May 262002
 

It would seem my time here is running out. My initial investigations seems to indicate that for English teaching, there is a large quantity of work available. Other investigations seem to indicate that Japan, as a nation will probably crumble under it’s own weight within the 50 years, much as I believe the US will as well.

I’ve started to read “The Prodestant Ethic And The Spirit of Capitalism.” It’s very good, although a hard read. The author asserts that Europe and America were at the forefront of capitalistic enterprise because of the coming together of various social, technological and management practices with a grounding in the religious framework of the time. As a historical document it is astounding to see how it relates to modern globalisation. The reason I chose to read it was to try and understand how Japan could have moved so far forward without this basis.

But anyway.

The relationship between excessive consumerism, political will, corporate ethical standards and the education system all lead me to believe that Japan is a shallow nation, built upon the sucess of exploting it’s people, the environment and sheer determination of post-WWII to rebuild infrastructure. Although I may see Australia as a Utopian paradise (well, we’ve still got little Johnny, so it’s not perfect, but close to it,) Japan still lags behind in lots of areas. Although I don’t expect to be able to apply Western ethical standards that are based in a Judeo-Christian background here, it does seem as though Japan is going down the toilet just as much as all the other Asian nations, perhaps more so.

The excess of materialism, brought on by high disposable income and an Asian preference for outward, surface level meaning has driven the consumer market for years. But as the banking system starts to crumble under the weight of bad debts and gross inefficiencies (they are very paper based, overstaffed and large, even at local brances,) corporate companies start to collapse under unpayable debts (even with official interest rates at 0.00%) and unemployment reaches higher levels, people keep living as they only know how: by shopping. The Japanese people have had to put up with a lot of pain post-WWII in subsidising Japanese companies so products can be exported for cheap prices. Electronics here are not any cheaper than Australia, sometimes costing more. Mobile phones cost just as much, and call rates border on the painful, even for local area trunk line calls. But Japan has 120,000,000 people and 1/6 the size of land of Australia with income tax at about 7%. Prices need not be so high, but they are. But correspondingly, salaries are quite high as well now for the middle class, which represent almost everybody within city limits.

So where’s it all going to end up. The infrastructure of polical will is, much like Queensland politics in the 70s and 80s, complete rotten. With the ruling party having power for so long, and the only way they understand to stimulate the economy is to build things, it makes for very powerful construction companies. Concrete politics. Everywhere.

The younger generation, from what I can tell, are driven mad by the emphasis for academic achievement. Syntheic idols, usually represented by J-Pop groups, dominate television. The older generations and family units are breaking down because the male works so hard to provide for the wife and kids, he’s never home. The kids don’t know their father, the wife goes off and gets her own replacement man and so the father ends up at Hostess Clubs or bars, paying for comfort women. Eventually the wife has enough, leaves home with the kids and the man doesn’t even know how to cook for himself.

Everything is just plain wrong.

The nation state Nihon-maru, sailing gently along, is about to go over the not-so-mythical edge of the world. And all its crew and passengers are worried about is what’s the next trend or style to follow.

Perhaps, as with the US, this needs to happen. They’ve lived here in relative comfort (albeith in rather small dwellings) for quite some time. (Now, I know that contradicts my previous statement about the exploitation of workers, but in relative terms, they have it pretty good at the moment, Utopia with a rotten core.) Perhaps, as with individuals, some pain and struggle is required for the whole of Japan. But those who are at the forefront of this, the homeless, are the hidden people. Returning to the social and ethical values of previous centuries may not be the answer, neither would be to fully embrace Western models of social and ethical patterns.

So where does this leave Japan? I’ve got no idea. But I’ve got some more shopping to do, so I’ll ponder this as I decide how best to spend the last of my yen.