone who isn't good at artistic expression himself can tell where to find the source of man's creativity? On the other hand, Sheldrake's expertise lies in biochemistry. Small wonder the only words he came up with to describe the driving force of evolution are "morphic fields" which don't help us visualize what he claims to be seeing.

The Japanese don't have a canvas woven for shared use. All they have, instead, is a dirty rag which is moth-eaten all over. On the contrary, if you look closely at the videos embedded below, you will see a big canvas unfolded between Elana James, the younger fiddler, and Johnny Gimble, the older one. This is exactly what differentiates them from these noble savages that have swarmed since the 1960s. For your reference, James was born almost a decade after the "Laurel Canyon conspiracy," and Gimble, one of her idols, more than 35 years before it. To all these musicians, traditions are not for preservation in nursing homes or museums, let alone by UNESCO conspirators.


· read more (1 words)
  View Printable Version 

Can we still expect a Renaissance?

- CONTINUED FROM THE PREVIOUS POST

The moon descended
And I found with the break of dawn
You and the song had gone
But the melody lingers on

-
From the lyrics of the 1927 song by Irving Berlin


AKB48 - Japan's most popular group of supposedly
cute girls

Members of The Hot Club of Cowtown - From left:
Whit Smith, Elana James and Jake Irwin
I owe him my life. As I told my audience in the fall of 2011, DK offered me a donation of 700,000 yen over a ten-month period, when I was about to have to hang myself. Then, two months ago, he lent me 140,000 yen when I was on the verge of going homeless because of the absurd Japanese custom that requires the lessee of an apartment to pay a "renewal fee" to the real estate agent every second year.

Now I am repaying the debt in two or three installments because I know DK is not deep-pocketed enough to save two lives for two years in a row. He is an IT engineer who is 6, 7 years younger than my biological sons.

We are in the middle of the holiday-studded Golden Week. Yesterday morning, he called me up to invite me to lunch. He had just returned from Seoul where he spent his well-deserved vacation with his wife and 6-year-old son. The moment DK saw me at the restaurant, he grinned and said, "Now your beard is so bushy that you can pass as Marx." He knows I respect Karl Marx as a non-Marxist. I said, "Thanks, but I think I look more like Johannes Brahms." He had brought me a lot of souvenirs from South Korea - packs of cigarettes, a dozen paper bags containing "corn tea," etc. The last item he took out of the bottom of the grocery bag was a big nail-clipper shaped like a pair of pliers. He explained: "This is from Tokyo, not Seoul." He knows how hard I have to struggle when trimming my toenails because of the rigidity of the body particular to a sufferer of Parkinsonism. He had done the work for me a couple of times before.

For the first 30 minutes or so, he told me how his family had enjoyed the vacation. Then we switched the subject to our favorite topic: music. For the subsequent two hours, we discussed how William Byrd, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Johann Jacob Froberger, Christopher Gibbons, Johann Pachelbel, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Krieger, Henry Purcell, et al. possibly influenced Johann Sebastian Bach, and how Bach, in turn, influenced the likes of Paul Hindemith and Dmitri Shostakovich. DK didn't receive any formal education in a higher-learning institute, either in music or any other discipline, because of his unfortunate upbringing. It's all the more remarkable that he is so conversant with the history of classical music. He added that his son is currently learning a canon by Bach from his piano teacher while his dad is practicing Pachelbel's fugue all by himself.

Then we moved over to the nearby Yokohama Park, where a ballpark named Yokohama Stadium is located. As soon as we sat down at the edge of a flowerbed, DK produced a smartphone manufactured by Samsung under an OEM agreement with NTT Docomo. He wanted to let me hear some of the musical pieces he had mentioned at the restaurant. Every YouTube video he showed me was very interesting, but especially it was a pleasant surprise when I heard an unmistakable seed of bebop improvisation in Sweelinck's Fantasia played by Glenn Gould. The Dutch composer wrote the piece almost 400 years ago, I guess.

As I wrote in my previous post under the title of What art is - and isn't, music made my life really worth living and is now making the last days of my life more tolerable than without it. Now I've grown too old to play, dance or sing. And yet, listening to good music always brings me back the memories of the finest moments of my life. But when it comes to exchanging views with someone, DK is practically the only male friend who can tell music or any other form of art from its excrement. Immanuel Kant said art is something that is purposive in itself. But the Japanese have always dealt with art as something that serves other purposes in the last one and a half century. Now everything Japanese "musicians" do is Gebrauchsmusik. You can't remove impurities from Japanese art because there's nothing else in it. This inversion of the end and the means has turned this country into a cultural wasteland with its music scenes looking more and more like a junkyard.

Take AKB48, for example. It's amazing that people talk about the group like they talk about musicians, while it has absolutely nothing to do with music or any other art form. Each member of the group belongs to one of those Geino Purodakushon (talent agencies) affiliated, overtly or covertly, and in one way or the other, with yakuza syndicates. She is a cash cow for her Purodakushon not because she has an irreplaceable talent but because she is capable of arousing sexual desire in Rorikon (pedophilic) audience. As you may already know, most Japanese men have a strong bent for sexual perversion, such as lingerie theft, voyeurism and sexual abuse of children.

The Anti-prostitution Act of 1956 has made subtly legitimized and highly institutionalized prostitution the most lucrative business for yakuza. And that is why they are focusing more and more on exploitation of these poor kids with the help of NHK and other media organizations. Unlike in South Korea's show business, these girls may not be selling sex in the open, but they are substitutes for prostitutes, at best, if you can see what I mean. As a French journalist once observed, "they are prostitutes who don't think they are prostitutes."

Unfortunately, more or less the same thing is happening in the U.S. I think it all started around the time the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. At least we can trace the decline of music as an art form to the Woodstock concert of 1969. A conspiracy theorist named Dave McGowan theorizes that music started to serve other purposes in Laurel Canyon several years before Woodstock. McGowam says: "Hippies came out of nowhere and sort of co-opted it. I think it was quite deliberate...they wanted to give the anti-war movement a face that would be completely unacceptable to mainstream America." But I don't think chronological or geographical accuracy is that important. Those who politicize everything like him always insist things such as Alice Cooper said this and Frank Zappa did that make a lot of difference. But I don't think so. It's not these apes, but ordinary people that have destroyed the American culture.

McGowan should have seen Carol Reed's The Third Man if he had enough time to waste delving into the Laurel Canyon conspiracy. In the 1949 film, Orson Welles acting as Harry Lime ridicules the Swiss people at large in the famous cuckoo clock speech that goes: "You know what the fellow said - in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." The lesson to be learned here is that the cultural climate of a politically corrupt nation is not that sterile, although the opposite can never be true. In a cultural wasteland, the dead-end situation facing the political regime is inevitably perpetuated.

I'd thought the decline of the American culture was unstoppable and irreversible until I came across the Hot Club of Cowtown, a Western swing band based in Austin, Texas. (See videos embedded below.) As I wrote, I'm inclined to call it a "zero-impurity" music because genuine spontaneity is what their music is all about. But don't take me wrong. I'm not talking about the undisciplined, raw "spontaneity" these noble savages have been demonstrating since the '60s. In an interview, Elana James, the fiddler and singer, names some of the artists who have influenced her, that include Anne-Sophie Mutter, Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble, Billie Holiday, Lester Young and Stephane Grappelli. This tells that she had to study very hard the techniques and the idioms of every genre of traditional music before acquiring her breathtakingly thrilling virtuosity and inventiveness. That's what I mean by the words genuine spontaneity.

Time and again I have quoted the 1988 NYT article written by Wynton Marsalis, who is known as a "purist." But it should be noted that the purist has never underplayed the significance of the traditions of other cultural spheres such as Latin America. In another paragraph of the article, he wrote: "It's like a great French chef lending his name, not his skills, to a a fast-food restaurant because he knows it's a popular place to eat. His concern is for quantity, not quality. Those who are duped say 'This greasy hamburger sure is good; I know it's good, because Pierre says it's good, and people named Pierre know what the deal is.' Pierre then becomes known as a man of the people, when he actually is exploiting the people." All in all, Marsalis wanted to say the ''they all can sing, they all have rhythm'' syndrome and the "why should I subject myself to the pain of study?" kind of attitude widespread in America's music scenes are what's going to devour jazz. The same applies to every genre of art.

Against this backdrop, it looks like a miracle that the Hot Club of Cowtown still shows both spontaneity and discipline. None of their videos, except those of country classics presented in the traditional format, have been viewed more than 10 thousand times. But it should come as no surprise if we see the Renaissance of the American music started in Austin. I'm not sure, though, if this will come true. How can I know when even Elana James, et al. can't tell what comes out of their own music? To begin with, you won't notice it right away when a Great Cultural Revolution breaks out.

If you carefully listen to good music like theirs, you can visualize how the civilization of apes branched out into man's civilization, like when you carefully look at the paintings in the Altamira Cave. A sea change is only caused by man's innate spontaneity, which is what French philosopher Henri Bergson called Free Will. It's ridiculous to believe someone deliberately changed America as McGowan insists, because almost by definition, man is an un-manipulatable creature. I suspect that the conspiracy theorist is talking about his fellow apes. · read more (1 words)
  View Printable Version 

A purist point of view: What art is - and isn't

[A tradition], which was born early and stubbornly refuses to die, despite all the evidence to the contrary, regards jazz merely as a product of noble savages - music produced by untutored, unbuttoned semiliterates for whom jazz history does not exist. This myth was invented by early jazz writers who, in attempting to escape their American prejudices, turned out a whole world of new cliches based on the myth of the innate ability of early jazz musicians. Because of these writers' lack of understanding of the mechanics of music, they thought there weren't any mechanics. It was the ''they all can sing, they all have rhythm'' syndrome.
- from July 1988 New York Times article written by Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter, jazz critic and educator, under the title of What jazz is - and isn't.


The Upper Paleolithic painting in the Cave of
Altamira

Toilet graffiti in an unknown U.S. city

When I launched this website nine years ago, I was still hopeful that I would make a bit of difference to the political discourse in and between the United States and Japan. But now that the implosion of America, to be followed by or to follow, the inevitable collapse of the American Empire looks to be a matter of time, anything we say or do will make little difference. I think it's about time to have disengaged myself from politics.

When it comes to the quantitative measurement of my web traffic, I've had to rely on Google Analytics because the built-in statistical functions of my blog tool (Geeklog) are quite limited. But as any GA user may agree, the brains of system designers at Google are all empty, or worse yet, filled with spaghetti. As a result, all I can tell is that my Key Performance Indicators are not that bad. The number of hits has topped 5.4 million in the last 104 months while the number of page-views is roughly estimated at 300,000 in the same period. But now I know that doesn't mean my efforts have been paying off.

At the beginning, I wanted to make my blog a venue for "interactive" discussions on political issues because I thought I would be able to attain my goal only by touching off dialectical debates. I had no intention to play the role of a catalyst, which by definition acts unilaterally as a change agent. A debate in the Platonic or Hegelian sense should be fought "without gloves" so a thesis is directly met with an antithesis and led to a synthesis through "sublation." It, therefore, takes both sides readiness to change along with some intellectual prowess that very few among my audience have. They are too used to the slapstick-type of talks such as ones they saw when the last leap-year farce was going on in the U.S. Now it looks all the more true that exchanging non sequiturs over this and that issues makes little sense.

Maybe I'll upload a small piece or two to follow up my last post on the Pacioli Revolution if and when time permits. But afterward I will focus more on nonpolitical issues such as culture. In fact, though, I am not very sure at this moment if we can discuss culture without using the dialectical method. For one thing, appreciation of art is quite different from consumption of goods. You buy a piece of goods, use it until you use it up, and throw it away. On the contrary, when you appreciate a piece of music, for instance, it should involve a dialectical interaction among all the parties involved: the composer, the musicians, and the audience, although you treat the medium, be it a CD or DVD, the same way you treat a commodity.

Four months ago, a Japanese man in his 50s contacted me from the northernmost island of the archipelago. He said he wanted to remote-interview me on what he thought was a big issue of our common concern. At the beginning I was reluctant to accept his offer because I know I have nothing to share with Japanese men. But since he was very serious about seeking an answer to his problem, I temporarily accepted the offer on certain conditions. I suggested that we make it a two-way interview in which nothing should be presumed a real issue, let alone the conclusion, before we talk it out.

Soon after he agreed to my counter-proposal, he sent me a copy of his privately-published autobiography which depicts an extraordinary story about an ordeal he had to go through in his childhood and adolescence. I thought I could expect from this guy something I couldn't expect from an ordinary Japanese. Perhaps I was wrong; he turned out to be yet another Japanese man.

We started off our mutual interview by defining the keywords to his problem. It seemed he had borrowed all these words, arbitrarily or opportunistically, from someone else's contexts. We had to redefine them so they fit into the particular context behind his personal tragedy. I thought that only by doing so, we could identify the real issue. When translating his super-high-context language into low-context one, I realized we had to discuss, first and foremost, various ways of communication before addressing the issue he had wanted to talk about. Quite naturally, that brought us to the very intriguing question: What art is - and isn't.

The average Japanese man is an avid music lover whose types of music range from classical music to Enka (see NOTE below), and every thing in between, be it jazu, J-pops, K-pops, Russian folk songs, American folk songs by Bob Dylan and the like, American country music, traditional Japanese folk songs, European pops by the likes of Sara Brightman, continental tangos, canzoni, or chansons. This guy is no exception. I said: "I'm glad to know you share the same value system with everyone else. But now I'm at a loss over what makes you feel so persecuted by or excluded from the community." He showed the guts to say, "You think most Japanese are hooked on Enka. But on the contrary, we Enka lovers are a small minority. Even so, I have difficulty understanding why you feel so disgusted at Enka that it almost nauseates you. There's no point, after all, in discussing personal tastes." He was just glossing over his self-deceptive attitude toward life by saying Enka lovers are a small minority as if he had conducted a nation-wide opinion poll, and by going back and forth between values issue and the matter of tastes.

NOTE: This video shows one of the most popular Enka singers singing an Enka classic. Although the musical scale, chords, orchestration, instruments, and wardrobes are all borrowed from the West, though with a lot of Japanese twists, the whining melody and narcissistic, self-pitying lyrics are the representation of the "real Japanese soul" as they always say. The singer looks to be a man, but the words are those spoken by a geisha or bar hostess missing the guy who has run out on the disposable woman. The perverse inversion of sex is commonplace in Japanese "art" as you can see in Kabuki where male actors play the roles of women.

In my second last mail to him, I summarized how I define art as against rubbish:

"The Upper Paleolithic paintings on the walls of the Altamira Cave are an invaluable heritage of the civilization, whereas graffiti on the toilet walls are nothing but its excrement. You are absolutely right when you say there's no point in discussing personal tastes. If you have a propensity toward scatophilia, a mental disease also known as coprophilia, that's it, it can't be helped. But let's not call it a form of art."

I added: "I think you store books, from Manga to Goethe and CDs/DVDs from Beethoven to Enka in neatly compartmentalized shelves and racks. But I can't visualize the inside of your brain that has to be modularized in the same way as if you are a cyborg. For your information, I don't have such a problem because Bach, Brahms, Bartok, Schoenberg, Prokofiev, Jazz from the Big Band Era (1935-55), bebop, and even traditional pop music of America all belong in one and the same family. It's only after the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969 that something that has very little to do with music started to bring 'impurities' from the contexts of the African and Hispanic traditions into American music."

In the total absence of dialectical response from the guy, I challenged myself, on his behalf, saying: "He has a good reason to deny my art theory because I have yet to clarify the fundamental difference between art and toilet graffiti so he is convinced Enka has more to do with excrement than with civilization." I don't think I can define art after so many philosophers and artists have attempted to do so. But I think any commonsense definition serves our purposes. According to the website of "The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy," Immanuel Kant, for one, defines art as "a kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, though without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication." This is enough for our purposes except I wonder what German word SEP translated as "sociable."

To pursue something which is "purposive in itself" in this world, you've got to be very different from ordinary people. And yet, a mental aberration is not enough for artistic creation. The social climate along with its historical background is the key to the development of an innate talent.

Wynton Marsalis, who is often called a "purist," wrote in another paragraph of the NYT article quoted on the top of this post: "That myth [about the innate ability of early jazz musicians] is being perpetuated to this day by those who profess an openness to everything - an openness that in effect just shows contempt for the basic values of the music and our society. If everything is good, why should anyone subject himself to the pain of study? Their disdain for the specific knowledge that goes into jazz creation is their justification for saying everything has its place." All in all, Marsalis wanted to say that in a cultural climate where due respect to genuine artistic creation is replaced with fanatical flattering to noble savages, musical art is doomed to die down. The same applies to any other genre of art.

Take Mozart, for example. I don't want to talk about his operas, not just because The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni is not to my personal liking, but because we see little trace of purification of his innate property in these operatic works. He is known for his scatophilic bent, which should be interpreted as the sign of developmental failure, shown not only in his private life but also in music. That means his talent came into full bloom when he could "sublimate" his mental aberration with the help of musicians, conductors, and most importantly audiences including his patrons from the nobility of the 18th century. If these people surrounding him had tried to suppress his socially unacceptable trait, instead of helping him sublimate it, he might have ended up as a restroom painter. I see a certain similarity to the sublimation of the mental aberration of Mozart in the process of dialectical sublation in our debates. To borrow Karl Marx's way of explaining the dialectical process of the value-creating chain, we can say, "a musical piece which no one appreciates is potentially a musical piece but actually it's nothing more than a string of notes." The only difference lies with the fact that unlike an industrial product, music is "purposive in itself."

Today, this painstaking process is all gone everywhere. If you are one of those dupes, you will say marketers of consumer goods are still willing to listen to their customers so they stay attuned to the market and can develop a new product or a new version of the old product that meets their changing demand. In theory, that should be true. But in reality, you are absolutely wrong. The fact of the matter remains that consumers' demand is artificially created by manufacturers. In the industrialized world, consumers addicted to allegedly new products always remain consumers without getting involved in the value-creating process.

This is especially true with Japan. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the propaganda about 和魂洋才 (Japanese spirit and Western learning) drove the Japanese people into the causeless and unwinnable war. But since the war defeat, the same mindset has taken another devastating toll on the Japanese culture, if it still deserves to be called one. There's no sign their enthusiasm to "learn" from the West will subside anytime soon. They keep importing art pieces from the West only to put them in practical use. There is a German word Gebrauchsmusik which means music for practical use. But to the Japanese, every musical piece falls on this category. A good example is the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In the last half century, they have been substituting it for the second national anthem, especially in December, although they don't understand a word in the lyrics written by Friedrich Schiller. Nothing is "purposive in itself" in this country.

In other words, they are just consuming Western art the same way they consume commodities. There are no appreciation, no dialectical interaction, no feedback, no sublimation, no sublation. As a natural consequence, these conformists have turned their country into a cultural wasteland, which is full of shit.

If you have used public restrooms on both sides of the pacific, you are impressed to know the walls in Japanese restrooms are as clean as white snow when compared to those in U.S. cities. There are two reasons.

The first reason is the national disease, germophobia. I think all Japanese are pathologically obsessed with cleanliness because of the myth of homogeneity and their xenophobic fear that foreign visitors may notice they remain uncultivated despite their appearance like modern citizens. Besides, no other nation has a more suppressive culture than Japan. Day and night throughout the year, people are practicing the old wisdom that goes, "The nail that sticks out must be hammered down." This way, they try to nip the slightest sign of aberration in the bud. But it's an unattainable goal to purify the nation of all germs. Actually, the population of lingerie thefts and voyeurs is enormous here. And believe it or not, a good part of these perverts are well-educated people like university professors or company executives. But take it easy, every city across the nation retains a big crew of professional toilet cleaners. If you draw an obscene picture or calligraphy on the toilet wall, it will be wiped out by the end of the day.

Another reason public restrooms in Japan are relatively clean is because people don't have to vent their perverse frustration in the restrooms. This cultural climate always embraces un-sublimated mental aberration on the condition they act as noble savages who observe the basic rules of this society.

These are how I distinguish art from crap. In his last mail, the other end of our non-dialectical discussion wrote: "I assure you I'll come back as soon as I find time." I don't know if he finds time before I die. But I don't really care because if he will have realized by then art is something that "promotes the cultivation of the mental powers" and that Enka doesn't help him break his fixation to the traumatic past, that won't make any difference to the imperial shithouse we live in. I will feel contented, though, as a self-styled shrink, because what else could I have done?

I used to be a bookworm, but not anymore because my eyesight is quickly deteriorating. That only leaves me with music. That's why I'm extremely fussy about music. When I was younger (19 to 70 years of age,) I sang songs, played them on the piano, the guitar, and some other instruments, and danced to them. Now the only way I can derive enjoyment from good music is to listen. If I have a problem in that respect, it's the fact I can't afford to buy a CD or DVD, or have the broken removable-disk drive of my computer fixed.

A surprisingly large number of people say they want to die listening to Mozart, Oscar Peterson, or the like. It's laughable because love of music is love of life. Music is one of the few things that made my life worth living or will make my last days more tolerable. It has absolutely nothing to do with death. I'll stop loving music one day before I die. But until then, I'll look for good music.

Several weeks ago, I accidentally hit performances of a contemporary group of "Western swing" named "Hot Club of Cowtown" when I was doing video-mining on YouTube. (Look at the video embedded below.) I hadn't heard the name before, but it was a pleasant surprise to know that there still are a small number of people who carry on the tradition of the American music 44 years after the Woodstock disaster. Aside from the unparalleled virtuosity displayed by the fiddler, the guitarists (including Frank Vignola as a guest,) and the "slap" bassist, I was deeply impressed by their "zero-impurity" music. Each of them is enjoying the music, nothing else, while sharing the joy with other members and the audience. And the audience doesn't have to be urged to applaud. Real spontaneity we can never expect from noble savages and their followers is what their music is all about.

I think I will further talk about Hot Club of Cowtown in a separate post in comparison with "AKB48", Japan's most popular group of supposedly cute girls who sing and dance exactly as they are schooled.
  · read more (7 words)