Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Song Remains The Same


What does it mean when someone says they don't like Jesus? I'm not talking about the idea of Jesus or the religious Jesus or anything else but Jesus himself. Well, you may not know but I do: it means they are lying. It means what they are really saying is, "I don't think Jesus can like me."

Jesus understands this, he's not stung by your rejection. Why should he be? It's yourself you reject. (People think of the heart of Jesus but forget his intelligence. It's a great feeling being with someone who has that kind of understanding. In terms of comprehending nature, Einstein is retarded in comparison. Jesus knew all these secret wonders we have yet to unfold.)  Rejection was the problem Judas had.

It was not Jesus Judas betrayed, but himself. That's why Jesus said, "It would be better for him if he had not been born." Indeed. What's left after you reject yourself? Where do you go? What is to become of your life? In answering those questions, Judas took his life. The idiot.

Being with Jesus is like being in a mythical band, not of this time but a timeless one, an endless one. You never want the music to stop! When Jesus came groovin' up slowly to me we slapped hands in recognition like best friends reuniting. Then he'd ask, "Wanna jam?" Jesus would be the first to tell you it's not him that counts, it's the music. It's all about making music.


A world that makes music has no time left for war, only for the laces of life. You build your home and live in it, building stairways to heaven from the sound of silence. Who's that knocking at the door? Answer truly or the song passes you by! But it's not that easy, is it?

Did I tell you about my friend with the Vase shop? It's closed now though I still walk by hoping it will impossibly return to life - and let me off the hook. Her vases were her music and I loved them - everyone (with half a brain) did. But what took my breath away was when she took me in the back to the vases she dare not share. They were unfinished but magnificent! Yet I could see in her eyes the doubt she could make them whole, to bring them all the way home.

I pretended not to see her doubt, having problems of my own. I told her about the vases in my own shop and she smiled and laughed and clapped her hands and I was in heaven. Problem was, I had no shop, never having the nerve to set one up. It existed only in my head and in my heart. The vases in my imagination were finished in love but like hers were unfinished in reality. A secret dream came to life.

"Wanna jam?"

But a dream you dream alone is just a dream, the words of this dream not escaping my lips. And, of course, I'd first have to explain I had no shop of my own. Guilt weighed me down like a boulder chained to my waist and the unfed desire to jam with her ripped me mercilessly in two. So like Judas of yore, I betrayed myself - as anyone does who says "I don't love you" to one they love. I took one of her incomplete dream vases and smashed it on the floor, deriding her work as worthless. That's when she closed shop and moved on to a place I do not know.


I see my reflection in the storefront glass. My face is not a pleasant one, not like before when I wandered through her wares. Homelessness is a destination with many paths. Across the street I hear Jesus in a band - and my soul burns in envy. Now I wander cold, hard streets swigging from my bottle of self-pity and acidic wine. Where can a dream killer go to rest?

Listening to the vicarious song of a street corner girl I fear my eyes to shutter closed. Without dreams only nightmares be.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Truth Test You Will Fail, Or: I Killed Your Kid And Laughed, HAHAHA!

Off that bitch!

It's the middle of the day and my buddy and I spot Brandon all alone in a grassy field. As the rest of our gang stands watch, we take our guns out and shoot that fifteen-year-old bastard down! We get closer and it seems he's still alive. We put two more fatal shots in him to seal the deal. Everyone stands around happy as shit. Kid got what was coming to him.

Not that we knew his name or anything about him.

His father came over and started wailing and shit but we didn't let that get us down. I went over and grabbed his head, moving Brandon's jaw up and down like he was talking, making him say stupid shit. Damn, that was funny! Next we cut off his clothes and took his picture (Bet his overly sensitive, touchy-feely liberal father bitches about that too!) Then I cut off his pinky to keep as my trophy.

I carry that pinky with me everywhere! It's my prized possession!


I ask you: think you are you outraged by this? Bet I can change your mind.

----------------------------

I've always been interested in psychology. I like psychological films such as "Midnight Cowboy" and "Being There" as they seek to close the cognitive gap that exists in everyone's mind. This can be related to the culture of a society as well. Who is Hitler born in 1930's America? He's the guy in Ward C with the funny moustache talking about a "Thousand year rice". ("Reich! I said Reich!")

When crisis came to Germany its psyche brought forth a Hitler whereas ours gave us FDR. The former declared a witch hunt on Jews as the solution to their problems, the latter decried the banking institutions and other actual scoundrels who created the mess. As you can see, the psychology of a country can very much affect its fate for better or worse.

The measuring sticks of a psyche are the truths and lies that are willing to be believed. Hitler didn't invent anti-Semitism (and the inherent insecurity behind it), it was already widespread across Europe. It wasn't too far of a leap to institutionalize it, to sell the idea that Jews were the reason why people suffered and therefore Hitler was the answer. The reality, of course, was just the opposite. Enjoy the rampant fire-bombing there much, mein kampf?

America's response to the Great Depression was very much closer to the truth, which allowed us not to be swallowed up by madmen and fallacies. Germany's return to prosperity is testament to the power of repentance. But oh how she wishes to never have had that dark stain upon her soul! A nation destroyed - not by the allied war machine but by simple words. It always begins with the words.

Are we solving our problems today according to the truth? Are we in denial like pre-war Germany claiming there is no truth? Or are we succumbing to lies and laying the foundation of our own downfall? Are environmental rape, wars of choice and manufactured poverty the products of love? Answer these correctly and the truth will set you free!

"But while they prate of economic laws, men and women are starving.
We must lay hold of the fact that economic laws are not made by nature.
They are made by human beings."

But what has the American psyche swallowed lies as truth as of late? I'll let others debate what is already known. For me what is interesting is the depth of the lying. Trace the lies from the rise of the Nazi party through the end of World War II and they only become more ludicrous over time. As starvation and ruin spread the more eyes were opened to the insanity they had let guide them. But until that common awakening happens, the lies go on consuming more and more lives.

Where's the love in that? Life is a love or death situation, folks.

Our children are our truest mirrors - and for that we pretty much hate them. Their eyes see truly and mimic us in innocence we've long lost. Adults also participate in this behavior, taking signals from society as a whole on what behavior is allowed. The biggest open secret in America today is one can say anything, no lie is too big or too small. This happens for the same reason it always does: we believe we need lies more than the truth.

We need to believe our wars are just, our greed sustainable and that we are on the road to salvation (insert giggle). But the longer we stay in the grip of our lies, the sillier we become. Let me show you a seemingly innocuous example of this, damning not only in the triviality of it but also as a flag indicating the current direction of our disturbing winds. Meet Beth Schapiro, shameless weaver of fictional facts sure to be sold in the American marketplace of lies.

Beth is looking to cash in on - and mightily stoke - the current hysteria around allegedly massive under-age sex trafficking. Her consultancy group was tapped to "investigate" the proliferation of teenage prostitution. To do so she devised a method straight out of an SNL skit: she would count the number of under-age looking pictures used in prostitution ads. Despite the fact that the age of the photo, the accuracy of its true representation and the wild guessing used to determine a person's age of over or under 18 were used as scientific principles, her "study" is being touted as gospel by the hysterical crowd.


How deep does our public lying go? Check this out:

"We're the first to tell you, this is not a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted," Schapiro said. "We make no bones about that."

Of course, a precise count of the number of girls being prostituted is exactly what the statistics are being presented as in the media, in press releases, and in Schapiro's own study. When this is pointed out, Schapiro reverses herself.

"Well, yes, these are specific numbers," Schapiro backpedals. "And yes, they are hard numbers, and they are numbers that we stand completely behind."

This is the kind of cognitive whiplash you have to endure if you try to follow Schapiro down the rabbit hole. The numbers have the weight of fact and can properly be cited as actual incidents of juvenile prostitution, she insists. But when pressed to justify the broad and unsupported assumptions of her study, she says the study is just a work in progress and the numbers are only approximations.


1984 anyone? Cornered advocates declare the manufactured hysteria is done for the greater good because the heinous nature of the crimes cannot be overstated. Of course, it also gets them a lot of money - money they would never get without their fiction because the problem - however egregious - is small. It also allows them to attain superhero status as they boldly engage monstrous windmills and ghoulish phantoms in the public's mind.

There is massive human trafficking going on, of course. But like the rest of our heinous crimes we seek to cover it up and only pretend to fight it. Immigrant workers have been exploited by corporations for decades and it's people like billionaire Tom Hicks who should be arrested for crimes against humanity. Here's more human trafficking:

Bodies used for purposes that are not their own

This brings me back to my original story - and how much we really "care" about kids. The child killed above was not named Brandon, but Gul Mudin. Feeling better yet? He was a thrill kill done by American occupation forces in Afghanistan. It was not an anomalous act or committed unknowingly by army upper brass. But it was done under the cover of a Great American Lie - something we hold more precious than our lives.

So these thrill kills will pass with no moral outrage or soccer moms rabidly lobbying Congress to protect children or with any sort of demand we end our military machine from rolling ever forward even as it rots our soul more with every passing day. Instead, let's fail the truth test and "hope" for the best. Let's pretend we have a future - thereby insuring we don't have one. After all, it's the good little boys and girls who keep their eyes closed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Naive About Naivete: A Death In Six Acts

ACT I: She's A Superhero


"I told him straight out: 'You cannot take those trees out. You have to keep that preserve. It's the heart and soul of the entire area. The whole project fails without it. Everything flows out of those walking woods.'"

"So what did he say to that?" asked the female voice at the other end of the phone.

"He just gives me that 'dumb guy' look. He knows better than to fight me on this."

"You don't think you'll get in trouble standing up to him?"

"He knows I'm right and to respect my opinion. I'll whip his ass into shape! Besides, I do too much for him to ever fire me. I told you I was making my job my life."

An uneasy pause. "You think that's the wise thing to do?"

"Sure. It's a special situation we have here. You just don't understand."

But her friend did understand: You break the rules of life you're going to pay - nothing so costly as shortcuts!

*************************************************

ACT II: Living (Someone Else's) Good Life

Sticking up for her rights!

The real estate community is a tight one and a very Republican one. Samantha was a proud Democrat who fought for her principles, savoring her self-perceived reputation as fearless moral steward of mother earth and all that's good. And yet, her marriage to her labors was in discord with nature. Crisis point approaching!

As the consummation between life and work intertwined deeper and deeper, so grew Samantha's appetites to fill the emptiness work could not fill. Her Boss - the one whom she was going to whip into shape - was an ardent supporter of the Good Life. Good time money meant trips to New York for champagne and caviar. Broadway shows, first class everything, Jimmy Choo shoes and La Perla lingerie seduced her into a world she convinced herself her hard work deserved.

This made Samantha even more determined to be useful - or was that "used"? She devoted herself to new skills, longer hours and duties beyond her Project Manager title. Though defiant in her principles, she spoke of her Boss in godlike terms.

Samantha slipped into her favorite character once more on the phone. "My friend Danny was in town in last week. He was tellin' me how he wanted meet Boss Hoss and I was like, "No way! Not just anybody can meet him!"

Phone Friend was duly awed. "Wow, he must really be something else!"

"I was telling Shelley the receptionist about it and she said no way Danny would be able to handle meeting Boss Hoss!"

Boss Hoss was a living god to be worshiped, she inhaling jet fuel fumes of his elitist breath, slowly brushing against fine rich leather with sweaty bare skin. Samantha left no doubt to her usefulness. "I'll never say no to you. You can take me any time." Now she had it all in her mock marriage: companionship, purpose and raw lusty sex. What made it perfect was Boss Hoss's marriage taking away all responsibility - and from his wife he assured he had permission to play around on a "limited basis".

Self-perception or self-deception?

After a particularly steamy session, Boss Hoss sensed a time to test Samantha's resolve. "About those trees. You know how many houses I could build there. That's a lot of profit to give up!" Slyly he'd said "I can build" but not "we can build."

Samantha's eyes narrowed as she looked up from between his legs. "You have to do the right thing even if you think it hurts you. You're missing the bigger picture. I'm not going to let you rape that land!"

"You're not, huh?" Boss Hoss feigned defeat, bribing her with victory.

"You're damn right!"

"I can just rape you..."

Samantha's first instinct was to get up, get out and never return again, freeing herself of the ties that bind. Her second instinct was to remember the view from the Four Seasons at night in New York. And like an addict's syringe, he gave the rush she needed more and more, her loins contracting in dry puckering at the thought of his departure. So Samantha took the path most traveled.

"Yes, you can rape me - but not the trees!"

Boss Hoss gave off the impression of silent acquiescence.

*************************************************

ACT III: Embracing The Inner Slut


The next day was when she had the conversation with her Phone Friend, telling a (censored) version of her heroic stand against her boss and for the trees. But she also went on to share a daring giggle.

"I'm thinking of buying some of those really low cut jeans. You don't think I'm too do you?" she asked expecting only one correct answer.

"As long as you look good it's fine. Doesn't matter if your over forty at all! You gonna wear panties with them?"

"I don't think you're supposed to..."

"But won't your crack show?"

"Oh, I don't know," she lied in clever self-deceit. "I'll make sure that won't happen. I'm not some twenty-something slut!"

But when Samantha excitedly got her pair home, first thing she did was practice sitting in front of the mirror to see how low she could get her jeans to go. "Oh, everyone's going to love this!" Then she imagined sitting obliviously in a restaurant, baring herself to the world, completely "unaware" it was even happening!

She even had that same pair one when she met her Phone Friend at a liberal public park. A woman in a yellow thong showed up, thinking nothing of baring her wares, moving as easily as if she were fully dressed. Samantha was infuriated.

"Would you just look at that? Put some clothes on, slut! This isn't some nudist colony!"

"Why would she even treat herself like that?"

"I have no idea! It's women like that who make it so hard for us feminists."

****

ACT IV: It's A Pig's Life


Boss Hoss was bragging to his business buddies. "I make total use of her alright! I'm tearing that shit up!"

"She's loyal to you as a dog."

"I fuck her like one too!" All the piggies laughed.

"What about keeping that tree preserve? You know the investors won't stand for that. How're you going to keep your godlike status and still mow down that forest?"

"I'm working on that. She's so damn dumb, thinking she has me under her thumb. She's got this whole I'm-so-naive innocent act going on I can put practically anything past her."

The lawyer had to know: "How much do you think she really believes all that? Isn't she at least worried about your wife."

"The bitch has a lie for every day of the week. I'm not worried about it. She's so worried about impressing me and proving she's not just-a-girl and so much other horse shit no one cares about. What's truly funny is I hear talk to this friend of hers on the phone feeding her the same sort of bullshit I feed Samantha!"

"That's when you know you've really got her!" The room laughed again. The lawyer still looked concerned.

"I don't know, Hoss. She could go all Fatal Attraction on you. I'm serious about this. She gets in too deep you'll have no way out."

"That's OK. I'm making her more Republican with every thrust!"

The room howled in laughter but the lawyer still didn't bite.

*****
ACT V: Money Rapes Everybody


When the economy crashed and tore down the real estate market with it, the gluttonous Boss found himself with his pants down, exposed by loans he could not repay. Forced to sell off vacation homes, cancel luxury trips abroad and even sell his office building, Boss Hoss and Samantha were like nomads conducting what little business they had left in a spare room of the lawyer's office. This put everything on hold.

The freefall rained down on every aspect of their lives. Hoss's wife explained she was tired of him "fucking the hired help" and put her foot down. His answer was to get a new girlfriend and openly brag about it in front of Samantha, feeding her the humiliation he knew she craved but would never admit. Boss Hoss had no illusions about what living a lie meant.

Samantha started visiting The Lodge, an executive resort and ersatz sex parlor. Ostensibly going there just to "rest up and relax" she somehow always ended up getting drunk and engaging in wild sex that literally left her body bruised. "It's not like I planned it!" she sold to her friend. Boss Hoss later gave Samantha punishment sex on the properties owned by the men she fucked. But as she put it, "I don't think he realized where we were. He can be so naive sometimes."

But it was when things got better things became the worst.

Slowly emerging from the economic ashes, Boss Hoss returned to the bribery of yore, buying Samantha's soul with a flat screen HDTV. The tree preserve project was at last fully funded so he asked her once again about tearing down the woods for more houses in the subdivision. Samantha relented. "Fuck it. What difference does it make?" Boss Hoss congratulated her on seeing the light, his face glowing like a heroin dealer who'd hooked a new client.

He touted his victory his friends, saying he'd gotten "that bitch on a leash." When asked what he was going to do now he said, "Oh, I'll use her for a while till she's all used up then there'll only be one thing left to do." Faces of wolfish anticipation imagined that orgasmic moment - even the lawyer satisfied.

*****

ACT VI: The Bill Comes Due


Samantha was on top of the world to her phone friend. "Boss Hoss and I are stronger and tighter than ever! I did double duty all during the downturn, now he really owes me. Hahah! I even went ahead and gave in on the tree preserve just to make him feel good...I know, I really wanted them too but it really is all about the money. No one can defy Boss Hoss!...Of course I know what I'm doing. You were the one saying he was going to fire me all this time. I told you it's special between us. And like I said, he needs me too much for the business plus his moral obligation to me too...What do you mean that's why he'd get rid of me?"

Boss Hoss's behavior changed to be even more abusive. He'd always been condescending and cutting to the quick, testing her and probing her, but now he took it a whole other level, flinging papers in her face like a flunky and coldly barking orders. He had her on his chain and Boss Hoss was determined to have his fun yanking it before the Final Moment came.

And when it did come, he never savored a moment more ever in his life, memorizing every look of horror on her face, every wrinkle of incredulity, the dawning realization of reality's bill come due. His explanation: He needed someone who'd fight for the tree preserve. It was a story he told over and over as Boss Hoss returned to the plush parlors of yore - now sans Samantha. It was killing him to be a pig and keep up his piggish ways but die a pig he would!

Samantha screamed into the phone. "That fucking bastard! I can't believe he did that to me. No way can I get another job in the industry. I'm blackballed and I'll never have that kind of salary again. That fucking bastard! I did everything for him! He can't do this to me! He's got to take me back! He can't do this! That fucking bastard! After all I did for him! I worked for him, I fucked for him, I LIVED for him. That fucking bastard! I did every fucking thing he wanted!"

The voice on the phone was cool. "Maybe you should consider doing something for yourself. Make your own life."

"I don't want to make my own life!" she furiously denied.

"Then why did you ever expect to live?"


**********************************************

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Homeless Are Like Screaming Jews


Does anyone remember this guy? He started a series called "The View From the Bottom: Homelessness in America". I was relishing what promised to be a cross between an articulate reporter and the underbelly of America. But I had reservations. Documenting one's own death takes an almost superhuman detachment. One must write for the heavens, for they are your sole witness in withering despair.

He wrote a couple of follow ups including an outstanding glimpse into human nature at The Bishop's Dinner. But nothing since that December posting. Who knows, maybe he found paradise and is long gone. I know I would be if I could find a way out. More likely, he got swallowed up by the situation. Difficult to keep one's composure to scribble coherently into a notepad whilst being lead to the hangman's gallows.

What's really defeating, though, is the silence. Yes, you may be like a screaming Jew in 1930's Germany, receiving a knock in the night as the black terror comes to take you and your family away to a raging furnace of nightmare hell on earth. But then like now, no one hears you. Huddled neighbors cower in fear. "Thank God that's not me," they whisper. But it is you...

That look of apprehension never changes
------

Don't ever call Bob the Gambler just "Bob". Otherwise you might forget who he really is. You see, Bob has this amazing ability to draw sympathy and support. I don't even think it's a fully conscious thing. When he's fresh out of money, his pathetic figure has a way of triggering a voice inside of you that says, "I've got to help him or the world is doomed!" I know con men who'd give their eye teeth for that power. But it's not something Bob can will to happen.

Out-of-money Bob is a helpless child just looking to do good in the world. He is selfless to a fault and genuinely concerned with his fellow man. He both feels your pain and defends your dreams. I look at him in those moments and I think: "Damn, I'm an asshole compared to Bob." And although I cannot completely shake that feeling I do realize I am making the mistake of calling him just "Bob".

With-money Bob is a raving lunatic. He's going to hit the big score, dig out the money making scheme to go from rags to riches or find some other way to parlay whatever cash he gets into what is in his mind will be a potential bonanza. Bob the Gambler is the reason why I say never give money directly to a homeless person but rather to a shelter. He only gives a damn about himself when he has a dollar in his hand. I want to hate him, but I can't get regular Bob out of my head.


------

"Oh, that magic feeling...
nowhere to go..."

Good Time Charlie haunts me like few others. He shied away from most folks but that was merely an act of self-preservation what with their literal minds and simple savage nature. His was a delicate spirit easily crushed by the harsh realities of the world. There were moments when I thought I could literally see Charlie fade away by the crushing demands of a mindless society bent on exploitation. He was defenseless and he knew it. I could see no way to protect him.

But wandering the streets with Charlie was a purely magical, mysterious delight. I felt as if the stars were following us, waiting to burst a light of sudden salvation at any moment. Charlie was connected like that, the universe his home. There was an expectation around every corner we'd find a treasure chest or a gathering of elves or some other mythical legend of yore. How old his soul? I remember thinking, "Is this how the Hebrews felt following the pillar of God?"

I never shared those feelings or thoughts with anyone. Even writing this now it seems too outlandish to be true. But it was as real as the sun and the moon. What Good Time Charlie didn't know how to do was manifest his magic, to bring it into this world to receive his just reward. He's gone now. Charlie wasn't above a little larceny and I pray he's alright. Tonight I walked through a barrio we'd laughed our way through once before. This time I felt only cold alienation.


------

To end where I began, I must say I know what it's like to scream and not be heard, to know that nothing you say or show or demonstrate will make any difference. It takes the heart and soul out of you. Whether for a swastika or a dollar, the bottom line is they're coming to take us from our homes. But nature is self-correcting in the end. What else to reap but what we sow? Time will come when it's revealed if we've planted the seeds of life - or the seeds of death.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tinkology Exposed! The Truth Behind The Cult Of Tink!


"For God so loved the earth he gave his only begotten cat. And he said unto Tink, "Go forth and spray. The world is your litter box."

And so Tink came to earth and said, "Behold! [Because he always wanted to say 'Behold!'], peace on earth, goodwill towards man!"

And the world replied: "You bastard!"

That's because the oilTVmobilephoneweaponsmanufacturer corporation that ran the world had just racked up 80 trillion dollars in profits and they didn't do that "with fucking peace on earth and goddam goodwill towards man, by God!"


And thus, the enemies of the cat devised a plan. At first they wanted to kill him - but they were much too evil for that. "No! We can do better than death. We'll make him unemployed - that way he can die every day! We giggle at your false hope!" And verily they giggled.

And then the Dog News station reported cats are evil and want to poop in your backyard (which, of course, is what dogs really do). Also widely reported by Dog News reporters for God was that "God hates cats!" (which, of course, is what dogs do). And finally word was spread that "Tink wants to take over the world and force everyone to eat dog food!" (which, of course, is what dogs really want to do). And thus by reporting on the sins of dog the cat was thusly blamed. Woe unto the liars whose tails are wagging.


But lovers of catnip also appeared, vying for feline mystique. "Tink loves me the best!" "No, Tink loves me the best!" Wars erupted between the Tinkerites to prove who was the most lovable. Naturally, the biggest assholes won causing those many of simple mind to declare: "That Tink must be a bad kitty! Look at all the wars he's caused!" Woe onto those who refuse their mind, for they shall bury their lives in non-scoopable litter.


And yet, among all the Tinkerites, not one would offer him a job. "No one can stand before the oilTVmobilephoneweaponsmanufacturer beast!" This they proclaimed from the tops of hills while wearing "Tink loves you!" T shirts. Verily they stood in damnation, for while Tink loved them, they did not love Tink. "It's a dog-eat-dog world and he's just a cat!" Woe unto fools who serve the dog, for they shall be apportioned for Alpo.


And so the world came to worship the dog and refuse the cat, any caught purring left to die in cold, city streets. Those who followed the way of the dog - thinking themselves winning dogs - shrugged at the dying cats. "Nothing can be done. It's a dog's world and we must follow the way of the dog."

Face of a winner?

But justice like truth is inescapable. For though believing themselves dogs - and executing any poor bastard who disagreed - not one dog on the planet did actually exist. Verily, on the day of reckoning light, each soul was revealed to be feline in nature. Foolish cats of the earth pretending to be dogs used this deception to condone their dog-eat-dog way. But so did they fear their true feline nature they rejected the cat food needed to survive, leaving their bodies as turds in the sand.


Then the hand of God reached down with a scooper of gold, cleansing the earth as required of any litter box. And God was pleased with his cat. "Rejoice, Tink! The day of the cat is here! The world has shed its dog collars forevermore!" And the world did purr.

Popper

-----------

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Short History Of Japan In Pictures

As was her destiny, Japan has reached the heights of technology and innovation. Like England in the West, her land mass is small, her impact monumental.


But the Japanese are not native to Japan, that claim belongs to the Ainu people. The exact origins of the Japanese are not known. Perhaps they arrived on a dragon. Japanese creation myths are deeply rooted in nature.


But for Japan, it all begins and ends with the rice. For centuries rice was her currency, measured in koku, approximately the amount needed to feed one person for a year. As long as she's around, the cult of rice will continue.


Japanese religion has never been dogmatic, instead it takes established philosophies and incorporates her own twist on them. For example, though banned in 1630, most modern day Japanese weddings use Christian rituals even if they are not true believers in the doctrine.

I have always felt that religion in Japan amounted to using rituals as self-expression - and through that self-expression reach the spiritual side of life. Nothing more, nothing less.


Out of the Creation Myth descended Japanese royalty, far removed from peasant life. Though out of touch, the royals and the noble class showed a voracious appetite for culture and knowledge, bringing world class poetry to the fore.

Even in the most brutally barbaric of times, the Emperor's blessing was required for a warlord to have full credibility to rule. It was said, one must approach the emperor with "fear and trembling."


But the peasants didn't see much reason to share their rice with the glorious nobles with their blackened teeth and rarified airs. Some muscle men were then required to shake down the rice farmers for their taxes. Who would serve the emperor? The samurai - which means "to serve".


But the samurai were forward thinkers, not under the spell of a royal mystique needing to rule their lives. Though still fighting in the name of the emperor, they warred among themselves to take all real power, relegating the royal class to a mere cultural icon without any ruling authority.

Like mob families in an all out grab for naked power, samurai clans wrestled for absolute control using any means at their disposal. Poisoning, subterfuge, murdering family members - there were no rules. Just win, baby. But while reaching the mountaintop was attainable, staying there was just about impossible. For centuries, civil war fractured the country as it perpetually teetered between peace and all out warfare.


The warring periods were often very hard on the villagers and farmers caught in between power mad clan lords. Villages were burned to the ground and villagers' lives were not considered of any import. The feuding clans were as bulls in a China shop - only the China broken in this case were human lives.

Heartbreakingly detailed by the classic film "Ugetsu"

Finally, in the 1500s Japan utterly dissolved into complete chaos with no single ruler in charge. Imagine the United States with each state governor vying to become supreme overlord. This was the wild west period of Japan as warlords used all their wiles to ruthlessly achieve their single-minded ambition for ultimate power.

But out of the dust blew the winds of unification as three men of destiny brought Japan under a single government at last. She rose from the pettiness of a fractured state to an empire dreaming of conquering China. At this point she could have shaped herself as her imagination dared to dream. (James Clavell's "Shogun" is set at the end of this era)


Sadly, she decided to close both her mind and her borders. Though providing stability, the Shogunate became corrupt, gobbling up clan lands and power on the flimsiest of pretexts. Justice suffocated in the name of law and order, Japan's soul rotting at the core, the ruling class of the samurai little more than a gang of thugs. Any who stood against them were cut down without mercy or thought.


Wheeled travel was forbidden and other onerous restrictions were applied to suppress even the possibility for rebellion. The rest of the world forged ahead as Japan fell behind. It wasn't until 1853 when America finally forced her to open her borders once again, the Americans demonstrating their strength through their vastly superior firepower. The Japanese were helpless and humiliated.


Because of this the samurai were overthrown and supreme power given back to the emperor. (During this period Cruise's film "The Last Samurai" was set). Japan became Westernized in her thought, learning of corporations and adopting our dress. Many modern Japanese companies originated as traditional merchant families who formalized themselves into what are now some of the most powerful business entities on the planet.


She industrialized with a vengeance. By the turn of the 20th century Japan had armed herself with a modern navy and adapted to the rules of commerce and trade. But her long held lust for conquest had never subsided and with these new tools at her disposal her eyes once again looked outward. The voices of sanity were drowned by the beat of military drums - a decision to forever alter her course.


The decade after the end of World War II was brutal, a scramble to rebuild and survive, slowly regaining her resources and footing. At first her industrial output was considered a joke, "Made in Japan" meaning cheap and plasticky. But the flower was not through blooming as Japan became the second largest economic power in the world.

Just as Oda Nobunaga used the power of his mind in the 1500s to lead in the unification of Japan did the country as a whole use the power of its mind to lead the way to becoming an economic superpower.


Japanese culture has been described as "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", a study conducted in 1946. Japan treasures equally the blossom and the blade. The study concluded the Japanese people were "both aggressive and unaggressive, both militaristic and aesthetic, both insolent and polite, rigid and adaptable, submissive and resentful of being pushed around, loyal and treacherous, brave and timid, conservative and hospitable to new ways."

Even to this day she struggles with this karma, learning to lay down the ways of the sword. But we are all learning to surrender to love. Except when the day of everlasting peace comes, only Japan will still have "the land of the gods":










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