Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Last Hurrah!

I read someone's take on the press' ridicule of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, that the protestors didn't even know what they are protesting - the response was too the effect of 'it's called occupy Wall Street, I think it's pretty obvious what we're against.'

My travels in China made me inclined to call China 'The Last Hurrah' of neo-classical economics. In fact as a graduate of an Economics & Marketing degree I can tell you with some authority that we have known for years that GDP doesn't work. Sometime in the early 00's Clive Hamilton published his book 'Growth Fetish' thoroughly analysing the misguided obsession with GDP growth, the fetish still exists but I would propose that long before the last decade people clinically, empirically knew that money doesn't = happiness.

I believe 'the corporation' has a succinct moment explaining the pitfalls of consumerism. 'The whole system is based on a truth and a lie. The truth: if you take someone cold naked and miserable and hungry, and give them food, shelter and clothing they will go from being very miserable to very happy. The lie: If you give somebody twice as much stuff, they'll be twice as happy.'

This is neither the New York times nor the Washington Post, I don't have fact checkers, but I'm reasonably confident that worldwide one will probably observe most countries that have persued economic growth have also seen a growing disparity between rich and poor. The occupy wallstreet crowd refer to themselves as the 99% and the 1% refers to that disparity in America.

There is also simply speaking, a wider loss of confidence in the worldwide Economic institutions. Movements like occupy wall street are on the one hand, easy to ridicule because people are by and large economically illiterate, or put simply, the average joe on the street has no idea what they are talking about when it comes to economics. But this is true of Capitalisms many supporters as well. I hear mind-blowingly idiotic arguments from both camps. But just because you don't know shit about economics doesn't mean you are wrong.

For one thing, many of those who come out to defend right-wing capatilism - free markets, low taxes, small government, individual bargaining agreements, no social welfare etc. defend a system that represents almost none of these things. As Chomsky points out, many republicans like Newt Gingrich that bemoan social welfare are some of the biggest welfare advocates, only in the form of corporate welfare. The US operates it's 'free market' behind some of the most complex and comprehensive trade barriers around, even post NAFTA. Under Reagan the size of government (measured in staff and ultimately cost) actually increased, and goes on increasing.

Then there's the notion of 'free markets' and 'deregulation' that has yet to produce any results (unless you count The GFC as a result of deregulation). Time recently correlated 'ease of doing business' in terms of a number of regulations with economic growth. Turns out in China it is still incredibly hard to do business, with Bank Loan approval taking an average 311 days or something. Yet it's growth has vastly outstripped the US's.

Obviously there are more factors that come into play, and this is in essence what the protestors on the street are right about without even knowing it. China is a vast country, densely populated that is playing catch up. Nothing new and amazing and wonderful is coming out of China. They are building freeways, apartment blocks, supermarkets, shopping malls, train stations, power plants etc. (Obviously 'nothing' new is an exagerration) but the long and short is, that China's rise in the world is bringing it's people up to a standard of creature comforts they have simply been deprived of for the past 60 years, and that Australians, Europeans, Americans, Canadians etc. already have.

China is not wholly, nor even significantly partially a bold new vision of the future, but rather a collossal stampede to the present. It's public are consuming the truth and lie of capatilism in quick succession, and I have confidence that they will discover as the rest of the world seems to be discovering - that the consumer comforts we desire look good from afar but are far from good.

China's economic growth, is I hope the Last Hurrah of an antiquated way of thinking.

But I introduced a notion of right and wrong, and that is dangerous. Let me see if I can make some definitions that are simple - I warn you though, I'm not confident.

Economics is the science of deciding the best way to allocate resources that are limited to maximise happiness.

As yet, the time frame for that goal is undefined. I suggets over the long term, with limitations. (that is admittedly tricky)

Human satisfaction is as good a starting place as any to measure the performance of economic solutions (allocating resources).

SO, an economic system is 'right' if it allocates resources to maximise both happiness now, but more importantly the opportunites we have to be happy. It is wrong if it doesn't.

Perhaps, oversimplifying I would contend that GDP's perhaps only merit is that it kind of retrospectively proves that opportunity increased, if AND ONLY IF you accept that consumption is a good proxy for happiness.

If your economy grew this year, it means that the previous year set you up with more opportunities to grow. That's what I mean by retrospective, the problem is, that GDP growth is kind of like those Casino games of Solitaire, where you can appear to be making progress for a long time only to hit a dead end, and realise that you made a crucial error, unwittingly a long time ago and now that's it, you've lost.

More over, GDP is about as quick and dirty as my above reasoning as a measurement of wellbeing, an indicator of progress. It has numerous well known blindspots. It doesn't look at how economic growth is distributed amongst the public. The implication of that is that economic growth is good if you are feeding, clothing and sheltering more and more destitute people, but not great if it is all going to providing more food clothing and shelter to people who have plenty already while more and more go destitute.

It also just measures consumption, with no real time frame, so the only thing stopping a country from cutting down all it's forrests and pulping them, is the knowledge that if they do that now, the will get great GDP growth this year, and none from that sector next year. But in essence, itjust means that industries and the governments that regulate them dig incrementally increasing slices of irreplaceable resources out of the ground over time, instead of instantly. You still end up burning through your irreplaceable resources.

Furthermore consumption blatenlty ignores all the empirically proven, on large scale, worldwide, numerous times, conclusion that people's happiness doesn't increase with wealth, problems do. People in 'wealthy' nations can actually be less happy than others.

Why? And if our current system is so wrong, what is right? I will muse on these next post. My laundry is done.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's A Guy Thing

So last night I watched a Japanese special on why women lie about their age at dating events (dating sites, speed dating etc.) in Japan. (At least as far as I could gather it was about that) and they actually demonstrated one of the 'meeting parties' that I guess are like speed dating, with 4 guys and 4 girls.

I'm not sure how staged the segment was, but basically they had 4 japanese guys eat dinner and have some drinks in a private dining room with 4 Japanese girls. The men were aged 22~32 or something, and the women were 22, 36, 36 and 49 respectively.

After some chitchat the women leave and the men are asked who they are interested in. 3 out of 4 picked the 49 year old woman. Then the women come in one by one and reveal their ages on a card. The men's reaction to the 49 year old reveal, was, palpable.

At this stage I was thinking, that it was kind of cruel to the female participants in this experiment. Then there was a bit more mixing, and then the men were asked who they were interested in now. All 4 picked the 22 year old.

Then the experiment was repeated with foreigners, aka whities. Who speak japanese, replacing the Japanes men. Ages ranged from 22 to 34 or something again.

I remarked to my host mother that the guys were all ugly. I will elaborate on this later. Here's the thing though.

When the Japanese guys were dining with the japanese women, they had this unfortunately L-shaped table. The men all sat together on one arm, and the women on the other of the 'L' meaning only one guy sat next to a girl, and two were distinctly seperated.

The whitey's instantly had the group sitting one girl one guy alternating. All the foreigners were clearly fluentish in Japanese and even from that snippet, you could see conversation flowed more easily.

The experimented proceeded the same way, the ladies leave, the guys cast their vote. The foreigners votes were all over the place.

Then they did the age reveal, and then more intermingling. In the first run through the Japanese guys basically socially cast aside the eldest woman, and one made some comment comparing her to his mother.

The foreigners just proceeded as business as usual. Except (and here's where you don't know how staged it was) they showed an increased interest in the eldest woman, the 49 year old. Then afterwards, the men cast their votes and 3 out of 4 voted for the 49 year old.

End story. Now originally I had thought the experiment cruel to the elder women participants. In hindsight it was cruel to the Japanese men.

Whenever I come to Japan I am inevitably asked specifically if 'I will marry a Japanese girl'. and then, less directly what I think of Japanese women, or am told that Japanese women are 'yasashi' literally 'easy' but the cultural nuance here is more in line with 'easy going/gentle' and this is infact precicely my problem with Japanese women, as far as any women or cultures can be generalised.

The issue being that the social contract here is still very much Stepford wives. The men here still work in the office of Madmen, perhaps with smoking now increasingly disallowed.

The marriage contract remains, man provides income, women presumably provide housekeeping, cooking and childrearing services in return. Except women here watch friends and Sex & the City and expect more. But there is no 'womens movement' as such.

What played out in this tv special, staged or not, was women voting with their feet. Japan has been described as 'homo-social' and weekends aside it is true. The city is populated by Women hanging out with women and elderly couples (and me).

The men and women are out of touch, that special illustrated that it is the Japanese man's problem.

I have been culturally conditioned, and otherwise self conditioned to like 'tough-vajajay' women, not ones that exemplify male priveledge as the 'yasashi' Japanese women do. And Japanese men are the big winners of male priveledge, except... except they really aren't competitive anymore.

Again generalising the Japanese men on the program out to the population at large, this is what they have going for them over pretty much any foreigner:

- cultural identity.

And that's it. Now recall I mentioned the foreigners were ugly, I must confess. As I did to my friend Nick shortly before leaving for Japan, that whenever I say a white guy with an Asian/Japanese girlfriend I usually think less of both of them. The man for being a misogenist after the yasashi-japanese girlfriend, and the woman for not having the sense to do better for herself. When I dated a japanese girl, I became highly conscious that other people were probably having this exact reaction to me when we held hands down the street.

The thing is those ugly foreigners, and pretty much everyone I have seen with a Japanese girl on or off camera has this going for them over the Japanese men:

- conversation skills.
- social awareness.
- empathy.
- tact.
- generosity.
- interests.
- travel experience.
- confidence.
- independence.
- kindness.
- body language.
- forethought.
- compassion.

And by that last one I don't even mean that they were nice to say they were interested in the 49 year old, but that they made an effort to rotate around and include everyone, and sit in alternating manners.

Even if the outcome was staged, it also reveals that the white men had the presence of mind to lie on national television and look much much better than the honestly superficial Japanese participants.

If you even on an instinctual level know that kindness is attractive to people (male or female) then appearing on national television as a guy that appreciates wisdom over beauty is going to pay off, off screen by impressing your colleagues and friends watching the show.

The fact this doesn't occur to the men, who answered at face value indicates how divided society must be here, staged or not, the experiment would indicate that the men participating don't socialise with women anywhere.

The problem and the cruelty is all on the men. Japanese men, in the dating game are becoming obsolete, like the Sony Walkman, they need to Wiinvent themselves and quickly. But alas, by and large the culture that stifles them in the dating game also deprives them of time and opportunity.

The workplace still expects them to leave home at 6am and get home at 8pm and work 6 days a week. The office is still male dominated here, the only thing dissappearing are the 'OL' or office-ladies, previously shipped into the workforce to serve tea and basically give workers the opportunity to meet a potential marriage partner.

None of this is new, and there are far better researched and far less partial accounts than I could give, try 'Shutting Out the Sun' for a good overview.

I just saw it played out for me, on screen, in a special that was probably closer to reality than most reality tv.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Steve Jobs.

In Japan, internet aside I have limited access to English press. Everything I do have access to here, is about Steve Jobs. Somebody I would pay close to no attention to in Australia. In fact, I never did except when it was unavoidable. Much like I imagine a sports-hating-hater must have done when the news reported on 'What Michael Jordan Did Today' both before and after the weather when he took over the world in the 90's.

So I now have the choice of reading about Steve Jobs, or trying to read Japanese menus, and there's only so many times I eat a day (5 times) so reluctantly I read about the late, great Steve Jobs.

I feel the first, last and only word on the significance of his passing is summed up the Onion piece 'Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing Dies.'

But to me, while I am moved at how loved the man is, it puts me in mind of the precarious nature of technology. That is, I sat at a dinner party where somebody said 'Just invest everything in Google, nothing is ever going to beat Google.' which has not yet turned into one of those laughable time travel jokes, is still an illustration of how precarious technological innovation is.

The notion that Google, Apple or Facebook are unnassailable market leaders is no different from assuming Yahoo, Sony or Myspace are unnassailable market leaders. The problem is, that with technology, if you can imagine what will actually compete with the dominant technology of the day then you are 99% of the way to already having it.

Steve Jobs was probably the only person that could imagine what would beat out the Sony Walkman/Discman. Zuckerberg was probably at one point the first person to concieve of what would beat out Myspace.

Steve Jobs, is perhaps cooler, but no less remarkable than Bill Gates. The two are different enough to not really hold up to comparison, but similar enough to often be compared. They both simply persued different strategies (customisation vs. standardisation) in a world that contrary to popular belief had room for both.

Will people erect shrines to Bill Gates when he dies of old age? Maybe. Should they? Definitely. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one of the greatest forces for good in the world, an argument by accident FOR Capatalism.

Mac used sweatshop labor and toxic chemicals to adhere apple stickers to laptops and other products in China. Things are never clear. Gates exploited anticompetitive strategy to ensure his dominance. Jobs found a way to sell us music we used to obtain for free.

There is something short sighted in our faith in Jobs, around the same time the news was covering Michael Jordan every day, you couldn't have a conversation without it inevitably steering towards how much Bill Gates earns per second.

But who gives a shit about Bill Gates now? Windows is probably the worlds highest selling OS, just as I'm sure Brand Jordan's shoes are still number one. We've just stopped talking about them.


Prophanity is a legitimate form of expression.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cool is Cheap

So feeling nostalgic, I started reading Bikesnob's blog again, which I first discovered by reading an interview with him in a cycling magazine way back in '07 or '08. The first post I read was this: about young people migrating to cities like Portland, and Austin. While the people migrating to cities like New York are old dudes, providing the 'calcification' of cities like New York.

This cycle is not unknown in Melbourne and I feel at some point needs beating. The post linked to Freakonomics, whom are famous for breaking down 'causation' and 'correlation' cases of mistaken identity. But in this case I feel they have got it wrong.

Certainly gravity applies to young people's choice in which city/suburb etc to live in. The more young people in a place, the more likely young people are to live there. However, before this is the issue of rents, something Earthsharing Australia a think tank I am occasionally involved with staged a film comp on just such a phenomena.

They called it 'The Gentrification Game'. Similar to such phenomena as prole drift (which curiously, is not a phenomena in Japan, everyone can consume 'exclusive' brands without an ipact on the brand equity) but more in the opposite direction, gentrification is where a low rent area atracts a bunch of people with dubious incomes.

An area like Saint Kilda in Melbourne was at one stage, low rent, attracting artists and musicians to live there. They inevitably have an impact on the character of the neighbourhood, attracting monikers like 'cool' and 'funky'. Over time these become assets to the neighbourhood, and attractive to people with money.

Thus gentrification begins. Demand to live in such neighbourhood increases, eventually landlords get wise and up the rents. The poor artists, move on to browner pastures (which they again coolify) and people with money move in and displace them. Funky-cool cafes open up on the main drag attracting more uncool people, until young people have to be bussed in to actually be baristas because they can't afford to live anywhere near the clientelle.

Increasingly what once was a happening place becomes a strip with the appearance of being happening but in reality containing only expensive restaurants and cafes.

Meanwhile you see a migration of the cool people towards other cheap suburbs. Brunswick and Sydney Road is gentrifying, I am sure soon to be followed by High Street, Yarraville will most likely gentrify, if it hasn't already, it is too far for me to really spend a great deal of time in, and Footscray and other western suburbs is an open question, because I'm fairly sure Melbourne house prices are going to tank, putting a brief hiatus on the gentrification spread.

I have heard it said that 'Castlemaine' is the new St Kilda, and it isn't even in Melbourne. This is a tragic state of events if the happening places of the future will be in places away from the happening infrastructure.

But then again, I don't see why not, thanks to the internet you can get posted just about anything anywhere. People seem averse to having actual audiances, or viewing anything through something other than a computer screen, so perhaps you don't even need a population to engage in dialogue with.

Who knows, soon it may be desirable to live in Yass, or Detroit or somewhere else with almost know hope of supporting jobs for the gentrifiers. The only defence artists and creatives and coolness has, is that people with Money need to earn it somewhere. You can not earn money almost anywhere these days.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Sorry, What?

Property buying losing appeal even as prices retreat

From the age. Time for a little Economics 102. The thing that caught my eye with this article was the 'even as' line.

Here we see the complacency or naivete of free press in creating asset bubbles. There are few institutions that employ economists. Research companies, Banks, Universities, Government Departments and one would hope, newspapers.

This headline itself was as I understand journalism, probably the product of an editor and not say, the journalist/economist etc that wrote the article. Because, OF COURSE you wouldn't buy property now, if you expect it to get cheaper.

Rationally, supply and demand curves sustain an equilibrium, where as the price of property goes down, demand increases, and as it goes up demand decreases.

The article itself draws the same conclusion on price expectations that Keynes did during the great depression moving on from Classical Economics (hence economics 102). Quite right, quite right. Only under duress would anybody buy today what they expect to be on sale tomorrow.

The article is still dissappointing though. It keeps referring to 'population growth' as a contributing factor to propping up property prices. I would be surprised if any actual analysis ever actually turned up any correlation between population size and house prices ever. Even somewhere like China where you see huge migrations from country to city, you have a cheap workforce living in shipping containers while they construct high-end apartment blocks that are bought and sold, despite nobody ever living in them.

There is alas a complete and utter truth to Michael Hudson's assertion that a 'house is worth as much as banks are willing to lend for it.'

I don't think the RBA's rate cuts though will upset the downward momentum of Australian property prices this time.

House prices are strange, they sustain their own momentum. I have a half baked theory using economics lingo, that houses are an example of good where the utility curve can't really apply. A utility curve generally maps the relationship between utility (satisfaction, happiness it is both and neither of these things) and price. But with houses the utility is often derived from the price. That is it is a speculative good. In good times the more you pay for it, the better you feel.

Imagine, if there was only one piece of property in the world. The previous owner bought it for $10,000 last year. What most people in a more diluted form do, is buy that has for $100,000 and note it's price has increased 1000%!!! in just one year, and feel enormously satisfied by their wise purchase decision.

Hopefully the ridiculousness of this investment strategy in the above example is transparent. It is less so when dealing with large numbers of buyers and sellers and properties. But basically, the houses get no more useful, bring in no more 'real' income (that is rent) but people pay ever increasing amounts for them.


Because they expect them to be sold at even higher prices.

This can continue almost indefinitely (although the money has to eventually come from somewhere) because it is a self fulfilling prophecy. You and I could become millionaires (on paper) with the willing participation of a lending institution by simply agreeing to buy the same pen off eachother at ever escalating prices.

What then, when the self fulfilling prophecy stops being fulfilled, it just becomes another self fulfilling prophecy, albeit one with a more concrete bottom than the others ceiling.

People will not buy because they expect prices to go down. Owners on the otherhand will try and rush their properties onto the market 'before it's too late', creating supply demand imbalances that will push prices down. This will cause panic amongst those holding hot-potato-mortgages and reluctance in those that would buy in.

The prices will drop, they will drop at a rate of acceleration akin to gravity and people will get hurt.

Sadly it will be many people who followed the advice of those loved ones that wanted them to never feel such hurt financially.

This is why you shouldn't believe everything you read (in a Newspaper).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gay Marriage

Some believe it right, some believe it wrong. If you believe it wrong, you do not want it, and so what need have you for a law preventing you? Suffice to say you feel it your duty to prevent others from doing this wrong, or that it diminishes what? Your achievement?

And in prevention what are you saving? If you believe that such unions cannot work, what harm in trying? Most unions do not work. On the law of average no union should proceed, sooner than heterosexual ones should only.

Turn then to the immortal soul, to the eternity of happiness or despair, it is the despair you would save them from. But this is but belief. You believe it so. I believe it not. Do you hear God speak? As I speak. I think not. He but reveals himself to you, as he does not reveal himself to me. Our beliefs are at odds. For you a feeling of failure as one engages in sin is what you wager. For me, the reading of the law at any law sanctioned wedding. For others the ability to have their union recognised by the state.

Whose grief is greatest? Surely the latter. You would have the law compel your success? You argue that in this the law should prevent those from consenting to your believed sin. What else would you have the law do? Compel us to attend your church, read your scripture and everything else your beliefs command you to.


You cannot, for this state is secular. And on this only can you agree. That no man should marry man, that no woman should marry woman. That the exclusive priveledge of your unions should not be extended. That some should be excluded from the state in this small way for what? For loving who they love.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is the Mangatrix?

Kyoto is kind of like Japan's Florence (Firenze) in that it holds much of the classic architecture of Japan's past and artworks from Japan's own renaissance (Although Ironically this was the Edo Period, the old name for Tokyo). But in a lot of ways it is not like Florence.

When you walk through the old districts of Florence, they are precisely that. Kyoto has heritage listed buildings galore, but no real zoning, the old wooden housing long since pulled down and replaced with concrete block architecture, now streaked with acid rain. A large part of the reason for this is practical, in a country prone to earthquakes it makes sense to build dwellings out of materials unlikely to collapse and then burn.

But Kyoto unlike Florence leaves one with an inescapable desire to imagine what it would have been like if the whole city had been preserved. Allegedly allied forced had protected Kyoto from being bombed in WW2, when it was still largely wooden structures. With the advances in Weapons guidance systems and the uglification of Kyoto's non temple/shrine/castle/palace buildings, I doubt it would be protected today.

And it occured to me, I could not live here. Not full time. I mean I could, but I would long for open spaces and clean rain and... pretty much all the settings employed in popular manga. I'm thinking of the open seas and island nations of One Piece, the mediteranian settings of everything Miyazake, even Naruto's open deserts, vallies and forrested villages. All very unjapanese.

Japanese people live in cramped apartments, daily reorganizing their lives in a way that is not unimpressive. They also live I think inside their heads, in the imaginary spaces of Manga comics.

It occurred to me, a beguiling theory of the popularity of Comics amongsts Japanese of all ages, is that the demand for escapism is just part of life. Obviously there are a bunch of titles that are very close to the daily lives of Japanese, set in Japanese cities. But into the mangatrix we go, the Japanese escaping the close confines of living, if for only a few minutes at a time, by escaping to comicbook world.

It's just a thought and probably but one aspect of the many things that make Comics so popular in Japan, but I thought it, now it is here. For posterity.

Monday, November 07, 2011

On Poverty and Wealth

So I gots to catch up with this travelogue phase. I:m sorry, fucken Communists and keyboard rearrangements.

So I spent most of last week in Beijing. I want to get the negative out of the way first, and briefly:

China's vision of economic growth is so uninspired that it speaks more of poverty than poverty actually does, in the same way that grownass rappers bragging to suburban teenagers about their ability to pay for jewellery, drive a car and get a girlfriend speaks of it. (Check out Kanye's `the good life' if you need to see what I'm talking about.) It's like they have reduced the concept of progress into the apartment block, with brand carrying stores at the basement and just reproduce these block after block after block. The brands consumed also paint a sad picture. After 3 years the Stonecutter's quote 'jealous?' - 'no Homer, we have the same chair' holds up.

But that's it. I enjoyed Beijing a lot more this time round, not just because I got to see Pandas eithermost. Not being a prisoner to indoors on account of freezing temperatures, I got to cycle around Beijing and experience the surprisingly pleasent traffic.

In Beijing no matter what form of transport you use, the pedestrian rules apply. That is you can pretty much ignore any formal rules, it's jaywalking for bicycles and cars. Everyone moves slowly and the car horn, amazingly is not an angry sound. It just says 'I'm here buddy' not 'get out of the fucking way' or 'I don't like what you are doing'. It's calm and relaxed and patient. I never expected that from such a fucked up driving culture that China has.

But really it works much better, Australian's should be ashamed of what angry assholes they are on the road. Patience is a value that is lost in Australia, one that would go miles and miles towards lifting everyone's wellbeing.

I can remember in 2 months of cycling Europe I got honked at once, by a car in Austria that was trying to tell me to get off the road... onto the designated road for bicycles. Beijing is kind of like that but you get honked all the time in a concerned caring way.

The second thing is that last time I was in Beijing I went to Beijing after 3 months in Japan, Japan the cleanest shithole in the world. I was confronted by the mess and couldn't get over it. I travelled in the right direction this time, and I think I got it. Like my mother pointed out to me, while it is confronting to see children just shitting through a split in their pants in the street or literally being hung out the car window at an intersection to go, the world would be ruined already if everyone in China used disposable nappies. The landfill alone would have it's own seat on the UN security council.

The food as per last time was excellent. And stuff is cheap, I got two pairs of glasses made up in 20 minutes, as opposed to the fucking ordeal getting prescription glasses is in Australia, with insurance companies to deal with and fucking waiting for some factory to make them. OPSM probably got their lenses from the same joint I did. I also took my now 10 year old jeans into the tailors and got two pairs of suitpants tailor made to the same measurements. Knowing I have gangsta-ass slacks makes me confident I will not only cream any job interviewers with my contempt for them, but I will probably be hired in to replace my recruiters.

And the optimism, last time I visited it was 6 months prior to the Beijing Olympics, I think this coloured Beijing with an unattractive 'in your face Australia' attitude I picked up on, an arrogance. I believe that and my own arrogance have settled down over 3 years and Beijing and I were able to get along much better.

Also I guess Beijing was the first unfamiliar culture I visited on my round the world trip last time. Now I have been through muggings and experienced better and worse and I guess know how to travel. I have stopped caring, and it has made me better able to appreciate.

I think the Chinese people can get and deserve a better deal as human beings, for a greener and free future, but they seem happy, upbeat, optimistic even despite the rest of the worlds decline. I feel I can be happy for them.