Thursday, January 31, 2008

Someone should make a Movie about my Blog.

In China, I was suprised sometimes by what could be accessed over the internet, including foreign news websites ranging from the obvious like msn newsfeeds to obscure but politically charged like crikey and so fourth.
What did I choose to read though? the onion.
There are some great articles but here are a few of note, notably amongst the noteworthy is the first one which reflects my attitude exactly in my egotistical head (who says I never turn a critical eye on myself, I worry about my genitals appearance just like everyone else)

Ad possibly the most brilliant article ever written about the film industry:

And some other amusing crap:

De La Land

I wan't to throw up some positive stuff in the next couple of days, I can't believe how stressed the CCP made me, particularly since most people in China go about their day as if there is abslutely no governance whatsoever, including physics.
It felt good to lash out at them, and whilst not having the bandwith to bother waiting for the massacre to load yesterday reading some of the comments was horrifying enough, as in the absolute betrail felt by Mainland chinese and justly so as all Chinese media still act like China is the greatest place in the world and to one day be pulled into reality must be shattering to a great deal of ones identity.
Now though I'm in Thailand, people here (locals) are pretty relaxed but there are more social rules than in China & Australia but much less than Japan.
I'll muse on Thailand when I see more of it than just Bangkok, the most fascinating thing here for me is the other tourists I have more of the bemused and shocked thoughts of 'is this what I look like to them?' when looking in horror at other wealthy white westerners more so than when gawking at any other culture.
The airport on arrival exposed me to more White Australian Citizens than I usually see in Lt Bourke St but I didn't and still don't feel any urge to reach out and connect at all.
That said I thought I was homesick yesterday, as in worse than when I was in China, in China though I love my posse and love the food, prompt service and was stimulated intellectually by the experience I was counting the days till I was out of there, but you could have offered me I ride to some shitty Balkan state I would have taken it. Not homesick then so much as just wanting to be anywhere else.
So too I realised while emailing my exer ex yesterday I realised afterwards I wasn't homesick, I'm just country-that-isn't-asian-sick or put more betterer sick of asia. I long to be in Mexico pretending I'm a Charro, or cycling I really hunger for cycling, in Europe. Eating waffles in Belgium, sitting in an NBA game in Boston and so fourth.
But even that doesn't nearly go far enough, today I was thinking everywhere I go I come across the two exact same cut-and-paste defining feaures/(dissapointments) of all countries of the world so far - religion and nationalism. I saw a tshirt in the market today with a picture of Bush and a picture of Hitler with the slogan 'Same shit different arsehole' and this is sort of the rule of thumb of travelling.
Two irrational beliefs, that is faith based beliefs that defy any objectivity. Every country I've been to thinks its the greatest on earth, which like Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell and every elightened thinker on religion more or less concluded does not bode well that our own beliefs are correct.

Let me back track though...

his morning I had trouble leaving my hotel room, I really just wanted to lie on the bed and play solitare or some shit all day, a shut in and recluse. I thought of Janice's friend and confidant that suffers with manic depression (bipolar) who said sometimes he just got stuck unable to flick a lightswitch for hours, and I thought my mood was something akin to it. But probably not too serious because I chose to listen to 'Manic Depression' by Jimi Hendrix which the incident reminded me I hadn't listened to for a long time.
And this broke my procrastination because I had to say okay after this song go book your transport and rooms for the next week.
Obstacle overcome, shortly after I was wandering Bangkok's streets 1 day wiser to just ignore more or less everyone friendly, before I ended up spending money being driven to a torrent of identical buddhist temples.
I started listening to a song that always cheers me up, 'tread water' by De La Soul. This song was my 'upper' after listening to stone temple pilots as a downer in Takamatsu Japan.

And so to bring it all back...

Not being exactly home sick, but weary of travelling to more idolatry and nationalism I remembered my somewhat popular utopia I created in year 11 in the end pages of my Japanese notebook 'planet guy' which I later revived in IH's publication 'the globe'*. And I thought to myself, where do I really want to be? What wonderous nation would I actually like to see, to experience? What would impress me thoroughly and actually have me readily consenting to marry a local and stay to teach english?
And the answer was obvious, and this nation I will share with you now:

Welcome to De La Land.

De La Land is a Delacratic nation that holds dear the values of D.A.I.S.Y. or 'Da Inner Sound Yall'


The government is in essence democratic, that is 'of the people, assuming nothing' there is no preproscribed quality that makes one necessarily 'the people' such as being Jewish, for 'Jewish democracy' in Isreal, nor like Australia does are its new citizens expected to answer questionairres on historical trivialitis and supposed values.
The citizens are protected by the Delacratic bill of rights more comprehensive than any other bill of rights in the world reprinted here for your reference-
(It's Delacratic)
If I want to I could jump off this building.
(It's Delacratic)
I could hold two pieces of doo doo in my hand.
(It's Delacratic)
I could call everybody in that room a rubberneck.
(It's Delacratic)
Come on please?
(It's Delacratic)
I can say anything that I want.
(It's Delacratic)
I could wave my hand in my air.
(It's Delacratic)
I could stick my hand up my nose.
(It's Delacratic)
I could hold my foot and count the toes.
(It's Delacratic)
I can do anything.

De La Land is very proud of i's Delacratic bill of rights and as such feels it necessary to remind people it is a Delacrocy.

De La Land has no official language as such, mostly english however the only real requirement is that the flow be kinetic and inspired by D.A.I.S.Y. As such communication in De La Land can be an intellectually taxing exercise as creativity and originality are expected and dialect differs with each individuals style.

D.A.I.S.Y is the crux of De La Land's religion, it is a form of enlightenment similar to buddhism however it is focused on 'being true to oneself' as such it is unique in that there is no prescribed ideal. That being said De La Land's folk lore history talks of 3 'plugs' or sages that transmitted from mars, Plug 1 Posdnous, Plug 2 Trugoy the Dove and Plug 3 Mace.
They are more role models for being 'true to oneself' than deities though. There is a folk saying to 'avoid looking for god and finding religion instead'

De La Land would be described as a very 'low context' the holy trinity as such is 'Me, Myself and I' as such one respects the individual and universality is assumed. For tourists this means that what is good enough for the De Las is good enough for you, on e is free to do anything one wants so long as it doesn't impinge on the rights of others. Nationality is a lottery of birth, thus tourists retain equal status to natives.

Art & Architecture:
The architecture is colourful and socially conscious, it is progressive and expressve, usually covered in heartfelt graffitti, the community generates most of its own 'art' which is displayed on the streets, convenient for tourists who merely have to wander around town to experience a rich diversity of individual expressio all contributing to an overal culture of social consciousness, whilst still being totally on point.

Being delacratic, you can literally do anything you want, provided it doesn't intrude on the rights of others to choose their own path. Some notable attractions include the 'land of Ooh' theme park. Roller skating on Saturdays.

Style usually runs to the tune of 'Me, Myself and I' De La Land is notable though for it's unique view of body image.

De La Land is wherever you want it to be, you just gotta listen to Da Inna Sound Y'all.
I'm in countries for the home run of my trip for roughly a week at a time, normally a week long trip in a foreign country meas cramming a full criteria and getting up at the crack of dawn, planning far ahead. But now I've been away roughly 4 months, travel becomes an ordeal, which is what I expected it to be otherwise I wouldn't have called this Musha Shugyo. I would have called it 'frolicking through candy park' . Still as a year 7 substitute teacher called Miss Sweeney, pronounced 'Mith thweeney' once tried to get us to write about, De La Land has become that place I imagine when I need to relax and close my least for today.
Anyway as they say in De La Land "Now hopping in a barrel is a barrel of fun
But don't hop in if you want to be down, son
'Cause that could mean down and out as an action
What does it lead to?
People say what have I done for all my years
My tears show my hard-earned work
I heard shoving is worse than pushing
But I'd rather know a shover than a pusher
'Cause a pusher's a jerk"

Let's make it happen.

*I wrote the grammatically appalling column 'What I reckon' the issue with planet guy in it you'll have to find yourself because I can't be bothered loading up the 11 issues to find it, maybe we'll get lucky and someone will post which edition it is in in the comments.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bigger is not better

For some reason, China reminded me a lot of the simpsons. Or rather, often of the simpsons. First up, in Japan I felt sad, depressed, outraged and angry at the ridicolous stubborn stupidity of the Japanese beauracracy. I got emotional, I still want to do something about it.
But China I jut don't give a shit. I mean I give something, but like the simpsons episode where Homer discovers Fat Tony is selling rat milk to the schools and he slaps the milk out of Bart and Lisa's hands, then Milhouse asks "can I drink the milk?" and homer says 'sure knock yourself out' to me China is Milhouse.
It also reminded me of the episode where the simpsons go to China and in Tianamen square there is a plaque that says 'on June 4th, 1989 in this square nothing happened' cracked me up a fair bit, that is I have never seen the footage, but it doesn't make my host Jerry laugh much at all. He infact broke his promise never to return to China after 4 years, because he was sick of the limited range of Chinese restaurants in Melbourne.
Also the big topic, I mean the big topic in China is the Olympics, and I mean, you blink in China you will still see a Beijing 2008 logo on the inside of your eyelids. There is already 24 hour coverage on a dedicated channel of the Olympics despite it still being 7 months away.
I mean the Economy, it reminds me of the stonecutters episod of the Simpsons where Homer get's his new vibrating massage chair and Lenny and Carl are standing by 'Jealous?' Homer inquires, 'Well no Homer, we have the exact same chair' Lenny responds, and Homer retorts 'your jealous'.
This was my recurring thought almost any time I spoke to any of my Chinese hosts, through Andy or Jerry and to Andy and Jerry themselves. Andy saw me uploading photos onto facebook and told Moggie (my other member of my China posse) 'tohm is like an evil journalist he only takes photos of the bad things' I explained that I as taking photos of the spit that Chinese people were spitting on the ground, and the poverty created by the chinese government and so fourth, but Andy thinks I should have been taking photos of the new shiny shopping malls. Except showpiece shopping malls in China are slightly lower quality and far less interesting than Chadstone. Think ballarat central square.
This is what is being churned out at such an impressive scale. 9% growth means appaling homegeniety and low quality. The demand in China is pushing out carbon copy apartment blocks and shopping malls creating a new Australia (in economic size) each year. But the equation isn't fair. Australia's economy was created slowly over 200 years, with its fair share of indegenous genocide and white thievery, exploitation of labour and selling out of neighbours like East Timor. But as such, Australian and even Japanese buildings span multiple eras you have buildings that are 200 years old, from the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc. In China's modern megacities you have servicable but unimaginative architectural styles dating back from era's such as 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. And they are ugly and shit. like 70's goldcoast. They are warmed better than most Japanese homes, in beijing, and population density is admittedly much higher than in Australia, Beijing has roughly twice the population of Australia.
But here is the irony of China, in Catch 22 Yossarian is aarded a medal for flying over the target twice in ferrara, an act of incompetence that results in a medal for bravery. The explanation of Colonel Corn's ingenious tactic is to be proud of something that they really should be ashamed of.
This is China. CCTV9 and I assume all the other channels trumpet the glory of China's 'opening up' and the 'magnificent economic growth' to be fair on CCTV9s dialogue program, a Chinese energy resources expert provided a voice of reason by remarking when the journalist talked about how China wasn't to blame for rising oil costs because 80% of its energy came from coal. The dude said 'yes but there is no way we can continue to do so because the environmental costs are just too great' that's something John Howard would never say. And I expect Kevin Rudd to say, and so should you, it is afterall the same as selling cigarettes to Children, except cigarettes are sustainable.
China's economic growth rests on the sole virtue that it was kept poor and isolated from world markets. Something it should be ashamed of. Yet it thinks just by consuming it has somehow done something of value. China is not Japan, Japan developed the best manufacturing systems in the world, contributed vast amounts to problem solving and total quality management and this just in the course of its catchup in industrialisation. And Japan failed.
China doesn't even have that. I'm no expert but last time I checked the 'experts' rhetoric as basically 'China shows no signs of slowing down' and so forth like it was good news. Books have a picture of the Chinese flag as a credit card and talk about how to be successful in 'the worlds Largest market'
But this requires a few assumptions. I'll list them:

1: That relative to wants resources are unlimited.
The Chinese public really doesn't understand nor anticipated inflation. They were hungry for more investment and more development because they thought it simply meant a 'real wages' increase, that is each Yuan would have the same if not more buying power than before. But with inflation hitting 40% on some basic goods panic is starting to set in. Fact is that if everyone in China lived like your average Yank or Aussie we would need 6 more planet earths. So we simply assume China won't slow down because we have 6 more planet earths.

2: That education has no impact on economic success
Andy remarked that the scariest thing about the Chinese stock market was, how stupid Chinese investors are. Numerology, superstition are big in china, education is not, certainly in terms of the press. Brain drain is a reality in Australia, Europe and America places with quality education systems (though I still believe inadequate) as the best and brightest head overseas for greater opportunities. China's domestic supply of well educated citizens is evidently increadibly small compared to the overall population. Education takes generations, my generation is majority higher educated for example in Australia. This is not true in china. China is abundant in low skilled workers, pointing towards structural unemployment pushed by rising wages driven by inflation. How long will Nike, Honda, Toyota and whoever else stay around then? and then what, economic growth is pretty addictive.

3: That democracy has no impact on economic success
The ability to choose a government based on policy and issues may have some impact on the private sector, otherwise we wouldn't worry about anonymous party donations in Australia, or lobby groups in America. Which of course isn't success as such but greed but nevertheless, a basic statistician I would have thought whilst not concluding that democracy leads to economic success may find a strong positive correlation. But for the sake of China, lets suppose the government that impoverished the country in the first place will now lead to sparkling glorious success.

4: That access to accurate information is crucial to business success
which is really 2 just reiterated to stress that your average Chinese citizine thinks that Mao 'made a few mistakes' that Tiananmen square is a great place to meet, that Tibet was liberated from an evil tyranny, that Taiwan is part of China, that Yao Ming is the greatest center of all time and so fourth. I heard Chinese investors pulled out of a Melbourn docklands development because the building wasn't the auspicious gold colour in the drawings but more of a copper brown effect. These are the boardroom execs that we are staking economic growth on.

So to sum up, it is not hard to gain an inkling that 'if something is too good to be true it probably is' infact it is exactly the same as Japan and the Internet bubble.
The article I read in Newsweek put it 'for investors to believe that this time it is different they need something geopolitical that has no precedent, that is they believe that precedents don't matter because the world has changed forever, Japanese business models where suposed to do that, the internet was also supposed to change things forever but the same thing happened' China is only unprecedented in scale (also pointed out by newsweek not my insight) but that is what makes it worse. The speculative bubble grows too big too fast, the speed helps more people jump on the bandwagon, the size promises more pain.
Foreign investors can declare bankruptcy, write off losses against tax, try and sell bad debt etc, we are pretty okay. The poor chinese person who left the farm to work for 20c an hour that suddenly has no food, no job and no savings (poor rural workers are at the governments urging also excitingly investing in Chinese shares) will probably die out in the cold.
It is quite upsetting to see irresponsibility on such a massive scale, and its all greed. Fact is Japan and the Internet did change the world forever, in incremental, small but significant ways, not the ways everyone thought in the internet bubble and the Japan bubble. Not golden ticket ways, not 'free money' ways. Economic development in China is a good thing, but only bad change happens fast, economic growth of 3-4% would be good and even possibly sustainable, not compounding at 9% a year with foreign companies bashing down the door to get a slice of the action. It needs to be staggered with gradual improvements in education, Japan took 30 years after world war II and that was fast. China is taking 5, it needs at least 50-70 a couple of generations. This isn't getting everyone warm currently, its getting a few people into top designer brands and driving cars and so fourth. It seems to only do good when it involves polishing for the olympics.

When Andy's cousin asked me if Beijing was beautiful, I had one of those uncomfortable pauses followed by the evasive 'it's very interesting' I also made Andy's lovely mother happy by saying Wuhan was a great place to live, and seemed easier than Beijing. Beijing is filthy, cramped and filthy. Did I mention it as filthy.
Beijing is 'big' I am told, everything China is proud of is 'worlds biggest' and 'worlds largest' this seemed to impress a fellow Georgist in a presentation I saw when he talked about buildings being 'suitably large' for a 'large country' which in the end is a truism, not an achievement.
I'm afraid that China is incredibly small, way way small, tiny, minuscule, pathetic, beneath contempt.
Exhibit one - traffic Beijing can probably boast 'the largest roads in the world' roads that are woefully inadequate for demand. Taxi's only run on distance in Beijing as ou can easily be trapped in traffic for up to 6 hours, not very fair. Infact trips that would take at most 20 minutes in Melbourne's shitty infrastrucure take an hour on average in Beijing. Push biks are definitely faster, but really fucking cold that time of year. Tokyo has worse roads, but runs smooth as silk, thanks to amongst the worlds best public transport which is foreigner friendly too.
The trains are another part of traffic that is small in China, it is soviet cheap, at 20c a ticket for anywhere in Beijing, but again the supply is dismal compared to demand, changing lines with Parky required queing just to descend stais, and you queud for 20 minutes in an uncomfortable shuffle with people spitting on your feet.
And then there's New Years festival, like Japan, China stupidly (the originator, Japan change from Chinese new years to appear more 'western') insists everyone customarily returns to their ancestral homes for new years celebrations, shifting massive numbers of people all at the same time.
Jerry was queuing for 6 hours to be told that tickets were sold ou, then the snow came and cancelled a bunch of trains. Its all inadequete.
I caugh a train to Wuhan and back (2000km in all) for less than $100AU it was sort of oldish bullet train technology but ran smooth enough. Beijing may appear massive but not compared with 1000km of dilapidated rag tag, Chinese countryside. It's awful and ugly. The farms are the highlights, but the dwellings are falapart brick structures that look post apocalyptic. This is where most of china's billions live.
The scale dwarfs any achievement. Bigger is infact not better, but much much worse. Either with some foresight the CCP anticipates that with wealth will come a much needed drop in the birthrate, but Andy has 50 cousins, his mum is one of 11 his dad one of 5 (or was it seven) they don't need a one child policy, they needed a one child per family tree policy.
Andy and Jerry describe accurately that China's problem is 'too many people' and it is simply true. The world's population may actually decline if China honestly developes near modern birthrates, but Andy also said the superstition (or culture) is such that families just keep having kids until they have a boy.
If Japan is an infant, China is a wad of cum. A very small number may become successful but millions are going to miss out.
What we arrogantly assume to our peril is that moder technology is such that you can take a McDonalds burger flipper and place him in the CEO's chair of a fortune 500 company in the same year to great success and mutual benifit. As said good change takes time and effort, the Japanese bubble was at least speculation on ompanies with long track records, solid sales performance in a country with good (if a little narrow visioned) governance (and excluding the bribe-come-gift-giving culture) its also worth noting that companis like Sony, Nintendo, Toyota, Honda and so fourth are still reat companies today, Toyota is leading the way on fuel eficient and alternative transport, smart cars etc and introduced innovations such as Just in Time, engineering the errors out of the system, Honda has mind reading software development and is investing in Solar and fuel cell, Nintendo brought out the Wii and the Gameboy has been a winner for decades now, Sony is struggling recently but at least is number two in the world market fo both gaming consoles and MP3 players not to mention Japanese fashion giants and anime.
China on the other hand is liquidating not developing, foreign companies are coming in to exploit cheap labour like they have done countless times before, a large scale yes, and without real intellectual property protection but when they go I doubt China will be able to sustain itself, there just isn't the materials on earth let alone in China.
On the whole, despite hosting just about the world's largest everything, china is unimpressive, like milhouse*.

*except not because Milhouse also isn't the simpsons 'largest everything' I gotta get back on top of my analogies.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's 'Go-Go' not 'Cry-Cry'

I finished Catch-22 today, I remember the book turning morbid, horrifying and unenjoyable towards the end. And it does, but the ending itself I think summarises beautifully the principle. I would infact advocate replacing the bible with Catch-22 for the betterment of Society.
Here now I will say are three books that should be permanantly on school syllabus to help facilitate what may be called 'an education'

1. Catch-22
2. 1984
3. The Selfish Gene.

The only one I haven't read, is the selfish gene, but soon I feel I must. Today may be a new record for me, as I post three posts in one day, but I do so because tomorrow morning I go to a country where I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post on my blog at all. Should that be the case at least my sight will have this Kobe Bryant widget that will update in my absense.

But it is about Kobe Bryant and not about my thought, Kobe is however a pretty exciting player, edging closer and closer to Jordan with each successive performance.

Right now though I'm excited about 'Individualism' though, and it came about from trying to explain Ricardo Semler to Miki and flicking through Dawkin's 'the Selfish Gene' in the Takamatsu book store, in which Dawkins seems to lead towards how seemingly altuistic behaviour may actually on the whole be selfish when viewed from the perspective of genes.
All summed up by the phrase of Ricardo Semler I like 'What would you rather have? The tail of an elephant or all of an ant' to explain the counter intuitive logic, of instead of retaining all profits for yourself, to let the employees actually share in the profits and decide what to do with them. He also allows a lot of his employees to set their own wages and so forth.
The same underlying principle was explained to me by Brenton when I revealed my ignorance about dividends, to which he said you had to give investors dividends, paid out of company profits because otherwise they had no incentive to invest in the company. By giving away your profits to investors you raise capital in the company, enabling furthergrowth.
But I digress, Individualism seems to be the answer and builds on my inverted Golden Rule of 'Demand for yourself what you would do onto others' which in turn, is like Eleanore Roosevelt's 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' which is one of my favorite succinct lines in history. And if a bunch of people consent to your superiority by consenting to their own inferiority, then I believe you are best off just consenting it right back at them, but be thankful for the complement.
So that is where my curiosity leads me next in terms of pursuits of the head, and in terms of pursuits of the head, Japan has been invaluable.
Yesterday I said goodbye to Misaki, and felt good, two people frustrated endlessly by our own caring and effection to eachother. As Damian pointed out, Love is not always a positive emotion.
Except that I am sure we will both gain by it.
After Misaki and I spent the best part of our remaining time together arguing ineffectually about why we don't want to be together, we ended up parked in a car on the Takamatsu warf, a dirty body of water possessed of its own beauty, much like how we met, in a bar on the waterfront of the Yarra, an filthy river I wouldn't swim in if you paid me.
And the big factor is how slight the chance that brought me so much pleasure and so much grief. Our meeting in the end was chance and almost not to be, and yet I find myself a long way from home, in a foreing country in a Town I never would have heard of if I didn't feel sorry for Miho turning 30 and thus extremely hungover from my own birthday party the night before, resolved to do Miho a favor and turned up to her party, where Miho negated her own applaudable efforts in pre-selling me to Misaki by introducing me to Misaki and then commenting on how kawaii she was, at which point I was overcome with fear that I might end up attracting some hello kitty into my life, that would fill every corner of it with cuteness.
But here I was, deeply upset to say bye to her. It was reassuringly awkward for the both of us, in one of those 70 goodbye hugs, neither of us, wanting a goodbye to be our last one.
But alas now I am sitting in a net-cafe, bored with Japan and eager to fly tomorrow to another country where by chance I have a 'brother' named Jerry, who by chance happened to be in my tutorial with my most hated teacher, who had failed me because my friends refused to let me join their group and I had adopted a proposal to let anyone join my group. I happened to be sitting next to a guy called Troy, and behind Jerry and his friend Felix.
Jerry and Felix begged the class openly to work with 'local students' and after turning around and joining our group, and nobody else wanting to work with the likes of Jerry or Felix, we ended up in a group with Jerry, Felix, Moggie and Andy.
And the next week Troy was gone, so I had four English as a Second Language speakers in a group, and me. And I did better in that subject than any others I have taken, and my grades kept improving as I finished my degree because I kept working with them.
And now from a chance meeting I have at least 2 rich backers from soon to be the most economically significant market in the world and 2 others of indeterminate wealth.
The moral of the story is, that people are tremendously good to know, and one should build one's network indiscriminately. Kindness and altruism really are the best policy.
One hand washes the other.
Japan has so many problems it is wonderful for someone like me to come here. I hold Misaki is wrong in equating enabling with helping, but am satisfied in my efforts to at least create a strong precedent for her relationships. I am sad I cannot keep her, but she seemed impressed with my idea to package and sell 'baby misakis' as a cute toy, so all is not lost.
I guess in the end, you get full value for all your efforts, you just may not know what form they will take.
I do wish though to say, I have lived in Japan for almost 3 months now and not had to touch my savings, which is achievement in itself. I couldn't have done it without the generosity of Chie and her family, whose grandma may have recieved her last hug from anybody from me, and possibly was why she cried when I left, that's seems to be the effect I have on Grandma's. Or the Taki's with whom were invaluable in their enthusiasm for debating the various aspects of the new things I learnt about Japan every day, even if looking into their mothers driblling mouth was offputting.
And Brenton who I realised is my most common subject matter in my artistic pursuit of drawing, most offen appearing with a cock in his mouth. He put me up in his flat sacrificing his personal space in an already cramped and claustrophobic Tokyo.
I appreciate you all, and Misaki, for sacrificing what time her boss left her to sleep so as to spend time with me. Those that have little can be most generous of all it seems. So thankyou Japan.
My desire to get out of here, seems matched by a desire to stay forever that I don't quite understand. Its been fun.

Work Explained (With a Matrix No Less)

Today I had an epiphany, but now it escapes me. Actually I just remembered it 'Henry George: The Greatest Thing To Happen To Sex' so I'll note that as a precursor to a future blog post. You can read the wikipedia article on him, and try and guess if you like, but you may aswell slack off right now and just wait for me to do all the thinking and writing for you.
What I was thinking about before my epiphany was this quote I stumbled across from Theodore Roosevelt:

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

Let's assume this to be true, and not contest it. It seems on the whole to be true. One time for Brenton's birthday a bunch of us went to Cumberland River on the ocean rode and slept in tents and went fishing. The fish were biting such that all you had to do was cast out a line and reel it back in. Brenton complained that we were catching too many fish, the excitement was gone. For me lacking the patience in the most part to ever go fishing on my own initiative, it seemed to be the ideal type of fishing. I would probably be the kind of sadistic bastard who would shoot fish in a barral though, so on the whole part working hard at fishing at least varified by Brenton's account is a greater reward than not working hard at fishing.
Okay, but the post is supposed to explain work.
So if this quote we take to be true, then by rights if we invert it to its polar opposite that phrase to should be true:

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance not to
work hard at work not worth doing.

So we have two good outcomes. And two variables, or conditions for the 'Far and away best prize' 1. Working Hard & 2. Work worth doing both need to be satisfied for work to be good and rewarding.

I like things with two conditions because it means I can use a Matrix, Matrixis are fancy diagnostic tools to enable us to evaluate our decisions or actions and most people can understand them so they tend to pop up everywhere.

Here's mine.

Let me explain the quadrants to you in agonising detail:
If we go around clockwise from top left the quadrants are 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Quadrant 1: Work Hard at Work Worth Doing

Well this is obvious, if your job is worthwhile, it means the results of your labors are of value to someone else, or to yourself. Examples might be, cooking a meal, performing surgery, scholarly study, exercise etc. Therefore energy put into the work creates value, thus thusly its own reward. Pretty much a no brainer, and the fundamental yardstick of all business ROI or Return On Investment.

Quadrant 2: Slack Off at Work Worth Doing

So the first half of the equation is known, you are engaged in cooking a meal, performing surgery, scholarly study, exercise etc. All that's missing is the energy or the effort. You give up on the surgery stating that you are 'bored' and leave early to play World of Warcraft. You can't be bothered walking to the shops, so you just use soysauce as a topping for the waffles and when customers complain you throw a tantrum go home and play World of Warcraft. You are enrolled in University and engaged in study for which you are the primary benificiary, and you break your study schedule up thusly: attendance rate at most 10%, exam preparation 10 minutes study per hour, 50 minutes per hour picking herbs in World of Warcraft. You wake up to your Alarm at 6AM in the morning and get dressed to go running, but find yourself a little chilly and sit down to play World of Warcraft.
In this case you simply forego the benifits of the worthwhile activity, by not investing any energy into it. Here the ROI goes down a bit, because arguably you aren't making an investment. Except we always are making an investment, and that is time. So slacking off when there is something worthwhile to be done, costs us our time available to work at what is worthwhile. The time is gone and it doesn't come back. And furthermore we can't make more time. To ever achieve the worthwhile activity, we are going to have to chose between it and other worthwhile activities with our time in the future.

Quadrant 3: Slack off at work not worth doing.

I am sure by now, I have been kicked out of the Guild I joined in World of Warcraft almost a year ago now, I played World of Warcraft for a grand total of 4 weeks. Whilst in general I am a fan of video games, what makes World of Warcraft bad is that it is an MMOG or MMPOG which is Massively Multi-player online game. And as it turns out, I hate all those people I was forced to play with, talking about noobs and chuck norris all the time. I quit because I didn't want to associate with people I don't like, and frankly wished ill things of, instead of spending time working with people I do like. But there are other examples of where I succeed in this quadrant, I am incredibly slack at digging holes and filling them in again, I also slack off at memorising facts about Gundam, I refuse to toe the line on producing wool, infact I'm so slack at producing unwanted wool that I don't even get up at the crack of dawn not to produce wool.
This is simply the complete opposite of Quadrant 1, made true by the same principles of Quadrant 1, that if the work is of no value to anybody, then any effort exerted in its cause will lead to waste. It's the Return on Investment. Interesting to note here is the wool example I just sighted. It demonstrates that 'worthwhile' is not a static concept. It is possible that producing wool is a worthwhile endeavor, like the wool jumper I am wearing now. It is cold outside and a wool jumper keeps me warm. I have it in white which is a nice neutral shade that is easy to coordinate with. Therefore the farmer that owns the sheep that produced the wool that was made into a jumper, that was purchased wholesale by a store that was bought by a consumer and then donated to a second hand store and then bought by me, were for the entirety of the value chain, engaged in worthwhile work. I do not however have need of any more wool jumpers. I do not need 10 wool jumpers for example. Much less 100. But if the farmer and the sheep and the store and so on, where really into hard work, they would produce 100 jumpers for every 1 I actually need. Bringing us to Quadrant 4.

Quadrant 4: Work Hard at work not worth doing.

I could explain this quadrant simply as 'World of Warcraft' but I choose not to in case you don't know what World of Warcraft is, or the useless people who play it call it 'WoW' who knows someday in the future, like Golf or other shitty pastimes played by people who run corporations, people who play WoW will run big companies and it will be considered a legitimate way to build relationships and thus 'work worth doing' by helping your boss get to Level 60 you may be fasttracking your career. Early signs don't indicate this though.
More poigniant examples are the construction workers of Japan, and this is the real fallacy of GNP, GDP or anything else, it measures worthwhileness on expenditure, therefore if you spend a heap of money digging holes and filling them up again your economy appears to grow.
And as said, you are always wasting time, when it comes to doing something not worthwhile above something that is worthwhile. This one is worse than slacking off on something that is worthwhile in my opinion because it is so often hailed as virtuous. It is people thinking in terms not of a two x two matrix, but a 1 x 1 Matrix, or work hard.
I could go out and run around a track from sun up to sun down tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. I probably would simply just destroy my body and never do anything more than get into the Guinness World Records, infact the Guiness World Records is really if anything a celebration of hard work at things that aren't worthwile. Like 'Longest Beard' and 'Longest Fingernails' a person gets etched into fame forever for really doing nothing but disabling themselves. As Lenny said in the simpsons 'Its like a lottery that rewards stupidity' and this is pretty much what a 'good' government in current terms does. But to truly appreciate it, you have to go to Tokyo, and watch a construction crew rip up a perfectly good piece of asphalt and then lay it down again, all in a single day. And walk past them two, and marvel at the complex system of flags and battons, of signs and cosigns between uniformed-hard hat wearing employees where some traffic cones would have sufficed.

So in summary, I agree with Ted, and give myself a further pat on the back for not putting any effort into anything of no value to anyone. I object though maybe to the use of the word 'hard' for effort should simply be no more and no less what is required to get the job done, which in essence is covered in that second criteria of 'worthwhile' as in any effort that is more than was sufficient to get the job done is contributed not to the 'worthwhile' part of work but the 'unworthwhile'. Now if only marketers didn't approach this problem by trying to figure at a way to sell more wool jumpers to people.

Why I Don't Miss Australia

Dicks like Dick Smith and articles like this one.

"Having a beer", and such candid intellectualism as Dick Smith's "He shouldn't make a cent out of it, he'd be absolutely crucified"
As far as I see it, Hicks doesn't 'owe' anyone an explanation. An explanation I'm much more interested in is what is the value of Australian citizenship if the government doesn't want to protect my rights as an Australian citizen? as demonstrated with Hicks.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why I am a Hoarder (A Million Little Pieces of Crap)

The Native American, it was argued by a book I read, called Apache, had one distinct disadvantagein preserving its own interests. Its belief system. It presents a powerful case against superstition and religion.
Namely, that rocks, trees, rivers and everything have a spirit. That all outcomes are derived from devine will which is unquestionable. The book argued that if one were to go into battle and lose, it was simply not in ones medicine to win. This conflicts somewhat with what I understand of their superiority in developing horsemanship, but otherwise the book simply argued that what killed Native American culture more than anything else, was the near complete absense of the empirical system an ability to test theroes against outcomes based on observable evidence.
An ability to distinguish correlation from causation in other words.
But enough about them, what about me?
I believe subconsciously, that my things have feelings, that they are worthy of my care. I mean someone may agree with me that they would be hardpressed to rip the head of their beloved childhood toy Mr. Bunnykins just to prove that things don't have feelings.
But I feel incredible sadness and a sense of loss, of future potential when confronted with the decision to toss or keep any old piece of shit.
Packing up my room to move house is a very emotionally taxing process for me, particularly because my happiness tends to directly correlate to my sense of laziness.
But if I come across some card I picked up from some restaurant on some school trip 13 years ago where I bought a sandwhich that had a peice of bread that was brown and a piece of bread that was white and no choice either way, I find myself wanting to keep it, just in case I ever refer to it again.
I first became pragmatic about throwing shit out in year 12, where I was extremely honest with myself and admitted that I was never going to refer to the teachers photo copied handouts ever again. There is a tendancy in Year 12 to paranoidly hold on to everything in case it might appear on the exam. Better to throw everything out that isn't a past exam or private test paper, such as those produced by Neap.
Everything else, I just chucked it, often as soon as the class was out.
But that only extended to Teacher's emotional attachment in believing their handouts would be utilised by students, which I overrulled.
Come to anything personal, and I would hang on to it for dear life.
Clothing for example, by the time I moved out of brunswick I had about 7 pairs of shorts that I had stopped wearing because my house keys had chaffed their way through the pocket and my lose change could fall out.
But I couldn't bare the thought of them being orphans, left out in the cold, with nobody to care for them.
Eventually I chucked them.
Pete who now lives in my room's travel advice was 'pack light' and living out of a backpack is emotionally liberating I can tell you. Right now I am chucking out everything I don't need and/or haven't used on a basis so regular, I wish i could just wear a new McDonalds take away bag for underwear each day. Unfortunately the croth is not friendly and they don't have any bags that will sit on my hips.
I have learnt to pack my backpack first, and my larger hiking pack second. This is because if I end up throwing a heap of fucking leftover into my backpack, it will be heavy, whereas my hiking pack simply goes from station to station, room to room. I only heave it in 10-30 minute intervals.
But getting both as light as possible is the true aim, so when Japan hands me maps, brochures, glossy tickets, business cards, servietes, bag carrying bags, range catalogues, free foreign publication magazines, interesting souveniers and so forth. My immediate reaction is to toss it as soon as polite.
In nomadic life, which the American Indians and I do have in common, sometimes the best thing you can have, is not to have something.

Friday, January 11, 2008


At the RYLA reunion 2006(???) one of the camp coordinators spoke about how RYLA had changed her life. I was struck by her referring to several incidents of crisis that left her shut in her room thinking the world was a cruel and unfriendly place. I couldn't imagine anything so surprising ever happening to me, to imagine that suddenly my view of the world would shift so drastically as to result in a crisis.
Yet crisis I have had, and as a result very little sleep. I've been cruising along pretty cosy thus far on my self proclaimed 'warriors pilgrimage' but yesterday it all got to me, so I did what anybody would do, and climbed a mountain and listened to 'The Stone Temple Pilots' to make myself feel even worse. And almost immeadiately I felt much better.
The outcome of it all, was that yesterday was infact, a great day by all accounts. I hiked up a beautiful mountain, sat under a corragated roof in the rain, talked for 3 hours with my protoge and caught up on all sorts of news and managed I hope to have been again of more help to advancing her career.
I went to dinner at a fast food joint called Coco's who make curry, they are a franchise all over Japan. Takamatsu is a very friendly town. It is particularly good to be foreign in this town, because unlike Tokyo, Osaka or even Nagoya, foreigners are still a bit of a novelty. I see 1 or 2 other whiteys a day but I also get customarily asked 'may I sit here' in restaurants by teenagers wanting to talk to me at lunch and practice their english.
Up until Takamatsu the friendliest people I met in Japan was an Indian guy called mark who talked to me while waiting for my meal in Tokyo.
But at Coco's the waiter asked me how long I had been in Takamatsu in english and I responded in Japanese. I told her one week choosing to take her question literally which I realised was not her intention when she followed it up with 'how come your Japanese is so good?' obviously she had assumed that people only come to Takamatsu because they are forced to but I replied that long ago I had been an exchange student and then told her her english was really good. All in Japanese.
This lady was middle aged, short, dumpy, terrible teeth and one of the most beautiful people in Japan. She was really puffed up with pride at my compliment. And later in plain view I observed her ask her boss if she could talk to me when I had to pay for my meal.
And she really made me feel important. Her timing couldn't have been better really, because my crisis all oriented around Miki, from reading Straitjacket society, I was almost filled with horror at the viciousness of Japanese groupism, and insider/outsider status. I have alluded before that whilst in Toyota I became self consciouss that almost everything I was reading or discussing about Japan was bad. But overall my feelings were ill founded not to suggest that groupism in Japan isn't vicous, but that I was actually getting on my hosts nerves by talking about problems all the time. Almost everyone I have met in Japan have really been what makes Japan tolerable, they are like most human beings I find, sharp, thoughtful, caring and mature. They take the embarrasment of the construction state with good grace and humility, they engage in conversation and generally confirm a large part of what I am reading.
None have confirmed it more than Misaki though, and in turn have made it really hard for me to see her.
The crisis tripped off by her was basically this, I became conscious of what I had taken for granted and to placate her needed to accept that I was wrong about many things that I will go in to detail about a little later.
What really was the outcome of it all though, and the truly great day yesterday was, was that I realised the 'Golden rule' is back to front. Much like catch-22's inversion of 'Better to die on your feet than live on your knees' to 'Its better to live on your feet than die on your knees' which is certainly true of dodging the draft.
The Golden rule more or less is 'Do onto others as you have done onto you' this I now realise is completely flip flop, because it assumes altruism. That is a willingness to sacrifice or disadvantage ourselves in order that others be better off. What the Golden rule should infact be is 'Demand for yourself what you would do onto others' to which it is safe to assume altruism.
Japan has taught me this. Japan is all about the Golden rule. But the flaw with the golden rule, is that I would gladly tolerate a lot of shit that I would never wish on anybody else. For example, I don't mind catching a cold, or cleaning up some drunken idiots vomit. For the record I did vomit once and flee a drunken idiot at Dean's 21st. Possibly a contender for my most shameful night.
But the golden rule states that since I really don't mind the occasional throwing up on my floor, it is according to the Golden Rule perfectly acceptable for me to throw up on other people's floors since I really don't mind if they do it to me.
Japan though highlights this floor of the golden rule perfectly though. The Japanese are so caught up in morale compliance to the golden rule that it has becomes simply a culture of self sacrifice.
See if everyone gives of themself, sacrifices themself for the group, then everybody simply sacrifices. The Japanese are so generous, they give without recieving.
Case in point, Misaki earns $700 a month. Not pocket money, but her wage, what is her Job, working full time in a Jewellery store. Not a student, but doing actual work from 10 in the morning to 10 at night. That's a twelve hour day, and she works 6 days a week. Or rather the store is open 6 days a week, she works the day it is closed having meetings. Furthermore after hours it is perfectly acceptable for her boss to call her, or hold a meeting until 4 am because under the golden rule, he has no problem sleeping only 3 hours a day.
Misaki doesn't work for money, but was surprised when the owner of her company gave her an 'otoshidama' envelope of money.
But if Misaki is effectively 'on-call' 24-7 then you divide a month by days and then days by hour. 700 a month boils down to a wopping $1 an hour. If I can be callous Misaki is here to learn how this Jewellery company is so successful and makes so much profit, and in my view the answer is simple, Labor is typically the biggest expense of any business, and his labor costs $1 an hour. Misaki is not the only 'student' infact she is the senior most employee of the shop.
It is a business whose workers are effectively free.
Contrast with my Door to Door salesman job, I made no money, I made no money because I had a tendancy to make no sales. Whilst it is true to say I cost the company virtually nothing to employee, I also brought about no real benefits to them employing me.
I did learn a lot though, one thing that i hate door to door sales. And it helped me get later jobs just having done 'the hard yards' the next job was paid and I made sales.
The whole time my parents urged me to quit, concerned for my welfare.
Yesterday misaki had a cold and we met for breakfast whilst I talked about my plans for my organisation and tried to explain all the ideas I am excited about, and she had frankly had enough of my shit.
Sadly my whole existence undermines why Misaki is happy to work for a dollar an hour, with no vacations, no sick leave, no free time and variable sleeping time. Because she is 'helping' she is sacrificing herself for the sake of her family 'which is in crisis'. Keep in mind the 5 day work week was introduced in May, 1992 in Japan. They also have laws for overtime and maximum overtime allowances a day. The catch is that Japanese organisations put a lot of stock in voluntary overtime and other meaningless displays of 'loyalty' it is all underpinned by a demerit system. An employee like I was at Honda would never get away with working in Japan because my whole strategy was to minimise useless displays of loyalty and dedication and focus on trying to achieve effective results and develop further capacity to do so. I did it so I could selfishly lead a luxurious life outside of work.
In Japan, there is more merit in arriving first and leaving last than anything you actually achieve in between.
The logic of my position is much like Alfred Sloan Jr. of General Motor's view 'the business of business is business' that is, to be effective. In Japan, the business of business is sacrifice.
Misaki helping her folks from my perspective has no meaning, her employer is breaking the law, her family want to 'continue the business at all costs' a one generation busines, her mothers, it is not important that the business make profits as such, just that she remains in charge, and her daughters inherit it.
If misaki is taking back lessons like 'pay the employees $1 an hour' and 'no vacation ever, and they can sleep when I give them permission' now again despite what I have learnt from other life experiences, I placidly try to support Misaki in her dream of helping her family to my own detriment of enjoying life with Misaki. I do so out of respect for Misaki's love for her family.
And here's where the inverted golden rule comes in. When I catch up with Misaki, there is nothing to stop her mother from calling and talking to Misaki for an hour or more whilst I patiently wait for her to finish. Now I would 'do onto others' by respecting them, respecting their time and relationships, and as far as I could see, Misaki's mother had absolutely no respect for my time or relationship with Misaki.
The simple truth of their position is that I don't matter, my time is not important, my money is not important, my thoughts, opinions and feelings are not important.
Both Misaki's boss and Misaki's mother are mutual in agreement, that I am not important. What is important, is selling jewellery. Jewellery must be sold 'no matter the cost' even if the cost is as high as $1 an hour.
And here's the thing, the ridiculousness of being a millionaire, or even a billionare and working 21 hours a day and sleeping the balance, with no annual leave, no sick leave etc is ridiculous plainly to you or I. But what I don't understand and am plainly incorrect about is how noble it is. By paying nothing for an incredible amount of work, over an inconsequential luxury good in a saturated market - the boss is really highly moral, and so are everyone else, by taking all the money himself and never spending it enjoying life, he provides his employees with the opportunity to sacrifice themselves for the good of noone, incredibly noble. One is a fool or simply 'doesn't understand' to suggest it may infact be an incredible waste.
I can make a strong case using the fine western institutions of 'reason' and debate, and I am happy to, and that is where Miyamoto Masao is invaluable. A psychoanalyst who wrote 'Straitjacket society' concleded from his experience within the ministry of health, a microcosm of Japanese society at large, that the Japanese mind is that of an infant, unable to deal with emotions in adult terms. Furthermore the Japanese ideal is actually masochistic, which is were pain becomes a reward in and of itself.
I had little evidence of this though up until Misaki, Madoka was a volunteer when I knew her in highschool and university, has never subscribed to fashion or groupism of any kind, sees the good in people, stands up for herself and regards other people as very important. Her parents likewise enjoy interesting and stimulating conversation, are supportive of their children and respected me as an adult and didn't coddle me, letting me butter my own toast. A true show of familiarity with a guest.
Chie likewise is very progressive, and whilst having to work two jobs for her sons education has a range of her own interests mostly relating to jasmine her dog and is highly dissatisfied with the average 'japanese lot' particularly that of a woman, and furthermore will openly acknowledge shameful policies of the construction economy.
Misaki uses all the tactics highlighted by Miyamoto Masao as symptoms of the arrested development of Japanese people.
That is:
1. stifling debate or conversation on the pretext that it causes negative emotions such as jealousy and anger, and that these are to be avoided at all costs.
2. Insisting that "I don't understand" with the actual intent being that "I can't understand" as the standard response to all questions. I of course can't understand because the answer to any question is that "I don't understand" to elaborate, the reason Misaki for example 'had to beg her parents to stay in Australia' rather than doing what her visa permitted, her university permitted, I permitted and anyone else would do and simply just stay in Australia regardless of her parants permission is that her mother was using emotional blackmale, and regards Misaki as her property, that is that Misaki is to obey her parents. For misaki to explain this to me though violates tactic number one, which is avoiding negative emotions, like resentment for her parents, therefore she cannot explain so I cannot understand, simply hypothesise or infer.
3. Inability to handle negative emotions, when criticised I feel bad, I might reflect upon the criticism and then either accept or reject it, I would however much prefer to hear it. Misaki however feels incredibly disrespected by any criticism and that I have made a major breach of ettiquette. She will get so angry that she will storm off or lash out like a child throwing a tantrum. And these needn't be any criticisms of her personally or even directly, they can be about the Japanese government, or culture, or anything.
4. Sanction for lies, there is no personal responsibility in Japan, and this takes two forms as subpoints:
i. apologies, if a person in America smashes their car by accident into the back of another vehicle, they are expected to apologise, the offending driver is also obliged to pay for the damages. In japan an apology is a socially binding contract, it is the responsibility of the victim to accept it, and the offender is under absolutely no obligation to modify their behaviour in any way or pay any damages.
Misaki for example will apologise to me, every time she is late and every time she answers the phone to have a long conversation with her mother. As such I am all squared away with my apology and she continues to be late and answer the phone whenever her mother rings to talk about what was said by everyone that day.
ii. The boss takes responsibility for the subordinates fault, Masao in Straightjacket society claimed full responsibility for publishing his expose in the Asahi Shinbun, a leading newspaper. His boss who had no involvement in the decision at all however took responsibility for it to the powers that be. Thus Masao was held in contempt for putting his boss in this position despite his willingness to absolve his boss and take responsibility, simply meaning that he was placed in his boss's debt for no reason at all. Thus any attempt at independance from the group is seen as 'causing trouble for everyone' individual responsibility by being disbarred through such acts of unwelcome 'altruism' put people under a social obligation to toe the line.
Interestingly, from RYLA I first learnt the BOBS technique which is how to effectively complain in order to actually be heard, and the O in BOBS stands for 'Own your point of view' that is to use tactics like generalising and saying 'everyone is upset by this' is ineffective because nobody has the ability to speak on behalf of everyone and claims like this are easily refutable, which means your problem is ignored. But referring to everybody is standard practice in Japan, therefore an individual has almost no ability to affect change in Japan. One simply cannot act on oneself's behalf, it is all done on everyones behalf.

But supposing I do accept Misaki's logic and the masochistic interpretation of the traditional Golden Rule, what does that mean?

It means that I am not important, what I think, feel and want are not important. No person is important. Individuals must disregard their interests for the sake of Everybody.

It means that making money is not important, what is important is pain and suffering, one should not expect to take a share in the fruits of ones labor but instead be glad to labor.

It means that beliefs do not have to be based on reason, reason is not important what is important is to avoid the embarassment of mistakes, and that means ignoring problems that cause suffering and pain, because everybody should be glad they are helping and not being embarassed or suffering.

It means that wellbeing is not important, ettiquette is important. Pain and suffering should be tolerated politely and with minimum inconvenience to anybody else.

It means that thinking is not important, what is important is to obey. Thinking creates conflict, obeying harmony.

It means outcomes are not important, intent is important. One's family is helped through intent, not through actual results.

I could go on forever, but this was my crisis, to avoid hurting misaki, I had to disregard my own interests as unimportant. And I simply can't do it.
I want to be important, just like I find misaki important enough to visit, see the problem was that I had been very generous with Misaki's mother and employer in respecting them through my behaviour. I had done onto them as I would have done onto me. And all that resulted was that without so much as a 'thanks' they simply refused Misaki any annual leave, call and interrupt my conversations with her and so forth.
Whereas if I demanded they afford me the selfsame respect that I would afford them, I wouldn't lose and neither would they. we would all treat eachother respectfully.
So after realising how unimportant I was, and having a self indulgent crisis on top of a mountain listening to Plush by the Stone Temple Pilots, I returned to find at Cafe Coco's a friendly delightful lady whose boss respectfully granted her request to take the bill. And of course I smiled and treated her with respect, just as I expect them to treat me. And I felt important and I bet she did too.
How immoral of us.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We suck at this

Of course who am I to judge. Just about nobody, I'm someone and someone is better than noone, usually but not always. Somebody though is important. I may say that somebody like me, may be in a situation where it would be better for everyone if I was nobody. Like being in a disciplinarian teacher's classroom, who despite imposing strickt discipline on his students takes about 20 minutes on average to answer a question. The bell rings and he says any questions? Everyone is to remain to hear the response to a question and I have a question. From the class perspective who we safely assume would rather be outside enjoying their break, in this case me being nobody is better than me being somebody, or as the case may be anybody.
Do I raise my hand or not?
If I have a genuine gap in understanding, and getting an answer to my question is important, I should be able to obtain that gap and make myself more complete. Here is where I must confess to have absolutely no understanding of utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number and all that.
I would simply suggest that the individual in this case can be protected from the tyranny of the majority in a simpler matter and that is for the teacher not to design the situation so the masses suffer to satisfy an individual. It would be simple for the teacher to say something to the effect of 'if you have any questions, please come and see me yourself. The rest of you may go.' And that is what we call win-win.
Anyway I may as well confess that blogging is not good communication, and my writing here is very prosey, or possibly more correctly, crap. On the few occassions I've actually read my blog, I have been appalled by my own writing. But for me, it is better to write something over nothing, it is very effective for me and know that I would write this blog if nobody ever read it and in those terms it is a success.
Ironically I have been listening at length to podcasts from manager-tools who focus specifically on how to be effective. Recently I was going over their performance review podcasts and they made a point which was interesting to me. It was about the nature of the scale used to determine performance achievement.
You have two types of scales as far as I know, relative and absolute. Relative is probably the one most of my friends and everyone really would know from school and University. Your Enter Score and Exam results are Normally distributed over all the results of the sitting students. That is my result placed me in a certain percentile of student performance, or how well I performed on my Year 12 exams was in terms of how poorly or how well everybody else sitting Year 12 exams was.
Absolute might be something of a scale like in the Game Point Blank, the game where you had to shoot stuff. Say their were a hundred bottles your performance would be in terms of an absolute scale. You wouldn't get a percentile rank based on the performance of other shooters, you would shoot 100 bottles or less.
From memory point blank may have used a relative scale or some other grading system now that I think about it.
Anyway how do I want to be measured? I think I want to be measured in absolute terms. I am not content to be measured just in terms of my relative distance from the worst manager/leader/professional in the world. I find it unethical.
I find it unethical because I could sound good when in fact I am pretty bad.
For example, most businesses are not good. Any industry may have hundreds or even thousands of firms competing in its market. But most consumers can only remember a very small group of select brands, or firms out of them. And then statistically speaking given any particular market the brand on top makes the majority of the total money to be had, and then down the ladder in diminishing returns.
A lot of leaders, managers and whatnot I don't think it is a stretch to conclude, probably are in over their heads, doing tremendous damage and whatnot.
I'm not going to single anybody out, but what that means for a relative scale is if average management (that is the average competency of all managers) is actually below competency, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the top managers or top 5% are the only ones to achieve competency. What's that mean for a relative scale. It could mean that even if your in the top 30% you might still be incompetent or ill suited to your role.
Or you could take an absolute scale, which would still in my view be pretty relative but you might go about it by selecting the best leader/manager of all time and then mark everyone down from their.
Who the greatest leader of all time is open to debate, you have Gandhi and Abe Lincoln up their of course, someone like Drucker might put forward Sloan Jr. or the dude from Bell Telephone Company. Jim Collins talks about Level 5 leadership and in his way probably has the closest thing to an absolute scale as you get.
Something tells me though that there is something beyond Level 5. Hence the weakness of absolute scales. Level 5 more or less is that 5% of the relative scale.
That is its incredibly rare for one to actually reach it.
One thing that slapped me in the face that wasn't a dick recently was from my readings, it started with some critical works of Japanese culture like Straightjacket Society, Dogs and Demons and Shutting Out the Sun. In there I found quotes by Abe Lincoln in a lot of places so I started reading up on Abe Lincoln and then Mark Twain. I've also reread 1984 and Catch-22, I have to say Catch-22 in my mind is the book in that it is one of the few books I've ever read possibly the only one where almost every line, every paragraph is pure gold.
What I found was almost universal contempt for the powers that be, and then there's Noam Chomsky, Noam Chomsky comes from one end of the spectrum on capatilism when he says things like:

Personally I'm in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions in the society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism we can't have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level -- there's a little bargaining, a little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straightforward. Just as I'm opposed to political fascism, I'm opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it's pointless to talk about democracy."

And it rung back to Ricardo Semler's observation that whilst democracy is lauded as the best system of government available, you almost never find it in business. He set out to create a natural and democratic workplace. Did he succeed?
You judge why don't you. I get a feeling though, tickling my balls is that what all this indicates is that influence and power are not the same thing. I know power is defined as 'the ability to act or do' and wiktionary describes influence as one and the same just about -
The power to affect, control or manipulate something or someone; the ability to change the development of fluctuating things such as conduct, thoughts or decisions; the status of being able to dictate the actions or behaviors of an object or person; moral or political power over a person or group; ascendancy.

But I suspect one can be a leader without being powerful at all, or powerful in much more different dimensions than traditionally thought. Gandi stands out as an example. His tactic specifically was as it appears to me almost a judo principle of using the opponents strength against them, that was British power was based on a military monopoly, their identity was caught up in their own belief of moral superiority. Gandhi undermined their identity and their power over India effectively collapsed.
But such contradictions are still rife, Noam Chomsky's most striking passage thus far in hedgemony or survival was his allusion to the dualism of the US foreign policy. That the war in Iraq was about regime change and 'bringing democracy to the world' whilst simultaneously being happy to criticise the Turkish government at the outbreak of the war by listening to the will of the people (demos in greek) which overwhelmingly (95%) did not want Turkey to be used as a launching base by US forces. Democracy is bad in Turkey, and the Turkish government is weak because it listens to the will of the people, but good for Iraq?
That's the next step, in my series of steps, in a nutshell. My recognition that truly great leaders, actually empower people, and are powerful because of it. Ricardo Semler allows the employees of Semco far more freedom to determine their own careers, working conditions, compensation and so forth and he also removed himself from official power. He created a lasting democracy that is also a highly successful business, with highly satisfied participants.
Then you have Abe Lincoln, who actually stopped himself from interfering in the war, recognising Ulysses S Grant's right to actually do the job he was appointed to do. He shared power with the Slaves, a first step to be sure but he simply did not have to. This did though fit in with his vision of the US becoming a truly great nation. He unified it, surrendering half the country to win it back, and complete power over a race of people and eventually his own life.
I doubt manager-tools would endorse the view, but they do certainly regard the foundation of management to be an ethical profession. As such I think development as a leader has to be fundamentally ethical. Ethics is hard, but I am trying to come up with a meaningful absolute scale by which to aspire my development. And I have almost nothing to offer.
Suffice to say I recognise that I started off as a Grade E leader, using my own scale. This grade was obtained due in large part to my genes and priveledge of birth, I am intelligent, and born one of the wealthiest people in the world. I had access to a good education which trained me in critical thinking, adversarial debate, power and influence. This made me good at winning. It is only with much passage of time that I have since graduated to a D level leader where I currently reside.
This is based on my knowledge of how easilly ineffective I was relying on being smart, critical, assertive and political savvy is. Infact success resting on those laurels is in my view really a failure. I think level D is becoming conscious of interests other than your own, and attempting to satisfy as many individual interests as one can in an ethical manner. It is to utilise ones capacity not for personal gain, but lasting gain for multiple benificieries.
And that's as far as I have, if I knew what C (a pass) was I'd go there, in the meantime i'll keep digging.
Maybe its something like this guy though. Lions are pretty cool.

An Open Letter to the Agents of Change

Dear Agents of Change,

Congratulations on your victories, be they incremental or complete. I was glad Obama when you won the Iowa nomination, like this incremental victory it may be a step towards incremental change. Certainly Hillary Clinton's strategy has shifted, I watched her distress as she lemanted the lack of recognition she recieves for her vision of 'Change'.
I like a lot of what you say, but this thing you said in amidst the revelry concerned me:

Hope-hope-is what led me here today - with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

The first bit I bolded I can let slide, it prickles me up but still I will assume that what you meant was not that the United States of America has some intrinsic, magical property, or some process by design that allowed you to win the Caucus vote, but more along the lines of the immortally incompetent Colonel Cargill of Catch-22 fame:
Men...You're American officers. The officers of no other country in the world can make that statement. Think about it.

That is what you meant by it was a mere truism. Nowhere else in the world could someone like you win the Iowa caucus, because Iowa is in the United States of America, you have to win it in the United States of America, there simply isn't an Alternative.
But if what you meant was something along what Chomsky insinuated of you:
I mean, what's the elections? You know, two guys, same background, wealth, political influence, went to the same elite university, joined the same secret society where you're trained to be a ruler - they both can run because they're financed by the same corporate institutions. At the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, 'only in this country, only in America, could someone like me appear here.' Well, in some other countries, people much poorer than him would not only talk at the convention - they'd be elected president. Take Lula. The president of Brazil is a guy with a peasant background, a union organizer, never went to school, he's the president of the second-biggest country in the hemisphere. Only in America? I mean, there they actually have elections where you can choose somebody from your own ranks. With different policies. That's inconceivable in the United States

But that is kind of petty, to nitpick that only in America could a guy like you succeed. I think a lot of the time I read that America is one of those places where you should recieve special commendation because it is one of the places in the world where it is actually really hard for a guy like you to do what you are doing.
From what I've seen of the surveys, a godless guy like me would have a much harder time of becoming president, particularly while, being fortunate enough to win the lottery of birth over billions of other semen that lived in 'The balls of my father' which doesn't have the ring of your biography, unfortunately a wasn't pushed out of a Vagina in the United States, thus my hope to one day have the opportunities you do would be truly Audatious. If you were to look into my eyes Obama, you would see that I have no hope.
Which is what really concerns me about your emotive speech. It's a bit up the page now so I'll paraphrase:

the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

As a business professional, currently successfully employed as a vagrant, one of the wealthiest vagrants in the world mind you, if you question my credibility. Why I don't have to ask anyone for change, and even have access to the internet. So I guess you would have to call me an elite really, and a seniour, by world standards.
This is vague, and I recalled the snippett I saw on Japanese news as 'together we will, remake this country, together we will remake the world' or something, but I can't find the details and I can't remember most stuff word for word on confusing Japanese TV.
But needless to say, it rubbed me up the wrong way. Who do you mean by 'all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is' do you mean Americans, do you mean me? I certainly am not content to settle for the world as it is, seldom am I content to settle for the weekend as it is.
If you had excluded me, a non citizen of the country, which is an artificial concept used to deliniate a geographical jurisdiction whereby an entity seperate from the geographical concept of a country, called a 'government' administrates policy for its membership, determined by the citizens of the geographical jurisdiction, which in turn is determined artificially by a group of early predecessors who took the land by force, in defiance of their Government and the law of the time. If its on that basis I am excluded, I wouldn't much mind, except all this talk of remaking the world as it should be.
This concerns me because I may have to be living on the world, I cannot as yet live anywhere else and my only other alternative is to be 'not alive' as an atheist if this is the case when you are proposing to remake the world, I don't much care what happens to my remains which unfortunatley, and sorry for the inconvenience, will still be on the world. You have my permission though to jettison them off into space.
Before contemplating the possibility though that I may have to live through this 'remaking of the world' my other problem is, I know a lot of people. Infact most of the people I know in my self same predicament. We all live on the world, and most of us aren't citizens of this concept called 'The United States of America'.
So if what you are saying, is what I felt you were saying when you said 'together we can remake the world as it should be' I feel a little bit slighted, a little bit left out.
It's not a good feeling. Because I don't know what 'the world as it should be' is, its a little vague. Sort of like that Christian concept of Heaven, which in turn is quite vague. When told specifics I am simply told it is 'the best' or when people get really specific 'the best place you can imagine' which is really quite funny, because I can't see my mother enjoying dunking on Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajawon, Ben Wallace, Marcus Camby & Bill Russell in a friendly game of me vs. the best shot blockers of all time as much as I could, and that's certainly one of the best places I can imagine being.
So what is 'the world as it should be?' what specifically do you mean by that.
Early signs are encouraging from the same speech -
I'll be a President who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American the same way I expanded health care in Illinois - by--by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done.

I'll be a President who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.

I'll be a President who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.

And I'll be a President who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home; who restores our moral standing; who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes, but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century; common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

I like a lot, except that 'ship our jobs overseas' thing, what do you have against foreigners competing in a collective labor market. I would apluad an effort to reduce the mobility of Capital, so it can't just fuck off to the next poor country whenever they try to put their prices up, because as it turns out, cheap labor is highly immobile. Not a problem for a wealthy vagrant like myself though.
So let's talk about the real implications over who is involved in this remaking of the world. With the aforementioned common threats of the twenty-first century.

common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

Terrorism's largest perpetrator remains the wealthy post-modern nations of the world, of which the US is the largest. Today it still supports terrorism in Columbia. Are you saying that this is to stop? It has a history of terrorism in Indochina, South America and the Middle East.
Climate Change again, most of the worlds energy consumption right now is concentrated in the United States, another 6 planets and so forth if everybody lived like the United States does now.
Poverty, America's NAFTA agreement brought about great poverty in Mexico, as do most of its trade agreements, and methods for securing access to the world's scarce resource.
Genocide, does this mean you propose to stop supporting fascist regimes, and state sponsored genocide, like you did against public opinion in East Timor recently?
Disease, well that's easy, you mentioned the health care and building up the scientists and entreprenuers and what not.

So do I audaciously hope, that what you are proposing is that America in rebuilding the world as it should be, is actually mostly going to withdraw all its fingers reaching into the world that thus far have fuelled the American way of life, and thus placed poverty and slavery upon the people of nations outside of America.
I find it hard to believe but there you have more or less committed to it.
If so, I'm on your side, I find I am always on the side of people being able to determine their own course for their life.
If that's so, your first step should be to give all citizens of the world a vote, in the issues that they have interest in. Their own freedom, self determination and comfort.
Then it's all settled.
If we get to vote the representative that is most representative of the world as it should be, you may just be in with a shot. And I'm sure the rest of the current racehorses would drop out.
Maybe you'd find yourself relaxing all kinds of policy, once you start identifying world issues with the people of the world.
Wouldn't that be nice?
And that other Agent of Change, Rudd, well you've won haven't you. I look forward to reading the exit strategy, a climate change policy that addresses the issue, and all that shit.