This may catch you off guard, but let me ask you something:
"WHO ARE YOU?"
You wonder what the hell this has to do with the issue at hand.
When starting a new thread, I always redefine myself because without knowing who is talking to whom and over exactly what issue, there's no point in blogging. In this context I think it will be nice if you ask yourself the same question: "Who am I?"
Before starting this inner process, I always empty myself because at any given time the inside of my brain looks very much like the cache memory after a lot of Googling. Actually this is the hardest part of the exercise. But never expect an exotic routine such as zazen or yoga to work its magic. Most of the time it's an Oriental rubbish invented by the Americans. I suspect you might as well empty your wallet as I always do.
I don't want to look at your personal profile you disclosed when you signed up to Facebook. I don't have access to Facebook pages in the first place simply because I'm not a kindergarten kid. Neither do I want to know your political ideology and religious faith because I know these are, at best, a jumbled manifestation of poorly-defined ideas you cherry-picked from your cache memory. Most of the time, they are delusions. Needless to say I'm not interested, either, in knowing who you are NOT (e.g. "I'm not a bigot like you," or, "I'm not a naysayer like you.")
All I need to know is your own principle on which you base what you say and do.
Now I am getting back to my principles on which I deal with the Constitution and laws subordinated to it.
The Japanese always think laws govern them, making believe they don't notice it's actually the other way around. Take their postwar Constitution for example. As a result of their inverted attitude toward laws in general, they have ambivalent feelings about their Constitution, which is based on three principles: pacifism, equality, and most importantly reciprocity between the state and its people.
Its Article 9 famously says: "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." The Japanese traditionally think the right to independence and freedom is a gift from heaven just like the Constitution which was given by MacArthur. The last thing they would do to gain the sovereign right is to risk their lives in a bloody war. That's basically why they have never seriously thought about amending it. And that's why the pro-amendment movements which have lasted almost a half century by now are still getting nowhere.
Every time Chinese vessels take an excursion in the disputed waters surrounding Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, they feel chagrined because all they are allowed to do under the pacifist Constitution is to verbally warn they should stay away from the "Japanese territory" and sometimes to resort to the use of their ultimate weapons, i.e. water cannons.
It's on these occasions when the pro-amendment camps raise their voices. Their rationale always comes down to the "fact" that the Constitution is illegitimate because it was imposed on the Japanese by Douglas MacArthur. They opportunistically look away from the real fact that it was the Japanese people who swallowed everything the U.S. wanted them to swallow. I couldn't care less, though; it's now Ishihara's baby. (See FOOTNOTE.)
At this moment the equality principle is much more relevant to me. Time and again I've seen the same hypocrisy in their contradictory attitudes toward the principle. On the surface, equality is the element which is the most congruous with the egalitarian obsession prevalent in this classless society for more than a millennium. But these vassals and serfs in the feudal society of the 21st century have failed to understand what it should mean in a modern civil society. The reason for the failure is because the brand new rule of reciprocity to be applied between the rights and duties of the people is too foreign to the Japanese society which is governed by some extralegal entity.
To the Japanese, compassion, benevolence and mercy for the disabled or the aged are something to be bestowed upon them, normally with a silky voice that sets your teeth on edge, by お上, Okami or "someone from above." The real implication here is that if you insist on your natural rights as I always do, it constitutes an unpardonable crime.
One case in point is my wheelchair-bound daughter-in-law who suffers a rare disease named Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. As I observe, her psychosomatic disorder is more or less fake. Actually doctors haven't found a single organic failure behind all these pains she complains about day in, day out and around the clock, and her repeated attempts of parasuicide. In short she's a wreck, body and soul. But thanks to the efforts made by her husband, CRPS is now designated by the municipality as a refractory illness which makes its sufferers eligible for a special pension for the disabled.
Now my estranged daughter-in-law, who is still in her early-40s, is receiving a handsome amount of annuity which by far exceeds mine as if I haven't paid the premiums for the pension and healthcare insurance throughout my 50-year career, which are 20- to 30-times larger than hers at their present values. Besides, it's totally tax-exempt.
The privileged status is given to her simply because she is an ideal citizen in this sick nanny state. But I never want to become a well-off zombie like this woman at the cost of my dignity.
I wrote my story about a local news reporter "AK" in my previous entry. She is about the age of the woman in a wheelchair but not handicapped physically. But now I've learned she is yet another "presstitute." That means she is mentally impaired, seriously so.
Thanks to the thoughtful feedback I received from my friends, both online and offline, my hypertension subsided for a while. But the day before yesterday, someone else sent my blood pressure soaring high once again. I had to visit another mentally-impaired woman at the tax-collecting department of the ward office to follow up a memo I'd sent her a week or so earlier. Now it was increasingly obvious that the bitch won't be convinced I can't pay taxes until she actually finds my corpse somewhere at the seaside with her own eyes. So I wrote in the letter: "I'm literally getting killed by the city hall, but make no mistake, you've got to risk your own lives if you want to go further ahead to claim mine." Strangling me slowly as if with a silk cord, if not quickly with a rope, is exactly what they've been doing in the last 18 months. But she still didn't take me seriously because as anybody who knows me in person can tell, I don't look like a killer.
It's when I stepped out of the ward office building that I realized my pill case was already empty despite my effort to take a dose of the anti-hypertension drug only when it looks absolutely necessary. I directed my steps to Dr. Shiono's clinic which sits a couple of blocks away from the ward office.
When I dropped by his office, he had just wound up his lunch recess during which he was listening to music. He got a lot of suntan because every weekend during the long summer, he'd had fun doing cruising, swimming and bodyboarding with his son and wife. As usual we talked about music much more than about blood pressure.
I said to him, "I sometimes think a good musical piece such as Brahms's No. 4 Symphony has a more therapeutic power for hypertension than ex-Forge pills you prescribe for me." Nodding approvingly, he made me wear a pair of headphones and played a couple of newly-purchased CDs for me. After I listened to some passages from Bach's partita and violin sonata played by Glenn Gould and Hilary Hahn, I felt like my blood pressure had come down by 30-40mm Hg.
With his disarming grin, he went on to talk about his parents. Both of them were among the Class of 1959 at Toho Gakuen Shool of Music, the same class Seiji Ozawa also belonged. And in turn the maestro was among the same Class of 1954 at the junior and senior high schools I was in. So we have a lot in common to talk about although Dr. Shiono is younger than my elder son. His father was a professional piano tuner but died of cerebral hemorrhage when he was in his early-50s. The 77-year-old widow is still teaching the piano. He said, "You said you love Brahms. This reminds me of something. When I was a high school student, my mom kept telling me to listen to Brahms, Brahms, and Brahms. That was too much for a kid of the rock generation. That's why I chose a medical career over music. Now I do appreciate Brahms, if you are curious about that."
Thanks to the music and the doctor who apparently knows who he is, I could pull myself together once again and renew my vigor to fight on for my right to "maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living," as Article 25 stipulates, and more importantly, for the principle embodied in my own constitution.
Earlier this year in the U.S., an astounding 40,000 mostly unconstitutional laws were enacted just in a matter of weeks. At that time the late Ron Paul was saying he would have them all repealed as the president.
In comparison, the number of laws, bylaws and ordinances enacted by the Japanese lawmakers is 100-times smaller. It should also be noted that they are more careful than their American counterparts about the constitutionality of a new legislation presumably because the three branches of the government are not independent from one another as they are supposed to be.
At any rate, however, the lower "productivity" of the Japanese legislators does not indicate that Japan is a little healthier country than America. The widespread notion that Japan is under the rule of law is totally baseless because traditionally what governs this country is something other than written laws. That's why the legislative branch here does not have to massproduce laws, constitutional or not.
The sheepish people here are too used to being governed by an extralegal entity to govern themselves. As a result, even well-educated people such as my former friend "AK" don't need any principle on which to conduct themselves.
Small wonder anyone can't tell WHO HE REALLY IS. He is just yet another Japanese conformist who mindlessly goes with the flow. · read more (88 words)
旅に病んで夢は枯野をかけ廻る - 松尾芭蕉 Stricken on a journey/My dreams go wandering round/Withered fields - A haiku piece of Matsuo Basho totally spoiled by the second-rate translator named Donald Keene.
Bloody May Day of 1952 in front of the Imperial Palace
Anpo uprising of 1959
Relatively honest people surrounding me often say one thing and do quite another. I know this is a fallout of the essentially seamless transition of power from the Shogunate to the Emperor, to MacArthur, and then back to the Emperor now disguised as a mere "symbol of national unity." Each time, the Japanese sang a different tune but all along they have remained practically unchanged. It takes you a lifetime to become used to these sick people.
On May 1, 1952, three days after a nominal sovereignty was returned to Japan in San Francisco, the sheepish people, who had never rebelled against Emperor Hirohito or the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, staged one of the only two major uprisings in modern Japanese history, called the Bloody May Day. True, it was bloody by the Japanese standards, but in fact, it was yet another ritual that signaled a change of the tunes. The new one was to herald the arrival of the Cold War in this country.
Seven years later I graduated from university amid the nationwide turmoil over the Japan-U.S. security treaty, known as Anpo Toso. Needless to say the anti-treaty students joined by some unionized workers were fighting a proxy war as puppets manipulated by the Soviet Union and the new-born China. The distinctive feature of Anpo Toso was that the heads of most factions were future business leaders such as Seiji Tsutsumi, a scion of the Seibu conglomerate.
These guys would later lay the groundwork for the rapid rise of Japan Inc., and more importantly for its ultimate collapse in 1990. It's no accident that Anpo Toso ended up in a total failure. Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, an undercover agent of the CIA, signed the treaty on January 19, 1960 in Washington DC.
Almost 53 years later, I hear the same old blues which now sounds more like a cheap funeral march. With this tune lingering on in my ears as if it's specifically meant for me, now I'm desperately fighting back against the second round of executions of the attachment order to seize 30% of my pension annuities.
Yesterday I had a bitter experience with "AK", the wife of DK who helped me, financially and morally, out of the jam caused by the first round attacks from the city hall. AK is a staff writer at Kanagawa Shimbun. The Yokohama-based newspaper publisher is known for its relatively impartial news coverage despite its close affiliation with mainstream news organizations and its membership in the information cartel known as Nihon Kisha Kurabu or Japan Press Club. I thought it would help me recoup lost ground if AK could influence the editor to take up my case against the municipality. Obviously hardships senior citizens are going through are his favorite topic.
After I updated her on the recent situation, however, she concluded she didn't want to write a cover story on my constitutional battle. The reason she declined my offer was that I am primarily at fault for the mess, after all, because I should have paid on time these income-unrelated taxes since I left the employment of SAP Japan in 2006. Then I would have avoided piling up tax bills this high. She added that several years ago her family of three could somehow get by with her salary, which was as small as my pension (I doubt it), when her husband was temporarily out of work. In short, I deserve all this suffering and all I need is to impose austerity and discipline on myself.
AK really let me down. At the onset of the battle, she was enthusiastically giving me cheers although they somehow sounded noncommittal. Has she changed her mind? Not at all. She remains the same, half-awake and half-honest person I've known for years.
I was too tired to repeat my lecture on the Constitution to the youngish reporter, but my cause all comes down to my commonsense interpretation of Chapter 3 of the fundamental law. Its Article 30 says, "The people shall be liable to taxation as provided by law," while Article 25 of the same chapter stipulates, "All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living." My points are that in this chapter the rights and duties of the people are defined purely on a reciprocal basis and that the standards for "cultured living" can't have remained unchanged since 1947 when the now-hollowed-out Constitution was enacted. Those were the days when we were fed with food stuff even the swine wouldn't appreciate very much.
Also I felt insulted when AK treated me like I am an uneducated, unskilled and inexperienced 22-year-old, while in fact I am a 76-year-old with a 50-year-long career behind him. I thought I have lost another friend because now it's evident she is one of those Japanese news reporters who are only good at playing the tune of the time. I only hope this won't affect the friendship between her husband DK and me in any way.
Back on February 21, the day my last girlfriend turned 29, I reluctantly let go of her because her parents had started urging her to get married before she misses the "marriageable" age. I don't care too much if the number of my friends, who wholeheartedly empathize with my way of thinking, living and now dying, remains very small. But I do care if it gets even smaller because in my definition of the words, it's an auditory hallucination if nobody but myself and a couple of others can hear this song about a free Northeast Asia to emerge after the coming collapse of the evil American Empire. · read more (27 words)
Sunday, October 14 2012 @ 11:11 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
The uninhabited islets bear two names.
I've been notoriously known for my verbosity especially among American readers. They see lack of discipline in my wordiness because they are so used to brevity they see on other websites. I suspect these bloggers are just too stingy to go beyond 140 characters for free. Their attitude is always like, "Tweet, tweet, you're a moron if you need more words from me, tweet."
The primary reason I don't want to economize on word is because I believe "God is in the details," as Gustave Flaubert observed. (Or is it Mies van der Rohe?) Without a close examination of every detail, you always end up in an ideological delusion. or a delusive ideology.
Lingerie theft is commonplace in this perverted nation.
This is not to say, however, I don't agree to the old saying that goes: "You can't see the wood for the trees." Of course you also end up in a delusion if you are too preoccupied with particular trees to look at the total picture of the forest. But is it so difficult to look at both at the same time?
Actually I tried hard to make my previous post about the unbreakable curse of words as succinct as possible. To that end I had to leave out many related issues.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an offline feedback to the post from my American friend in which he alerted me to an interesting article about the uninhabited islands named Diaoyu (釣魚) in Chinese and Senkaku (尖閣) in Japanese. The issue the Chinese editor and the Russian veteran discuss in the article is one of the topics I would have touched on had it not been for my consideration for impatient readers.
As my American friend seems to agree, words and letters do us three things. Firstly they help us form and crystallize ideas. Then they convey them. Last but not least, words and letters always deceive us with the cleansing power inherent to them. It is this deceptive nature of words and letters I had in mind when I talked about them as fetishes.
Traditionally people using ideograms are more prone to word-fetishism than those who use a phonogramic system. I hypothesize it's no accident that lingerie theft is so common among these terminally ill people. When it comes to heinous crimes such as homicide and rape, Japanese are still lagging far behind Americans. But there is an incredibly large population of fetishists and voyeurs, called "フェチ" (Fechi) in Jangrish. They habitually steal women's underwear, or like to watch a woman in bra or panties rather than without them. Believe it or not, such a pervert who gets caught red-handed is more often than not a well-educated man such as university professor, company executive or politician.
It is true that in recent years people outside the ideogrammatic cultural sphere are also developing the same trait very quickly presumably because of the flood of videos on the likes of YouTube or other high-resolution images they can see everywhere else. They wouldn't fall into a trance just looking at letters such as "C-h-a-n-g-e," "F-o-r-w-a-r-d," "E-n-d t-h-e F-E-D," but with all these visual aids available to them, now they have started mixing up the real things with virtual reality.
It is true there still is something that Westerners cannot understand about the magical power of ideograms. For one thing an Italian diplomat will never lodge a protest if his English-speaking counterpart refers to his hometown as Florence. Likewise an Austrian will never complain if his American friend calls the capital city of his country Vienna.
But one of the most serious problems resulting from the general trend is that when people talk about the territorial disputes over Senkaku or Diaoyu, Takeshima (竹島) or Dokdo (독도), and even what the Japanese call the Northern Territories or Hoppo Ryodo (北方領土), the last thing that would cross their minds is these are nothing but imaginary issues. More intricate, nastier, more sticking and more slippery issues are always hidden under the thick veil of words and letters. It's about time for them to have realized words alone, let alone 140-characters of them, can't uncover the underlying real issues.
Vasili Ivanov, the Russian veteran interviewed by the Chinese editor, is also having a hallucination when he talks about "militarism on the rise" in Japan and "a resurrection of the samurai" in the wake of the renewed tension in the East China Sea.
Obviously the one Ivanov specifically has in mind is Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara who is widely known for his empty chauvinism. Early on this bastard passed the hat around for the money with which the metropolitan government would buy up the uninhabited islets from some individuals who claim to be the "owners" of 尖閣. Thanks to millions of suckers in his constituency, the donations he collected totaled more than 1.5 billion yen.
Then another idiot named Yoshihiko Noda stepped in presumably in deference to the Chinese government. After talking tete-a-tete with Ishihara, the Prime Minister decided to "nationalize" these islands with taxpayers' money. One of Noda's aides later whispered to reporters that the Prime Minister cited Governor's recklessness as the reason for nationalization. Noda fretted about an unrealistic scenario that Ishihara would tread on the tiger's tail if he went ahead with his plan. According to the aide, the Prime Minister feared the Tokyo Government, on its own, might go to war with China while the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force or the Coast Guard is not under the command of the Tokyo Governor.
Noda is yet another Japanese leader. Like all his predecessors, he lets things drift until it is too late or the problem solves itself. At times he acts, but only symbolically. All along he plays on words, making the most of their magical power. And in the face of a crisis, he instantly freezes into a total inaction like a spider in thanatosis.
Since August 15 when seven activists from Hong Kong landed one of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Prime Minister has kept saying, "We are a mature nation. We refrain from overreacting. We want China to calm down, too." When he knew his alibi exercise didn't work, he made a big decision to take a leap in the dark. He ordered the Coast Guard to fire water cannons at the Chinese vessels. This was exactly what the Chinese government had expected. Who in his right mind could do more against his most important trade partner?
My former friend Chang claims to be an expert in geopolitical issues for Northeast Asia. He has his fake Chinese name "章家敦" printed on the reverse side of his business card. I don't know how the cheap trick has helped him put on an air of authority. But I know he has more or less succeeded to use faceless peoples in this region for his own interests, without risking his life for the cause of freedom and prosperity of the Northeast Asians.
Chang keeps saying the Xizang Autonomous Region should belong to the Tibetans, while on the other hand, he declares Okinawa is a Japanese territory. The fact of the matter remains, however, Tibet is primarily Tibetans' and their right of self-determination is inviolable. At any rate it's none of Chang's business. Likewise, Okinawa is primarily Okinawans'. It's all up to the 1.4 million islanders whether to become fully assimilated into America's 51st state, or secede from it. The same can be said of the likes of Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Those with an educational background in law, such as Chang or the Kenyan monkey in the White House, always make believe the International Court of Justice in the Hague is still functioning. Most of the time, ICJ's ruling is based on the principle of "First-come, first-served." If you apply the absurd principle to Senkaku/Diaoyu, it's obvious these islands should belong to the Okinawans because they are the descendants of the people of the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879). The only problem is that they are increasingly losing their identity.
Unless you still remain under the spell of the curse of words, you will agree that the only realistic principle is "Last-come, first-served." The same principle should also be applied to uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters. If the brainless and spineless Japanese leader continues to shy away from provoking China, as he actually does, that's it, these islands will finally be named Diaoyu. · read more (149 words)
Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 10:27 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This calligraphy of Kanji reads Kotodama by Japanese pronunciation and means the spirit of words.
Haiku Saijiki is the indispensable handbook for anyone who composes poems in the 17-syllable format.
When I launched this website in 2004, I already knew that my heretical thoughts were not only incommunicable to my fellow countrymen but also untranslatable to any language comprehensible to the Westerners.
I don't particularly like my mother tongue, which is nothing but a "salad" made of what little oral heritage from the prehistoric, preliterate Man'yo era subsequently mixed with heterogeneous words selectively imported from China, Europe and America. But that wasn't the only reason I started blogging in English.
I also knew that man's views are really language-independent. This made me say, "I might as well break up with the language I have used almost for seven decades regardless of whether I am going to debut in the blogosphere." I thought if I wanted to prevent the Japanese language from hindering my creative thinking, that was the right thing to do.
Then in 2008, my attempt to establish myself as an independent writer in the U.S. was thwarted by the American political "analyst" who is too uncivilized to understand the very basics about civilization: thoughts and words are inseparable twins.
Since my desire to have my own voices heard overseas was aborted this way, I have been treated locally as a mere translator. They seem to think, "He is very old and too demanding to take care of someone else's crap, but his multilingual proficiency is first-rate and still remains reusable." Now it looks as though I am an old hooker who is always available for 20 bucks.
As I told you in my previous post, my local friend, who runs a small company that provides translation services, recently offered me an "E2J" gig he'd got from a Japanese consumer electronics giant. Obviously he thought it would help alleviate the financial difficulty facing me to farm out a smaller part of the job. I said I would be more than willing to accept his offer on the premise that I would be allowed to work on it without any restraint except for a minimum adherence to a small lexicon of special terminologies for a proprietary technology his client might have. He said matter-of-factly that there's no such glossary imposed on us. That's why I accepted his offer at a rate slightly higher than what I would earn from toilet cleaning job at the public lavatory in the nearby Chinatown.
But several days later, my friend came back to me, saying: "By the way, Yu, my client sent me an Excel Sheet named 'Kamisama (God) File' to which we are supposed to strictly adhere." Actually there are some 160 words and phrases designated by Kamisama for 200-plus PowerPoint slides, but none of them are associated with any proprietary technology of the consumer electronics company.
Just to mention a few, Kamisma says we should never fail to translate the word "default" as "デフォルト" (deforuto) instead of "初期値" (shokichi), or an initial value. The fussy God also says "customer" should always be translated as お客様" (Okyaku-sama). There are some other generally accepted ways to translate the English word into "Japanese" such as "カスタマ" (Kasutama), "顧客" (Kokyaku, or gu ker in Chinese pronunciation), "客先" (Kyakusaki), etc. But the guardian angel of the words at the consumer electronics company demands an impeccable consistency. Believe it or not, we are supposed to work on a presentation material, not the graphical user interface or a system/user documentation of a computer system.
This leaves you wondering why then the in-house lexicologist wouldn't make the translation of the whole text all by himself. Answer: He had to outsource it simply because he had no such ability. From my past experience I can tell for sure the profile of the monomaniacal shaman. In all likelihood he is a very young graduate of a privileged university in Japan or the U.S. The future of the country is on his shoulders.
The Kamisama worshiped in the Japanese company has brought me back the nightmare I experienced in 1999 with the "Trados" translation management system used in the rotten Japanese subsidiary of German software company SAP AG. The Trados database was considered Gott der Herr while in fact it was full of shit that exactly mirrored the inside of the brains of employees of SAP Japan. As had often been the case with the last half of my career, I was supposed to refrain from making a difference to their way of doing business.
In my reply mail to my friend, I said, "I want to take back my acceptance of your order because I don't want to kiss Kamisama's ass. I suggest you reassign my part to a young translator because he has much more physical strength and much better eyesight with which to do ass-kissing much more efficiently than I. Besides, he doesn't care too much about job satisfaction and self-esteem."
My friend got really upset because to him I was yet another good toransureetaa who wasn't supposed to add any value to what he put his hand on. He insisted: "Yes, I understand your point, Yu. But I must ask you to kiss Kamisama's ass because that's what one of my most important clients tells us to." Finally I agreed to prostitute myself on the condition that my initial assignment be more than halved. But when I was about to get started, I remembered something else.
In October last year, Lara, Chen Tien-shi, up and coming ethnologist, asked me to translate, from Japanese to English, a transcript from a symposium on the issue of statelessness which she had organized. Since the Word document was too voluminous to work on all by myself, I farmed out a good part of it to the same friend who is now reciprocating my favor at that time. All the speeches except Lara's were really incoherent from the beginning, but my subcontractor doubly messed them up simply because the "seasoned" translator lacked professionalism. Obviously he was badly in need of a Kamisama, but unfortunately for him, the brilliant ethnologist hadn't imposed any rule on us. As a result I had to play the role of Kamisama myself. For one thing, he invented the official English representations and transliterations of the names of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai organizations and individuals. In the last 48 hours, I had to redo everything from scratch. And yet, I paid him fully because it was my fault to have chosen such a person.
When the trauma of last October came back to me, I said to myself: "Wait a minute. What the hell am I doing here? Wet-nursing these bastards or playing the role of Kamisama for them? I can't take this crap anymore."
This is how I became jobless once again.
Standing on the edge of a precipice, I pondered all anew on the enigmatic language these creepy creatures call their mother tongue. Now let me quickly summarize the basics of Japanese composition for you and myself.
Japanese words are classified into the following three groups:
1. Words imported from China. Although the Japanese don't want to admit it, they came from the continent when their country stayed in China's cultural orbit, and then were phonetically altered to varying degrees.
2. Words imported from the West, especially from America since the colonialist country chose Japan as its suicide partner. Although the Japanese insist they are substituting Japanese transliterations of English words for "Japanese" words, none of these Japanese phonograms (Katakana) sound like English. For one thing. no English-speaking person can understand "デフォルト", which is to be pronounced "deforuto" without accentuating any syllable, means "default."
3. The least important elements such as particles, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. These auxiliary words are genuinely Japanese. They are shown in another set of phonograms called Hiragana.
You may think it's an arbitrary thing when and how to combine the first two groups using the third element. But you are wrong. It is the hardest part for Japanese learners to know the rigid rule to be applied there. And this is exactly where the Kamisama of words kicks in.
Example: NHK was founded in 1926 essentially as the mouthpiece of the Imperial Army. Especially in the prewar and wartime days, it played a pivotal role, along with "privately-run" media organizations, in duping the hundred million Japanese into believing it was a holy war they were sacrificing their lives for. To that end it always used the magic of words. Its modus operandi still remains essentially unchanged. If there is a difference from the way it used to put its audience under hypnosis, NHK, like other media organizations, thinks Katakana Eigo, funny English transliterations into Japan's phonograms, are more effective than Chinese ideograms.
The government-run broadcaster retains hordes of self-proclaimed specialists in a wide range of areas of expertise. The other day, someone who claimed to be an expert in gerontology was talking about the common behavioral pattern in the elderly called "self-neglect" which often ends up in solitary death here, either in the form of suicide or auto-mummification. Since he was supposed to talk to an uneducated audience, he kindly referred to the keyword as "自己放棄" (Jiko-hoki). But he never failed to add what he thought was an English word, Serufu-Negurekuto. Why did he bother to say the same thing twice by going partially "bilingual"? Reason: While admitting his fellow countryman are facing the serious problem with 自己放棄 in the elderly, he was also supposed to stress there's no need to worry. We aren't alone; the Americans also face the same problem with self-neglect. (A Wikipedia entry says it's also known as "Diogenes Syndrome.") More importantly, it has proved solvable in their country. Super credulous viewers would all believe in his oracle simply because he is bilingual. The same gimmick is used in every area of expertise in this country, be it politics, business, computer science or medicine.
If you visit Japan for the first time, you will be surprised to know everything from consumer products to office buildings, to apartment buildings, to restaurants and local coffee shops is named in what they think is English, although they sometimes substitute French, German, Spanish or Italian. The same is true of restaurant menus although you've got to be prepared to see at least a couple of menu items misspelled. When it comes to TV commercials, most Japanese marketers have Gaijin (Westerners) endorse their products which are primarily targeted at local consumers. Food stuff makes TV viewers salivate only when it's endorsed by someone with blue eyes.
The idea that words and letters are inhabited by a sacred spirit is not confined to this weird culture. Yet, no other peoples in the industrialized world are obsessed with their fetish the way the "modern" Japanese are with the 1.3-millennium-old superstition.
Their worship has absolutely nothing to do with due respect for words and letters expected from civilized people. Instead, they find a magical power in "言霊" (Kotodama), which literally means the spirit of words. Sometimes the spirit can be an evil one, but it always sanitizes, purifies, disinfects, and thus neutralizes problems facing the Japanese. (If you are interested in knowing the method of purification more in detail, I suggest you take a look at my post about Misogi.) Because the centuries-old Chinese influence has been on the wane since the Pacific War, now English words are considered to have greater power to work their magic.
The Japanese are obsessed with cleanliness. I think you know they take off their shoes at the entrance of their home. But did you know your umbrella should wear a condom when you bring it in a building on a rainy day, be it an office, a restaurant or a local outlet of Starbucks?
Until the Japanese can get over their pathological obsession, they will remain under the spell of Kotodama. Now I'll further elaborate on the symptoms of their germophobia using some more examples below.
Every December a quasi-govermental organization named Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation selects a Chinese ideogram, allegedly by popular vote, that best represents the year as "今年の漢字" (Kotoshi-no kanji). The JKATF, or any other body, doesn't pick the Person of the Year as the TIME magazine does. Reason: In a society where you are mercilessly hammered down if you attempt to stick out, you can be enshrined in the privileged class of celebrities only when you accept the basic rule. The problem with these "Serebu" is that they are influenced too much by others to influence them. That's why the JKATF, instead, solicits people to vote for a Chinese ideogram for the year.
The Kanji chosen for the year 2011 was "絆", or Kizuna, that means "bond." In 1995, the inaugural year of 今年の漢字, Japan experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. People thought some evil spirit of words caused the disaster. That's why they chose "震" (Shin, or a shake) as the Kanji for the year.
But in the wake of the more devastating quake in the Tohoku area, the government and the media wanted the entire population to believe 3/11 brought people together, although the fact of the matter remained the disaster further accelerated the process of disintegration of the Japanese society.
It is noteworthy that in this "high-context" culture, the single-letter word selected by the JKATF is meant to save the Japanese from making a mental effort to discuss exactly what about it. If there is a language which is more dependent on the social context, it's "meow, meow" or "oooooooo, aaaaaaw, oooooo, aaawwwww" which serves the purpose perfectly within the animal world.
The people believe that the shorter the message, the farther it gets through. The bottom line: The ideal way of communication is complete silence which is more than just golden.
In this context, it's also interesting to know the letter "和", (Wa or He in Chinese pronunciation), which signifies "harmony," has never been chosen despite the fact it's the central idea to this monolithic society. That should mean "和" is too sacred a word to be chosen for a particular year.
I'm not interested in what Chinese character will be announced with a lot of fanfare in two months from now. But here's my forecast for 2012. I suspect it can be "鶚", Misago. Very few Japanese have seen this ideogram because it's not on the list of Kanji designated for common use, but it means the fish hawk, better known as the osprey or Osupuray. Throughout the year, the Japanese kept talking about the pros and cons of deploying V-22 Ospreys in Okinawa. Actually it's yet another red herring invented by the government and media to mislead the people to believe what's really at issue is whether or not the tiltrotor aircraft meet the safety standards, or Sefuty Sutandaado. They have never discussed the real issue: what justifies the prolonged occupation of Okinawa by the worst rogue country in history named America. By virtue of the ritual which they call Dibeeto, meaning debate, over Osupuray and Sefuty Sutandaado, they have reached a muddled consensus that the deployment is a necessary evil. Throughout this process of de-poisoning, the media play their role as priests or shamans.
Another possibility is "幹" (Kan or Gan in Chinese pronunciation) which signifies the stem as in IPS cells (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells). I have nothing against the year's Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine awarded to Shinya Yamanaka, except that it will take an eternity until I can afford to have my aged somatic cells "initialized" by the new technology. For now it just drives me crazy to see the entire population unleash misplaced nationalism in the wake of Yamanaka's feat just like they did during the period the summer games were going on in London.
Their burning desire for international recognition is an unmistakable sign that they are terminally ill. But unfortunately for them, their avid longing will remain insatiable until the end of time. What a people.
Actually the Japanese are not alone. On the other side of the Pacific, the epidemic of the same cretinism is spreading like a wildfire, perhaps too a lesser degree. Presumably it's attributable to the influence of voodooism or the dubious cult the chimp in the White House has brought in from Kenya that a single empty word, or pair of words, such as "change," "America first," "forward," "believe in America," "create jobs (out of thin air)" can work a magic on the people with their brains irreparably damaged. Twitter, Inc. might as well lower the limit on the number of characters from 140 to, say, 17.
Haiku and its rule book called "歳時記" (Saijiki) are another case in point here.
In my early-to-mid teens, I loved to read Matsuo Basho's log of his journey titled 奥の細道 (Oku-no Hosomichi or The Narrow Road to the Interior). When Basho (1644-1694), the de facto initiator of the 17-syllable poems, wrote this book, he inserted 77 impressive pieces in it. But the Haiku great thought some prosaic narrative was needed because otherwise his readers would have difficulty understanding the context in which each of these pieces were composed.
On the contrary most of his epigones have thought any explanatory text is superfluous because their pieces stand on their own. This indicates they take it for granted that everyone shares the same way of associating their highly suggestive words with specific thoughts and feelings. Today there are an estimated 5 to 10 million Japanese who claim to be appreciative of Haiku, some of them even composing their own pieces at times. The Saijiki was compiled so these self-styled Haiku poets can familiarize themselves with this universal rules for associations.
The rulebook says every piece should have one 季語, Kigo or a season word, in it. For instance, a tomato should always represent a summer month with its bright red image. There's no penalty involved there, except your entry can't win in a Haiku competition if you violate the rule by describing a tomato as a green fruit or something that represents a winter crop as is the case with the southern hemisphere. If you don't accept these basic premises, you can't share your thoughts or feelings with others in the 17-syllable format. In short you can't break the sacred rule if you aren't ready to shut yourself out of the society where false harmony always prevails. Today tens of millions of Japanese constantly up to chitchat on the web. They have inherited the intellectual heritage which was pauperized after Basho.
Another important fallout of the high-context culture is the disastrous consequence of 英語教育, Eigo Kyoiku or the Japanese way of learning English. As I pointed out eight years ago, their painful efforts to improve English proficiency have never paid off despite their largest exposure to the language in the non-English-speaking countries. TOEFL score-wise and otherwise, the Japanese are permanent cellar dwellers along with the North Koreans. The only conceivable reason behind this trend is because they never understand that English, or any other language for that matter, is nothing but a tool for communication. To English learners in Japan, the language is the goal in itself because they don't have their own thoughts and feelings to share with English-speaking people. or any other group of people.
It will never cross their minds that they should stop acting like suckers with tens of thousands of self-proclaimed English teachers whose qualification hinges solely on their blue eyes. · read more (45 words)
Four years ago a political "analyst" who actually can't analyze a thing thwarted my plan to establish myself in the United States as a professional writer. When I needed some pull, I got a lot of push from him.
That wasn't a big deal, however, except for this destitution that followed the loss of my last chance. I knew that the scum, or anyone else for that matter, couldn't change who I really am. Admittedly, though, I've since had great difficulty explaining what exactly I am to people in the local community.
Am I a nobody who ended up a loser in a fair competition overseas to elevate himself from a mere translator to an independent writer? Nope, nothing is farther from what happened to me.
I have never been a professional translator in my lifetime. Yet, throughout my career I've been deeply involved in translation in one way or the other; not only between two languages but also between two cultures or even two different groups of people in the same culture. In that sense, I think I am better defined as a full-time communicator than a part-time translator.
As I always say, thoughts and words are inseparable twins. This should also mean that contrary to the general perception, man's thoughts are really language-independent.
For that reason, when a translator wants to work on a book, or any other type of literature authored by a first-rate writer, he should keep in mind that his qualification all hinges on the full comprehension of and resonance with the whole idea laid out in the subject material because just converting it from one language into another is not what translation is all about. If an unqualified person dares to do it, he is doomed to destroy everything he puts his hand on.
In fact, I have known very few translators who didn't spoil a great idea they dealt with. Ian Hideo Levy, who has translated dozens of soul-stirring poems from Manyoshu (Ten Thousand Leaves), is one of the very few exceptions that I know of. That's why mindless destruction of invaluable thoughts happens so frequently.
On the contrary, when a first-rate translator somehow feels an urge to work on an intellectual crap just to make his living, it's the translator himself that is subjected to destruction. But this doesn't happen very often because unlike second-rate translators such as Edward Seidensticker, he has an eye to distinguish the real thing from fake, such as Yasunari Kawabata.
Here's a translation trivia: Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968. At that time the Japanese legend of literature gave Seidensticker 50% of the prize money because he thought he had owed the translator that much. I sometimes think the self-deprecating Japanese writer might as well have retained a computer as a translator because that way he would have pocketed every single buck he earned from his literary rubbish.
I don't know if I am a good translator myself, but up until recently I often had to moonlight, and sometimes daylight, on translation of a wide range of materials from computer-related documentation to anthropological essay. Most of the time I was mercenarily motivated, but my customers often appreciated the mentally unrewarding and physically exhausting efforts I made for what I called "value-adding translation."
But for my part, it was always a nightmare.
Back in 1999, then president of the rotten Japanese subsidiary of SAP AG, German software giant, offered me a post-retirement job in the translation department of his company. Until I decided I couldn't take it anymore and moved on to oversee the "University Alliance Program" of the same company, I was working on the E-to-J translation of the GUI (graphical user interface) of SAP's flagship software product and its system/user documentations.
An added difficulty came from "Trados" - a translation management software developed by Trados GmbH. I was always told to ensure consistency between my translation of terminologies and those accumulated in the database from the previous versions. My problem was that most of my fellow translators had an extremely poor understanding of the source language (unorthodox German-English) and the target language (see NOTE below.) And more importantly, their knowledge in the system and its application areas, such as order processing, inventory control, accounting, and finance was also way below standard. As a result, the vast reservoir of terminologies in the Trados database was full of shit.
NOTE: Our target language was supposed to be Japanese. But actually it had to be something else. Apart from the fact that a good part of Japanese words were originally borrowed from Chinese, they are now mixing tens of thousands of Katakana Eigo, i.e. Japanese transliterations of English words into the "Japanese" language. As a result, Toransureetaa at SAP Japan were told to strictly adhere to the standard ways of mixing these different elements depending on the context. Also they were supposed to respect another set of standards for transliterating Ingurisshu words. Examples: Kasutama for customer(s), Benda for vendor(s), Paachesu Ooda for purchase order(s), Inbentori(i) for inventory, etc.
Basically it is true that translators, especially those working on technical literature, should stick with the consistency rule. But there are times when they have to say the right inconsistency is much better than the wrong consistency, as I did to my boss at SAP. But at the end of the day, I was always coerced into conforming to her sacred dung pool in order to preserve Wa, or false harmony.
I hear through the grapevine that even today SAP Japan refuses to listen to the voice of reason from real professionals. This way the company keeps wasting what little resources it has. No wonder it still remains the black sheep within the group of innovative software companies.
Now in dire poverty six years after retirement, I still think I would rather work part-time on the cleaning of the public lavatories in the Yokohama Chinatown where I live than do translation at a slightly higher hourly rate. Thanks to my experience with SAP, I'm so used to handling someone else's crap. But unfortunately, the job opportunity seems to be closed to the ailing 76-year-old.
Last week a local friend offered me an "E2J" gig. He runs a matchbox company that provides translation services along with guitar lessons for wannabe musicians. When he got an order from NEC, he thought it might help alleviate my financial difficulty if he subcontracted a smaller part of the job to me, which he actually did. I wasn't sure if I could meet the October 15 deadline for the 75 slides of the presentation material assigned to me.
But when my friend learned I'm physically too weak and my vision is too impaired to do the tedious job all by myself, he kindly sent me a rough translation he had already made using "ATLAS", a translation software developed by Fujitsu. I know from my past experience that normally I would be much better off without the assistance from the computer than with it. But I thought the ATLAS thing might help because in the narrower context of a specific technology, computerized translation could work a little better than Trados did for my former employer.
POSTSCRIPT October 2: As I said paragraphs earlier, the local fallout of my failure overseas is the huge perception gap about translation between my partners and myself as their contractee or contractor. As I told my audience one year or so ago, I had to farm out to my local friend I just mentioned above a voluminous transcript from a symposium organized by up-and-coming anthropologist Lara, Chen Tien-shi. The quality of the transcript was extremely poor except for Lara's speech. But since my subcontractor at that time doubly messed up the Word document with his lack of professionalism, I had to struggle at the last minute totally redoing his substandard J-to-E translation as if from scratch. Yet I paid him fully. Now I'm supposed to act as his subcontractor. Can I expect him to act like a professional this time around? No way. He had his ATLAS roughly translate the material for me. That's no harm; so far, so good. But yesterday, several days later, he said, "By the way my client (NEC) asks us to strictly adhere to its glossary for about 160 'special' words and phrases. NEC calls the attached Excel sheet the Kamisama (God) file." I replied: "No, I don't want to kiss Kamisama's ass because none of these words are associated with NEC's proprietary technology. You better reassign the job to a younger translator because a young one has much more stamina and a far better eyesight with which to do ass-kissing more efficiently than I. Besides he doesn't care too much about job satisfaction and self-esteem." He doesn't seem to have understood my point. Just one hour ago, he sent me a mail to say, "Yu, yes, please kiss Kamisama's ass as they require us to." It really sickens me to know one of my local friends is another male prostitute, and treats me like yet another.
Despite all the favor my friend did for me, this brought me back to the nightmare I have experienced in the past with computer-assisted translation.
Also I remembered that last October I took up the same topic on this website. At that time, some of my regulars kindly cooperated with me doing reverse-translation of some articles written in English and then translated into Japanese. We had no time to do the opposite (i.e. J-to-E, and then E-to-J) but we found out language translation is almost always doomed to failure, whether or not it's computer-assisted. We also learned it makes little difference whether it's from a high-context language to a low-context one, or the other way around. In short, language conversion works only when both the author and the translator are human beings with an exceptional ability for creative thinking. Those who lightly claim that they are contributing to further transcultural understanding should feel ashamed.
A couple of days ago, I gave another try to the language translation services provided by Google Japan because I wanted to know, for one last time, if the learning curve of the Internet service provider has picked up a little in the last 11 months. But it came as no surprise that the Japanese translation of my most recent post didn't show the slightest sign of improvement. As you can see in the Japanese text pasted at the bottom of this post, it's still much worse than if you give a chimp an E-J dictionary and tell him to translate my essay.
It's unfair to put all the blame on the primate because the disastrous situation with translation, and communication at large, exactly mirrors the inside of the skulls of all the human beings involved in this business. They include software engineers who developed the system filled with logical flaws, executives at Google Japan who gave a green light to the defective translation service, and equally important, customers who still think they are being served, rather than ripped off, by Google.
Nobody seems to have noticed that exactly the same thing is happening to YouTube, Google Analytics and all other services provided by the company. More or less the same thing can be said of the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. With a lot of spaghetti stuffed in their brains they have stopped thinking, learning, and communicating altogether. Now all they can do is to deal with the billions of birdies who keep tweeting all the time.
I don't know if the organization named Asia-Pacific Association for Machine Translation is still active today. But according to the chronology given by AAMT, Japan's first prototype machine for automatic translation was unveiled in 1959 when the supercomputer and database management systems were still in the fledgling stage.
Let's face it: the 53 years of the futile efforts are more than enough. It's about time we stopped talking about the progress of humankind through cross-cultural communications, with or without the help of the computer. Simply it's an illusion.
I leave it there because now I'm going to have to go through another ordeal with the PowerPoint file, while at the same time fending off the sadistic attacks by tax collectors from the City Hall. In the meantime I hope you will enjoy the big treat given below by the Google chimpanzee if you are a bilingual, or equipped with a software product for J-to-E conversion. · read more (122 words)
The director of the mental hospital is known for his fatherly compassion toward the inmates. One day when he strolled around the garden, he spotted an inpatient casting a fishing line into the swimming pool. The director stopped by the patient. Smiling knowingly, he said, "What kind of fish do you catch here?" The madman replied: "Don't be silly, doc. You can't catch any fish in a swimming pool." - A parable inserted in a book written by German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers (title forgotten)
Hiroki Kuroda has now established himself in the starting rotation of the New York Yankees
Mark my words. The culture of Japan, if it still deserves to be called that, is all fake; rotten from tip to toe.
As I pointed out when talking about Japanese musicians, they do music in order to bring themselves together, while in any other civilized nation, people, at least adults, come together in order to do music. This is a fallout from the fact that just in a matter of one and a half century, the Japanese have imported so avidly from the West everything from Johan Sebastian Bach to Lady Gaga.
You can see the same inversion everywhere. Sports are no exceptions. As you may have already noticed, no other people in the world do so many different games. That is because the kind of game you choose to play does not really matter here. Actually it's not that you choose the game, but the game chooses you. As a result, it does not matter, either, whether or not you win the game.
Given this cultural climate, it's all the more delightful to stumble on an exceptional individual who has a real stuff, although that doesn't happen very often in my country of birth.
The other day my American friend, who is a resident of the same village I live in, sent me a link to an article in which NYT reporter David Waldstein tells an intriguing story about the ordeal Hiroki Kuroda had to go through before he migrated to the U.S.
Waldstein portrays, without exaggeration, how often Kuroda, now a New York Yankee, was whacked with a baseball bat, forced to run between foul poles from morning till dusk, and only allowed to drink polluted river water when he became dehydrated. In this country punitive conditioning is believed to be one of the most effective ways to instill the spirit of self-sacrifice and stoicism in young athletes.
Nevertheless, the writer fails to answer the very question he seems to have intended to address: "Is it because of, or despite, the abusive hazing he experienced in the early days of his baseball career that he has finally come into bloom in the majors?" To put the same question differently, "Why didn't he choose to stay with Japan's Puro Yakyu when he was supposed to take his turn to bully juniors?"
Waldstein fails because he just singles out the most apparent aspect of the Japanese training method while passing over a more important feature subtly involved in it. In this country, repressive ways of molding people into desirable profiles are not confined to sports. It's also commonplace in all other walks of life such as politics, business, journalism, science, academia and art. This makes the issue at hand beyond the comprehension of a sports writer, or anyone else who can't grasp it in a historical and cultural context.
Many Americans have talked about the difference between baseball and its Japanese equivalent Yakyu. They include Bobby Valentine, current manager of the Boston Red Sox, Marty Kuehnert, former GM at the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and now a professor at Sendai University, and Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. Obviously these people eclipse Waldstein because they have better insight into sports and culture in Japan, and they addressed the same issue from much broader perspectives.
Yet they sometimes fell short of getting the question fully answered, because they, too, tended to overlook the most intricate aspect of the issue. More specifically, they often left out the question about why so many mediocre guys cruise past their seniors to stardom without being subjected to physical and mental abuse.
Back in 1967, Chie Nakane, professor of anthropology at Tokyo University, published a book titled Tate-shakai no Ningen Kankei, or Personal Relations in a Vertical Society. Her anthropological rubbish sold so well in the West that it's now become a classic of Japanology.
It is true that on the surface, Japan's "centralized feudal system" looked to be vertically aligned. But if that had really been the case, Shogun's reclusive regime, which actually succumbed to the gunboat diplomacy so easily, must have collapsed from within well before Perry's arrival.
The known law of dynamics says you can't topple a flat structure from the bottom.
And more recently, if Nakane's "theory" were to be considered true,
Emperor Hirohito must have been hung upside down by his subjects in the street of Tokyo,
before the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur, whose mission was to irreversibly flatten out this country with a fake democracy.
The fact of the matter remains that Japan is a nation which is integrated horizontally. It's ridiculous to see "personal relations," vertical or not, between the Divine Emperor and its subjects. Peer pressure is everything that counts in this country. At the end of the day the stupid professor just subscribed to the pedestrian view.
Believe me, Japan is a classless society. And that also means it's leaderless. If there are people who claim to be leaders, they are little more than shamans, at best, or moderators, most of the time, whose only role is to build consensus. At any rate a nominal leader needn't lead his organization with leadership backed by outstanding knowledge or skills in the activity his organization is supposed to perform. His ultimate goal is always to keep Wa among his people.
The dictionary says Wa simply means harmony. But as Robert Whiting observed, harmony is one thing and Wa is quite another. The morbid egalitarian obsession that has long haunted the Japanese people has its origin in the 17-Article Constitution promulgated by Shotoku Prince in the 7th century.
Given this mantra of Wa, the only prerequisite for the Japanese leader to fulfill is the ability to make sure the nail that sticks out be hammered down ingeniously but mercilessly. (See NOTE below.) To that end he should be able to identify the slightest sign of professionalism burgeoning on the part of individual members because professionalism poses the most perilous threat to the community built on the false harmony.
NOTE: The method most commonly used when ostracizing a persona non grata was, and still remains in some rural areas, the procedure called Mura Hachibu, literally translated as "purging 80% from the village." The remainder, 20%, represents participation in firefighting activity and the burial of the corpse when the subject person or his kin is dead. The reason the Japanese refrain from going as far as to 100% like ancient Athenians did is twofold. Firstly, if they went that far, the very principle of Wa might be jeopardized. Secondly, every Japanese individual, ostracized or not, is believed to become a god posthumously.
You can't imagine a group of people anywhere in the world that values discord over bringing individual vectors into one direction. But in no other country is harmony maintained only by nipping individual creativity and spontaneity in the bud.
This is the surest way to mediocrity and utter idiocy.
In his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber defines the modern-day profession as a "secularized calling" which still requires an "ascetic devotion." In my interpretation of Weber's words as an avowed Buddha loyalist and retired businessman, every professional, from politician, to businessperson, to ballplayer, should act like the inpatient at the mental hospital. He should be damned serious about what he is doing, and very proud of it. But at the same time, he shouldn't lose soberness and humility. He should always keep in mind that it can well be an illusion to expect a big catch in the swimming pool. As I always say, the most important thing is to keep life-size views of one's life. Don't you ever talk big, if you are going to act small in the end.
Fortunately, there have been a handful of Japanese sportspersons with uncompromising, sober and well-focused devotion to the game. Before Hiroki Kuroda, we had Hideo Nomo. To say the least, Nomo was one of the very exceptional talents Japan has ever got. But actually, he would never have come into bloom as a fullfledged professional if he hadn't fled his home country in 1995. Only after he won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award in the same year, the Japanese people realized that they'd let go of a real talent.
He always reminds me of Maestro Seiji Ozawa who was kicked out of Japan by the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 1961. Only after the likes of Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein certified his talent as genuine, NHK offered sincere apologies and reimported him. He has since been enshrined as the home-grown Emperor of classical music. By the way, did you know Kabuki or any other thing which supposedly represents Japan's traditional "culture" toward the West is all created by this gimmick of reimport?
On the contrary the population of fake athletes still keeps growing. They include dozens of me-too Major Leaguers who all learned the wrong lesson from the success story of Hideo Nomo. Ichiro Suzuki, for one, has already been elevated to an indisputable deity in Japan's baseball even though he still has a long way to go before possibly being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you still believe in the exaggerated notion about the Confucian influence on Japan, you will wonder how a 38-year-old can be deified defying the world-renowned seniority principle. But actually it's senility principle that governs this country.
In 2001, the Nintendo-owned ballclub in Seattle started the whole process of reimport. In his first couple of seasons in the MLB, Suzuki stole not only many bases but also the hearts and minds of American baseball fans who had been fed up with these steroid-pumped-up Popeyes hitting 70-something homeruns every year.
Emboldened by the initial success, the Japanese media kept administering what I call the cultural steroid to Suzuki in order to make a Hinomaru-bearing hero out of the skinny guy. But in fact, because of, rather than despite his American Doriimu coming true, the Mariners kept sinking in the AL standings year after year.
By the time he was transferred to the New York Yankees in the middle of this season, Suzuki had developed a silly idea that the other eight guys were playing the game for him, not the other way around. This is why Joe Girardi, Yankees' manager, is now having hard times trying to make him recognize that without all this hyperbole he is just an average ballplayer.
As I said, the epidemic of anti-professionalism is not confined to sports. You can see the same thing happening everywhere. But among other things, the proliferation of Waido-sho, as the Japanese transliterate "wide shows," is an unmistakable sign that they have remained essentially unchanged in the last 13 centuries.
Every morning, and for the rest of the day, too, every national network airs one wide show after another exactly in the same format. The studio is always overpopulated with morons who claim to be experts, dozens of Terebi Tarento (TV personalities) who are actually talentless, and the empty-headed emcee who is only skillful at mixing up everything from political/economic news (see NOTE below), to Entame (entertainment) and sports, to today's fortune based on blood types and star signs, to weather forecast given in syrupy voices of two or more cuties which always contains laundry tips and clothing recommendations as its indispensable features. There you can see the Japanese culture has long been dead.
NOTE: News stories these idiots comment on in the way "even an idiot can understand" are all red herrings invented by the collusive alliance between politicians and the media. These days Japan's nuclear energy policy is always at the top of the list of media-salient "issues." Although it's too obvious that such a technological issue cannot be identified, let alone solved, by a bunch of laymen, these unprofessional pundits and scholars keep politicizing it so even an idiot can tell the pros and cons to be entailed in the government's proposal. The same can be said of all other false issues. In the total absence of respect for professionalism, they politicize what should never be politicized all the time.
These days I enjoy myself watching live on the Internet Hiroki Kuroda's solid outing every 5th or 6th day. It's a little more than just killing time to watch this guy in action. · read more (51 words)
Tuesday, September 11 2012 @ 11:28 AM CDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
[In some cases] where you can get to depends on where you're coming from, and some destinations you simply cannot get to from here. - Robert D. Putnam on his theory about Japan's path-dependent trajectory.
Japan underwent the baptism of an early- day gunboat diplomacy when the fleet of four "black ships" headed by Commodore Mathew Perry made a surprise port call at Yokohama harbor on July 8, 1853.
A samurai by the name of Zenzaburo Taki was ordered to commit harakiri suicide in the presence of European envoys and generals to settle the 1868 skirmish called the Kobe Incident.
As recently as six years ago, I still thought it was a total waste of time to ask a question using the past perfect subjunctive. Certainly I remained brainwashed into believing in the superstitious notion that what happened has just happened. But when I stumbled on the above-quoted words by Robert D. Putnam, my way of viewing things changed 180 degrees.
My former mentor once scornfully said of Putnam's theory: "It's yet another fatalism." As usual the self-styled political "analyst" who can't do anything but scratch the surface of things proved too ignorant to understand the intricate dynamics governing the real world. History never sticks with a linear path. If you look at current and historical events with unclouded eyes, you will see mixed signals everywhere in their zigzag motions.
Recently I have developed a tendency to indulge in the mental exercise of asking myself hypothetical questions about almost everything. It's true my new pastime makes it much easier for me to kill time. But it's not just a bitter-sweet mea culpa I seek when I look back on what has happened to me or my country of birth.
Over time I have arrived at the conviction that any future vision remains baseless as long as it's little more than an extrapolation from the past and that the best way to keep my crystal ball clear is to constantly pose what-if type questions. Just like the fancy time machine invented by Emmett "Doc" Brown of Back to the Future, this method often gives me a clear perspective about the future, and perhaps a few things more.
Without a doubt, the future mirrors what actually happened in the past, and perhaps vice versa. But it is also true that a future event is a reflection of what did NOT happen. (See Footnote for some examples.) You may wonder where to get a clue to identifying what didn't actually happen in the past and still has profound relevance today. Most of the time I get a good clue from the current state of affairs because the present time is the crossroad at which the past meets the future.
In other words, my time machine is designed to first send me forward to the past, and only then, back to the future. Quite naturally, one of my favorite questions is: "What would have become of Japan if the Civil War hadn't been fought in America in the first half of the 1860s?"
Initially I thought I might come up with an even more interesting answer if I asked what if those court-retained historians hadn't compiled Kojiki 1,300 years ago (712 AD) to seal off the prehistoric truth, entirely and for good. For that purpose I would be able to avail myself of Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) which was compiled in the mid-8th century to metaphorically reveal, under the guise of poetry, the forbidden truth about the days before the Emperors successfully mythified everything about their imperial shithouse. But on second thought, I realized my answer to this question would make little sense because then the country named Japan would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
Another question I posed on this website more often than I do now is
what if General Douglas MacArthur hadn't acquitted the Emperor of his crime of driving 3 million people to death in the unwinnable war. But in the end I realized that this exercise, too, makes little sense simply because the "postwar regime" is not a history yet; it's still there.
These are why I'm more and more inclined to focus on the last 15 years before the Shogun ceded power back to the Emperor.
It would have been a piece of cake for European expansionists to arm-twist poorly-armed samurais whose average height was a mere 5 feet. Hollywood had yet to invent all this myth about samurais' bravery. But as a matter of fact, Britain and France were already realizing they had been way too overstretched. That's why their half-hearted attempts to make inroads into Japan all ended up in local skirmishes breaking out here and there in the mid-1860s. Among other things, it's noteworthy that these incidents were, more often than not, settled in an exotic ceasefire ceremony in which one or more samurais committed ritual suicide by disembowelment in the presence of delegates from Britain and France.
In 1851, U.S. President Millard Fillmore, the last member of the Whig Party, sent Commodore Mathew Perry on an expedition to break this reclusive country open. Perry arrived at Japan only on July 8, 1853 because on his way to the final destination he'd stopped over at the Ryukyu Kingdom, today's Okinawa, and some other places, where he had a lot of fun.
The fallout of the delay was that by the time his 4-ship fleet finally anchored in the harbor of Uraga near Yokohama, Franklin Pierce had succeeded Fillmore as U.S. President. I know nothing about him except that some say the Democrat is one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. For an unknown reason, however, Pierce ordered Perry to refrain from using force to invade Japan.
Actually the Commodore did not have to use force because the Shogun at that time was yet another Japanese leader who, in the face of a crisis, would let things drift until the problem solved itself. And his samurais were equally incompetent. All they could do was to commit harakiri suicide to save their master's face whenever it was necessary. No wonder they were instantly caught in a panic at the sight of the "fireworks" from the Susquehanna, Perry's flagship, to belatedly celebrate the 77th Independence Day. Perry's mission was completed when Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Friendship, also known as the Convention of Kanagawa, was concluded in 1854. Four years later, the U.S. chose to settle for an unequal treaty, known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which unilaterally stripped Japan of the right to impose import duties on the goods from the U.S.
In subsequent years, there was no new development in the bilateral relations primarily because Abraham Lincoln was preoccupied with the First Civil War.
Because of the combination of these factors, which was largely accidental, America had to shelve its colonialist ambition for almost nine decades. As a result, the occupation of Japan involved much more bloodshed than if America hadn't postponed the implementation of its Japan invasion plan that long.
This always brings me to the most relevant and valid question: "What consequence would have ensued if Lincoln hadn't faced a lot of trouble at home?"
Japan would have been colonized - no doubt about it. Although there might have been sporadic insurgences seeking independence, these movements would never have turned into a fullfledged colonial war. Defeatist-minded rebels must have chosen ritual disembowelment over an all-out confrontation.
With Shogun's incompetence and samurais' cowardice in mind, I can tell for sure that Japan would have followed more or less the same course it actually did, except that more than 3 million lives, including those 225 thousand incinerated in the nuclear fireworks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would have been saved.
Now in the face of the protracted economic doldrums and the deepening political imbroglio, the Japanese are totally at a loss over what to do. But for you to agree to my retroactive forecast, you don't need to closely study the current situation here because there's absolutely nothing new in their endless repetitions of the same follies. Japan has nowhere to go but down. Likewise, it would still have nothing to do but go into pieces if what did not actually happen in the mid-19th century had ever happened.
And what about myself? Should this all mean that my entire life was "much ado about nothing"? Now am I about to die leaving nothing to my posterity?
My answer to the first question: No, not at all. It is true I also fought an unwinnable war throughout my lifetime. But in return I was rewarded with gorgeous prizes. That is more than enough. · read more (264 words)
I still don't know exactly when and how the evil American Empire will collapse. Neither do I know which comes first, the fall of the empire overseas or the total implosion of the worst rogue country in history named USA. Yet I am 100% sure that most of its people are practically brain-dead by now.
How can I be so sure about that? Almost every day from August 2011 through this past May, I tried to keep myself closely posted with their public discourse mainly on the web.
That's how. So don't take it personally if you are an exception.
Now I ask myself, "What lessons have the Americans learned from the miscarriage of the Intellectual Revolution started by the former Texas obstetrician?"
Answer: Absolutely nothing.
This is evident from the fact that these brainless, spineless and self-righteous American egomaniacs still put all the blame on the Republican establishment and the mainstream media. They certainly know that is the surest way to avoid facing up to the lessons to be learned there. The fact of the matter remains, however, that it's none other than themselves who were at fault for the miserable failure. Some of them even thought they could buy their civil liberties for 50 bucks.
The only possible reason they are so learning-disabled is because they always want to save the painstaking effort to internalize those issues they are talking about. As I repeatedly warned in this blog, without going through the process of internalization, they will never be able to identify real issues. As long as they are conditioned to remain mentally so lazy, all they can do is to scratch the surface of issues and find correct answers to given questions.
At times some of them say they agree with me. But I know they don't quite understand my point. When they address what they think is at issue, it's always someone else's headache. It never crosses their minds that first and foremost they should look into their own sick souls. Instead, they indulge in studying what is allegedly going on in the outside world, be it China, Iran, Syria or Greece. Now they have lost life-size views of things. It's laughable to see an American individual who can't even take care of himself keep talking about global trends and history of mankind.
The American Heritage Dictionary says the word "internalize" means "to take in and make an integral part of one's attitudes or beliefs." The definition is not totally wrong. But it still falls short of transcending the bounds of dualism the Westerners are so used to. Empathy or antipathy with other people is far from enough to internalize issues.
This is not to say, however, the Asiatic monism should be applied to the interpretation of the word.
As I have repeatedly argued, Buddha knows no gods or no isms, not even atheism. Why can he be a monist, or dualist for that matter? (See NOTE below for the American Heritage's definitions of these isms.) In the last 1.5 to 2 millenniums, Buddhism has been largely distorted by the Japanese who have "saladized" everything from religion to language, and by some other Asian peoples, perhaps to a lesser degree. As a result what the Americans think is Buddhism today, in fact, has nothing, whatsoever, to do with Buddha's tenets.
NOTE: Dualism means the view that the world consists of or is explicable as two fundamental entities, such as mind and matter, whereas monism is the doctrine that mind and matter are formed from, or reducible to, the same ultimate substance or principle of being.
In this respect you should also be aware that the English word "internalize" is a transitive verb. It cannot be intransitive in any event. On the contrary, it does not take an object, either direct or indirect, in the context of Buddhism. You are, therefore, doomed to fail when you attempt to take in something external and make it an integral part of your inner self. Actually that's what Americans are doing at their best.
Buddha's teaching all boils down to the unequivocal statement which goes: "Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form." This may sound too esoteric. But if you once empty your brain of those half-baked ideologies, you will know the words are so simple and clear that you can never paraphrase them. It's all the more regrettable that Americans never really understand internalization is the key to identifying relevant issues in the real world.
They have no difficulty in gathering external information because everyone has a sensory nervous system which is more or less functioning. But when it comes to internalizing the input data, they get stuck. That's basically why they selectively toy with their pet subjects all the time.
This way, they play into the hands of the media, be it mainstream, alternative or social, whose sole role is to feed their gullible audience with one red herring after another.
Because of incoherence and inconsistency inherent in any false issue, their brains are now stuffed with a jumble of delusive ideologies or ideological delusions. Whenever I try to visualize the logic circuit inside their skulls, something that looks very much like a bowl of spaghetti conjures up.
Here's a typical example: The self-styled sinologist predicted in 2001 that China would collapse in ten years. When the magic year was over without seeing the collapse, he revised his forecast matter-of-factly, saying, "I was wrong only by one year." But practically in the same breath, he predicted that Japan would overtake China, GDP-wise, once again in 2013. It's as though you can overtake someone who is no longer existent at that time. Remember the verb "overtake" always requires an object.
Given the vast intellectual vacuum prevailing in the U.S., it came as no surprise to know not a single American has openly challenged his unprincipled way of dealing with a serious issue which directly concerns 1.3 billion human beings living in that country. But it was a little amazing to know that even the Chinese didn't think he had discredited himself, totally and for good.
I have recently noticed that in stark contrast to his book, my blog is extremely unpopular among my predominantly American audience presumably because I am a firm believer in the central principle of Gautama Buddha. I suspect it's too straightforward for the people who are so used to the spaghetti-like logic. · read more (61 words)
I'm still hanging around at the waiting room of Grim Reaper's office without knowing exactly when my turn comes along. Aside from household chores, I have nothing in particular on my to-do list, except periodically reviewing the situation with the second round of my legal/extra-legal battle against City Hall, and updating my blood pressure chart and "dose control sheet" to keep the medical cost to an absolute minimum.
Now that I'm gradually getting used to the flood of Sumaho, though still with some difficulty, the only things that really disturb my peace of mind for now are money issues, and this horrible toothache.
The day before yesterday, I went to the nearby eatery I frequent to take a swallow of, rather than a bite at a humble dinner.
As soon as I sat at the table, I said to the wife of the owner-chef: "It seems I ought to visit Sensei (the dentist I mentioned in a recent post) tomorrow if only for the pain relievers and antiphlogistic drugs. Any other dental practitioner would refuse to write a prescription as a stopgap measure, insisting a careful examination and 'causal treatment' are needed, instead."
The woman knew that I couldn't financially afford the removal of a tooth and any dentures to replace it. She assured me that was the right thing to do.
When I was through with my dinner, her husband emerged from the kitchen and offered me something that looked like rolled-up 1,000-yen bills. He mumbled almost inaudibly: "You can use this for the train fare to visit Sensei's clinic." I declined to accept the monetary gift because there was no reason for him to do me such a favor. But he slid it down into my shirt pocket.
Yesterday, I visited the dental office for the first time. It was a 30-minute train ride. I'd just expected the independent-minded dentist, who recently abandoned the membership in the cartel named Japan Dentist Association, to write me a prescription of affordable drugs without any treatment. But the moment he looked at the swollen part of my gum, he said: "Any medication won't work anymore unless you allow me to remove this one." I refuted: "As you already know, I can't simply afford that." His answer: "Of course, it's free of charge. We are regulars at the same restaurant, right?" Actually, he later instructed one of his assistants to make it all free except for a token fee for the initial visit. At the reception desk, I asked her: "How much would it have cost me?" She said, "Something more than 10 thousand."
I really felt grateful to the dentist and the owner of the restaurant for everything they did to me in the last couple of days. But at the same time, I was very uncomfortable.
The generous donation in the amount of 700K yen my close local friend "DK" gave me from October 2011 through June 2012 is a different story. At that time DK said he just wanted to "reciprocate" because he had learned a lot from my way of thinking and living.
On the contrary we don't have common areas of interest among us. It is true that the dental practitioner and I share the same opinion about Japan's medical cartel. But it seems we are not really on the same page because Sensei left Japan Dental Association for a reason that has something to do with a conspiracy theory he believes in. He is a regular at a series of seminars organized by Benjamin Fulford.
And most importantly, they owed me absolutely nothing.
On my way home, I quickly analyzed my ambivalent feelings.
I have already talked a lot about my father's extraordinary education policy. But I haven't talked that much about the DNA and other factors involved in my formative causation. When Rupert Sheldrake hypothesized on "morphic resonance," his main concern was with its physical aspects. But now I want to talk a little about the influence these factors had on my personality.
All I know about the diplomatic career of my maternal grandfather is that he was one of the delegates when the Treaty of Portsmouth was inked at the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and that he was the consul general, perhaps stationed in New York, at the time Woodrow Wilson was in office. In all likelihood, he was yet another Japanese diplomat who remained under the influence of the Wakon Yosai mindset. Nobody expected him, or his colleagues, to be competent enough to fend off the imperialist ambitions of Wilson's America.
Genealogy-wise, he was a descendant of a high-ranking samurai serving the Mori clan of Choshu Domain throughout the feudal era.
There is a Japanese proverb that goes: "武士は食わねど高楊枝 " which literally means "A starving samurai should hold his toothpick high." Some say it has the same implication as the old Western adage that says: "The eagle doesn't catch flies." But I suspect their interpretation is wrong because the Japanese saying just refers to feigned stoicism which was considered the single most important virtue of samurai. Apparently I have inherited something to be called "greed deficiency syndrome" from my maternal lineage. Although I don't know whether I have acquired it or it's congenital, that is basically why my post-retirement life has been so poverty-stricken.
A more important influence, however, comes from my paternal bloodline. It traces back to generations of ninjas who belonged to the Kouga school of Ninjutsu. They were to the Tokugawa Shogunate what CIA agents are to U.S. presidents since FDR. Aside from their acrobatic agility and other physical abilities, they had first-rate intellectual faculties such as good analytical mind coupled with keen instinct to identify enemies, and boldness to quickly kill them as the necessity arose.
As to loyalty to the master, my father looked to have been largely mutated. He never concealed his contempt for the Emperor. But it all adds up when I take into account the historical fact that in 1867 the Shogunate ceded power to the Emperor after a fierce battle. Throughout his lifetime, my father remained loyal to his own cause. I think I inherited from him the unwavering inclination to value dignity more than anything else.
These are the attributes I have inherited from, or through, my father. And that's why I would rather be a robber than a beggar.
Usually I am a friendly and compassionate person with a superb sense of humor. That's how my local friends describe me. But at the same time, I am a very dangerous person who always wants you to respect me. If you don't feel like it, you should at least fear me.
In the last several years I've experienced a lot of humiliation from Americans. They are extremely touchy and easy to get hurt. But at the same time, they are too insensitive to notice they are hurting others much more than others hurt them. That's presumably because they think they have special privilege to insult others, especially serfs in the American fiefdom. · read more (55 words)
Production is thus at the same time consumption, and consumption is at the same time production. Each is simultaneously its opposite. But an intermediary movement takes place between the two at the same time. Production leads to consumption, for which it provides the material; consumption without production would have no object. But consumption also leads to production by providing for its products the subject for whom they are products. The product only attains its final consummation in consumption. A railway on which no one travels, which is therefore not used up, not consumed, is potentially but not actually a railway. Without production there is no consumption, but without consumption there is no production either, since in that case production would be useless. Consumption produces production in two ways. - From Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1859)
IBM System/360 was announced in 1964
The legendary IBM PC hit the market in 1981
It seems the death of the PC is the talk on the web these days. The alleged cause varies from an obituary to another. Some say the death is attributable to the world-wide proliferation of smartphones while a little more computer-savvy people think the PC went virtually extinct in the wake of the widespread application hosting services comprehensively called "cloud computing."
I don't want to attend the deathwatch because I am sure that the corpse was misidentified as my longtime friend's.
The false obituaries, however, bring me back to the early 1950s when I was preparing myself for the rocky adulthood ahead of me. One day I stumbled on the following sentences in an 1843 entry of Soren Kierkegaard's 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. (English translation by Peter Rohde.)
Later in the same year the Danish philosopher wrote a book titled Repetition. He titled the book that way because he thought repetition should be the same thing as "forward recollection." He hypothesized subliminal recollection of the past was the only thing that would guide him in the right direction. That is why Kierkegaard concluded that his dilemma would be solved with his faith in Christianity, the only source of his intuition. Unfortunately, though, I was already under the influence of Buddha who knows no Gods and no isms, including atheism. To me denying God was another way of admitting him.
A few years later I came across the Japanese translation of Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics. Etymologically, the coined word has its origin in Ancient Greek that meant "the art of governing." Wiener's interdisciplinary study specifically deals with the question about how the sender of information can use the feedback from its receiver to correct himself, and then update the receiver with new output. I thought I would be able to apply his theory about the feedback mechanism to optimize the way to govern myself. As I wrote some three years ago under the title of The Smart Way of Making Mistakes, it's more important, either in business or personal life, to learn a lesson from your mistake than to make no mistakes at all. In other words you must be error-prone because the more you err, the more you learn.
This is not to say, however, I've never failed to learn from my mistake. I must also admit that even when I failed, I sometimes got back on the right track just by accident. And yet, there were times I would never have overcome a crisis facing me without leveraging lessons I'd learned before.
That's basically how I decided, in 1963, to become a small part of the computer industry. Electronic Data Processing system, or EDP for short, based on the "stored-program" concept developed by John von Neumann, et al. was still in its fledgling stage. But perhaps I already knew that was the surest way to grow into a mature man - one who always embraces change, or even initiates one. I may look to be second-guessing on my career, but actually I am not.
I know that if you are an American, you think it's too far-fetched a thinking to see a link between the Kierkegaardian dilemma and the computer. That's simply because you never think the way I do, or don't think at all for that matter. I don't want to waste your time, and mine either, by telling you how two other thinkers, Max Weber and Karl Marx helped me as catalysts to become involved with information technology the way I did, though mainly as its user.
But before I go on, let me quickly talk about my interpretation of Marx's thoughts on the value-creating chain.
Your parents and grandparents were taught nothing about Marx except that he was a bad guy. Yet some of them must have been smart enough to intuitively understand the dialectical mechanism that governs an industrialized economy. Unfortunately, though, most of them are gone without handing down to posterity their wisdom, work ethics and no-nonsense attitudes toward life. As a result, your generation doesn't have the foggiest idea of what man's economic activity is all about even after completing the MBA course at Harvard Business School. You just take it for granted that economy is something in which people take care of clothing, food and housing among one another, while providing cheap entertainment in between. Small wonder you have recently swallowed yet another stupid notion that economy is something revolving around the conflict between Wall Street and Main Street or 1% versus 99%.
It's true that not once did Marx present the oversimplified formula "Geld-Ware-Geld" or Money-Commodity-Money. But as is evident from the above quote, Marx was keenly aware of the third factor, i.e. technology. Maybe he deliberately put it aside for the purpose of clarity, or he just assumed a flat or linear development of technologies after the first Industrial Revolution. Aside from the class struggle he always stressed, there has been a perpetual battle between technologists and users of their products. And it's important to note that it can't be won by either side where there is a yawning gap between the two. The Luddites are a different issue here.
One year after I joined IBM as a sales trainee, Tokyo hosted the 18th Olympic Games. At the closing ceremony, the Japanese were impressed to see someone from IBM proudly hand over to Avery Brundage, then President of the International Olympic Committee, a thick record book compiled overnight by IBM System/360. But some of us already knew this was not what the modern computer was invented for. Actually we had a great sense of uncertainty about what the coming computer age would look like. All we knew was that Japan wouldn't get on the high-growth track without computerization.
I still remember the touching moment in the midnight hands-on training session when the COBOL program we wrote and rewrote over and over completed the task at hand as intended. My teammates cheered especially when the process started in the right way. On the contrary I was moved when the computer responded to the "STOP" command at the right time and in the right way.
In the subsequent years, we were feeling increasingly frustrated with never-ending conflicts between hardware and software engineers and endusers of their products and services. It was as though someone had put buttons in the wrong holes. We were supposed to expect a synergy effect from the cooperation between computer-illiterate business people and business-illiterate engineers, but actually we always ended up seeing an anti-synergy effect.
With what I named the multiplication rule at work everywhere, 0.5 merged with another 0.5 never makes 1.0 or larger. The arithmetic notation which seems to apply in the real world, instead, is: 0.5 multiplied by 0.5 makes 0.25. In later years I found out that my empirical theory applies not only to business and technology but also any other combination of different things such as cross-racial marriages.
Toward the end of the Mainframe Era, one of the fathers of the modern computer contributed an interesting article to a computer journal. (I forgot whether it was Neuman or John Adam Presper Eckert, Jr.) He argued to the effect that the traditional system architecture in which a number of "dumb" terminals were subordinated to the mainframe machine was as obsolete as the centrally-planned Soviet economy.
You don't quite understand the real implication of his statement if you are one of those people who have never committed themselves to revolutionizing the value-creating chain in the real world, where most everything comes down to the question of how to bring heterogeneous elements together. Since you always mix up ends and means, you think the computer, in itself, represents a value. It's, therefore, none of your concern how different devices with different functions interact with one another, let alone how the computer interacts with its user.
Here and there in the industry, however, a subtle change in attitudes toward the computer had already been underway. Under the circumstances, the Soviet analogy deeply resonated with some of us. It is true that the new trend still remained amphibious, but we were already preparing ourselves for what we would later call "enduser computing."
We had yet to see the arrival of the "smart terminal" but we already had some tools with which to rehearse personal computing under the conventional environment for central data processing. For one thing, we could avail ourselves of "A Programming Language," APL for short, which was an "interactive array-oriented language" developed by Kenneth E. Iverson decades earlier.
In 1983, one year after the first customer shipment of the legendary IBM PC in the U.S., the Japanese subsidiary of IBM announced its Japanese version under the brand name of "IBM Multistation 5550." The top page of its promotional brochure read: "IBM Multistation 5550 is a calculator and a wordprocessor combined into one." The stupid copy unmistakably indicated that the developers of the new product and their target customers were not on the same page yet.
17 years later, I had an opportunity to teach an MBA class at International University of Japan. At that time Grant Norris, now an IBM consultant, gave me a special permission to use his material for my lecture on E-Business and discussions with my foreign students. In a book he co-authored with his fellow consultants, Norris wrote: "Adaptive technologies move earlier technologies forward incrementally [while] disruptive technologies change the way people live their lives or the way businesses operate."
From my MOT (Management of Technology) point of view, where people tend to deal with a disruptive technology as if it were adaptive, Marx's value-creating chain doesn't work because then there is no compelling reason for scientists to seek a major technological breakthrough anymore. As a result, consumers become even more change-resistant because they know life is much easier with existing technologies. Hopefully I will come back to this point in a separate piece.
When the Multistation was unveiled, I was the local CFO at an international trading house headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Founded in 1865 in Yokohama by two Swiss merchants, this company was yet another example of the curse of the multiplication rule I mentioned earlier. For one thing, people from the owners, to expat executives, to local employees took it for granted that their strength lay with the Wakon Yosai (Japanese spirit and Western learning) mindset which dates back to the 1860s. But actually, this formula, which was applied to Japan's "modernization" (actually it's just industrialization,) had long proved unworkable because of what I call "technology fetishism" as its inevitable consequence.
The Swiss company always claimed to be a "value-adding trader," but in fact, it was just adding costs which had to be passed on to the customer every time goods changed hands. It went virtually bankrupt several years after I left it, primarily because of its technophobia, the reverse side of technology fetishism. I still remember a 40-something-year-old accountant in my shop double-checking the computer output with her abacus. Believe it or not, she wasn't an exception.
As a senior manager overseeing the entire administration, I submitted to my Swiss boss, named Kurt E. Sieber, a purchase proposal in which I said I wanted to have a 5550 just because I had long had in mind a lot of essential tasks which wouldn't be done effectively, or even performed at all, without a PC on my desktop. Although there were very few reference books readily available at bookstores, I didn't care a bit about how to use the new technology because what for to use it was my only concern. I was more of a businessperson than an IT engineer, but I could learn, in due course, how to use these applications such as Multiplan (the precursor of Excel), BASIC, and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications.)
At the initial stage, the Multistation had no hard disk drive in it. Instead, it used 3.5" floppy disks. And its RAM capacity was a mere 256KB (not a typo,) expandable only to 512KB. But to the money-worshiping Swiss executive, specifications were no concern. The hardest part was to convince him that I wasn't out of my mind when I asked him for 1.5 million yen (US$ 19,000 at the current exchange rate) to buy a "small toy." It took me months until I finally got his reluctant approval.
Another ten years were needed for Sieber to come to terms with the idea that even in his fiefdom, he couldn't get away from the peril of personal computing any more. I suspect, however, it would have taken an eternity had it not been for the invention of a convenient technical term - "Client/Server Model." The fancy phrase allowed any interpretation you liked because nobody couldn't tell exactly how the "new" model differed from the conventional architecture for centralized computing, except that peripheral devices had now grown a little smarter and that clients and servers were often networked using the communications protocol called TCP/IP. It was quite OK if endusers sitting at their smart terminals still wanted to remain dumb. In short, the notion about the client/server meant nothing more than the old Soviet system disguised as a little more user-friendly environment.
Sieber was a former captain at a tank unit of the notorious Swiss Army. That meant he would never emancipate himself from hierarchical way of thinking. No wonder he chose to settle down in this country despite his contempt toward the Japanese. He found the easiest people to exploit in this classless society where peer pressure always prevails among locals. But at the same time he was an unblushing robber. By the time I reached the mandatory retirement age, he and his men had started to confiscate, and then alter the intellectual property I'd accumulated in my computer, as if to defuse the time bomb I'd set to blast the "legacy" system. My repository included hand-made systems for an online exercise of the corporate budgeting and up-to-the-minute control of currency positions, just to mention a few. I called them "systems of the user, by the user, for the user." Despite the fact that the amount of the corporate resources I'd used to develop these mini-systems was negligible small, they didn't pay me a single Swiss franc in royalty. I didn't sue them because I knew these systems and user manuals were nothing but pearls being cast before change-disabled swine.
In 1993, three years after Japan's economic bubble belatedly burst, an epochal book was published in the U.S. The book titled Reengineering the Corporation - A Manifesto for Business Revolution was authored by the late Dr. Michael Hammer with the help of James Champy. Unusually for a business book, it spent more than six months on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. But I know very few among my predominantly American audience have read the reengineering classic in part because most of you thought "reengineering" was yet another way to refer to "restructuring" - jettisoning unprofitable business lines, cutting redundant manpower, etc. You don't give a damn about quality of life and real values it calls for. That's why you never understand the positive side of Dr. Hammer's argument. He just wanted to present a methodology to use networked computers as the enabler of "fundamental, radical and dramatic" change in a clear departure from the principles laid down by Adam Smith more than two centuries ago.
Hammer writes: "Reengineering isn't another idea imported from Japan. It isn't another quick fix that American managers can apply to their organizations. ...... Rengineering isn't about fixing anything."
When I was a contractor overseeing the "University Alliance Program" at the rotten Japanese subsidiary of SAP AG, the German software giant, I had a chance to translate Dr. Hammer's PowerPoint slides into Japanese. To me he looked more like a down-to-earth business consultant than yet another management guru. But unfortunately his avid advocacy of a business revolution hasn't borne fruit by now for the reasons I have mentioned.
In 1995, James Champy, the other coauthor of Reengineering the Corporation, published, solo this time, a followup book titled Reengineering Management - The Mandate for New Leadership. Champy had a good reason to author it singularly. CSC Index, a consulting firm he was heading then, sent out an extensive questionnaire to more than 600 CEOs in North America and Europe to find out if the intended revolution had been paying off in their organizations.
In his book, Champy wrote: "[Overall], the study shows, participants failed to attain these benchmarks [for shortening the cycle time, reducing costs, increasing revenue, etc.] by as much as 30%. ..... This partial revolution is not the one I intended. If I've learned anything in the last 18 months, it is that the revolution we started has gone, at best, only halfway. I have also learned that half a revolution is not better than none. It may, in fact, be worse."
From his findings, Chapmy concluded the fundamental problem lay with the corporate culture, and that it was CEOs' responsibility to revolutionize it.
At the 1997 World Economic Forum in Davos, Andy Grove, co-founder and then Chairman of Intel Corp., said to the effect that change in the corporate culture is the key to success in BPR (business process reengineering.) Grove was absolutely right. But he shouldn't have added that the cultural revolution should be driven from the top, just as Champy shouldn't have written Reengineering Management. Success in corporate revolution, or any other revolution for that matter, solely hinges on unfettered spontaneity and creativity on the part of ordinary people. And a corporate culture is just a reflection of nation's culture. It's ridiculous to expect one of those egomaniacs in the executive office to act as a change agent.
At the height of the economic boom, a variety of "participatory" programs such as kaizen (company-wide efforts for reform), kanban (just-in-time inventory management system), and TQC (programs for total quality control) were widely practiced across Japan Inc. Japan experts in other industrialized countries, especially in the U.S., have always touted these "bottom-up" approaches as the recipe for Japan's phenomenal success. But as always, they are wrong. If these programs had really been bottom-up, then we wouldn't have seen the economic bubble form and burst that easily, or the Japanese must have shown, a long time ago, the vigor and resilience needed for recovery from the economic doldrums and political impasse.
Here's one little question for you: Did you know your personal computer mirrors what you really are? I don't know if you did, but in fact she mirrors you even more than she does her developer or manufacturer. Number-crunching or word-processing, let alone apple-polishing, is not her job; always getting you an undistorted feedback is.
Those obituaries are all wrong, after all. If your PC looks to be dead, it's you, not she, that's been actually dead. As quoted at the top of this post, Marx observed that "a railway on which no one travels is potentially but not actually a railway." In another paragraph of the essay, he paraphrased the same idea more succinctly: "Consumption gives the product the finishing touch." Now at the sight of your underused PC, Marx would say:
"A PC you don't want to use real creatively is potentially but not actually a PC."
He would also say the same thing with respect to Web-based technologies.
Now seven years into my retirement, I'm being overwhelmed in the face of the explosion of Sumaho, as the Japanese call smartphones, and other types of hand-held devices.
According to the World Bank, the population of cellphone users has been growing exponentially in the last couple of years and will soon top the 6 billion mark. That should mean everyone except children starving to death in Africa is fondling his handset all the time
while he has nothing in particular to communicate with others, electronically or otherwise. Maybe his stomach is not empty, but it's for sure his brain is. I don't know any other words than "mass addiction" to describe this trend.
Apple's iPhone, for one, is a typical example of adaptive technology. Once again, an adaptive technology is something you can live without. In other words, it's, at best, a nice-to-have. Believe me, I have absolutely nothing against your desire to own such a fancy product. All I want to say is I have a great difficulty living shoulder-to-shoulder with people who think these gadgets are must-haves just like junkies think they can't live without the drug which, in fact, is not so much in the substance. And especially in a conformist society like Japan, this addiction is highly infectious.
To make the plague of addiction even worse, the IT industry is single-mindedly building the infrastructures for "ubiquitous computing" and "cloud-computing." Now this is a global trend.
Needless to say, however, the situation in Japan is even more disastrous because of the legacy of Wakon Yosai and technology fetishism resulting from it. With the entire population drowned in the Great Flood of mobile devices, nation's value-creating chain now seems to have gone into pieces, totally and perhaps irreversibly.
Day in, day out, and around the clock, people from young to old pass me by with their fingertips glued to their Keitai (mobile phones,) or vice versa. These days not a few Japanese go to the bathroom, or even to bed, without parting ways with their beloved cellphones. If you take into account the fact that Japan's population density is 10.2 times higher than that of the United States, you may understand what it is like to be among 100 million Keitai users. · read more (32 words)