Too Tired, Brain Is Dead
Chukah Thomp, Chukah Thomp, Chukah Thomp,
Disco Is Music.
Some people who know a lot about music look down upon disco because of its simple repetitive rhythm and how the genre has played in to the evil money-making music industry machinery (although other genres have done this, too). What is being overlooked is that this simple repetitive rhythm, which gets people off their seats and out on the dance floor, speaks to people who work hard all day and need to forget, can’t think, but want to groove _ not those academics who want to sit around, focus on more intelligent music to analyze, contemplate and articulate. Call it dumb. Call it what you will. Call it the primordial beat. I am alive. That is what disco music says. And that is the most important thing any music, any art, any writing can say.
Art is all about ego. Even if you are the kind of artist who believes that only amateurish art is about self-expression and true art is about something else entirely, no one disagrees that art can stem only from the self that is the artist. Most forms of selfishness as they play out in society are negative, often evil. People want to save their own asses and want more money, status, privileges, at the cost of others, and so place themselves in career/society/hierarchy to feed that ego and that egotistical need. This is the reality that is 99.99999 percent of reality. This is the reality that I don’t understand and never have understood. It is not particularly interesting and certainly not satisfying. Unfortunately, if we want to survive as human beings until death and support our family, we must deal with this torturous but undeniable 99.99999 percent of reality, since it IS 99.99999 percent _ if we count all the people who choose to be involved in this pursuit of career, money, status, etc. as valid values and goals vs. those who are interested in and satisfied by something else and become poets. Poetry is a form of art that is as divorced from the worldly pursuits that make up 99.99999 percent of reality as things can get. The ego takes center stage but in a way that is irrelevant from politicking, career advancement and mundane unbecoming unpoetic competition. A poet is ego pure and simple and total and unafraid. A poet exercises selfishness with a free conscience.
“Relative deprivation” is a concept in sociology, which refers to the common phenomenon of people’s dissatisfaction not being correlated to the reality of oppression, but instead to perceived oppression. This means human nature is such that people are most dissatisfied when they think they should be getting better treatment. And that could be when things are getting better _ not necessarily worse as might be expected _ because it’s all about perceptions. The plight of Japanese youngsters isn’t all that bad compared to their counterparts in many other nations. But their sense of relative deprivation is quite intense because social pressures for them to conform and to do good are quite high. Many outside of Japan would be proud of having landed an assembly-line job. If you are Japanese, it is less than perfect. Being shut out of a white-collar lifetime employment job after completing a degree from a prestigious college is often an embarrassment not only for the youngster but the entire family. “Freeter” is a label assigned to the despised when many Americans would be happy _ and proud _ to just have a job, any job, even a “keiyaku” or “haken” (i.e., not lifetime employment) job! Imagine the stigma in Japan for being unemployed. And the jobless rate is at a record high 5.7 percent (which wouldn’t be a record at all in places like the U.S.) Relative deprivation is seething in Japan. Random crime to vent out frustrations is on the rise. The existence of random crime may not be all that surprising in other big cities of the world. Not so for Japan, which has long boasted a reputation for being crime-free (not that any nation is truly crime-free). So no one is prepared for a stabbing spree in a commuter train station or a beating at night in a park. In the U.S., if a nut goes berserk in public, he/she would be dead quite quickly. The police would shoot him/her. In Japan, we read reports of police who have been unable to track down the perpetrator, let alone arrest him/her. In the U.S., homes have several locks. In Japan, people go out leaving their doors unlocked. In the U.S., some citizens are armed, take self-defense lessons, carry mace or at least avoid walking alone in dark streets. In Japan, hardly anyone does. It is a rather dangerous situation, even if the numbers of the relatively deprived youngsters who end up turning to crime are still few. Japan simply isn’t prepared. There is a sense of hostility in the air. There is a sense the best times for Japan are over. The Tokyo Flower Children may be wilting _ remnants of the good old times _ just as the American hippies were of the 1960s. More on the Tokyo Flower Children. (video above: Jounetsu wo Torimodosou by Teruyuki Kawabata of CigaretteSheWas translation by Yuri Kageyama, who reads with Haruna Shimizu, and additional music by Winchester Nii Tete, Keiji Kubo, Yumi Miyagishima and Carl Freire in the TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN performance of Multicultural Poetry and Music at the Pink Cow, Tokyo, June 8, 2008.)
An interesting story I did today is about how Toyota will start paying workers for what had previously been free overtime. Called QC Circle, they are meetings that Toyota auto workers attend to talk about how they can improve production methods. The issue is significant because “kaizen,” efficiency ideas from workers on the line and empowering workers, are all part of the Toyota Way. Kaizen is crucial to the legendary manufacturing philosophy that make up the automaker’s sterling image. But the story of the individual worker sometimes can be far more tragic. Last year, the Nagoya District Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the widow that the death of a 30-year-old Toyota employee was work-related, or karoshi _ death from overwork. I looked at the court documents, and the glimpse they offered into this man’s life _ and death _ was heart-breaking. He was doing more than 100 hours of overtime, sometimes working weekdays and holidays. He was stressed out because his job was checking the car body for any defects, and pressures were high to catch them all. This man had two young children, and in the beginning he was trying to also be the good father, and was giving them baths and playing with them. Toward the end of his life, he no longer had the energy to do that, the court documents say, quoting his wife. He was the team leader of one of these QC Circles, and the court ruled that such so-called voluntary work was part of the work (yes, real work) that contributed to his death. One day, as he was filling in the records for defects, he collapsed from his chair. He was rushed to the hospital but later died of heart failure.
Many years ago, when I’d just started working at a new office as a reporter, I got a call from Shozu Ben. I found this great job for you, he says, teaching English at a school. It’s perfect for you. He can’t believed I’m not taking the job. He can’t comprehend why a poet would take a full-time reporting job. What about time for poetry _ real writing? Why? he asks puzzled, maybe exasperated, even disgusted. He probably thought I was ungrateful. Now that I think back, it was so sweet of him. I had just met him once at a reading. He also probably thought I was very misguided.
Women are often afraid of their own success and want to undermine their own potential (“enryo”). In a society that has linked success with masculinity, women subconsciously feel they may be punished for their success. They feel success somehow makes them unlikable, less than complete, so it’s better to stay dark and hidden in the cinders. Perhaps men will say this is self-imposed. Perhaps today working women of color no longer feel they have to be 10 times, 100 times, better than the white male, and “go for broke” like the Japanese-American 442 of World War II, to get a chance at being seen as an equal. I want to think my work and my example will help contribute in some way to leaving my work place, industry and even the world a better place for women of color, and to make it easier for women, especially women of color, to achieve the opportunities and success that we deserve.