TokyoFreePress
      An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan




     
 
Welcome to TokyoFreePress Sunday, April 20 2014 @ 06:43 PM CDT
  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)
  View Printable Version 

The Pacioli Revolution is long overdue everywhere but in Britain, perhaps

Law 1: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Law 2: Expenditures rise to meet income.

-
Cyril Northcote Parkinson


Nobusuke Kishi, under-
cover CIA agent

Shinzo Abe, "new" Prime
Minister of Japan
I am not blogging to make my audience feel good. I'm sorry for that, but now I'm taking up another unpopular topic: Luca Pacioli's double-entry accounting method.

I know most of you well-educated and lofty-minded gentlemen will feel uneasy and say you are not interested in discussing such a lowly matter. I suspect the real reason you think the particular subject is irrelevant to your life is not just because you haven't been in a number-crunching occupation in the past but because throughout your lifetime, you haven't engaged yourself in a value-creating process of the real world.

You keep talking about values, but have never thought about disambiguating your definition of the word. You just take it for granted that "spiritual" values are far greater than "material" ones, or they are just incomparable.
In fact, though, values are values, tangible or not. It takes narcissistic self-deception to believe vagrant, lubricious, foggy, elusive, and opaque ideas in your brain have some values. Actually not a few accounting experts are struggling to come up with objective valuation methods for inner values such as ones to be externalized into intellectual property, by leveraging the wisdom from other areas of expertise such as knowledge science and ontological engineering.

I believe they will be coming closer to quantifying everything, slowly but steadfastly, because at least in theory, there's no such thing as a bright idea you can't make communicable or even marketable. Until you can find the way to materialize your idea, it remains a bubble soon to evaporate into thin air.

Like many of you, I was a late learner in that respect. As recently as when my book was aborted the way it was, I had to learn the hard way my well-researched arguments about the Japanese history were as worthless as a silly idea the average American tweets about in 140 letters.

Contrary to accounting experts, those money-worshiping lawyers and political racketeers know nothing about man's value-creating process but its reverse view. They still believe in the hypocritical notion inherent in Christianity and anti-Christianity alike that "people do not live by bread alone." They always make believe spiritual values don't carry price tags. Why, then, are they willing to pay for the book they may read, the music they may listen to, and the art piece they may appreciate at the museum at times?

In 1494, a groundbreaking book written by a person named Luca Pacioli was published under the title of Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita. The author was a Franciscan friar, but he wrote the book as a mathematician rather than a mendicant. Although I haven't read it myself, I think Summa was the first sign of the modern civil society where the management of a business, or any other entity, would not always own it. A character in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship says, "[The double-entry accounting method] is among the finest inventions of the human mind." This indicates that Pacioli's theory had already started, by the late-18th century, to have a profound impact on the way people lived their lives.

In 1882, some government entities in Britain started to use the Pacioli method. But it still remained a partial implementation when Cyril Northcote Parkinson drew the dismal conclusions in his book published in 1958 from his extensive research in the British civil service. Margaret Thatcher (1979-90 in office) thought one of the main culprits of the British Disease was the pre-Pacioli mindset underlying the widely-used single-entry accounting method. Having shelved her right-leaning ideology, the Iron Lady took drastic reform measures including the one aimed at the full implementation of the double-entry, accrual-based system. It took Britain's local governments until 1994, the year that fell on the 500th anniversary of the publication of Summa, to complete the switchover.

Even so, the Pacioli Revolution has only just begun in the U.K. because government entities closing their books the way private companies do are only part of it.

In this respect, the U.S. is lagging far behind the U.K. Ronald Reagan's initiative for a small government did not really pay off because there were too many impediments to allow the President to go as far as his British counterpart did. Just for one thing, it's the last thing the Military-Industrial Complex would accept to make its shady business transactions a little more transparent.

There are more than 600 thousand CPAs in the U.S. today. But the population of lawyers is twice as large. As we all know, these shysters are there to prevent change from happening under the guise of guardians of laws, which are mostly unconstitutional in the country. This is basically why the American people are unaware of the ever-accelerating progress of the American Disease.

According to Isamu Fudeya, professor at Chuo University's Accounting School, GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) and FASAB (Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board) were founded under Reagan's initiative. But it's only recently government organizations have actually started phasing in Pacioli's system both at the federal and state levels. It seems they think it's about time to have transformed their cultural wasteland into a little more civilized nation, if only for cosmetic purposes.

The switchover will, however, involve a daunting task with profound and far-reaching implications. The introduction of debits and credits, alone, is the easiest and smallest part of it. My prediction is that the Kenyan Black Monkey and many other legal experts in the country will eventually succeed to water down the impact of the Pacioli system in one way or the other. It must be a cinch for these shysters to outsmart the general public which is still daydreaming in the imaginary prison of ideologies.

The situation in Japan is even worse. Despite its political and economic ups and downs in the last one and a half centuries, the country has essentially stood still, going round in circles. Especially in the last couple of decades, which are called "the lost 20 years," the media made every possible effort to instill in their audiences the idea that the postwar regime, also known as the 1955 Sytem, was coming to an end anytime soon to usher in a new era for a viable Japan. Actually it could have come true during the 3-year-period (Sept. 2009-Dec. 2012) when the Democratic Party of Japan, an offshoot from the Liberal Democratic Party, was temporarily in power. The entire regime was almost falling apart. But once again, the change-resistant people opted to pass up the golden opportunity to deliver a final blow to the 57-year-old edifice, on the pretext that it was not the right time to do so in the wake of the "once-in-a-millennium" disaster of 3/11.

As a result of the recent general election of the House of Representatives, the LDP, now headed by Shinzo Abe, breezed back to power. The new Prime Minister is the same guy who had to step down in 2007 as the second last Prime Minister of the former LDP administration when he mentally collapsed in the face of the protracted economic doldrums and deepening political imbroglio.

Abe's maternal grandfather is Nobusuke Kishi, one of the Class-A war criminals. In 1948 Kishi was released from the Sugamo Prison by Douglas MacArthur on the condition that he would act as the main architect of the 1955 System, and subsequently would sign the U.S.-Japan security treaty of 1960 as an undercover CIA agent disguised as Japanese Prime Minster.

So Abe's phenomenal comeback is really symbolic. It's yet another confirmation that the 1955 System is undefeatable and will remain so until the end of time - unless a fundamental change happens just by accident.

No sooner had Abe taken office than he announced "bold" plans to revive the Japanese economy. The three pillars of his stimulus package are measures for a drastic quantitative easing, artificial weakening of the Japanese yen and beefing up public works projects. Now people are enthusiastically hailing these measures as "Abenomics." It looks as though they haven't learned that artificially blowing up GDP by boosting business and consumer sentiment in the total absence of spontaneity and creativity on the part of individual citizens is the surest way to form another economic bubble. And yet the learning-disabled Japanese are hopeful that they can expect a different outcome this time around from repeating the same folly of the 1980s.

Now the entire Japan Inc. is being reorganized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry into the all-too-familiar formation which used to be dubbed MITI's Convoy System. (METI was formerly named the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.) With the same political racketeers back in place of those amateurish ones in the DPJ, pork-barreling is now on a roll across the board. The original sociopolitical model, which my former friend Benjamin Fulford once called a kleptocracy, seems to have been fully restored as if the 3 years under the DPJ administration were yet another hiccup of the system.

On the other hand, the new Prime Minister has taken over essentially the same set of nanny-state measures from his immediate predecessors because there is no other option acceptable to the 127-million people with pathological obsession with false equality. Since they are all duped into believing in the absurd myth that the nation's wealth can justly be redistributed through taxation combined with "welfare" programs, not a single person has come forward to say: "If wealth is being distributed so unjustly that its redistribution is needed on such a massive scale, something must be fundamentally wrong with this country. What good does it do to reshuffle nation's wealth, which has already been hollowed out, without overhauling the entire mechanism?"

The fact of the matter remains that wealth is constantly transferred from a wrong group of people to another. For instance, those in a feigned disablement are enjoying handsome benefits at the expense of honest people. As a result, income gap keeps widening, rather than narrowing. It's all the more amazing to see the Japanese have become even more hooked on empty promises by their government for jobs that only create fake values and many other egalitarian measures.

Now the country has been unionized from tip to toe in a way somewhat reminiscent of Nationalsozialismus, without a dictator, of course. It looks as though the people without the spirit of self-reliance and sense of self-esteem are babysitting and wet-nursing one another while on the government's payroll. In a sense, the Japanese are now cannibalizing themselves, if you can see what I mean.

Throughout prewar, wartime and postwar years, Japan's political leaders have invariably used the 123-year-old news cartel called Kisha Kurabu Shisutemu (Press Club System) as their propaganda machine. Especially under the 1955 System, media obscurantists have tried every conceivable gimmick in order to dupe people into believing in the legitimacy and viability of this fake statehood.

To those of you who are superstitious enough to believe in the delusive idea that the world is revolving around something unquantifiable, such as ideologies, the Japanese media look to be manipulating the people's hearts and minds by casting a spell on them. But as always, you are wrong. In this "closely-knit" society, indoctrination is the role of parents, siblings, teachers, friends and neighbors. Media's job is to manipulate numbers, instead.

Actually, it's a breeze for them to dupe their innumerate audiences into believing this country is not really broke yet. It is true that there still are a small number of number-savvy people who are keenly aware that everything they do to others, or others do to them (i.e. a transaction in the accounting terminology) has two or more different implications in it as Luca Pacioli suggested more than five centuries ago. But unlike vague ideas fabricated from ideological delusions, numbers never allow them to see the total picture of multifaceted issues when they are only given mutilated or fragmented data.

In this context, I think the primary role of the Japanese media is something like giving their audiences a jigsaw puzzle in which some important pieces of cardboard are missing, or wrongly shaped. This way they can easily block people from seeing the total picture of the system which has actually gone belly up for quite a while.

Aside from the media, the U.S. government has played a pivotal role in making the shaky system look still alive. On February 22 in Washington, Japan's "new" Prime Minister had a meeting with his U.S. counterpart. After the talk, he proudly declared the U.S.-Japanese alliance was now back to normal. He was right. Obviously the 1955 System is one of the rare success stories about America's nation-building efforts since Woodrow Wilson. If there is another series of effort that has been paying off, it's the one exerted on America itself.

In the last 57 years since Dwight D. Eisenhower, Washington has made meticulous efforts to further tie down this country. George H. W. Bush, for one, demanded his Japanese counterpart unilaterally comply with his U.S.-Japan Structural Impediments Initiative which included tearing down non-tariff barriers for more than 200 items. In subsequent years, GHWB's son started the U.S.-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative. Once again, his Japanese counterparts swallowed practically everything including the privatization of the Japan Post whose savings arm holds huge funds that top 175 trillion yen as of today. And now Abe reaffirmed his grandfather's pledge of unconditional allegiance to the U.S. by telling the Kenyan Black Monkey he had made up his mind to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership.

The single most noteworthy thing here is the fact that none of these unilateral reform initiatives have included a demand that the Pacioli System be put in use in the Japanese government, which might have eliminated all these "impediments" in one go.

According to the aforementioned accounting professor, Japan imported the double-entry accounting method as early as 1875 to use it for the government books. But 14 years later, it was replaced with a single-entry, cash-based bookkeeping method which had its origin in Prussia. Fudeya does not elaborate on the story behind the backward move, presumably because he thinks it's self-explanatory. Even today, the country uses the archaic Prussian system at all levels of the government.

Now that even the lawyers' kingdom across the Pacific is belatedly moving toward the Anglo-Italian model, though only on the surface, it's only a matter of time that its "docile satellite" in the Far East jumps on the same bandwagon.

Potentially, the switchover would have enormous implications for the country.

Just take a look at the website of Japan Pension Service (the pension administration arm of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare,) for instance. If you are one of those who are exceptionally familiar with accounting and actuarial matters, the first thing you will notice is the fact that no Balance Sheets and Profit and Loss statements are provided there. True, some data for investment portfolios are available in the site, but they mean absolutely nothing when no liabilities are shown to support the asset side of the data, including the dividend income from investment, which is normally reinvested at the fund manager's discretion. In Japan, most government pension programs are contributory type. That means the government is incurring liabilities for its fiduciary responsibility for the current and future beneficiaries.

Any trained accountant can tell the implications of this pre-modern arrangement. For one thing, sovereign debt is only part of the government's indebtedness. It's understated at least by 400 trillion yen. That makes it meaningless to say the government is now indebted a little more than 200% of Japan's GDP, which already indicates the government spends far beyond its means. Another thing is that it's quite likely a good part of these pension assets have been misused or even embezzled because keeping accrued liabilities off the books is a typical way to cover up irregularities.

Now it's evident that the country is already in a negative equity situation, i.e. it's already gone bankrupt. At present, the government retains as many as 4 million single-entry-minded civil servants who strictly observe Parkinson's Laws. They are solely working on income redistribution. which, by definition, creates no values. To put it bluntly, the only option for the Japanese government is to dump most, not just many, of those on its payroll. Since the private sector also has a huge redundant manpower, I have always argued that Japan would become a viable nation only when it became ready to see its unemployment rate, which still stays below 5%, shooting up to 20% or even higher.

Even if all the government entities start to apply the double-entry accounting method to their financial statements, that, alone, will be far from enough because the credibility of their disclosures will be zero until independent auditors, not ones from the Board of Audit of Japan, thoroughly scrutinize their books. Moreover, even the audited books will still mean nothing if people remain in the dark about how to analyze financial statements.

Unfortunately, chances are remote that the full-fledged implementation of the Pacioli system, which is nothing more than an enabler of change, will help the Japanese clean house. Japan has a proven track record in artfully distorting and sanitizing imported ideas so the old system, be it the Tennoist cult or the 1955 System, would be kept intact.

One such example is the import of Mahayana Buddhism in the mid 6th century. They lifted the import ban only after deifying the Buddha. The same cherry-picking trick has been applied time and again to the "modernization" of the country in the last one and a half centuries under the slogan of
和魂洋才 (Japanese spirit and Western learning.) It's as though the "Japanese spirit" needs no modernization.

In all likelihood, the same trick will be used to devise a configuration to neutralize the effects of the double-entry bookkeeping method so the existing system still looks resuscitatable. I think most probably it takes an eternity for the Japanese to wake up from the pre-Pacioli fantasy. It's always people that should change first and foremost.

My prediction in this respect is that Shintaro Ishihara, former Tokyo Governor, will be the mastermind of this gimmick.

In 1968, Ishihara ran for a seat in the Diet on the LDP ticket on the pretext that the System could be reformed only from within. Then in 1989, he ran for the party presidency, but lost by a big margin to a mediocre contender named Toshiki Kaifu. This is the only election he has lost by now. Soon after the loss, he left the LDP to become the Tokyo Governor. Weeks before the December election, however, the 80-year-old ape quit the cushy, high-paying position at the Metropolitan government to make a comeback to the national politics. As usual he won.

On his campaign trail, and in a recent Diet session, he argued that one of the most important problems facing this country lies with the fact that the government still clings to the single-entry accounting method. He said to the effect that during his tenure as the head of the Metropolitan Government, he successfully changed its accounting method to the Pacioli System, and that the central government should follow suit. He added that then Japan's net-worth would instantly turn positive because the Household Financial Assets total 1,400 trillion whereas the government's indebtedness is just 1,000 trillion.

Once again he proved to be an idiot. His alma mater is Tokyo's Hitotsubashi University which was formerly named Tokyo Commerce of College. When he was a freshman, he took the exam for the CPA, but he failed. No wonder he doesn't understand the Bank of Japan's data means absolutely nothing if he doesn't subtract the Household Debts from the Household Financial Assets. The Net Household Financial Assets, which stand at 466 trillion yen, are what really count. More importantly, he doesn't have the slightest idea about accounting entities. The government is an accounting entity, but each household has its own. So any part of the government's debt can't be offset against the Household Financial Assets.

This is yet another hyperbole we heard from the idiot. You may wonder why, then, he has always been a shoo-in in a popular vote. The reason is simply because voters, who are in perpetual frustration over the dysfunctional system, always need to be degassed. Australian writer Ben Hills once dubbed him a Neanderthal. Ishihara should have taken it as a compliment because actually he is more like a parasite. He needs the 1955 System to withstand his attack just like it needs the self-styled rebel to keep talking big about the "reform from within."

I wrote this essay because I wanted to tell you I have been losing further ground in my constitutional battle against Yokohama municipality. Early on I insisted that I have no reason to pay the income-unrelated Citizen Taxes when my constitutional rights are in jeopardy. But it was like "urinating on the face of a frog."

At the same time, I've also had to prove I have no money to pay them, anyhow. To that end, I submitted several times the summaries of my cash book in Excel Sheet. The tax collectors refused to seriously examine my monthly receipts and disbursements on the pretext that there is a rule that says these data should be submitted using the "designated form." I refused to comply with their demand because the format I was shown was designed based on the archaic single-entry, cash-based accounting method.

Even if I had filled it out as they demanded, just the same I wouldn't have been able to convince them I was already broke. Cash balance can never be negative because you can't have a minus amount of money in your pocket. · read more (26 words)
  View Printable Version 

Let's face it: the chain of discrimination is unbreakable

The dendritic projections are like muscle tissue. They grow more the more they're used.
- Arnold Scheibel, former professor of neurobiology at UCLA, re-quoted from a New York Times article titled "New Evidence Points to Growth of the Brain Even Late in Life"


Chen Tien-shi appeared on the
Education channel of NHK
on February 26

Me discussing emergency
measures at a meeting in
Switzerland in the wake of
the burst of Japan's bubble
economy

Me awaiting the midnight junk
dinner at a shabby eatery
Lara, Chen Tien-shi wears two hats. She is known as an assistant professor and senior researcher at National Museum of Ethnology. At the same time she is a dedicated activist working for the cause of the reduction of "stateless" persons as they are vaguely defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

I do know she is an extraordinarily intelligent and compassionate person from her biographical book titled Stateless and our personal contact in the last three-plus years. But to tell the truth, I know very little about her academic accomplishments simply because I haven't had a chance to read her research paper. I can't tell for sure, but I suspect she's had a hard time to unequivocally define the problems facing stateless people living in Japan. Here's the reason.

The Japanese legal system, if ever there is such a thing at all, is just a jumble of many incongruous elements. The country first imported the judicial system from the European Continent, particularly from Prussia and France, while it essentially remained a feudal society. After WWII, it has single-mindedly introduced the "Anglo-American" system to blend it into the Franco-Germanic one in an extremely unprincipled way. Once again, Japan has failed to transform itself into a modern civil society.

Let's be reminded that law doesn't change people. It's always the other way around.

Japan's Nationality Law, for one, is based on the MacArthur Constitution. But the problem is that in the 66-year-old Constitution, you will find the definition of "the people" only after you read through the first nine articles devoted to the absurd definition of the Emperor and the manifestation of "renunciation of war." Article 10 says: "[By the way] the conditions necessary for being a Japanese national shall be determined by law." That means in this country, there are at least two extra-legal entities, the divine Emperor and the false pacifism, on which the obscenely incongruous U.S.-Japan alliance is based -- and certainly many more. That way, the rule of law to be reciprocally applied between the state and citizenry is hollowed out from the beginning.

This really hinders Lara's studies as an ethnologist specializing in nationality issues because in reality the subject of her studies is neither law nor ethnology, but theology or mythology, or worse yet, psychiatry.

Lara was wryly grinning when the Japanophilic moron named Donald Keene acquired Japanese citizenship despite the fact the former professor emeritus at Columbia University met none of the requirements of Japan's Nationality Law. Fortunately, though, she has been quite successful in her pursuit as a human rights activist, thanks to her admirable optimism, tenacity and down-to-earth approach toward individual cases with stateless persons who are seeking Japanese nationality only with great difficulty. She is an exceptional person in that she hasn't lost the life-size view of herself, and of others either.

The way she spoke in the TV program of February 26 somehow reminded me of Spielberg's film Schindler's List. Toward the end of the 1993 movie, the German businessman blames himself because he thinks he could have saved more than twelve hundred Jews he actually saved. In this sequence, his old accountant Itzhak Stern gives his boss a gold ring as a token of appreciation. Stern explains about the inscription in it: "It's Hebrew. It says, 'Whoever saves one life saves the world.'"

Lara launched a "Stateless Network" several years ago. Now it's been authorized by the Japanese government as an NPO. An authorized non-profit organization is a funny thing. If lawmakers or bureaucrats think something has to be done to solve a problem, it would be natural that the government, itself, takes corrective measures. Instead, however, it often helps set up an NPO and grants it a tax-exempt status and a small subsidy only to leave it struggling with the hot potato. In this tricky arrangement, what an NPO can do is quite limited.

I don't know if Lara has previous experience in managing an organization. But even if she has some know-how in running one with profit orientation, it's a totally different task to articulate goals for her NPO, and establish the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) accordingly. So it's not her fault at all if the members of her group can't envision their missions very clearly. It's all the more important for each one of these volunteers to understand the spirit of volunteerism that calls for his/her own principle on which to determine what to do and how to do it.

Last week a couple of my friends who watched the TV program gave me their feedback. One of them is a person who heads another NPO working on TIP (trafficking in persons.) She said: "Do you think they (members of Lara's organization) are aware of the fundamental fact that all types of discrimination are deep rooted in one and the same problem: pathology of the Japanese? Just between you and me, one of my headaches is that not a few volunteers in my NPO have lost touch with this reality."

I said, "I don't know exactly, but you are right about the Anti-Prostitution Law. It was enacted 57 years ago. And yet, prostitution, now subtly legitimized and highly institutionalized, is still flourishing across the nation. Likewise, Japan still remains at the bottom of the ranking in gender equality among industrialized nations 27 years after the Equal Employment Opportunity Act took effect. In short, discrimination is at the very root of this false statehood. This should mean that the Nationality Law, and rules and procedures related to it, are only part of the problems facing our Stateless Network."

Another friend, who is an American teaching English in my neighborhood, pointed out: "One of the things that drew my attention is that most stateless persons who appeared in the program seemed to have fallen into the trap of the subjunctive mood. It's always if...., if...., if..... And yet they never used the past perfect subjunctive, like 'What if I hadn't settled down in such a shitty country?' Why are they so sure that they would get a decent job only if the Immigration Office gave them nationality? I don't think their assumptions are very realistic."

He went on: "For instance, that guy, who fled his home country in Eastern Europe all by himself because he lost his parents at the height of the civil war, was saying, in what he thought was English, something like this: 'I love Japan. If the Immigration Office changed its mind and gave me the nationality, or at least a work permit, I would be able to teach English or Russian to Japanese kids.'" He added: "As you once pointed out in your blog, practically every Japanese takes it for granted that any Caucasian can teach him English. As you wrote there, this is one of the reasons English proficiency level of the average Japanese still stays at the bottom of the list despite their greatest exposure to the language here among non-English-speaking nations."

The English teacher said the same thing about another stateless job-seeker who insisted to the interviewer that only if the Immigration Office gave him the nationality, he would be given a decent job he has been applying for, to no avail thus far. The stateless person added that the human resource manager at the company said, "We can't employ you because you are not a Japanese national."

I said to the English teacher: "Who knows? We should all take a chance in an uncertain world like this one." In a sense, though, he had a good point. It doesn't seem to have crossed the mind of these stateless persons seeking the nationality and a job that Japan Inc. is already broke.

No sooner had the Liberal Democratic Party come back to power, new Prime Minister announced a "bold" stimulus package to revive the Japanese economy with a drastic quantitative easing, artificial weakening of the currency and beefing up public works projects. The learning-disabled general public once again jumped on the bandwagon of "Abenomics" as if artificially blowing up GDP by boosting business and consumer sentiment this way isn't the surest way to another bubble. You can't expect a different outcome from repeating the same thing you did in the past. Against this backdrop, I suspect the human resource manager might have used the stateless status of the applicant just as a pretext for turning down his application.

In my post titled A big what-if about the years 1853-1868, I wrote that asking a what-if type question sometimes sheds light on the future because what did not happen in the past can be more indicative than what actually happened. Although this holds true only with the fate of a nation, I think I should also be allowed to go hypothetical, at times, about myself.

In her book titled The Fountain of Age, Betty Friedan, anti-sexist bias activist-turned anti-ageist bias advocate, called man's ability of contextual thinking "crystallized intelligence." She explained:

"It seems that 'fluid' and 'crystallized' intelligence show different aging patterns. 'Crystallized' intelligence, which involves experience, meaning, knowledge, professional expertise, wisdom, increases throughout adulthood." (Emphasis mine.)

Friedan wrote this in 1993. This is even more relevant today because "fluid intelligence" is something that the computer is better at than humans.

So I write an application letter to a company in which I say: "My biological age is 77, and I suffer hypertension and some other illnesses. Admittedly I can't do muscle work. But I don't think I'm used up yet. As you can see in the attached resume, my forte lies in contextual thinking. I am sure if you hire me, you can get rid of a couple of empty-headed young employees from your payroll. Remuneration is negotiable, though. Best regards. P.S.: I prefer telecommuting to traveling in the packed train."

A week or so later I get a reply from the company. In essence, it reads: "You must be crazy. Go to hell. Best regards."

I joined a Japanese auto-parts manufacturer in 1959. Since the high-growth era had yet to come, my starting salary was a mere 12,600 yen. Subsequently, I was contributing to Japan Inc. throughout all these pre-bubble, bubble and post-bubble years, at the Japanese subsidiaries of three foreign companies. Aside from my contribution with crystallized intelligence, I paid premiums for the national pension and healthcare programs that totaled at least 100 million at present value. Now the government and the people owe me much more than I owe them.

One of the reasons for their ungratefulness is because they don't keep their books using the double-entry, accrual-based accounting system invented by Luca Pacioli more than 5 centuries ago. In Japan, all government entities at local and state levels are still using the archaic single-entry, cash-based bookkeeping method which was imported from Prussia in 1889. For one thing, they reluctantly give us the asset-side of the data for the national pension program, which is basically contributory type in this country. But they never disclose the liability-side which should represent their fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries. They just forgot people are their creditors.

In the last couple of weeks, I was working on an essay under the title of The Pacioli Revolution is long overdue everywhere but in Britain. But now I had an urge to discuss another issue, the chain of discrimination and reverse discrimination, before completing the Pacioli piece.

I am not writing this essay to say ageist bias is a more urgent issue than discrimination inflicted on stateless people. Some of my fellow members in the Stateless Network may think I am departing from the cause of helping the stateless living in Japan. But on the contrary, I'm now committed to it more than ever.

I just wanted them to know that when they work within human and financial resource constraints, it's crucially important to prioritize things, and in doing so, it's equally important to use criteria which reflect the reality, instead of weak hypotheses, that there is no such thing as a case of statelessness which is isolated from other types of discrimination in this country. · read more (19 words)
  View Printable Version 

Love it AND leave it - and don't cherry-pick

Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own-being they were empty. Here, O Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form ; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness. Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness ; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete. Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness ; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind ; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind ; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to : No mind-consciousness element ; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to : There is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and no non-attainment.
- From Prajñā Pāramitā: English translation by E. Conze


The Heart Sutra in Sanskrit

The Chinese translation of the same scripture
When moving on from a post to the next, I often revisit Prajñā Pāramitā Hṛdaya, better known as the Heart Sutra, in its Chinese version, and sometimes stay there for weeks. I just want to make sure I haven't been swayed too much by crybabyism and busybodyism widespread among English-speaking prisoners of ideologies.

The Sanskrit words literally mean "the heart of the perfection of transcendent wisdom." This particular one, among other tens of thousands of scriptures, is considered to best represent the original way "Mahayana" Buddhists viewed the world. It was first put in writing presumably in the second or third century. But because of too much impurities added in the subsequent centuries, there are few other undistorted Buddhist sutras today.

"Mahayana" is literally translated as "the Great Vehicle." Professional monks, and Buddhist scholars alike, say there are other groups, especially in South Asian countries, who are generically called Theravada Buddhists. But none of them are not denominations of what the Westerners call Buddhism in the sense that Roman Catholic or Protestant is to Christianity. Buddhists are Buddhists.

To begin with, Buddhism is not a religion because it knows no god. It's just a set of principles. And unlike dogmas upheld by Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Buddhist principles are something which should be constantly tested against the ever-changing reality of life. Hence there are no fixed do's and don'ts.

Instead I have my own principles as an avowed Buddha fundamentalist with which to govern myself. One of them is NOT to seek truth because I know if I do, it runs away from me. At the same time, I never run away from truth because if I do, it starts chasing after me. Another rule says I should never cherry-pick because it's an illusion to expect I'll find something that is flawless or costless in this world. Since it's a self-imposed code of conduct, there's no prize at stake in adhering to it. No punishment is imposed either.

Several months ago I bought a big kitchen knife made in Switzerland at a nearby hardware shop because I have no yakuza friend who would lend me a gun when I need one. In the light of law of the jungle that prevails in the American society, I am a person who is too sensitive to hurt other humans. That's why I haven't killed or robbed any person in the last 77 years. But that doesn't mean I will never use the Swiss-made weapon as the last resort. At any rate I don't want Moses or anyone else to tell me whether and when to use it and against whom - myself or someone else. A Buddhist can be a killer when necessity arises.

In short, the Buddhist code of conduct has nothing to do with theism, or atheism for that matter.

Needless to say, the Japanese interpretation of Buddhist principles is quite different from the way other Northeast Asians understand them. Situated at one of the world's busiest cultural crossroads, the country is where the West has met the East in the weirdest and most unfortunate way. It all started when the prehistoric Emperor Kinmei (509-571 AD) mishandled the relations with the three kingdoms in the Korean Peninsula.

In the 530s, the ruling class was divided over whether to permit the import of Buddhism from one of the Korean Kingdoms named Paekche. Shintoism, which was nothing more than the primitive Shamanism tailored to fit into the Tennoist cult, had already established itself as the de facto state religion. But the Soga clan, which is suspected to have had its roots in the Peninsula and represented the Korean interest, adamantly insisted against the import ban. Just like all his incompetent successors would do in subsequent centuries, Emperor Kinmei made every possible effort to avoid facing up to the critical issue at hand. Instead, he chose to let things drift until the problem solved itself. Finally the other clans had to settle for the idea of the Soga's that in effect went like this: "We already have
八百万の神 (eight million gods) enshrined here. What's wrong with just adding a Buddha as the 8,000,001st one to venerate?"

This is basically why the Buddha was deified from the beginning in this country.

According to the official statistics, there are at least 96 million believers in Buddhas as deity. Japan's total population stands at 127 million, including kids. But the numbers of registered members of all religions including Christianity add up to more than 300 million, almost three-times the total population. This is the most telling evidence that the Japanese sold their souls to the devil for good in the mid-6th century.

The world's oldest scripture of the Heart Sutra written in Chinese on paper made of the leaf of the "lontar" palm tree is in the possession of the Horyu-ji temple in the ancient capital of Nara since the 7th century. But even today, the Japanese don't understand, or don't care about, the meaning of these Chinese words, because at a funeral or any other memorial service, the bonze on demand is always supposed to recite the Heart Sutra or any other Buddhist scripture in On reading, i.e. Chinese in altered pronunciation. The congregation would never appreciate the worthiness of the scripture if its Japanese translation were to be chanted. Most Japanese, even well-educated people, are so superstitious that they don't appreciate anything but abracadabra.

Ben Hills, the author of Princess Masako - The Tragic True Story of Japan's Crown Princess isn't exaggerating when he observes: "Most Japanese of Masako's generation never worship, but happily embrace a trilogy of faiths. They see no contradiction in being taken to the local Shinto shrine to be recorded at birth, marrying in Christian ceremonies, and having their bones buried in Buddhist family tombs."

Across the Pacific, basically the same thing has been happening to the American people at least since the mid-1960s. Now you can see a striking resemblance between the two peoples in their unprincipled way of cherry-picking incongruous ideas from ideological rubbish. While most of them still cling to the same old delusions such as conservatism, liberalism and libertarianism, better-educated people are increasingly looking to the East as if Buddhism or any other Asian wisdom can be an alternative to Judeo-Christian ideologies. More often than not these people settle for the stereotypical exoticism and esoteric mysticism movie-makers in Hollywood are untiringly churning out.

And yet, there are a small number of people who are aware their country is now intellectually bankrupt and they are badly in need of something that is a little more than an antithesis of any idea derived from Christianity or anti-Christianity. Simply they are wrong; an antithesis can't precede the thesis in question. If you don't know it, the Buddha was born in the 5th century before Christ.

If you are one of those Americans who seek peace of mind through fasting or any other type of mortification, once again, you are wrong.

In the Christian world, there is only one God and only one Jesus Christ. Although not a few people have claimed to be a reincarnation of God or Jesus, they are all nuts. On the contrary, there supposed to be many real Buddhas in Asian countries because the name simply means anyone who is awakened to the fundamental principles Shakyamuni Buddha advocated. That's why I add a "the" when I refer to this particular Buddha.

One of the misperceptions typical of the Americans is the notion that the Buddha sought a way to detach himself from the real world in the expectation that he could attain peace of mind that way. If this were true, you could readily find in your own country tips for inner peace which is somewhat akin to Buddha's teaching.

The Serenity Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous, for one, could be a substitute for the Heart Sutra. As far as I know, winos and junkies have found it effective in breaking their addiction to substance to chant these words everyday. There's no reason to rule out the Serenity Prayer as an effective cure for your pathological fixation to a delusive ideology or ideological delusion.

Likewise, the famous right-wing rhetoric "Love it or leave it", in a sense, resonates with Buddhists because the slogan is meant to say in a very straightforward way: "Don't cherry-pick."

Some 30 years ago, a psychiatrist named Howard M. Halpern wrote about addictive "attachment hunger" like this: "All of these [self-deceptive] people believe it would be better for them to leave the relationship, but when it comes to doing so they are paralyzed. In order to remain in relationship, knowing it is against their own best interests, they frequently try to trick themselves by distorting the situation."

All these words are convincing enough to tell you that it's none other than yourself that actually locked you in the imaginary prison, and that you can't find the way out of it simply because deep inside you don't want to free yourself. To that end you tend to mix up detachment with what psychiatrists call a "fugue state."

But something very important is missing in these statements made in U.S.A. For one thing, Halpern stopped short of telling you it's more important than just detaching or decommitting yourself from the wrong partner that you reattach or recommit yourself to the right person.

There's no denying the story about Jesus Passion is touching, but it's not really thought-provoking because it doesn't tell what if he hadn't been persecuted the way he was. On the contrary, books on the life of the Buddha is intriguing except they are also filled with absurd episodes such as the one about the white elephant.

He was 29-years-old when he started his penance. But at the end, he was awakened only to the truth that self-mortification would not lead him to a full awakening. The Buddha had learned by then that detachment from the material life would mean nothing but another delusion until renewing his attachment and commitment to it in a better way. In other words, he got the life-size view of himself in the newly acquired perspective of the infinite universe.

To a Buddhist, awakening is an open-ended process through which he breaks an addictive attachment and reattaches himself to someone or something new. If you say you have nothing or no one but your own self that makes your life worth living, I suspect you are one of those prisoners of egomaniac or narcissistic delusions. It seems quite unlikely that you can be awakened from your ignorance and arrogance.

The Buddha-to-be was born in a royal Hindu family to King Śuddhodana, the leader of the Shakya clan. So he belonged to Kshatriyas, the second-highest class within the caste system. It remains a mystery why he voluntarily left behind the affluent life in the palace, his beautiful wife and their new-born child. I hypothesize that he embarked on the long journey in search of suffering because of, rather than despite, his wealthy upbringing. As we all know, those who are stingy about earthly pleasure are also parsimonious about suffering because they have nothing to miss or no one to yearn for. To them suffering is just a word. So is delight.

The Buddha didn't embrace hedonism, Epicureanism, or materialism. But neither did he believe in asceticism or spiritualism. And the farthest thing from Buddhism is extremism or fanaticism.

Then did he go in the middle of the road, as the simple-minded Westerners often say? Not at all. Buddhism has nothing in common with centrism or moderatism either. If there is an ism that isn't really foreign to Buddhism, it's radicalism in the true sense of the word. · read more (41 words)
  View Printable Version 

Love it or leave it

If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
- Henry David Thoreau


The Chen family in the
early 1970s
It's cold outside, and inside as well.

When the Snake was taking Dragon's place, I was writing a long letter to the Tax Collecting Department at the Ward Office of the Yokohama municipality to explain, for the hundredth time,
1) I have no reason to pay "Citizen Taxes" when my constitutional rights are in jeopardy, and
2) I have no money to pay them.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine - it's actually the wife of my friend, to be more precise - said, "You say your right to 'maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living' is being infringed by the Ward Office. But it seems to me they needn't have forced you to catch up so mercilessly if you had paid these taxes on time since 2006 in the first place."

I appreciated her frankness, but just like the tax collectors, she viewed the causal relationship upside down. At least I wanted her to understand that as former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul wrote in 2008, "economic freedom and personal liberty are not divisible."

It still remained a paper bullet, but I felt now I was exhausting every possible measure to peacefully convince the robbers that the Constitution is a reciprocal agreement between the state and its citizenry.

I added the Yokohama Bureau of the Asahi Shimbun daily to the list of the recipients of CCs, only to show the tax collectors that I was damn serious about my refusal to pay "Citizen Taxes." Actually I knew I couldn't expect any support from the Fourth Estate which has collusive relations with the three branches of the government through the news cartel called Kisha Kurabu.

During this stressful period, some of my friends gave me a helping hand, either directly or indirectly. Especially heartening was the New Year's greeting card from Lara, Chen Tien-shi (the toddler in the above photo.) In the postscript, she wrote to the effect that she does not really agree to the way the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) defines the stateless and classifies them into two categories, de jure and de facto.

The brilliant ethnologist certainly knows any definition of anything which all dates back to 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (
NOTE below) was adopted can't serve the purposes of the 21st century. In the last 64 years, the Chinese Communist Party took over power from the Kuomintang, Deng Xiaoping opened up the People's Republic of China, the Cold War came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the PRC became the world's second largest economy. Nothing has remained unchanged.

NOTE: Its Article 15 vaguely says, "(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality."

As I wrote in the previous post, most people in and around the UNHCR have already lost touch with the reality. The Geneva-based international body was founded in 1950 on a principle which is the worst possible combination of the busybody's ideology of America and other victors of WWII and the crybaby's mindset widespread in the rest of the world. It's no wonder the UNHCR still has great difficulty reaching a consensus on how to define statelessness while incorporating all the complexity and subtlety involved in it. As a result, nobody can tell exactly who should be protected exactly from whom. And yet, people there still claim to be exploring effective ways to "ameliorate the situations facing an estimated 12 million stateless people."

In short, the ideology-ridden UNHCR has politicized what should not be politicized at all.

Actually I have owed Lara more than I can repay. Among other things I have learned a lot from her intriguing autobiography just titled Stateless, which is the manifestation of her positive attitude toward life. It's this trait coupled with an unparalleled intellect that made her acquire Japanese nationality after the years of deliberation. According to the author, she wanted to find out what it would give and cost her to voluntarily enter into a contract with this nation-state which inflicted a lot of suffering on the home country of her parents in the 1930s through the first half of the '40s.

Like many of you, I have never been stateless de jure myself. But now I think I know how to deal with the fundamental question about my relationship with the country where I was born and have lived for 77 years.

Now in the face of the existential crisis, in which both my survival and principle of life are at stake, I'm urging the City Hall to immediately stop robbing me of 30% of my pension annuities on the pretext I had refused to pay Citizen Taxes from 2006 through 2011.

The constitutional/extralegal war I'm at can be unwinnable. But I still hope I don't succumb before the municipality does. I don't need any institutionalized support from the likes of the UNHCR because it always remains self-contradictory and empty words. All I need to that end is a moral support from such people like Lara (
NOTE below) and other like-minded individuals, and monetary support from my selfless friends such as "DK" and the dentist. These people always remind me I am not a beggar as yet.

NOTE: Don't take me wrong, however. I have no intention to implicate her in my battle against the municipality in any way. Actually she hasn't approved, or disapproved my way of dealing with the municipality, either explicitly or implicitly.

Without their support, I would have been suffocated to death by what I call the Oxygen Taxes a long time ago. I call them that way because the Citizen Taxes are basically levied on your mere existence. You can't tell the difference between the local and central governments and criminal syndicates because yakuza gangsters, more often than not, demand "protection monies" from the residents who are living on their "turf" no matter whether the small shop owners are prospering.

I think taxation on your business transactions and properties is a different issue because, as the last resort, you can always avert them by refraining from selling or buying goods and services, owning properties, or using the infrastructure.

They always say, "Love it or leave it." I used to be saying this rhetoric was totally unacceptable because if all those who are unhappy with the way it is in their country leave it, nothing will change for the better in the future. But now I've realized I was wrong. If you don't love it, there is no reason you have to worry about the future of you country. They are right, after all: it's not them but you that must go away - from the system, that is. I am not talking about people to whom you are personally committed.

I don't love it. But I didn't leave it on my own either because I thought there was no reason I had to leave. Then, the City Hall stepped in to virtually declare me stateless de facto. That's how it all happened here.

· read more (65 words)
  View Printable Version 

A spiritual homecoming in December


Flowers of camellia japonica are blooming
in my neighborhood with an air of Asian
modesty
When I defined my post-retirement project as a "taboo-free web journal," not a few people seemed impressed. They said it was cool. But none of them knew what was cool about breaking taboos. To begin with, they couldn't tell what taboos really are.

By definition, any issue you haven't addressed seriously before is taboo; and any conspiracy that's been "revealed" over and over by self-proclaimed truth-seekers is not.

I knew from the beginning that my blog would become one of the most unpleasant websites around because most taboo issues I would discuss there would be disheartening ones such as our mortality and the emptiness of our lives.

On the contrary, I wasn't really prepared for people's response when it came to potentially exhilarating subjects, such as my proposition about a new sociopolitical model. Only seven "specimens" gave me feedback, online or offline, direct or indirect, from the U.S., Japan and South Korea. I was really shocked to find that with a couple of exceptions, all they gave me were the same old non sequituri (the plural form of non sequitur) or casual by-the-ways. This is an unmistakable sign that in the U.S., and in other countries to a lesser degree, taboo-ridden people have armed themselves with fake ideologies out of fear of change.

Now I belatedly realized that I had been wasting the limited amount of time left for me with the wrong people. I'd intended to give a finishing touch to my entire life. But actually I was spoiling it altogether.

It took me a solid couple of weeks until the panic attack resulting from the nightmarish experience more or less subsided.

As I wrote in the post in question here, ideologies are nothing more than the cinders from the past revolution or war. In the last century, the American people and their government have been scavenging for reusable ideologies along with worn-out religious beliefs with which to conquer the rest of the world.

Guess what, Americans today know only two ideologies. One is to serve the purposes of busybodies as the pretext for intervention in the lives of their fellow citizens and the domestic affairs of foreign countries. The other one serves the purposes of crybabies as the alibi for their inaction against "morally obscene and financially unsustainable" interventionism on the part of their government. In short, these change-phobic people take it for granted that ideologies are the world currency.

Totally fed up with these warm-headed and cold-hearted prisoners of ideologies in the U.S., I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to keep my positive attitude toward life until I go to the other side of heaven, the only thing I would have to do was to get back in close touch with my fellow Northeast Asians. These earthly people may not be ideologically savvy by American standards, but most of them are still equipped with an unclouded wisdom inherent to this part of the world. Don't take me wrong, however. I'm not talking about these Oriental rubbish invented by Hollywood.

My utmost respect especially goes to the Chinese, who are flexible enough to mix up seemingly incongruous ideologies such as Maoism and capitalism, or the solar calendar with the lunar calendar or even the ancient Mayan Calendar. More importantly, they have kept their traditional principles intact all along, unlike the Japanese whose unprincipled way of importing foreign things and ideas has resulted in a "cultural salad" by now.

From my point of view, the beauty of mixing with Northeast Asians lies primarily with the fact that they don't have to be reminded of our mortality and the emptiness of our lives every time we discuss issues. As a result, I can pass as one of the most pleasant persons to be with even in this holiday season.

The Japanese are quite different from other tribes. This archipelago is the cultural crossroad where the East has met the West in the weirdest and the most unfortunate way. The Americans have always been able to expect them to remain the second-class citizens of their evil Empire.

This, however, is not to say the Japanese are all yellow Yankees. Some of them, if not many, still keep the traditional Asian virtues intact, especially in mountainous farmlands and remote islands. When American ideologues talk about the Japanese people, it's just a word that represents faceless vassals and serfs in their Far Eastern fiefdom. But to me, they are all faces I've known in the last 77 years.

Even as for the Japanese living in urban areas, I'm reasonably comfortable talking to them because most of the time we can resonate with each other much more congenially than when I discuss ideologies with the American people.

For one thing, these Manga-loving people never ridicule me as an opium addict when I talk about a brand new sociopolitical model, even though I can't expect them to grasp my argument either in political or technological context. They pay due respect for my proposition simply because they know nothing new comes out of the manifestation of delusions under the guise of an ideology.

They would say: "Maybe it's a pipe-dream. But what's wrong with dreaming? Is there anything more real and creative than wild imagination?"

Lara and part of me
at Bonenkai

My neighbor Lara, Chen Tien-shi is an ethnological researcher specializing in such issues as statelessness and the Chinese Diaspora. At the same time, she is a dedicated activist who has set up an NPO named "Stateless Network." Aside from the unparalleled intelligence that allows her to address these issues in all their complexity and subtlety, Lara has a very pleasant personality and an excellent eyesight.

One afternoon in early December, I walked past the Chinese restaurant owned by her parents. As usual she spotted me before I spotted her. She left her computer in the farthest corner of the shop, waving her hand at me as high as if she were a little girl who found her father in the crowd. She rushed out to say: "Can I expect you to attend the annual meeting of the Network?" I said, "I'm afraid not. I was just thinking about sending a proxy statement to the secretariat." "Then why don't you join us in our Bonenkai that follows the annual meeting?"

Bonenkai, literally translated as a forget-the-year party, actually refers to any get-together people have at this time of the year. I hesitated to answer in the affirmative because I wasn't sure if I could socialize nicely with other members of the group. Then I remembered I was badly in need of mixing with ordinary Asians even though most of them are typical Japanese.

Back home, I rehearsed myself for our empty conversation like this:

Me: "Ms. So-and-So, what do you do, I mean, for a living?"
Ms. So-and-So: "I'm a school teacher."
Me: "Oh, is that so?"
Ms. So-and-So: "What about you, Mister ...?"
Me: "Yamamoto is my name. I'm jobless."
Ms. So-and-So: "!!??"
Me: "By the way, this mapo tofu is very nice. Don't you think?"
Ms. So-and-So: "Indeed it is"

Now I was sure it would be a cinch to express my opinions on the matters that I can't really relate myself to if I didn't forget the killer phrase. In the past I've practiced a lot with my American audience on when to say, "By the way."

Actually at the Bonenkai, everyone was asked to introduce himself/herself.

When it was my turn to give a self-introduction, I said: "Actually all I have to tell you about myself is that I am the oldest member of the group." Lara quickly cut in. "You are wrong, Mr. Yamamoto." "Who is older than I?" She said, "My father is 90 although he had to skip this gathering for some reason." I said: "Thank you for correcting me, Lara. I'm the second oldest." I went on: "It seems to me there are at least 7 or 8 people among you guys who have Japanese nationality, either acquired or given at birth jus soli or jus sanguinis. Now I want to ask you a small question: 'Do you know what's going on here on this Sunday?'" Nobody but Lara could answer my question.

Lara grinned and said as if to cover for her stupid classmates: "GENERAL ELECTION!" "You bet it is. I just wanted to remind you that Article 15 of the Constitution guarantees 'universal adult suffrage.' You should never fail to cast your ballot. I hear the polling stations are open until 8 PM. For my part, the last time I exercised my voting right was soon after I reached my voting age 57 years ago. But it's a different story."

At that moment, Lara raised her hand to ask me something which sounded like a planted question: "Mr. Yamamoto, why don't you vote yourself?" "Thanks for asking. I don't vote because I'm a de facto stateless person."

NOTE: Later in the day, the election officials announced the voter turnout was a record low 59.32%.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees classifies the stateless into two categories, de jure and de facto, as if it were someone's responsibility to distinguish them from one group to the other. Based on the pointless definitions, UNHCR has been aiming at reducing the stateless population by promoting its 1967 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons as if they were pests.

Unlike their leader Lara, the predominantly Japanese members of Stateless Network are all gullible enough to blindly swallow UNHCR's dogmas which are, in fact, the worst possible combination of two ideologies, one for busybodies and the other for crybabies. They all believe they are supposed to carry out a lofty mission of helping the stateless persons around the world acquire second-class citizenship of the respective nation-states, as if nationalities were alms from heaven.

But thanks to my friend Lara, now I have learned that these local folks, who are cool-headed and warm-hearted relative to the Westerners I know, can help me avoid another midnight fright and recover some sense of reality.

Around the same time, I even resorted to temporarily un-disowning my elder son.

It was just an emergency measure. For 77 years by now, I've lived my life in my own way, always looking for something to live for. Some Americans seem to think I should suffer the consequence. I couldn't care less. But it's a different story when it comes to my own offspring. Who could accept it when your biological son thinks you deserve all this "punishment"?

I just said to him, "Why don't we have small talk over sukiyaki dinner?" He complied right away because there was no particular reason to decline. Since I took a precaution to avoid touchy topics, we just talked this and that about musical instruments (he is a baritone sax player) and the computer.

Earlier in the month, he had invited me to his concert that would be held at a decent hall located at the edge of Yokohama city. I would never have attended it if it hadn't been given jointly with a group of professional jazz musicians who call themselves "Glenn Miller Sound Orchestra."

True, it was fake, but since Japan's top-notch jazz men replicated the Glenn Miller Orchestra (1938-42) to every detail, not only repertory- and arrangement-wise but also presentation style-wise, e.g. two vocalists stayed sitting around on stage even when an instrumental number was being played, I found their performance even more impressive than the real one I can hear only on YouTube.

A schmaltzy old man though I may sound, I was deeply touched when the female singer started to sing:

Why do robins sing in December,
Long before the springtime is due?
And even though it's snowing,
Violets are growing,
I know why and so do you


These danceable tunes from the Big Band Era (1935-55) always bring back the memories of fine moments. One year after the Tokyo Olympics, I was briefly living with a former Miss Hokkaido as her live-in boyfriend in a fancy apartment located near the Olympic Stadium. To me she looked to be outshining Monica Vitti starring in the 1962 Italian film "The Eclipse." We spent a night at a Yokohama nightclub named "Moonlight." In the predawn hours. we were alone on the dance floor. Filipino musicians were playing Frankie Carle's "Sunrise Serenade" for us.

Whenever I recall those good old days, I say to myself: "Who could have asked for anything more?"

And also in December I didn't forget to ask for the company of DK, who helped me out of the first round of financial crisis when the tax-collectors at City Hall robbed me of 30% of my pension annuity. Without his aid which totaled 700K yen over the 9-month period from October 2011, I would have been sunk a long time ago. Since then I've been feeling as if I were a composer of classical music who failed to produce a masterpiece to reciprocate the patronage by a music-loving royalty. But he readily booked himself for a dinner together. He gave me a fine treat at a nearby Korean restaurant. Among other things, I loved the braised pork cheek meat served there.

DK isn't a college graduate, but unlike my uneducated sons, he can talk about a wide range of topics from languages, to religions, to literature and to technologies. As always he footed the bill knowing I'm now going through the second round of the constitutional/extralegal battle. When we left the Korean restaurant, he stopped a taxi for me at the sidewalk filled with December festivity and casually handed me two thousand-yen bills for the taxi fare.

Over the yearend, I also owed heartfelt thanks to two doctors, especially the selfless dentist. On New Year's Eve, my decayed tooth started aching intolerably. I knew that in this weird country, all doctors and dentists would close their clinics between December 28 or 29 through January 3 or 4, as if it's prohibited to fall ill during this period. So I sent a mail to the dental practitioner just to ask when he will resume his business. Quite unexpectedly his reply mail hit my in-box in the wee hours of January 1. It said, "I plan to resume business on the 4th, but I don't think you can wait that long. You can come to see me this afternoon." And the dentist in causal attire gave me an emergency treatment and prescription. When I said, "I want you to issue me a bill this time around," he said, "Oh, no, Mr. Yamamoto. It's a New Year's gift from me."

My physical and financial crisis is still far from over. But now that I resumed close contact with some local folks, I think I can prevent myself from being psychologically alienated any further from real life. · read more (20 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Nightmare of dichotomy

"□ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □"
- Diogenes of Sinope (When asked about his take on Zeno's arguments, he just stood up, without saying a word, and walked, in order to prove they were false.)

Every Internet & Manga cafe in Japan
has tens of thousands of funny and
serious Manga books in its library.

Day and night a number of "Internet
cafe refugees" fence themselves in
jail-cell-like cubicles.

I lived an extraordinarily rewarding life, but it's all over now. My English writing skills are too poor to describe the strange sensation, but I feel what I am today is exactly what I was. (NOTE at the bottom of this post.) I want to preserve the memories of my life until the last moment so they all vanish when I vanish.

I still hang around this side of heaven primarily because it's too cold outside to die there. So don't tell me I still have some obligation to give free lectures on life to you American people.

In fact, the scattered responses to my recent post about a new political model and its followup piece about the Deluge of Manga really let "me" down. Judging from the online and offline feedback from a handful of specimens, most, if not all, Americans can't address a serious issue such as this one in a principled way.

I just wanted to send a message that we can stem the overwhelming flood of Manga only when we come up with a new sociopolitical model with which to supplant the dead one, and vice versa. We can't solve either part because it's one and the same problem.

I have defined Manga so broadly as to include any visual or audiovisual aid that allows people with defeatist mindset and change-phobia to escape from reality. No more, no less. To me, George Orwell's Ninety Eighty-Four is a piece of Manga simply because quite a few Manga loving people here consider it as a high-end alternative to Gekiga (serious Manga) despite the fact the dystopian story is presented in a different format in Orwell's book.

I have absolutely nothing against Manga itself. The problem always lies with the people.

Nevertheless, those who gave me their comments, directly or indirectly, still talk about it in terms of good or bad, or, harmless or harmful. Simply it's a non sequitur to my serious argument. They might as well have ignored it altogether.

Among other things, they had difficulty understanding my frequent reference to Zeno's Paradoxes. As a result, they all thought my argument about the dichotomic world was way too far-fetched.

Last night I was writing the following sentences for yet another piece which might have been titled something like Evil resides in people's minds to further clarify my point.

"Just think of two places and plot them on a white canvas in the corners of your mind. Let's assume the places you pick are a utopia or a dystopia you tend to think Manga addicts are resorting to, and the 'real' world you tend to liken to a prison. Then you somehow feel an urge to bring a Manga-loving person back to the 'real' world. You try to drag him into the prison in the hope that he would wake up to the reality there.

"Then you realize that no matter how you map the two geometric points relative to each other, you will never succeed just like Achilles can never catch up with the tortoise. The reason your dichotomic tactic fails in human society is because you always opt to leave yourself out of the picture. What good do you think it would do to tell him to wake up when you are not creative and imaginative enough, yourself, to come up with a bright idea of a workable model for a new society? Nobody wants to wake up to the reality which is synonymous with hell. Everyone has the right to deceive himself the way he likes.

"Human nature is such that it continually transcends itself, or continually refuses to do so, in order to pursue, or suppress the 'free will' of its own.

"Easier said than done, but you should know it doesn't make any sense to tell others to change without changing yourself.

"You should know you have also chosen to remain fenced in Zeno's prison. There may be some other guy who thinks he remains outside of the fantasy world. He says to the inmate: 'Stay inside if you feel comfortable there.' But actually he has also fenced himself in a prison built on his utter ignorance.

"All in all, everyone in this picture is trapped in the same illusion."

When I came to this point, something clicked in my mind. I said to myself: "Shit, what the hell am I doing here? I've already done as much as I could. I don't want to waste any more time on this futile discussion."

Now I know time isn't ripe yet, and will most probably remain so forever, for the Americans to break what I call "Imperial Determinism" amid the vast intellectual vacuum spreading across North America.

I went to bed although it's actually nothing but a couple of dirty, crumpled rags. As usual I couldn't fall asleep despite the fatigue. Then, I got stricken by a spell of panic over how I've been screwing up my entire life when the final curtain is falling on me. Until dawn, I kept asking myself, as if in delirium, how to get out of this jam.

There are only two roles played on the stage: one for the Rebel, the other for the Plain Fool. There is a third role which is played by the Revolutionary, but he normally stays off-stage throughout the dichotomic drama.

My lifetime philosophy teacher Jean-Paul Sartre observed the Rebel is a clown because he badly needs his enemy to withstand his rebellious attack so he can remain the same Rebel all along. But now I've learned the Rebel also needs the Revolutionary because he is there to prove for the Rebel that the Revolutionary is an inviable species. In a dichotomic world, he always ends up destroying himself.

The Plain Fool may hate the Rebel because the Rebel is there to mercilessly attack him. Yet, he also needs the Revolutionary on his side because he wants to sleep in peace with a belief that the Revolutionary always keeps vigil on his behalf. The Plain Fool needn't know what the Revolutionary is watching out for. It's none of his business.

Maybe I can define my role as that of the Revolutionary. But I don't want the Rebel or the Plain Fool to count on me because it's always a he. At least in Japan, women don't belong to the dichotomy unless/until they are fully assimilated into the male-dominated world. Actually it was always a woman, who was too intelligent to be called the Plain Fool, that made my life really worth living. Not that all Japanese women are like this - far from it. The Manga-loving female manager at the tax-collecting department of the municipal office, for one, is a real bitch.

I said to myself it's about time to have abandoned the role of the Revolutionary. It's none of my business to suggest my predominantly American audience that they should seek a brand-new sociopolitical model.

Enough is enough.

To make up for the sleepless night, I took a long afternoon nap. At a little after 5 PM, a sudden jolt woke me up. Funnily enough, the first thing that cropped up in my mind was that cockeyed, short (5'02"), impossibly nicotine-addicted Frenchman named Jean-Paul Sartre, and his ontological essay titled L'Être et le néant. If I remember it correctly, he wrote in the book to the effect that natural phenomena such as winds that blow, streams of the river and waves of the sea are the "disease" of L'Être en-soi (being in-itself.)

His statement here was not really convincing. But now I think I've really understood the idea. When a dichotomic world falls apart, it will be caused by itself, like in a case where a big quake destroys Japan. Fortunately or unfortunately, most seismologists are now saying the probability of a real devastating earthquake hitting the metropolitan area in the next four years is 70%.

Incidentally, did you know that an exceptionally talented Manga cartoonist has recently debuted in New Jersey, U.S.A.? His name is Gordon G. Chang. Although he still uses the format of political analysis here, its content is unmistakably Manga. · read more (354 words)
  View Printable Version 

The Deluge of Manga: Is this my hallucination, or a conspiracy by bad guys?

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
- Henri Bergson (1859-1941)




Simply, neither is the case here.

"Deluge" is the only word I can think of to describe the overwhelming flood of Manga in this country. In 2011, 968 million copies of comic books and magazines were read by the Japanese, from prime ministers to corporate executives, to yakuza gangsters, to the homeless. But this is only part of it. On TV and the Internet, and in movie theaters, they saw another myriad of animated Manga called Anime.

Besides, they often read supposedly serious books as a high-end alternative to Manga. George Orwell's Ninety Eighty-Four, for one, has deeply resonated with Japanese Manga lovers, although it hasn't been published in the Manga format thus far.

You may not believe, but remember Manga is a visual, or audiovisual aid that allows its readers to escape from reality. To these defeatist-minded, change-phobic people, it doesn't matter whether the story is about a utopia or a dystopia. How sweet it must be to imagine we are all doomed. For sure, it's as irresistible as fantasizing about yourself surrounded by cuties all in the nude.

This makes comic books and magazines the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

And if you think some cabal is hatching a plot to lull the Japanese people into a fantasy world, you are caught in a delusion, too. No matter how far the process of degeneration has progressed in this country, the Japanese still remain human beings, though they've come very close to apes now. They could have thwarted the "conspiracy" if they hadn't chosen on their own to go for Manga as a harmless substitute for the object of their innate imagination.

In other words, it's none other than themselves who wanted to escape from reality. Jean-Paul Sartre called this behavior Mauvaise foi (self-deception.)

This makes you think that although it's too late for the Japanese to stem the torrent, the American people can still reverse the process of their Japanization if they somehow find a way to overcome their deep-seated change-phobia.

In this respect, well-educated Americans may not necessarily lead the way. They tend to distance themselves from the influence of the Manga-immersed Japanese culture so as not to look vulgar. But it's a futile attempt. These people can convert to Manga addicts on the slightest cue because they are unaware that the problem lies with people, not in Manga itself.

French philosopher Henri Bergson observed that intuition and imagination play the pivotal role in our developmental process. For a certain period of time in my childhood, I was also hooked on Manga. And I think Manga helped nurture my creativity. But if you become addicted to it, as the Japanese all did, it's inevitable that delusion takes the place of an unstunted imagination.

Traditionally, in the U.S., and the U.K. to a lesser degree, there are lots of criticisms against Bergson's theory. An unnamed person on this website argues: "Bergson seldom offers proof or logical procedure to substantiate his statements. He asserts; he does not deduce his ideas from verifiable facts. .... Such intellectual pursuits appeal to metaphysical 'concepts' that by their very nature lie beyond the possibility of verification. .... Consequently, as is the case with so much philosophical jargon, such claims as Bergson's are epistemic nonsense." This is a typical argument based on the simplistic positivism and empiricism particular to Anglo-Saxons.

These guys are all mistaken simply because they forget that Bergson single-mindedly sought an answer to Zeno's proposition about a motionless, frozen world.

I will never accept the American version of Zeno's paradoxes, which I'm inclined to call "Imperial Determinism," because it is solely meant to preserve the status quo of Pax Americana. It provides a plausible alibi for the American people who keep playing dumb about their inability to stop their colonialist government from pursuing its "morally obscene and financially unsustainable" (Chalmers Johnson) interventionist policy.

Actually, there are more level-headed people who have been challenging the paradoxes from the mathematics or physics point of view. But we Asians don't want to become mathematicians or physicians so we could come up with an actionable plan to overcome all these difficulties brought in this region by the worst rogue country in history named America.

After all, the answer given by Diogenes the Cynic (412-323 BC) is the most straightforward and convincing. When asked about his take on Zeno's arguments, Diogenes just stood up without saying a word, and walked, in order to demonstrate the falsity of Zeno's conclusions.

Zoren Kierkegaard expressed a similar thought when he wrote in his diary: "It is quite true what philosophy says: that life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived forwards." · read more (46 words)
  View Printable Version 

A response to "In search of a brand-new political model"

This essay was actually contributed by a person who wants to be called Diogenes of Arkansas in response to my most recent post titled In search of a brand-new political model.

Your quote by Jefferson (One man with courage is a majority) is a metaphor for the form of government the founders of the American Republic created—a Constitutional Republic.

“The purpose of a Constitutional Republic is to place limits on the tyranny of the majority. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “If, on the other hand, a legislative power could be so constituted as to represent the majority without necessarily being the slave of its passions, an executive so as to retain a proper share of authority, and a judiciary so as to remain independent of the other two powers, a government would be formed which would still be democratic while incurring scarcely any risk of tyranny.”

When people claim the U.S. is a democracy, they are wrong, because a democracy means that the majority rules, which is how you can have 500,001 impose their will on 499,999 in a population of 1,000,000. Yet, this is now the practice in the U.S., which is unconstitutional and a violation of the spirit and intent of the Constitution as the fundamental legal document in the U.S Republic.

Your statement on Japanese people escaping into cartoons and comic books caught me by surprise. However, when I looked into American comic book sales figures, the rate of sales has grown approximately 30%, according to “Comic Chronicles”.

While I noticed that television appears to be showing more cartoons aimed at adults, I was surprised to see that Fox is the main cartoon network for adults in primetime, and that all of them are spoofs on American families or fathers. This is the list I found at Fox, which appears to me to have increased in number in the last ten years: American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and the long running comic strip transitioned to cartoon The Simpsons.

Thus, it leaves one to consider that your data in Japan may be reflected in the U.S. So not only are Americans importing Toyotas and Fukushima debris, we are getting infected by your escapism plague as well. I’d like to say, “Thank you for your gifts,” but it doesn’t seem appropriate.

This quote of yours about how you envision a new constitutional form of government has at least two glaring flaws to me.

“If I were them, I would put forth a general design concept on the web as a draft constitution for online skull sessions. Our constitution would say the new government should consist of two branches, instead of three, because there would be no legislators. The executive and judicial powers would lie with the smallest units of people such as private companies, towns or villages.”

Private companies are still companies. Companies have a vested interest in controlling legislation to benefit their business interests above the interests of the mass of individual members of the society or country, or to paraphrase Jefferson, “The majority of one.”

In the U.S., the Judicial branch of government is so corrupted at ALL levels that some other system needs to be created, and this goes as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, where they illegally and unconstitutionally decided the winner in the Presidential election of 2000. All the Justices that voted in this way should have been impeached by Congress, but it never happened because Congress is totally, and I mean TOTALLY, corrupt. This includes the fake hero Ron Paul.

I think it is safe to say that if we examine ancient history, the first form of what might be considered government were the herds of animals. These herd animals simply gathered together instinctively for protection and species reproduction. All members of the herd were free to come and go as they pleased. Clearly, some members had to have broken away to form new herds, which could be considered in human terms as bands or tribes. It could be argued that this herd instinct was reflected in the behavior of the ancient hunter-gatherers.

With the death of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, civilizations emerged and with them governments. This monumental change in the relationship between humans (civilization) was the beginning of enslavement. Afterwards, every living thing was born into slavery, whether plant, animal, or human. In the Christian bible’s Old Testament myths, a god created everything and gave humans the right to be slave masters of all other things, as long as they kept the covenant this god demanded—a small price to pay to be in the coveted position of master. Thus, even as far back in mythological Middle Eastern time, we see that a master (god’s chosen people with divine rights above all other peoples) and slave relationship was invoked by none other than a god (actually the clever concept of the author of this text), a wrathful god that was, by HIS own words, dangerous if crossed (this text may be the first written example of a domestic terrorist threat).

Down through the ages hence, whether pre- or post-Christian, occasionally some oppressed peoples have challenged this unjust birthright like the Diggers in England. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the communities and ideas set forth by these Diggers and Levelers were yearning to return to the freedom experienced by the hunter-gatherers. As can be expected, the conditioning, even then, was such that these liberating ideas were resisted by the majority, and these radicals were easily squashed by the persons with the means to force them to submit—meaning Cromwell and Fairfax, who controlled the military forces.

Eventually, the master/slave system had its first real challenge with the Greek experiment, and resting on the shoulders of those Greek geniuses were the scholars of the Age of Enlightenment. In the North American colonies, the scholars of these ideas of man’s innate freedom (The Rights of Man) appear to have been sufficient in number to affect enough people and motivate them to revolt against their master, the King of England and the power behind the throne that is greater than the king.

Because these Enlightenment scholars were men of letters, they used letters to create rules for the correct behavior and conduct between humans in their colonies. Thus, a Constitutional Republic was created. Of course, it was ignored and usurped almost immediately by such laws as the Alien and Sedition Acts, which pitted those supporting states’ rights (those who supported each state as a sovereign nation and supported the concept of a weak federal body) vs. the federalists (those supporting a strong federal government able to impose its will on weak states).

The history of the United States and nearly all governments in the world are examples of the usurpation of Constitutional laws. The only exception to this that I’ve read about is when no laws were written down but were memorized by the citizens. Everyone must know the laws by heart, and thus, any violations of these laws or new legislation to override these laws would be immediately known to all of the citizens in the society. No Supreme Court was necessary to interpret the laws, since everyone knew the laws’ intent.

On the successful completion of the revolution in the colonies, a Declaration of Independence was proclaimed. It included these most important words, reflecting Enlightenment principles and the sentiment of Thomas Paine, author of the Rights of Man.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Sounds good on paper, but in less than eighty years, the existing form of government was challenged by states that wanted to exercise the right “…to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” and create a binding legal framework for themselves that more closely suited them. Abraham Lincoln, a traitor to the Constitution as supreme law and the spirit of this declaration, deliberately started the American Civil War that saw over 500,000 souls lose their lives. He and the Congress that permitted his dictatorial initiation of this war were responsible for the utter destruction of the infrastructure of those independence minded states. It was a classic Clausewitz-style war of total destruction. One could say with certitude that Lincoln’s deadly act was the inevitable outcome of simply one more failed system in the long history in the ongoing experiment of humans to either govern themselves or to be living as slaves in varying degrees of oppression by others.

At the conclusion of this terrible event, a man named Lysander Spoon entered this statement into the Congressional record in 1867.

Spooner’s introduction to his paper is a reflection of support for the Rights of Man, and a condemnation of Lincoln’s murderous coup d’état.

“The question of treason is distinct from that of slavery; and is the same that it would have been, if free States, instead of slave States, had seceded.

“On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union.

“The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, make them traitors and criminals.

“No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle --- but only in degree --- between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man's ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and [*iv] asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure.

“Previous to the war, there were some grounds for saying that --- in theory, at least, if not in practice --- our government was a free one; that it rested on consent. But nothing of that kind can be said now, if the principle on which the war was carried on by the North, is irrevocably established.

“If that principle be not the principle of the Constitution, the fact should be known. If it be the principle of the Constitution, the Constitution itself should be at once overthrown.”

The key word here is “consent.” No government today anywhere on this planet has the consent of the governed. As Spooner later states in his paper, he didn’t participate in this written contract known as the U.S. Constitution. It can only apply to those who were alive when it was created and agreed to be bound by it, and since he was never a signatory to this contract, it can’t have any power over him. This is why Jefferson is quoted as advocating a revolution every twenty years, so that the next generation may create their own rules that men would agree to abide by during their lifetimes.

Later, in more recent history in Republican Spain, some areas were ruled by Anarchists—persons that believed in total self-governance and elimination of all forms of external coersion. While this experiment was reported to be successful, and testimonies tell us those persons affected by this method were very pleased with it, they came under attack from both the Soviet supported Communists and the Fascist Falange. It seems that pyramidal power structures of oppression by a few against the many always gain the upper hand, and independent rule is such a threat that it must be totally exterminated, as we saw with Lincoln’s betrayal of the Rights of Man during the Civil War.

And how far has the American Constitutional Republic sunk in the quicksand of no return? Americans live in a police state that most people refuse to see. The constitutional right of a President to issue Executive Orders, which was not clearly spelled out in the original document, has allowed for the creation of dictator to arise. Now we have a President that has gone to the most extreme end of tyranny—he has created an Executive Order that allows him and any future President to order the murder of anyone, anywhere, and this includes American citizens. No habeas corpus right, which was lost in previous legislation passed by members of both houses of Congress; no right to a trial; this is clear Stalinism or Maoism, two of the biggest mass murderers of their own citizens in world history. And when I’ve reported to my neighbors these and other equally dangerous acts by the American government, I get nothing but a blank stare. This behavior by Americans near and far is clear evidence of escapism and denial. Don’t worry, be happy.

So, whether your e-Democracy is possible, or if the opportunity for the public to institute a similar system as advocated by Gerald Celente of Trends Research, it isn’t going to happen. For change to occur, it must begin with an informed citizenry, and that public is comprised of individual members, each one needing the complete ingestion of all the relevant data, and more importantly, having the motivation to want to know this data. The basic reason for the failure of this kind of liberating concept is that most people are ossified, and, as you rightly label it, “change disabled.” The label “cowards” is also an accurate description. Thus, based on my observations up to this point, we can assume that we will be witnesses over the coming years and decades of an even greater and more pernicious form of imposed slavery, and that no matter how constricting it will become, these “change disabled” will not resist, as long as they are able to flee into their comic books, or cartoons, or in the example of the Soviet Union—vodka bottles. These are the responses of the defeated, and our masters know they’ve won. · read more (7 words)