CONTINUED FROM PART 2 OF MY LECTURE ON PRACTICAL DIALECTIC To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. - Henri Bergson
Believe it or not, nobody studies economics, business administration, accounting, computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, literature, psychiatry, and politics for sixty years just in order to become able to crack a witty joke or two, or sharpen his caustic tongue. To emphasize my point here, let me summarize below the basic rules and manners for dialectical interchange.
1. Take serious arguments seriously.
2. Drop all that contempt and cynicism for anything beyond your comprehension, and pay due respect for those who know what you don’t, or who do what you can’t.
3. Always subject yourself to “the pain of study” to catch up with or overtake people ahead of you. 4. Otherwise, go to hell.
There’s nothing particularly lofty or esoteric in this code of conduct. Basically it's a matter of commonsense. Even kindergarten kids at Robert J. Sternberg's psychology class of Yale University will have no difficulty understanding it.
Actually this is the single most important lesson I have learned from Jean-Paul Sartre.
I encountered Sartre 58 years ago. On February 14 three years later, when I was a junior at the school of economics of Keio University, a female student studying English literature on the same campus gave a couple of gifts to her live-in boyfriend, that I was. One of them was a 45-RPM record in which trumpeter Chet Baker and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan played My Funny Valentine. The other item was Sartre's play titled Nekrassov. It's funny, but although I wasn't particularly impressed by the Molieresque farce satirizing the right-leaning newspapers such as Figaro, and French communists at the same time, I think it's this lighthearted play that got me irreversibly hooked on the French philosopher.
Today not a few Japanese still celebrate on July 14 their Pari-sai, Paris Festival, in one way or the other. But in those days, a greater number of people filled bars and restaurants on the Ginza streets, downtown Tokyo, to commemorate the day which the French call La Fête Nationale. These Japanese drunk champagne and sang Shanson, chansons, without knowing courageous Parisians stormed the Bastille on that day in 1789 and that the death toll of the French Revolution reached 16,000-40,000, if you forget about other one million lives lost in the subsequent Napoleonic wars.
Small wonder it was considered especially trendy in the late 1950s through the first half of the '60s to talk about French literature, cinema and philosophy among "educated" Japanese. This lasted until the days Japan started overtaking one West European country after another, GDP-wise. Needless to say, Sartre couldn't escape this bastardization. Against this social background, not a few students of my generation became hooked on the French thinker regardless of their majors. It's no accident that most of them stopped talking about him, at least on weekdays, as soon as they graduated from school. It is true still today we see here and there a small number of Sartrean remnants from the days the Japanese were fantasizing about the French culture. I call them WEEKEND SARTREANS because that's exactly what they are.
For my part, Sartrean ideas kept haunting me throughout my adulthood. One day, decades after I became a corporate warrior, I realized the short (5 ft 025 in,) cross-eyed, nicotine addicted Monsieur Sartre was still there on my mind. I think the reason I have drifted far away from weekend Sartreans and we have never crossed each other again is because I have a peculiar trait to constantly test my thoughts against reality of life, and vice versa. Although I didn't have a particularly good comprehension of Sartre's ideas as compared to these guys, I learned something more important from his attitude toward life. I call it integrity, but he called it constant pursuit of liberation from mauvaise foi (self-deception.) Throughout his lifetime (1905-80) he strictly adhered to his existentialist principle, while at the same time keeping himself open to the constant challenge from changing reality.
In 1943 he published Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. They say it was meant to be an antithesis to Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927.) I don't know if that was the case because I am not very familiar with the works of the German philosopher. But either way, I suspect Sartre should have attempted to transcend Henri Bergson's metaphysics before anything else. He first became attracted to philosophy, as a teenager, when he read Bergson's essay Time and Free Will.
Sartre's ontology focused almost solely on human consciousness, which he called lêtre-pour-soi (being-for-itself) as against the material world which he termed lêtre-en-soi (being-in-itself.) From this lay philosopher's point of view, his approach was not really flawless. For one thing, since being-in-itself is essentially self-contained, and thus motionless, his ontology leaves you wondering how to explain moving objects. If I remember it correctly, he said a being-in-itself in motion, such as the wind or the sea wave is nothing but a "disease of being." This wasn't convincing enough.
More importantly, he talked practically nothing about animals as if to get around these questions: "Do some of them have consciousness? And if they do, how does it affect the evolution. or extinction, of nonhuman species?". If Sartre hadn't ignored animals, he might have written something that went beyond Bergson's Creative Evolution. However, I don't think it's his fault. The author of the classic of existentialism was too preoccupied with human affairs because he wrote it in the midst of the occupation of Paris by Nazi Germany.
Then in the late-1950s, amid the bloody Algerian Independence War, Sartre found a tough challenge to his existentialist thesis arising from the Third World. Against this backdrop, he published in 1960 Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume 1, to synthesize his thoughts with dialectical materialism of Karl Marx.
There's no such thing as a synthesis that is immune from negation forever. Marx wrote Das Kapital at the height of the First Industrial Revolution. Sartre intended to bring it up to date so as to address issues particular to the second phase of Industrial Revolution, although some of his terminology (proletariat, bourgeoisie, etc.) were almost outdated by that time. By the same token, Critique of Dialectical Reason was soon to be sublated because we were to see the arrival of the Internet Era in a matter of a quarter century. So it's a pity that he died in 1980 without updating Critique of Dialectical Reason one step further himself, or being challenged from that angle by someone else. Judging from the feedback I've received thus far in response to my post titled
The Death of the What?, nobody seems to need a philosophy for the 21st century. The yawning gap between technology and its users is further widening at an accelerated pace. This is an unmistakable sign that we have already chosen the path to ruin.
The situation in that respect is even more disastrous in this country. One case in point is a typical Japanese "philosopher" by the name of Yoshiro Takeuchi. He is the very person who first introduced Critique of Dialectical Reason to the Japanese audience some fifty years ago. But it hasn't crossed his mind for a split second that it's his duty to his audience as well as the French author to update it to something that meets the real challenge of the Internet era. This, alone, indicates that he doesn't understand what dialectic is all about.
In the last half century, Takeuchi has made his living by peddling around ideas borrowed from the French philosopher. There's nothing particularly wrong with making money from someone else's ideas. Actually I thought I owed him something. On the eve of Anpo Toso (the nationwide protests against the Japan-U.S. security treaty of 1960,) I contacted the up-and-coming professor of philosophy, that he was, to deepen my understanding of existentialism. He helped me neatly digest Sartre's ideas when we met in person and exchanged letters. But in those days either of us knew nothing about the real world. In the subsequent half century, I've had to change myself, while he has remained unchanged all along because of his physical and intellectual laziness. Now the self-proclaimed Sartre expert is totally out of touch with the reality of the 21st century. Small wonder he still remains a computer-illiterate and is writing letters and manuscripts with a ballpoint pen in his wrinkled hand.
These are why I'm inclined to call him a retired WEEKDAY SARTREAN. We all know what it's like when a weekday person faces a post-retirement life where everyday is a Sunday. But you can't imagine how a retired weekday philosopher can adapt himself to the reality of life for the first time in his lifetime.
In 2009, I found out on the web that Takeuchi was (and still remains) around living in a luxurious retirement home on the outskirts of the capital. The 80-something-year-old is now presiding over a small "study" group. By now he has exhausted his pet subjects - wars and revolutions overseas, and the class struggle at home, which is an imaginary thing in this classless society. That's why Takeuchi and his half-a-dozen disciples are now focusing primarily on this weird cultural climate characterized by the Tennoist cult. There's nothing wrong with "confronting" it, as they word it. But obviously it's not a task the retired weekday Sartrean and the remnants of weekend Sartreans could possibly handle. The most important thing is that the link between Sartre's ontology or dialectic and their battle against the Tennoist cult is fatally missing. Quite naturally, now Takeuchi looks more like a guru than what he actually is: yet another retiree suffering senile dementia. And his disciples look more like cultists than ordinary citizens suffering juvenile dementia who actually work at the office on weekdays and have fun discussing Sartre on weekends.
I was invited to attend their secret meeting to "size each other up." Sickened by the sheepish attendees at the pointless meeting (there were only three or four of them at that time,) I challenged the guru's lukewarm views of the new administration of the Democratic Party of Japan and Obama's, which indicated he had no sense of urgency. Then the old fart solemnly proclaimed: "You should remember Jesus Christ started with 12 apostles to change the world." The megalomaniac seemed to imply I was Judas Iscariot. I decided it was a total waste of time to mix with these bastards whose wavelength is miles apart from mine. Since then I haven't talked to them again.
I'm too tired to repeat my argument about the terminally-ill nation named Japan. To make a long story short, you can trace back the incurable disease at least to the mid-19th century. The Japanese have since suffered the pathological fixation to the idea of Wakon Yosai (learning from the West while keeping the Japanese spirit intact.) They have adamantly refused to accept tangible and intangible imports from the West as antitheses to the Japanese spirit, though with excruciatingly ambivalent feelings toward them. Another mantra of Fukoku Kyohei (building a strong nation with military might,) which was the real purpose of the Wakon Yosai exercise, had already been in place as an inviolable synthesis.
When the idea of dialectic was imported from Germany, it was standing on its head from the beginning. Douglas MacArthur didn't have the guts to turn all this around. Without straightening out the inversion, he ordered us to replace the military might with the economic might.
Even today in Japan, a synthesis always comes first and remains there until the end of time. At times the same synthesis has to be reconfirmed against possible antitheses. But that doesn't constitute a major problem because the Japanese have unparalleled skills with which to neutralize or sanitize heterogeneous elements. Every time that happens, they conduct the ritual called Dibeto (debate.) As I always say, an issue is debatable here only when the correct answer is given beforehand.
In this country, a man who does thinking is completely out of place like a fish that does walking. · read more (54 words)
Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 03:00 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
In the animal and in the vegetable world between the generator and the generated, on the canvas which the ancestor passes on, and which his descendants possess in common, each puts his own original embroidery. - From Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson
Several weeks ago, I imposed a lot of reading assignments on myself, which included Henri Bergson's Time and Free Will and Creative Evolution, and Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past, along with some auxiliary materials such as the websites of Dave McGowan and UNESCO.
To me, reading books involves an excruciatingly painful work both physically and mentally. On the one hand my eyesight still keeps deteriorating, and on the other, I've been blogging for so long that now I can only think a little better than an ape. I don't know exactly why, then, I resumed reading. Maybe that's because I don't want to outlive my alertness as my father did in the last years of his life. And perhaps more importantly, I felt I still have something to learn about life before wrapping mine up.
Also, it would have constituted too much financial burden because these days I couldn't afford to buy a single book. Two men helped me in that respect. The Japanese man I mentioned in my post about the difference between art and crap had sent me 2,000 yen-worth gift certificates in return for what I did to him as a self-styled shrink. That enabled me to buy the Japanese version of Bergson's books one of which I read some 60 years ago. Only after I used the gift certificates, I found websites that give the full English texts of the two books all for free. But it helped me in understanding Bergsonian terminology to crosscheck the Japanese translation and English translation of French words against each other.
As to The Presence of the Past, I could locate the dogeared copy buried deep in my bookcase. Some two years ago, one of my American friends strongly recommended I read it. At first, I told him I wasn't really interested in knowing whether there is the presence of the past, and that I couldn't afford to buy a copy of the book which would cost me more than $30 including shipping charge. Then my friend was kind enough to send me his copy secondhand. This is how I found out that the hypothesis about "formative causation" and "morphic resonance" is not yet another cheap determinism.
On this occasion, I'd like to express my gratitude once again to the two gentlemen.
I knew it would be unrealistically ambitious for a retired businessman in senility to challenge Bergson's interpretation of Darwinism and other forms of transformism, or Sheldrake's take on it. But that's not the purpose of my exercise.
Man is an unmanipulatable creature
According to Dave McGowan, sometime around 1964, hippies were summoned by conspirators to Laurel Canyon to "give the anti-war movement a face that would be completely unacceptable to mainstream America." I don't know if he is telling the truth. Neither do I want to know if that was the case because either way it has nothing to do with the intellectual decline of the American people. The basic premise on which he bases his allegation is that human beings are more or less manipulatable. But almost by definition, man can't be conditioned the way the ape or the dog is. If ever the conspirators look to have succeeded, that should simply mean they conducted the experiment on apes, not humans. Although it doesn't look to have crossed his mind for a split second, McGowan, himself, is an ape totally mind-controlled by the conspirators. Worse yet, I even suspect the guy is actually playing a pivotal role as an accomplice in the conspiracy. In all likelihood, he is on the payroll of the cabal of the conspirators. That is why he untiringly keeps inventing entertaining stories such as what allegedly happened in Laurel Canyon a half century ago, in Nazareth 2 millenniums ago, or in New York 12 years ago, so "mainstream America" fails to see the wood for the trees.
As Voltaire is often quoted as saying, what makes you a human being is your ability to identify what is really at issue for humanity, not your ability to answer it. But there's more to it. Although what Sheldrake conjectures about formative causation and morphic resonance remains a hypothesis, the notion about the presence of the past is an axiom. If you are determined only to believe what you see first-hand with your own eyes, every question you ask takes the past perfect subjunctive mood, such as what if what didn't happen had happened before, or what if what happened hadn't happened before. So even if you still remain a conspiracy theorist, it makes your life much easier because you won't have to try so hard to substantiate what may or may not have happened in the past, by giving us one piece of evidence after another as if it weren't a piece of cake to fabricate them with today's state-of-the-art image-processing technologies.
If I were a conspiracy theorist myself, I wouldn't do it on the web, in the first place, when I disseminate my theories because I know the Internet is at the core of all these conspiracies. One of the few questions I would ask without depending too much on the Internet is what if the communications protocol called TCP/IP hadn't enabled the World Wide Web in the late 1980s. Only then, I would come up with a valid proposition to effectively counter the Internet conspiracy because now I know exactly how the minds of these Netizens have actually been controlled in the last quarter century.
Another large-scale conspiracy I would attempt to reveal as a conspiracy theorist is the malicious plot launched ten years ago by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage sponsored by UNESCO defines its mission like this:
"Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity."
This is a motherhood statement. No one dares to say he finds it objectionable. But actually there's something fishy in the advocacy of preservation of traditions just for preservation's sake. I suspect someone behind the scenes has intended to manipulate the hearts and minds of billions of people living on Planet Earth so they all take it for granted the status quo under Pax Americana is a permanent state of things. Needless to say, entries from Japan by far outnumber those from other countries except China. It's as though they think exotic art pieces from Japan should be treasured more dearly than, say, Baroque music and Bach's counterpoint methods or equal temperament scales.
Evidently, it's a conspiracy to contain man's spontaneity and creativity, which are exactly what separate us from apes. By doing so, UNESCO intends, on behalf of the U.S. government, to perpetuate the Asiatic backwardness and all the sufferings inflicted on African and Arab countries, along with the entire post-WWII regime represented by the United Nations.
Handing down the legacy via education
According to Sheldrake, what you can pass down to posterity via your genes is quite limited. The biochemist basically subscribes to the idea of Jean Baptiste Lamarck that acquired characteristics are also transmitted from a generation to the next. So he does talk a little about education, though in the narrow context of his proprietary hypothesis about formative causation and morphic resonance. He writes:
"On the present hypothesis, skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetical calculation depend on the ordering and patterning activity of morphic fields, just as physical skills and the speaking and understanding of languages do. The learning of reading, writing and arithmetic should be facilitated by morphic resonance from those who have practiced them before us."
Quite naturally, though, Sheldrake stops short of talking about whether, and how, spontaneity and creativity can be transmitted to our descendants.
My father was a born educator, for better or for worse. He applied an abnormally intransigent method to educate his elder son, that I was. As a university professor and fellow researcher in aeronautics, he also used the same method. As a result, he was hated or even feared by his students and assistants. I don't think, though, any one of them hated him more than I did. Not that he was a perfectionist. Actually, he was an ordinary person who was as far from perfection as one can be in his private life. I don't know whether his contempt toward mediocrity and conformism was passed down to me via morphic resonance. But as a matter of fact, I have also been a demanding teacher throughout my adulthood.
As I wrote in this post, parental education of my biological sons is where I miserably failed. Despite my effort to help them grow into mature men, they ended up as typical Japanese who are mentally neotenized. For one thing, my elder son, who plays the baritone sax in an amateur band he has organized himself, does what he thinks is jazz in order to bring band members together, rather than the other way around. And now it's too late for me to make him realize that this inversion of the end and the means has taken a fatal toll on the quality of music they do. He is just following the norm which is deep-rooted in this cultural wasteland. He thinks it's not him, but his dad, who deviates from the norm. Time and again, I have told him to weed out all these impurities from his music, sometimes even referring to Wynton Marsalis. Quite predictably he seems to have hit the wall lately. Most recently I sent him the links to some of the videos of The Hot Club of Cowtown as good examples of impurity-free music. But he wouldn't listen. He just said, "I have inherited this stubbornness from you."
Likewise, my effort to educate young people in the workplace has seldom paid off. Sometimes it was appreciated when I gave them knowledge and skills they couldn't live without, such as how to use the newly implemented computer system. But that's not what I wanted to pass down. The last thing they would understand was that there is no professionalism where there is no spontaneity and creativity, especially in an uncertain world like this one. For several years after retirement, I taught a dozen young ladies how to use the personal computer and how to read and write English. But that didn't last long, because I did it all for free, and more importantly, my students wanted to learn how to use the PC or the language while I wanted to teach them what to use them for.
In the last one and a half years, I gave a lot of free lectures, mostly ad hoc but sometimes prepared, to the people at the Tax-Collecting department of the Yokohama City Hall. Early on I tried to make it understood that the reciprocity principle is what the Constitution is all about. To that end, I told them, over and over again, that I have no reason to pay the income-unrelated Citizen Taxes when my constitutional rights are in jeopardy. When I realized it was like "urinating on the face of a frog," I switched the subject to Pacioli's double-entry accounting method which is expected to be introduced in government entities in the not-too-distant future.
A couple of months ago, my last class took place in a tiny cubicle which wasn't equipped with any audio-visual device on which to show PowerPoint slides. I asked them to bring in the General Affairs manager who is concurrently in charge of Konpuraiansu (legal compliance) and risk management. When I delivered my punch line which went, "You can't have a negative amount of money in your pocket," the manager of the Tax-Collecting department grinned at me. Obviously, he took it as a witty joke. When I was heading for the elevator hall after the class, he chased after me to say, "Do you have an extra copy of the material you used to explain to us the situation in the U.S. and the U.K.?" I handed him my own copy, saying, "Keep this." He said: "It's very nice of you. I'll study it closely." He may have studied it, but that didn't stop him from continuing the robbery of the "delinquent" taxes from my pension. Once again my effort to educate these zombies failed. But what else could I have done?
Only at times, I felt rewarded for my effort like when I took care of the young intern from France, mainly on the job, and when I taught foreign students at an MBA class of International University of Japan. My interpretation of the fact that I have only succeeded when it came to the education of young people from the West is that some, if not all, of them were not as mentally inert as their Japanese counterparts were.
In the last chapter titled "Creativity within a Living World," the author of The Presence of the Past writes:
"Creativity is a profound mystery precisely because it involves the appearance of patterns that have never existed before. Our usual way of explaining things is in terms of pre-existing causes: the cause somehow contains the effect; the effect follows from the cause. If we apply this way of thinking to the creation of a new form of life, a new work of art, or a new scientific theory, we are led to the conclusion that in some sense the new pattern of organization was already present: it was a latent possibility."
These self-contradictory words fail to unravel the mystery about man's creativity and spontaneity.
As Sheldrake admits in the book which was published in 1988, his thoughts about formative causation and morphic resonance are nothing but a hypothesis. I suspect it will most probably remain so until a more provable hypothesis comes up to supersede it. In the interim, however, he shouldn't have tried to defend his hypothesis by adding hypothesis on hypothesis. But that's exactly what he did in the final chapter.
To that end, he selectively turns to Bergson. For one thing, the English biochemist quotes the French philosopher as saying, "The possible would have been there from all time, a phantom awaiting its hour; it would therefore become reality by the addition of something, by some transfusion of blood or life." Sheldrake goes as far as to say that Bergson admitted that this dilemma is "inherent in the traditional European philosophies."
It's no accident that the biochemist opts not to touch on Bergson's observation of nothingness. The author of Creative Evolution writes:
"Existence appears to me like a conquest over nought. I say to myself that there might be, that indeed there ought to be, nothing, and I then wonder that there is something. Or I represent all reality extended on nothing as on a carpet: at first was nothing, and being has come by superaddition to it. Or, yet again, if something has always existed, nothing must always have served as its substratum or receptacle, and is therefore eternally prior. A glass may have always been full, but the liquid it contains nevertheless fills a void. In the same way, being may have always been there, but the nought which is filled, and, as it were, stopped up by it, pre-exists for it nonetheless, if not in fact at least in right."
Another example of Sheldrake's tactic is his tricky words "creative adaptability." But in his Creative Evolution, Bergson observes:
"If I pour into the same glass, by turns, water and wine, the two liquids will take the same form, and the sameness in form will be due to the sameness in adaptation of content to container. Adaptation, here, really means mechanical adjustment. The reason is that the form to which the matter has adapted itself was there, ready-made, and has forced its own shape on the matter. But, in the adaptation of an organism to the circumstances it has to live in, where is the pre-existing form awaiting its matter? The circumstances are not a mold into which life is inserted and whose form life adopts: this is indeed to be fooled by a metaphor. There is no form yet, and the life must create a form for itself, suited to the circumstances which are made for it."
If I were Sheldrake, I might simply say: "We call it a creation when what might have appeared but actually failed to appear in the past is appearing now." It would be just glossing over the dilemma inherent to his way of thinking. But after all, this is his hypothesis, not mine.
The big canvas of cultural traditions
Actually, I think my teaching and learning experience has given me a clue to possibly solving the problem facing Sheldrake. Whenever I succeeded to instill in young people from the West the awareness that nothing is more important than creativity and spontaneity, I noticed that I could learn from my students as much as they could learn from me. If I'm not mistaken, we can get a creative idea only through dialectical interaction, which is essentially the same thing as Jean-Paul Sartre's "totalizing activity" of dialectical reason. It never emerges just out of nowhere, let alone from the mystery zone that Sheldrake calls "creative morphic fields."
It is widely known that the starting point of Bergson's philosophy was his denial of the rationalism of Immanuel Kant. He always based his epistemology on his intuition. That is why his theses and philosophical essays were filled with exquisite analogies. Especially I like his metaphor of the individual embroidery put on the shared canvas. It best explains his idea about creation.
I am of the opinion that when you talk about creation, it is crucially important to have the ability to analogize, in a very creative and imaginative way, abstract ideas such as "Élan vital" (vital impetus,) the words which Bergson seems to have substituted for "nothingness." Think about this: do you believe someone who isn't good at artistic expression himself can tell where to find the source of man's creativity? On the other hand, Sheldrake's expertise lies in biochemistry. Small wonder the only words he came up with to describe the driving force of evolution are "morphic fields" which don't help us visualize what he claims to be seeing.
The Japanese don't have a canvas woven for shared use. All they have, instead, is a dirty rag which is moth-eaten all over. On the contrary, if you look closely at the videos embedded below, you will see a big canvas unfolded between Elana James, the younger fiddler, and Johnny Gimble, the older one. This is exactly what differentiates them from these noble savages that have swarmed since the 1960s. For your reference, James was born almost a decade after the "Laurel Canyon conspiracy," and Gimble, one of her idols, more than 35 years before it. To all these musicians, traditions are not for preservation in nursing homes or museums, let alone by UNESCO conspirators.
Dr. Hiroshi Okamoto wrote "You can cure 9 out of 10 illnesses all by yourself" to explain why he quit practicing medicine in 2001.
One evening in mid-March, I was talking to the wife of the owner-chef at a small eatery I frequent over the five reasons I'm staying out of Japan's rotten health-care system. She is one of my local friends who helped me find a decent doctor in this neighborhood when my blood pressure had reached a critical level. (The systolic reading peaked at 240 mmHg.)
A middle-aged man, who looked to be a regular in the shop, was in the middle of his dinner at a nearby table. When he finished, he joined our conversation. He introduced himself as a dentist who had recently abandoned the membership in Japan Dental Association, a cousin organization of Japan Medical Association. The independent-minded dental practitioner said, “Mr. Yamamoto, I think you are 100% right. Medical doctors, and dentists alike, are all swindlers in this country.”
After the wife of the owner left us to help her husband in the kitchen, he started telling me his experience with a medical doctor who had ripped him off a fortune when his old mother was dying of cancer. He said, "My mother died a couple of years ago, after fighting the illness for several years. The doctor certainly knew from the beginning that her days were already numbered. But he always fell short of explicitly telling me that was the case with my mom presumably because he thought that being a dental practitioner here, I could somehow afford to pay the hospital bill which the average Japanese could not. As a result, I was robbed of 4 to 5 million yen every year over the several years she stayed in the hospital.” His eyes were filled with tears.
The next time we met at the same restaurant, he said, “Stick around there for a minute, Mr. Yamamoto. I have something to give you.” He rushed out of the place and soon came back from a nearby parking lot with a pocket-sized book in his hand. It was titled "You can cure 9 out of 10 illnesses all by yourself"; its subtitle read, "Do you still want to remain a juicy patient?”. The dentist said, "This book vouches for your argument from a physician's point of view." This is how I came across the revealing book authored by Dr. Hiroshi Okamoto. Had it not been for the timely gift from the dentist, I would never have read it because in the past several decades I have believed it's a total waste of time and money to
read a book written by a Japanese.
According to his autobio, Dr. Okamoto was practicing medicine for 12 years until around the turn of the century. One day in 2001, he asked himself: “Isn’t it enough to dupe thousands and thousands of patients into spending their hard-earned money practically for nothing?” That's when he made up his mind to quit practicing medicine and launched a website on which to provide medical consultations at a flat semiannual fee of 9K yen. In 2009, he published this book to explain what exactly had made him explore the untested business model.
Dr. Okamoto classifies illnesses into 3 categories like this:
Class 1: Illnesses which can be cured without the help of doctors.
Class 2: Illnesses which can be cured only with the help of doctors.
Class 3: Illnesses which cannot be cured even with the help of doctors.
I think his straightforward way of "triaging" illnesses is quite helpful in analyzing problems inherent in the Japanese medical system. Theoretically speaking, the divisions among the three categories are not always that clear. For one thing, Class 3 illnesses tend to move toward Class 2, and Class 2 toward Class 1, on the premise that medicine advances both in terms of technology and affordability. But in reality, this assumption cannot be taken for granted.
Dr. Okamoto recalls that an astounding 95% of his patients came to see him over "illnesses" that fell on the first category. On an educated guess basis, he puts the overall ratio of Class 1 illnesses in the order of 70-90% although he does not have data for his colleagues.
He calls them Oishii Kanja-tachi, literally translated as juicy patients. As the conscientious doctor observes, the single most important problem with Japan's medical system lies there.
In the last couple of weeks, some American regulars at my website have tried to educate me on the subtle difference between the two words, "psychogenic" and "psychosomatic". Although I am grateful for their effort to enlighten me, I still remain in the dark about the definitions of these adjectives, presumably because I, as an Asian, have never believed in any dualism. To me, when a man suffers a disease, he suffers it in his entirety. In this context, I would generically call Class 1 diseases hypochondria, or somatization of mental disorder inherent to hysteria. In other words, the explosion of the population of hospital goers over Class 1 illnesses is a social malady rather than a medical problem.
Dr. Okamoto suspects that as a result, hospitals are always so overcrowded with these super-suggestible people that the norm for outpatients is now "a 3-hour wait for a 3-minute treatment" as the Japanese always say without exaggeration. That, in turn, makes the sufferers of Class 2 diseases shy away from hospitals.
On the other hand, these juicy patients are constantly subjected to overtesting and overprescription, because otherwise hospital operation would never be that profitable.
Perhaps to avoid directly criticizing gullible and sheepish outpatients, Dr. Okamoto attributes this phenomenon to the perpetual efforts made by the medical cartel (he doesn't use these words, though) formed by doctors, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers and bureaucrats at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and equally important, by the media.
In this relation. the author of the book stresses the fact that these dupes always take it for granted that all the numeric criteria given by Japan Medical Association and the health ministry for such diseases as hypertension and diabetes are authentic and trustworthy. But nothing is farther from the truth, according to Okamoto.
Take hypertension, for example. All of a sudden in 2000, the lower threshold value for the systolic reading of high blood pressure was lowered from 160 mmHg to 140 mmHg. As a result, the number of patients supposedly suffering hypertension jumped up 30 million overnight. Okamoto says now 50 million (see NOTE below) out of 127 million Japanese are supposedly suffering high blood pressure.
NOTE: Today (May 17) falls on what "World Hypertension League" calls "World Hypertension Day." On this occasion, the Japanese media revised, with an innocent face, their bloated estimate of the hypertensive population downward to 40 million, and added it's worrisome that 80% of them remain untreated right now.
The same can be said of the blood sugar levels for diabetics. On May 1, 1999, Japan Diabetes Society lowered out of the blue the cutoff value for diabetes from 140 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL. By the sudden change, tens of millions of Japanese officially became diabetics overnight.
Without doubt, 9 out of 10 illnesses can be cured all by yourself is one of the greatest Japanese nonfictions I've ever read. If it still leaves something to be desired, he should have shown more relevant data, which have rarely been discussed in public, in a more coherent way. He talks about the fact that the average Japanese doctor treated 8,421 outpatients in 1998 whereas the average number of outpatients his OECD counterpart treated in the same year was 2,421, or the average medical cost for the treatment and diagnosis of the Japanese outpatients was 7K yen per session while it cost his American counterpart 62K.
But these spotty figures fall a little short of entirely discrediting widespread fallacies about Japan's medical system. For instance, the World Health Organization always places Japan at the top of the list when measuring the overall effectiveness of health-care systems. Aside from the fundamental question about whether we need such an organization as WHO under the U.N., which is supposedly overseeing medical systems in 193 member countries, we should question its sanity when it proclaims the Japanese medical system is the undisputed best because the doctors are 3.5 times more efficient than their OECD counterparts, the medical cost is 89% lower than in other OECD countries, and "as a result," Japan's "healthy life expectancy" is the longest in the world. Actually those who are doing this ranking business at the international organizations are the same bunch of idiots as those who still maintain GDP is an primary indicator of the economic vigor and people's well-being of a nation.
It's especially outrageous to know not a single medical expert has ever asked the most relevant questions such as: - What should the "healthy" longevity Japan boasts mean when one out of four Japanese is seriously considering suicide? - How can Japan's overall medical achievements be considered outstanding when every third Japanese is supposedly suffering hypertension? - Are Japanese doctors considered really productive when the norm for their outpatients is "a 3-hour wait for a 3-minute treatment"? - Does it make any sense to evaluate the Japanese medical system, in the first place, when 70-90% of outpatients are just pretending to be physically sick, but in fact, mentally ill?
I thought I could expect saner feedback from my local friends and that I could somehow contain the cost of 3 copies of the intriguing book (1,800 yen) within my household budget. The first person I ordered Amazon Japan to send a copy was (Lara) Chen Tien-shi, up-and-coming anthropologist and dedicated humanrights activist.
Recently she and her predominantly Japanese colleagues in an NPO headed by Lara, where I am an associate member, took a research tour to Thailand. When they came back, they gave us a presentation on their findings about the distress being suffered by minority tribes, such as the Aka people, who mostly inhabit the northernmost area of Thailand. At that meeting someone stressed the fact that the Aka people are not granted access to nation's health-care entitlement programs. This woman wanted to tell us how they are alienated from the entire system. At that time I asked them: "Am I supposed to sympathize with them? I'm also medically uncovered." No one answered my question. But I am certain Lara understood what I meant because the ethnic Chinese is far more intelligent and down-to-earth than her Japanese colleagues.
Another thing I expected from her was her take on 易筋功 (Ikinko), literally translated as muscle-relaxing routine. Dr. Okamoto introduces this as useful for the prevention of Class 2 illnesses and the self-cure of Class 1 illnesses. I am an extremely skeptical person who never believes in any magic until it's fully proven with myself.
Lara strongly recommended I regularly do the Chinese routine similar to Tai Chi because a little different version of the Chinese exercise is actually helping her keep in shape. She said her 90-year-old father told her to do the routine because it had proved effective with him. I said to myself: "Why don't I give a try to Lara's advice?"
I know American people would respond to Dr. Okamoto's recommendation in two different ways. The first group would just shrug it off, saying it's nothing but a superstition when compared to jogging or aerobics they are currently doing. Simply it never crosses the minds of these empty-headed guys that jogging and aerobics can also be superstitions. That's quite OK with me because their physical and mental health is none of my concern.
The other group of Americans would instantly be hooked on the Ikinko routine, because to them anything exotic and mysterious can serve as an "alternative" medicine. Actually, a good part of the likes of yoga and Zazen is an Oriental rubbish reinvented in the West. These ignoramuses should learn the Traditional Chinese Medicine existed centuries before Hippocrates. The Western medicine is the alternative to TCM, not the other way around.
Weeks afterward I ordered Amazon to send another copy of the book to my elder son, who has been brought up by my ex-wife into a perfect people person, i.e. conformist. For that reason, I subtly disowned him several years ago. More specifically, I told him, and his younger brother as well, not to look for my body when I disappeared, because I don't want to be incinerated and buried in the pseudo-Buddhist format. That is why I didn't tell him my blood pressure had shot up to the levels the doctor called a hypertensive crisis until after I came back alive from the emergency room.
The day after I was ambulanced into the hospital, he, along with his younger brother, came to my apartment to find out if his dad was getting well. When we went out on foot to have lunch together and buy stuff like a digital blood pressure monitor, he pissed me off the way he always does. Every time we met my neighbor, he said: "I'm awfully sorry my dad caused you so much trouble." (That was not the case at all.) He never failed to add, "I also apologize to you in advance because I'm afraid he will cause you some more trouble in the future." (That will not be the case, either.) Needless to say, he kept bowing all along. It's as though it's a sin for me to stay alive, and to be dying in the near future, too.
Believe it or not, my biological son is not alone in acting unnecessarily apologetic and thankful especially toward authoritative figures such as superiors and Westerners. Quite naturally most foreign residents here love this Japanese "virtue" very much. They know they can never expect the same obsequious politeness coupled with servile hospitality anywhere else in the world, including their home countries. That is why they always pretend not to notice the ugliest side of the rotten culture.
Here's another case in point. In the days I was in business, Japanese businessmen often bowed to the receiver of the telephone, wearing a phony smile all the time, especially when talking to their bosses or customers. Even today, it's commonplace that a Japanese youngster bows to his handset when in the same situation as if using Skype. My biological son is no exception.
Recently he is also suffering hypertension as a complication of diabetes. He is only 43. You may not know it, but susceptibility to psychogenic, or psychosomatic diseases is a people person's destiny. I thought he would certainly find Dr. Okamoto's revelations relevant to him in one way or the other. I still don't know if he is going to read the book, but when I asked for his comment, he said, "I've let Yumiko read it first because she wanted to." Yumiko is his wheelchair-bound wife who has long been suffering from an "intractable" illness called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
As I observe, my daughter-in-law is increasingly getting hooked on a wider variety of prescription drugs and irreversibly developing more and more dependency on her caring husband. Most recently she developed an allergy to eggs in addition to other allergies she had already had. But I doubt it's genuine. When she is shown albumen (egg white) or vitellus (egg yolk), she winces or even vomits. But when she is given a meat bun which unnoticeably contains egg, she won't grimace or will even eat it. Now I am reasonably sure her mysterious pains and other symptoms are all fake as is her conjugal love of her husband.
I know very little about the pathology of CRPS, but I know a lot about human nature, if Hippocrates' insight into it should eclipse mine. Since the disease my daughter-in-law is suffering is a psychogenic, or psychosomatic disorder, she can overcome it if she really wants to be a self-reliant person. So the real question is whether Yumiko can emancipate herself from the barbed-wire fence she has built around her. My tentative answer to my own question is, "No, that's quite unlikely." Here's a reason:
In his 1983 book titled How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, Howard M. Halpern, Ph.D. theorized that there is no fundamental difference between addiction to a chemical substance and addiction to a wrong mate, or any other incongruous partner. But I think Halpern's theory has an important flaw. Actually, Yumiko and her husband have developed a mutual dependency, which cannot be the case when you get addicted to a chemical substance.
That is why I don't think I can realistically assume their diseases will be cured sooner or later. Now they are Siamese twins that cannot be separated if you want both of them to survive the operation. I even suspect the 5-decade-old addictive alliance between the two failing countries have taken a heavy toll on marriages or other personal relationships among the Japanese.
In the last several years, my daughter-in-law has been on special benefits meant for the disabled. When her husband triumphantly reported to me that he had finally succeeded to convince the municipality to add CRPS to the list of "designated diseases," I said, "So she is now eligible for disability benefits at the cost of un-handicapped people like me." He laughed and said, "So it seems." But actually it's not a laughing matter. For one thing, there is not much difference in amount between her benefits and my annuities from the contributory pension program. Such a downright injustice is the dominant norm in this terminally-ill welfare state.
I thought at least she should reciprocate my generosity by giving me a sensible feedback to my gift on behalf of her husband. Some weeks later I asked my son, "What did she say?" His answer: "Nothing in particular. Maybe she thought what the author says in the book had nothing to do with her chronic pains. By the way, I took our dogs to the vet today....."
Finally I had the book sent to Dr. Shiono. But the last time I saw him, he was still in the middle of it. He just said, "Many thanks, Mr. Yamamoto. It's really a page-turner. I'm learning a lot from the book."
I think it's a pity that none of my American friends have Japanese-literacy, and all they hear about the reality behind the facade of the medical systems in North America are allegations against conspirators who suspectedly keep spreading new strains of viruses that cause such diseases as SARS, avian flu, and swine flu, along with fake anti-virus drugs such as Tamiflu which allegedly cause an additional hazard.
In fact, these medical conspiracy theorists help conceal truth more than they reveal it. As I always say, it's not only useless but also harmful to arbitrarily or opportunistically single out a certain part of a broader plot, making believe it's not just the tip of the iceberg. Every time I ask them, "Show me what is NOT a conspiracy," they pretend not to hear me.
I sometimes ask myself how he would respond when one of those super-credulous guys who blindly believe in medical conspiracy theories saw his blood sugar level hit, say, 180 mg/dL. It's for sure that he would rush to a nearby hospital and subsequently become addicted to insulin without asking if he is falling into the trap of a conspiracy. As Ron Paul kept warning, before quitting the race in a disgraceful way, prescription drugs are sometimes much more dangerous than illegal drugs.
That is why I thought Dr. Okamoto's revelations about Japan's medical cartel are worth introducing to my audience in the West. · read more (58 words)
Tuesday, October 11 2011 @ 03:08 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
A week or two before 3.11, an intriguing book written by veteran Dutch
journalist Karel van Wolferen was published from Kadokawa Shoten, under
the bilingual title 誰が小沢一郎を殺すのか? - The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro. The Japanese part literally means "Who is going to kill Ichiro Ozawa?" I am a seasoned translator who is extremely fussy about
word choices. But since there are no Japanese words precisely equivalent to "character
assassination," I think the discrepancy between the two languages here
is more or less permissible.
When it comes to the subtitle, however, I find the way translator Minori
Inoue handled it somewhat objectionable, whether or not he did it with the
consent of the author whose manuscript had no subtitle in it. Inoue settled
for a Japanese phrase which goes 画策者なき陰謀, literally reverse-translated as The Conspiracy without a Conspirator. Of course, this is a gimmick to promote the sales of the book. Needless
to say, there is no such thing as a crime without a mastermind or a perpetrator.
Despite all this, I think the book is a must-read particularly if you are
one of those suckers who are usually wasting time and money on the rubbish
written by Japan "experts" in the U.S. or the U.K. such as Joseph
Nye and Bill Emmott. Unlike these bastards who are totally incapable of
analyzing politics, or anything else for that matter, the Dutch journalist
has real insight into Japan. More important, he has conscience that prohibits
him from giving his audience delusive ideas such as Japan should be treated
as "the anchor of the arc of freedom and prosperity."
With his outstanding analytical ability, Wolferen knows a political analyst
should never generalize things although that is the most effective way when brainwashing people. In the first chapter, the author explains why he has
delved so ardently into the character assassination of Ichiro Ozawa since
1993 when the scandal-tainted politician left the Liberal Democratic Party.
He notes that although character assassinations are commonplace in any country and at any time in history, the particular one persistently
targeted at Ozawa has some distinctive features.
For one thing, Japanese
assassins are much more insidious and persistent than their foreign counterparts.
Also, they always base their accusation against their foe on extralegal social norms instead of written laws.
A violation of laws such as the Political Funds Control Law doesn't matter
that much here. As a result, it takes a tremendous amount of time for them to achieve
their ambiguous goal. Ozawa is not yet really done for, but it's already
been 18 years since they started targeting the self-proclaimed reformist.
As Wolferen points out, another fallout from the character assassination
in Japanese style is that the total picture of the scheme is impenetrably
opaque. All along it remains unclear who is going to get rid of Ozawa and
what for. The methods to eliminate the target are also by far subtler and
more roundabout than those used in a negative campaign in the U.S.
These are the reasons Wolferen decided to write The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro.
When you are through with this book, you will certainly have a little clearer
picture of what the fuss over the "criminal" case against the
former head of the Democratic Party of Japan is all about. At least you
will get a vague idea about the conspirators who have hatched this plot.
But, it looks as though the clearer ideas you get from the book, the more cryptic
the real implication of the character assassination looks. This is where
Questions that still remain unanswered in the book include:
■ How did the translator come up with the misleading subtitle? Can it
be that he thought, by any chance, there are too many conspirators to list,
even by group names such as the corrupt public prosecutors, bureaucrats who have huge
vested interests across the nation, the U.S. government, liberal and conservative
ideologues retained by Washington, the mainstream media, and the alternative
media? I even suspect that Inoue thought it wouldn't make sense to point
a finger at a fictitious figure such as the son of the Sun Goddess - or
the author may have told his translator to refrain from explicitly offending
the incumbent emperor, in deference to his readers.
■ What's wrong with assassinating the most unscrupulous political figure, in one way or the other? Wolferen still believes Ozawa has been a reform-minded politician and that is why he left the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993. Even so, the author admits he hesitates to call him one of the greatest politicians in the postwar Japan. Actually, it's unlikely that a bandit like Ozawa can be a reformer as he claims. But at the same time, you can never expect a law-abiding person to be an agent of change. After all, he deserves the predicament he has been going through in recent years. But that does not mean these corrupt prosecutors and judges have the moral authority to punish him. This is the tragedy inherent to Japan.
■ Why on earth didn't the more or less faceless conspirators think about economizing time by quickly killing Ozawa physically as someone had a yakuza mobster stab to death Koki Ishii, the maverick lawmaker, back in 2002? Can't it be that the assassins are targeting not only Ozawa but also millions of other Japanese? If that is the case, it all clicks because you can't kill so many people at a time.
■ If we should take the tricky subtitle at face value, what would be wrong if we assumed there is no particular victim in the ongoing character assassination? Actually, I often get the impression that it's other people who fell victim to the crooked lawmaker - and not the other way around. I also believe anyone else could have been scapegoated in place of Ozawa almost by the definition of the word. If I were Wolferen's translator, I might have subtitled
the book something like 被害者なき犯罪 or The Crime without a Victim.
■ If DPJ's landslide over LDP two years ago should be considered to have
marked the end of the 1955 System as the author seems to believe, why are
we still seeing the same attempt by the same people to get rid of Ozawa
going on endlessly? From this blogger's point of view, the coup d'etat
Ozawa staged in 1993 was just a hiccup of the system artfully crafted by
the U.S. government in 1955. Its design concept was such that nobody should
be able to alter it, let alone destroy it. Wolferen writes the political
landscape resulting from Ozawa's departure from the LDP was something to
be called "1.5-party system" and that as a result of the snap
general election in August 2009, a fullfledged 2-party system is now in
place in this country. But he is uncharacteristically wrong here; we now
have a very unique twin-party system where the two political groups are
really inseparable from each other as if they were the Siamese twins.
Actually, this country has been going around in circles for decades now.
Every attempt to transform it into a viable nation has proved futile.
Wash your eyes clouded with all the hogwash about Japan you've heard from
the likes of Joseph Nye and Richard Armitage, and take a sober look at
what's really going on here. Do you see the faintest signs that Japan is
On October 6, Ozawa pleaded not guilty at the opening of his trial. But
people can't wait until April when the first ruling is expected. They have
already stepped up their criticism against the villain. Day in, day out,
and almost around the clock, the entire population, from self-proclaimed
pundits and scholars, to brainless punks, is cheerfully ganging up on Ozawa
as if they can change their country only by ostracizing the former "shadow
Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has resumed his secular pilgrimage at its
checkpoint No. 54, expecting he will have been cleansed of his past political
sins by the time he reaches the goal where the 83rd temple sits. In the
meantime, his successor Yoshihiko Noda, who claims to be as innocent as
泥鰌, a loach, is committing another bunch of sins, such as planning to take
part in the TPP talks scheduled for November just to please Obama, going
ahead with the relocation plan for the U.S. Marine Corps's air station
to Henoko, another city in the same Okinawa main island, and trying to dupe
the gullible Japanese into footing the bill for the government's mishandling
of the 3.11 disaster.
I think if there still is a way to implement a disruptive change in this
country, the first thing the Japanese people should do is to find answers
all by themselves to the questions Wolferen validly identifies but stops short of answering himself. Among other things, it is crucially
important to specifically identify institutions to be targeted by assassins
before deciding whether to destroy them physically or by character assassinations.
If I may take the liberty of answering these questions on behalf of Wolferen,
I would say the primary targets are the EMPEROR and those who benefit from
the TREATY of MUTUAL COOPERATION and SECURITY between the UNITED STATES
and JAPAN. · read more (105 words)
Tuesday, November 30 2010 @ 01:03 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
It all started when I stumbled on this controversial book titled The Coming Collapse of China.
Until then I hadn't imagined that there could be an author specializing in the unscientific field called political "science" who, like management gurus such as Michael
Hammer or Peter F. Drucker, wouldn't take it for granted that when the subject entity is big enough, it should be considered as a going concern.
As I wrote in those days, I didn't really care about the fate of China.
Seven years later, I still remain that way because where the country is
heading is basically none of my business. Recent rumors on the Web have
it that Gordon Chang, the author of the book, has now revised his prophecy,
saying the collapse will happen in ten years from now if not in 2011 as he originally predicted. My take on the rescheduling
is: who knows, and who cares?
I still remember writing a long mail on March 1, 2003 to Mr. Chang. The subsequent exchange of views between us in
more than 2,000 mails and one face-to-face talk at a sushi bar in Tokyo's
Roppongi has helped me transform myself from a retired businessman into something
else. As of now I am still unable to tell the name of the shore on which
I was washed up.
Yet, I think I can give you some tips if you are a proponent or an opponent
of any collapse theory.
There are two important questions you must ask yourself before discussing
the probability of China's collapse, Japan's or America's.
"Am I planning to take specific steps to expedite or prevent it, or just forecasting about something I can't really internalize?"
As I wrote earlier this year, plans are one thing and forecasts are quite
another. It is true that forecasting is an integral part of a plan, but
if you remain uncommitted to your forecast, you can't call it a plan.
And if you are only betting on a horse, instead of jockeying yourself, you should know the fate of a nation has nothing in common with the result of the horse racing.
The same applies if you are a weatherman. You've got to be an idiot to claim you can foretell the weather of the day one year
from now because you are equipped with state-of-the-art supercomputers hooked up to meteorological satellites.
You may still insist that you are committed to something or someone. But
hold on a second.
The single most important thing to understand is that you can never commit
yourself to faceless people or those living thousands miles away from your hometown. All you can actually do is to tweet, like a little birdie, about the doomed future of China, or the endless supremacy of America, for that matter.
"How do I define the word 'collapse'? Does one of those regime changes deserve to be called a collapse?"
Another way to ask about the same thing is: "Would I readily declare
a brain-dead person dead?" If you wouldn't, you should drop all your
argument for or against the collapse theory at hand.
In this "globalized" world where state-of-the-art life-support
systems are available everywhere at affordable prices, it's highly improbable
for any nation-state but tiny banana republics to literally fall apart.
With these questions always in mind, I started writing a book which I would have titled The Unviable Japan two and a half years ago. In retrospect, I suspect the American literary
agent might not have pissed me off the way she did if I had thought about
titling it The Coming Collapse of Japan; she wouldn't have been upset so much because then I was just forecasting
Japan's future while remaining uncommitted to anything.
· read more (236 words)
Sunday, November 28 2010 @ 04:37 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Think of it as the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the American living room: our long-standing reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.
- Chalmers Johnson, July 30, 2009
Chalmers Johnson died on November 20 at the age of 79.
In today's America infested with demagogues and ideologues, scholars and pundits who address issues strictly based on facts as Johnson did are an endangered species. That is why the news from California somehow prompted me to place an order for his last book with amazon.com.
Actually Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope is an anthology of 15 essays written
in the period from January 2004 through July 2009.
For his uniquely down-to-earth approach focused on "political economy"
of subject countries, Johnson was known to be a "contrarian"
scholar, and sometimes dismissed as an "oddball" among mainstreamers. Because of the prejudice, very little is known about him in the U.S. and elsewhere. So let me first summarize here his lustrous educational background
and multihued occupational career.
In the 1950s, Johnson earned a BA degree in economics and a Ph.D. in political
science from the University of California, Berkeley. During the Korean
War, he was stationed in Japan as a naval officer. Later on, he taught
at his alma mater, but at the same time he was a consultant for an affiliate
of the CIA for some years.
Over time he developed a firm belief that it's imperative for serious researchers to receive the fullfledged education on the language and history of the subject country. This is exactly what differentiated him from other political scientists who always cut corners on their surface-scratching studies by neglecting the painstaking efforts to learn languages and histories.
How many Japan experts in the U.S., for instance, are discussing the subject country in an arrogant know-it-all attitude without comprehensive knowledge of the Japanese language and history?
To me talking about a country without knowing its culture inside out is something like an accounting-illiterate CEO trying to analyze the financial statements of his
company. I find this "imperial hubris" all the more disgusting because of my personal experience with arrogant Americans in the last two and a half years.
Needless to say, one of the keys to understanding the message of this book
is to refresh your definition of the word "imperialism." As
usual not-too-many reviewers took Dismantling the Empire seriously on the ground that it's yet another manifestation of a wicked
and unpatriotic ideology. Some even said it's totally unworthy of reading.
But now that you've known his bio, I hope you doubt that can be the case.
In fact, those who read this book expecting to see all-too-familiar ideologies
will be totally disappointed because the author only lets facts, some of
them learned firsthand, tell their stories. In short his frequent reference
to imperialism has nothing, whatsoever, to do with ideologies.
There's nothing new in the straightforward way Johnson defines the word. He says that
imperialism is an international system where "militarily stronger
nations dominate and exploit weaker ones."
As a political economist, Johnson primarily focuses on the financial aspects of imperialism. An essay dated July 2, 2009 puts the costs of maintaining "the U.S.
Empire of Bases" at $102 billion a year. In another essay dated July
30, 2009, the author quotes Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website
Foreign Policy in Focus, as saying the United States spends approximately $250
billion each year maintaining its global military presence." (I can't
tell what the difference between the two figures represents, though.)
Johnson concludes that it's a "suicide option" to stay with imperialism which is "not only morally obscene, but
fiscally unsustainable." As a former senior financial manager, I can't
Another keyword of the book is "blowback." Let's see how Johnson
redefines the word that first appeared in a CIA postaction report in 1953.
According to him, blowback does not simply refer to the unintended consequences
of actions taken by the U.S. government, but more specifically to natural responses to such operations "that are kept secret from the American
public and from most of their representatives in Congress."
The author presents a list of major countries that have given a blowback
to the U.S. since 1953. Among other things, it's especially interesting to note that Japan isn't listed there. Johnson is absolutely right in deliberately excluding the "docile satellite" of the United States.
In the last 65 years, the U.S. has habitually played
foul with Japan. So it's another miracle that America's Japan policy has never backfired. The bilateral relations haven't unfolded this way without reason.
Johnson was also known as an early "Japan revisionist" since the early-1980s when he was writing MITI and the Japanese Miracle. In those days he already coined a phrase "Cartels of the Mind" to describe the dark secret behind the economic and political miracle. So he is one of the very few Japan experts in the U.S. who know the reason why America hasn't faced a blowback from its Far Eastern ally.
In the last part of Dismantling the Empire, which was dated six months after Obama's inauguration, he specifically
talks about "10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire." This is
the only part I don't find really convincing primarily because a soul-searching step
is missing there; I can't tell if it's Step Zero or Step 11.
The Americans, at large, have all taken it for granted that the world revolves around their country until the end of time, as did the Chinese 2.5 millenniums ago. The worst fallout from the Ptolemaic delusion is the fact that these people are totally incapable of introspection.
As it has become increasingly evident that the process of America's decline is no longer reversible, this "sophomoric ignoramus" resulting from their "infatuation with imperialism" has started taking a devastating toll on America's health. Unfortunately, though, very few Americans seem to have woken up so far to realize a serious self-examination should be Step Zero.
Especially it's deplorable as well as laughable to see these crisis-mongers in the U.S. inventing one crisis after another out of blowback. They do so simply because otherwise they would be out of work altogether.
Thank god, I still have a few good friends in America. One of them is a Montanan. He and I always take each other seriously and value differences. While awaiting the delivery of the book from amazon.com,
I asked him to tell me his take on the idea of dismantling the
empire. As usual he gave me a frank and thought-provoking input.
The only sentences I had difficulty understanding go like this:
"If Japan were serious about removing U.S. military bases, there [would
be] only one way to do it. That would require hard work, money and some
years. Japan would have to prove that it has developed a hard capability
to defend itself well and to generate serious working military relationships
with the rest of Asia. Our leaders would not accept a few guns and boats.
Without that proof, no American bases will close."
I'm always inclined to play devil's advocate when discussing fundamental issues like this one. So my outlandish questions are:
■ Why would Japan have to prove anything to anyone before choosing its
■ What if the Japanese have no intention, deep inside, to defend itself? Indications are that they would rather see Japan become the 51st state
of America or 24th province of China than fight against anyone.
■ Which country(-ies) is Japan supposed to defend itself against?
■ Why would Japan have to seek an approval by the President of the United
States when it comes up with a plan? · read more (246 words)
Thursday, October 28 2010 @ 03:53 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Chen Tien-shi's book about statelessness
One year ago today, I stumbled on a Japanese book titled Stateless. I instantly gave it a five-star review on my website.
If you look at customer reviews on Amazon Japan's website, you will think
I am not alone in being so enthralled by the book. As of today, the Amazon rating has averaged 4.5 stars.
But actually I have very little in common with these readers.
A comment posted by a reviewer who gave the book a 3-star rating reads
like this: "I found the book very informative but I can't agree to
the author's way of thinking because of its tilt toward negativism."
An oldish Japanese woman, who is one of my former colleagues, has once
told me the same thing about this book. She said something like Joseph
McCarthy would have said sixty years ago: "I find the author's negativism
really disgusting. Her family came over to Japan on their own. Nobody brought
them here against their will. So, love it, or leave it."
The Amazon reviewer, and Japan's McCarthy alike, have much more in common with
many other ignorant and arrogant people in and outside the United Nations than with this blogger;
they all have a bug-ridden logic circuit embedded inside their skulls. They constantly mix up things at issue with their take on them. That is basically why they use these words, positive and negative, so lightly.
Because of this confusion, they always distort the arithmetic rule. While, for instance, a negative view of a negative thing makes a plus, my positive view of something they think has a negative value does not always mean I am a negativist.
Take statelessness for example.
Those whose brains are prone to logical confusion take it for granted that
any word suffixed with "-less" is a negative thing. But what
about the word "flawless" for instance? You say, "I got
your point." But hold on, because you don't. If I say, "Your
skills in pickpocketing are flawless," how would you respond?
In fact, things are all neutral - neither positive nor negative.
The word stateless simply means that the nationality column of your passport
says you have no nationality - no more, no less. It's you that should decide
whether or not statelessness is a desirable status to be in.
To me that status is something you have to be proud of. You are mistaken when you label me as a negativist simply because I'm in favor of statelessness which you think is a negative thing.
The same can be said of humanright advocates in and outside the U.N. They keep mixing
up subjects with objects. That's why, for instance in 1961, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees drew up the "International
Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness" based on the obsolete
document called "The Universal Declaration of Humanrights."
If you are stupid enough to insist that the international body founded
when the Chinese continent was still under the rule of Chiang Kai-shek has not
yet outgrown its raison d'etre, you should give us a specific reason you
think statelessness should be reduced, rather than increased. Or at least you should tell us why
no more than 19 countries have signed the treaty of 1961 thus far despite
the ardent call by the UNHCR in the last half century.
I think it's not only useless but also harmful to cling to the outdated
hypocrisy based on the absurd assumption that Pax Americana will last many more years, if not forever.
With the pathological obsession with statelessness as something undesirable,
these people are contributing to the proliferation, not the reduction,
of stateless population. They claim that they know no borders, but actually
they know them more than anyone else does. Besides, they have put up another
wall that separates the stateless from the "stateful."
Here, I am talking about a book written by a first-rate scholar who specializes in ethnology
and international law, and people's responses to it. It's a different story
when it comes to what doers do.
Actually author Chen Tien-shi has another face; she is a dedicated activist.
Besides delving into issues
with statelessness and the "Chinese Diaspora", she has also engaged in grassroots activities such as building up a worldwide
network for the stateless. So it's quite understandable that she has no
guts to tell these individuals, in person, that they should be proud of
the plight resulting from their status. Presumably, all she can barely say is: "You shouldn't feel ashamed of the predicament you are going through."
Life is not so simple as you think it is. · read more (40 words)
The Chinese restaurant sits at the southern tip of Yokohama China Town. That means it's a one-minute walk from my apartment. Nevertheless, I had shied away from it until several days ago because its venerable facade and elegantly furnished inside gave me the impression that food served there must be unaffordable to the poor pensioner that I am.
Unlike cheap, dirty and more crowded eateries in other districts of the town, the particular
restaurant and neighboring ones mostly specialize in Taiwanese or Cantonese
cuisine. On October 10 they still observe the anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of China, though in a subdued way, nine days after mainlanders celebrated the foundation of the People's Republic of China, filling the entire town with ear-splitting noises and waves of the Five-Starred Red Flags
On Monday night, it was raining and I felt too weak to take a longer trip
to the other side of the town. I stopped in front of the particular
eatery and said to myself: "I prefer Taiwanese cuisine, so why don't
I give this one a try?" When I dared to step inside for a small dinner,
however, I found out I was wrong. Most items on the menu were reasonably
priced. And yet the restaurant owner, her family members and employees
were much more hospitable and polite than those boorish mainlanders I have to deal
When paying my bill at the checkout counter, I noticed that half-a-dozen
copies of a book were piled up on it. The book was titled Mukokuseki - Stateless (Shincho-sha, 2005.) The restaurant owner, who looked to be in her late-40s or early-50s, fondly told me that its author Chen Tien-shi is her youngest sister.
That is how I came across one of the few Japanese books which are worth
Tien-shi's father and his wife were among the millions of people who fled
mainland China in 1949. His family temporarily settled down in Peitou,
a rural city in the northern part of Taiwan. Since the young man, who was
a government employee at that time, was too ambitious to settle down there
permanently, he decided to come over to Japan to study business in the
early-1960s. As soon as he completed a higher-learning course here, he
brought his wife and five children to Yokohama China Town.
Tien-shi, which literally means a gift from god, was born in this neighborhood
in 1971 as the sixth child of the Chens. At the church she was christened after Saint Clara. That is why her kin and friends have called her Lara.
It was when the kid was 1-year-old that the Sino-Japanese relations were
normalized between Kakuei Tanaka and Zhou Enlai. Subsequently, then Foreign
Minister Masayoshi Ohira announced that the government had decided to renounce the Treaty of Taipei. These events sent shockwaves throughout the Chinese community in Yokohama, or anywhere else in Japan. Especially those who held Taiwanese nationality faced a serious dilemma. The Chen
family was no exception.
Some of the family members insisted they should acquire the Chinese citizenship
while some others said it was the right time to become naturalized. At the end
of the long discussion, the patriarch decided to go for the stateless status.
Despite his anguished decision, any family member but little Tien-shi did not totally lose their national identity because they still retained de facto citizenship in Taiwan.
It is against this backdrop that Tien-shi had to deal with an identity
crisis throughout her childhood and well into her early adulthood. · read more (634 words)
Top: The genocide guidebook disguised as an anthropological work Bottom: Its author Ruth Benedict
I read this book in Japanese translation when I was 13 years of age. Our teacher at the social studies classes was a son of Kazuo Aoki, former minister in charge of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in Tojo's junta. He told us to peruse it because we would find our own selves exquisitely described in the reading assignment. As he had promised, I found a lot of stereotypical characterization of "Tanaka San, the Japanese 'anybody'," as Benedict put it, but didn't find myself or my father at all there. I concluded that The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is an anthropological rubbish.
Sixty years later, however, I somehow felt an urge to revisit the same crap because these days things on both sides of the Pacific seem to be unfolding as if people are still suffering the aftereffects from overdose of a toxic agent administered by the author. In recent years it's increasingly evident that people of my generation, and our children and grandchildren alike, feel deep inside that something has remained unsettled and that it's long overdue by now.
As for the U.S., Obama's silver tongue is on a roll more than ever. On April 5 at the Hradcany
Square in Prague, Czech Republic, he announced a bold plan to negotiate a new
strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia by the end of this year. As
usual he tried to get around the most sticking points involved in the issue he was talking about.
exception of START I signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, any arms reduction deal has not been effectively implemented to date for various reasons. And more importantly, the hypocritical and unrealistic anti-nuke frameworks such as the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and the multilateral talks over the nuclear programs
of Iran and North Korea have long proved dysfunctional.
To gloss over the real issue, Obama said: "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." The empty incantation, of course, heartened equally empty-headed Japanese people, especially the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's appalling to know these learning-disabled people still think we can undo what we've done in the past. If we could, still we shouldn't - because it's looking away from the ever-changing reality.
In Japan, the approval rating of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and Komei-to (the party backed by the legitimized cult Soka-Gakkai) has inched up since March thanks to the revelation of the wrongdoing
of Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, although his collusive
relations with the construction company is nothing but a sideline business
for the crook who has milked Japan's Defense Ministry in the last four
On May 11 Ozawa finally announced to step down as DPJ head to take responsibility for the irregularities he would never admit to. You won't understand his queer logic, if there is any logic at all, until after you read Ruth Benedict's book. This is a typical way a bandit takes responsibility in this country. On Saturday,
Yukio Hatoyama, one of Ozawa's henchmen, was "elected" to succeed
him as the party head.
As a result, by this fall we will see a general election for the House
of Representatives fought between the LDP headed by the grandson of Shigeru
Yoshida and the DPJ now headed by the
grandson of Ichiro Hatoyama. Yoshida always bragged about his "friendship" with Douglas MacArthur, but in fact, he was one of those who gave the general an indelible impression that all Japanese adults were 12 years old. Ichiro Hatoyama was the first prime minister under the 1955 System. As you already know, the political system known by that name is a trap artfully set up by MacArthur against the Japanese people.
This is an unmistakable sign that this nation has been going around in circles for the last 64 years amid the sea change you've seen everywhere else.
All this indicates that the unviable Japan is really invincible now. This country can't even collapse on its own, let alone change. That's why I made up my mind to part ways with 1.3K yen to purchase The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in its 2005 paperback edition from Mariner Books. I just wanted to have a fresh look into the collusive relations between the two peoples. · read more (2,135 words)
Tuesday, April 14 2009 @ 06:47 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This is to review, at a time, some books that I have read and some others
that I haven't - and will never.
Recently my friend John H. (Jack) Wiegman sent me a thick copy of The Obama Nation - Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality authored by Jerome R. Corsi (Threshold Editions, 2008.) Although Jack
had warned me not to expect too much from the book, I found it sickeningly entertaining as well as dizzyingly revealing.
The author devotes a good part of the book to revealing how deliberately
Obama falsified the stories about himself and his father, who was an alcohol-addicted
polygamist, in his autobiography titled Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Three Rivers Press, 2004.) To that end, Corsi cross-checked and double-checked every detail of Obama's accounts of his family background. Thanks to the thorough scrutiny Corsi carried out on our behalf, I could avoid a wasteful investment of time and money to buy the book Obama
wrote when he was seeking a Senate seat.
The Obama Nation also helped me save some extra bucks. No one with commonsense would assume that Obama had been reborn to be an honest man by the time he got started with The Audacity of Hope; Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage, 2007) in the midst of the presidential campaign. So I deleted this book, too, from my Amazon shopping cart.
On the other hand I found Corsi's book really worth reading. Yet the fact remains that it only gives us a half-truth about the Obama nation. When you are through with the book scrupulously sourced with some 680 footnotes, you have been reassured that the 44th President of the United States is an outright swindler. Then this question might crop up in your mind:
But so what?
There are millions of bandits in this world. Obama is just one of them. So the real problem lies with the voters, almost 70 million of them, who thought this guy could be the savior no matter whether he had deliberately misidentified himself. There are even signs that an increasing number of people are favorably disposed of the President even after witnessing his spendthrift habits.
This is something Corsi tried to avoid discussing in his book with the all-too-familiar trick of shifting blame to an easier target. He must have thought if he dared to address this side of the issue, his book wouldn't sell or his publisher Threshold Editions wouldn't buy the copyright. Actually it's quite understandable that he had to settle for just questioning his eligibility for the presidency amid the sweeping Obama craze, knowing it's almost crying over spilt milk.
My memory is too poor to keep track of the extraordinarily messy
family history of the U.S. President and contradictory statements he has
made on various occasions. But that doesn't really matter because after
all he has succeeded in duping the American people into sending him to
the White House, and more importantly because Corsi has proved that today's "professional" writers can't do any more than what he could in The Obama Nation. · read more (1,134 words)
Friday, March 13 2009 @ 03:05 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
I tend to go personal even when working on a book review because I don't believe
there is such a thing as impersonal truth.
One year or so ago I was writing a book about the fate of my home country to have it
published in the U.S. It was out of the question to use a Japanese publisher
because the book to have been titled The Unviable Japan was going to delve into the very core of the absolute taboo issues such as illegitimacy of the imperial institution. At the beginning, the American literary agent I was talking to was saying
it would become a bestseller. But the moment I gave the agent a preview
of the first draft of the synopsis, he changed his mind and started talking me out of further writing on. Over the telephone he subtly turned down my proposal even though the final proposal package had not been submitted yet..
He implied that I would not be accepted in the U.S. before establishing myself in my home country. From the beginning he had
known that I would not be accepted on my home turf. So he must have thought it was unfair to decline my proposal on that ground.
He tried to reinforce his rationale by saying American publishers and
their customers were too preoccupied at the moment with the presidential election and
the Iraq quagmire to show interest in Japan's fate - which was also what
he had already known when he said my book would become a bestseller.
American people I used know were very direct and straightforward in responding to me, either in the affirmative or in the negative, and giving the reason for that.
Most of the time they were confident about what they were talking about. They had not yet developed the American disease symptomized
by cynicism and hypocrisy dominating today's America. The literary agent should have saved me a lot
of time and money I spent for exchanging nicely worded e-mails and for placing lengthy collect calls for roundabout conversation.
Earlier this month I came across Bernard Goldberg's most recent book titled A Slobbering Love Affair when I was up to my daily routine of video mining on YouTube. I was looking
for newest pieces of info about his take on the post-election climate of the United States. Some six years ago, I was quite impressed by the bestselling Bias (2002, Medium Cool) authored by the former star correspondent with CBS News soon after he was fired by Dan Rather
because of his op-eds in the Wall Street Journal (1996 and 2001.) In these op-ed pieces he accused the mainstream media of their liberal bias
A Slobbering Love Affair bears a lengthy subtitle that goes: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama
and the Mainstream Media. One of my American friends warned me that I would learn nothing new from
the book, but I went ahead and placed a rush order for my copy with Amazon.com
at a price of $17.13 plus $26.98 for shipping and handling. I knew my American
friend was right, but I thought I might want to resume working on the once
mothballed book if ever I could learn some secret from Goldberg to make my book truthful
and salable at the same time. While its subtitle promises the author is
telling the true story, the book made the NYT list of bestselling books,
albeit temporarily. · read more (1,125 words)
Sit down at your computer, write down on sheets of paper whatever crops
up in your mind and bind them together. And they call it a book. And if some
of the readers discover something distinctively new there, and yet, can empathically relate to your story, they call it an excellent book, no matter whether the prestigious
code called the International Standard Book Number is assigned to it. The
way of sharing thoughts and emotions through publication should be as simple as
In reality, however, this is not the way things work in today's publishing industry. Unlike savvy and audacious venture capitalists,
publishers and literary agents almost always recoil from a genuinely new
idea - so I hear. The agent is so timid that the moment he finds a totally
unfamiliar thought in the manuscript at hand, he gets extremely nitpicky
over trifles such as a typo or a wrong hyphenation. That is the only way
he can turn down the submission and still look like a reputable agent.
This is really inevitable because in the days of desktop publishing and
e-books, his survival is at stake in driving a wedge between the sender
of the message and its intended receiver, instead of bringing them together.
I am not sure if this is the case with John H. (Jack) Wiegman's Tales of Our Germans. But certainly this has something to do with the fact that the brilliant
author does not seem to have attempted to obtain a 13-digit ISBN.
Tales of Our Germans consists of 30 anecdotes which are loosely connected to each other, and some 50 faded monochrome pictures from family albums are scattered throughout the book. The central figure in most of these episodes is a German immigrant by the name of Dutch Henry Wiegman, author's paternal grandfather, who settled down in what is now called the state of Washington in the Civil War era. In those days the prairie was inhabited only by coyotes and buffaloes, which made the life of the new comer to the New World extremely difficult. Over time Wiegman learned how to deal with the wildlife, how to mix with different ethnic groups, how to make a family, how to educate kids and how to minimize the fatal damage from frequent thunderbolts and deadly epidemic · read more (461 words)
Sunday, March 04 2007 @ 03:37 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Chapter I, Article 1 of the Constitution defines the Emperor's role like this:
"The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people." In fact, though, it remains ambiguous what exactly the former living god has transformed itself into after the war defeat to perform the constitutional duty newly assigned to it. It also falls short of describing the role to be played by the symbol's spouse.
In his controversial book Princess Masako - Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne (Random House Australia, 2006), Ben
Hills looks to have felt an urge to fill the gap for the Japanese
who have remained uncomfortable with their fundamental law since its promulgation six decades ago. The author is one of Australia's leading
investigative journalists and a winner of the Walkley Award, Australia's
Pulitzer Prize, and was stationed here for three years in the 1990s as
a Tokyo correspondent.
Back in 2000, an equally intriguing book titled Closing the Shop was released from Princeton University Press. Its author, Laurie
Anne Freeman, mercilessly uncovered the dark secret about Japan's 117-year-old Kisha kurabu (press club) system which she calls
the information cartel. Even though not a single "independent"
publisher, to date, has dared to publish its Japanese version simply because putting the very foundation of the fourth estate in question is an absolute no-no in this country, that has
left the other one of the two ultimate taboos to be challenged by another insightful
and courageous author - the Imperial institution,
which Douglas MacArthur decided six decades ago to let go unpunished for its war responsibility just for practical reasons. That's where Ben Hills came in.
Under the circumstances it was only to be expected that on February 13, the Japanese Foreign Ministry called a press conference
in Tokyo to denounce the author and his publisher, Random House, quibbling
over "distortion of facts" and "false and insulting characterization"
of the royal family and the Japanese people it represents.
Then came the announcement by Kodansha,
one of the major publishers "independent" of the Big 4 media
empires. On February 16 the publishing company said that it wouldn't go ahead
with its original plan to publish the Japanese version of Princess Masako in deference to the tacit pressure from the government. Obviously the same old self-censorship mechanism, which they call jishu-kisei or voluntary restraint, was at work on the part of Kodansha. · read more (1,828 words)
Earlier this month TokyoFreePress took up for its book review Say
Good-bye to Zombies by Benjamin Fulford, former Asia Pacific Bureau chief at Forbes magazine. In that piece I wrote that there are two unignorable logical flaws, as summarized below, involved in the otherwise
truthful and revealing book:
1) Despite his repeated reference to the "Iron Square", Fulford
actually addresses issues with a rotten hexagon formed by politicians,
bureaucrats, businesses, yakuza, the mainstream media, and "ordinary
people" from Chapter 1 "The Last Year" through
Chapter 5 "A Guide to Hell". But in the last two chapters ("The Yokota Shogunate" and "A Road to Revitalization") the author conveniently acquits the
last two elements of the hexagon and calls on them to join forces with him
to fight the other four.
2) In the first six chapters, the author uses a train analogy to describe
the "Koizumi locomotive" giving his people a ride to hell. But
in the last chapter, the train all of a sudden turns to a bus so you can
drive it in any direction you will choose.
I thought the inconsistencies were understandable, or even forgivable. He has an old friend in Kobunsha, the
publisher of this book. And as he hints in the book, Say Good-bye to Zombies wouldn't have had its day had it not been for his longtime friendship
with the chief editor at the publisher. I suspect even this person, however
open-minded he might be, must have hesitated to publish the book if Fulford
hadn't used the rather transparent gimmicks.
Now that I've reread the book more carefully, though, I realized that he uses some other
tricks here and there which he borrowed from the mainstream media. Now I am sure his hocus-pocus is not really well-intended. I know if I liken him to Michael Moore, he will take it as a compliment. But you've got to be stupid yourself, white or not, and a con man at the same time to make a fortune by writing a book about stupid men to sell it to millions of the same folks. It seems that Fulford actually intended to write a book about zombies to reap a handsome amount of royalty from the same host of zombies who are traditionally all suckers to Westerners.
following are some of these fallacies he has deliberately implanted all over his book: · read more (2,050 words)
Friday, March 03 2006 @ 06:35 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
As I wrote in "Ryu Murakami's fictitious scenario is more realistic than media's
factual stories" (May 10, 2005, TokyoFreePress), I have made it a
rule not to read any book, magazine or newspaper, written in Japanese because my mother tongue is the world's most suitable language to conceal or gloss over the truth. Yet every once
in a while I come across a Japanese book, just by accident, whose title somehow makes me feel like giving it a try.
Say Good-bye to Zombies authored by Benjamin Fulford, former Asia-Pacific Bureau chief at Forbes,
is one of those books. Basically this is a Japanese book because Fulford wrote it in Japanese (so it seems), his target readers are Japanese and he is now thinking about becoming naturalized here. I think I made a good decision because the amount of undistorted facts
and truths presented in this 329-page book is equivalent to, or even exceeds, what little facts and truths you can expect throughout the year from the newspaper you subscribe to.
The first half of the Preface is devoted to an imaginary, but realistic, parting shot Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi delivers when leaving office in September. In the fictitious farewell address Koizumi tells the nation all the truths, for the first time, about his "reform" programs. In the last half of the Preface, Fulford
cites a passage from Luke 23-34 of the New Testament. It goes: "And
Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." He seems to think the ignorant people are forgivable. But he is not that sympathetic when he quotes Joseph Goebbels immediately following the citation from the Bible. Before he took a dose of cyanide in May 1945, Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister said: "I don't sympathize with the German people because they
entrusted [their destiny] with us. In other words, they deserved all this." It seems to me the two contradictory citations are already indicative of the characteristic of this book which starts with merciless revelations of the state crime and ends with a bland and banal appeal for the renovation of Japan out of some sentimental reasons on the part of the author. · read more (1,217 words)
Monday, February 27 2006 @ 06:37 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
"Nuclear Showdown" and its author
There is one thing I always have difficulty understanding. Some bookworms seem to be buying books only to nitpick on them. Obviously they don't care too much about maximizing their return on investment. But it's basically none of my business if they feel like sharing their single-star or 2-star assessment with others by posting their nasty
remarks on the Amazon website, because that doesn't do any harm to anyone.
Also beyond my comprehension are supposedly professional book editors in Japan's major media organizations
who sometimes take up books they don't like only to quibble with them. Unlike amateur reviewers whose pastime is fault-finding, these guys
are inexcusable because they make their living on reviewing someone else's
works, instead of writing their own. And it's these "professional"
book reviewers who, instead of
giving valid tips on whether to buy them or how to make the most of the
investment, constantly misrepresent the authors to those who cannot
afford the time, or money, to read these books by themselves, or are undecided on whether to buy them. James Hardy, the Daily Yomiuri's staff writer, falls on this category.
Wednesday, November 09 2005 @ 04:15 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
The Preface of Closing the Shop (Princeton University Press, 2000) is already quite revealing of the truth about the Japanese
press. The author tells here how she could sneak into kisha (press) clubs attached to the Liberal Democratic Party, the Diet, the
Prime Minister's office and other ministries. Some journalists at the Asahi Shimbun, who understandably
wanted to remain anonymous throughout the book, helped Freeman get into
these exclusive clubs as a "participant observer."
In fact it wasn't that simple. But Freeman was smart enough to find the smallest
crevice through which to infiltrate these clubs. First, she took advantage
of the trait of her sponsors at the Asahi. Just like anyone else in this
nation, her Asahi friends showed her their utmost hospitality which is
strictly reserved for foreigners, especially Westerners. If she were a
Japanese writer, the Asahi would never have done her the same favor. Secondly, one of her conspirators could "cash in on a debt [the LDP
politician] owed him." As Freeman observes, cozy relationships between journalists and politicians have always been governed by the principle of reciprocity since the birth of the first kisha club in 1890.
That's how she finally obtained a special ID card. Freeman writes: "The solution the Asahi political journalists devised in order to get me past the guards and the reception areas ... was as ingenious as it was illuminating." Admittedly her revelation of the status quo with the Japanese press comes
as no surprise. But to the best of my knowledge this book is the first-ever
account given first-hand by an independent witness of the devils' abode from which
no one has ever come back alive, so to speak. · read more (2,367 words)
This is to follow up the TokyoFreePress's first book review which dealt with Gordon G. Chang's "The Coming Collapse of China."
This book has stirred up a lot of controversy in the sense that reviews by
readers and editors have been widely divided between the 5-star rating and the single-star grade, both at home and in the other part of the world. Very few people have rated it as an unimpressive 3-star reading.
Those who rated the book below 3-stars said the Gordon G. Chang's scenario
was just inconceivable, or totally unrealistic. · read more (646 words)
On May 23 visiting China's Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi abruptly cut short
her itinerary here canceling the planned meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi. Afterward China's foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan cited, as the reason for the last-minute cancellation, unrepentant
Koizumi's remarks that had hinted he had no intention to refrain in the
future from his annual visit to Yasukuni Shrine where 2.5 million war dead
as well as 14 "Class A" war criminals are enshrined.
Back on May 16, the Prime Minister reportedly defended his pathological
obsession with the Shrine even by quoting Confucius. He said: "The
Chinese often criticize me of paying homage to the souls of the dead including
those of Class A war criminals. But isn't it Confucius who preached, 'Condemn
the offense, but pity the offender"? This really rubbed Hu Jintao the wrong way.
The China's uncompromising stance toward the Yasukuni "issue" has been paying off thus far. According to the May 30 issue of the Asahi Shimbun,
in the most recent poll conducted by the most pro-Beijing daily, 49% of
the respondents disapproved Koizumi's Shrine visit, while 39% of the pollees
still supported him on this "issue." Even Yasuhiro Nakasone,
former Prime Minister (1982 - 1987) known for his right-leaning ideological
stance, has started trying to dissuade his distant successor Koizumi from
revisiting the Shrine. The old one, himself, visited the Shrine in his
official capacity in 1985 but he went there never again in deference to
China. · read more (1,666 words)
Tuesday, May 10 2005 @ 06:44 AM JST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
What it takes to be a first-rate writer
When I was in my teens and early-20s, I was a book worm. And my reading
included Japanese literary works. Around the time the award-winning crap
by Shintaro Ishihara, "Season of the sun," came out, I realized
that it would be a sheer waste of time to read fictions authored by contemporary
Japanese writers, even including Kenzaburo Oe, although the Nobel laureate could have been a sole exception. Ever since
I haven't read a single novel made in Japan. Hence all I had known about
Ryu Murakami was his name, until I somehow came across his most recent
book, "Hanto wo ideyo", or "Leaving the Peninsula behind" in my tentative translation.
In my opinion every top-notch writer is gifted with two different qualities, i.e.:
1) Analytical/inductive ability which gives him a good insight into what we really are and where we are now, and
2) Imaginative/intuitive ability which gives him a good foresight of where we are heading.
Where there is a climate in which most professional writers opt to prohibit themselves from facing taboo issues head on, as is the case with this nation, a certain amount of imaginative or intuitive ability, alone, won't produce
anything but a predictable, boring and empty figment. This holds true with
both fiction writers and nonfiction writers, including journalists. This
is why I haven't read a single book authored by a contemporary Japanese, fiction or non-fiction, in the last four decades. And this is why I buy a newspaper or two at the newsstand
every morning only in anticipation of the faintest clues to what is really going
on. · read more (2,331 words)
When I read Gordon G. Chang's "The Coming Collapse of China",
one of the greatest books in this decade, I was struck by the resemblance
between Japan and China. At every page dealing with widespread corruption,
the way they are passing problems around between SOEs (state-owned enterprises)
and financial institutions, including AMCs (asset management companies),
pervasive self-deception and ubiquitous human rights abuse, I was under
the illusion that the author was addressing the issue with the possible collapse
of Japan, not China. At least I am certain I was looking at the mirror
reflection of Japan in China as scrutinized by Gordon G. Chang, minutely
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