RANGER AGAINST WAR: Confabulatory Amnesia in America <

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Confabulatory Amnesia in America


In particular, it should be possible
to have a highly meaningful life
that is not necessarily a happy one
(e.g., as religious missionary,
political activist, or terrorist.) 
--Some Key Differences Between
a Happy Life and a Meaingful Life,
Roy F. Baumeister, et, al.  

 The less justified a man is in claiming excellence
for his own self,
the more ready is he to claim excellence
for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause  
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer 

A land which … had given itself up to dreaming,
to fabulating, to tale-telling
--Lawrence Durrell 
____________________

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf

Review: Morris Berman’s New Book on Japan, “Neurotic Beauty”

June 13, 2015 // 2 Comments
neurotic beauty

Neurotic Beauty: An Outsider Looks At Japan is a fine addition to a long list of books that attempt to explain Japan, what one observer has called the “most foreign of foreign countries.” Berman succeeds in his explanation mostly by avoiding the polarized industry of such explainers. To put Neurotic Beauty in context, let me explain.


The Explainer Industry
Almost all books “about Japan” (I’m leaving out the 600 page volumes on the geisha or the photo essays on whatever new trend is coming out of Harajuku) fall into one of two categories.
The predominant narrative declares Japan a near-perfect place, an epicenter of pure Zen that has whatever the author thinks his home country lacks. The minority opinion is that Japan has come over the hill and because of its poor treatment of women workers, warlike past or economic hollowness or whatever, is doomed to be a footnote when the history of modern civilization is written. Perhaps some sort of Switzerland with much better food.
Berman asks: Why can’t both be true? Why can’t Japan be a place with a once beautiful, encompassing culture of craftsmanship, that lost its way in the modern world and, if it can find again what it really is about at its core, become the first post-capitalist country?


A Cultural History of Japan, with an Angle
The book’s argument begins with a look at what Berman sees as Japan’s cultural soul, craftsmanship. He details the relationship early potters, sword makers and others had with their work, a desire to do more than simply make something — a desire to create themselves as human beings through a quest for perfection in their work.
Inklings of this tradition still exist in modern Japan, as anyone who has seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi can attest to. The sushi master requires his apprentices to practice for years before they can prepare food for customers, and the very few who stay on through the process get great joy from the process, more so than the results.


Japan Went Insane
As the Tokugawa (for simplicity’s sake, the samurai) era was coming to a close, Japan went insane, and abandoned all that, according to Berman. Fearful of being turned into a colony of the west, as was happening in China, the Japanese embarked on the Meiji Restoration. Science and engineering became the sole point of education, aimed in large part at building up a powerful military. Those forces, in imitation of the colonial west, would be turned on Japan’s Asian neighbors. Japan made itself almost literally overnight into as rapacious an imperialist nation as it possibly could.
And at that point, Berman draws a straight line through Nanjing, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading right to the surrender that ended WWII. But instead of finding its way back to something of itself, Japan simply dropped capitalism in its imperial guise and picked it up in its hyper-consumerism guise. The so-called economic miracle of the 1960’s put appliances into homes and money into the hands of a booming middle class, but did nothing to fill the soul. The lost decades, and the current spiritual malaise in Japan as exemplified by the hikikomori and otaku cultures, were as inevitable as the spring rains which tear the cherry blossoms from the trees.


A Post-Capitalist Society
If you are at this point seeing some parallels to modern America, that is clearly intentional on Berman’s part (one of his earlier works is titled Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire). Japan has been trying to “fill the hole” in its spiritual center for nearly a thousand years, first with Chinese learning (including Chinese Buddhism), then with a martial culture, then with imperialism, and, most lately, with consumerism. None stick; they are all too unfulfilling and incomplete.
The key difference between Japan and the U.S., however, is that because it has a legitimate soul to potentially return to (from the day the first Native American was murdered, America has been all about appetite), Japan holds on to a chance that it may become the first post-capitalist society, one where living becomes more important than owning. This is a theme which will be not unfamiliar to readers of Berman’s last book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times. In Japan, there is something to fall back on.
It is a tall order, and Berman remains unsure what path Japan will take. Should it make the correct choice, however, the trope “only in Japan” could come to represent something more than Hello Kitty junk, bullet trains and cosplay.
Agree or disagree, Neurotic Beauty is a compelling, scholarly, narrative well-worth the time of readers seeking a better understanding of Japan.

I make no secret of my respect for Morris Berman’s body of work; read more here.
- See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/#sthash.Se3YOzNe.dpuf
_______________________

Further thoughts on the government's mythologizing of the Osama bin Laden raid.

It has been Ranger's consistent position that the age of terror was a sham which served no useful purpose to the citizens of the United States. The profiteers of the fabulation are many, however -- everyone from the contractors feeding off the military feeding off the government, to Hollywood.  A somewhat moribund film industry has found a new way with the pyrotechnics of the much-too-many films exploiting the easy meme of all against Terrorists.

Media has taken the Western out of the mothballs, and Destry Rides Again. The template is an easy one, and computers create vivid canvasses across which our eyes move and our brains are re-wired.

RangerAgainstWar has analyzed many of the Medal of Honor actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded that, while based upon actual battles, the facts have been massaged, misrepresented and sometimes created and/or omitted as serves the meta-story (= This is a great battle against misshapen, craven malcontents, and the U.S. is there to save them -- an undefined quantity -- and us.)

However, since the Dakota Myers MOH it was clear the USMC and Navy were willing to stretch the truth. The same is true with Lieutenant Murphy's MOH, sanctified by Marcus Luttrell's hagiographic and ass-covering tale, The Lone Survivor. May as well kill two birds with one stone.

Ditto the book and subsequent movie, "American Sniper", based upon the life of the truest, bluest fightinist man since John Wayne. If you can get the people stomping mad and teary at once over one of the best if not brightest of theirs, you have won them. There are no more questions. Dismissed. Go to Chilis and watch a game (any will do) on t.v. and feel good (if not great) about being American.

Ranger's questioning is called unpatriotic blasphemy by some. But questioning the stories upon which a grave and lengthy military operation is based is the highest expression of freedom and love of country, and kicking ass in foreign lands is not the only way to be a hero.

So what does a people do when they learn the coveted truth upon which their democracy is based has been conflated with a fiction? When, contrary to the story of the brave troop of national leaders who sat riveted, watching the live feed of the OBL operation, they were in fact they were just watching another home invasion murder, as tawdry and meaningless as as a cop shooting down a man in Ferguson, Mo.?

The Middle East continues to flounder after untold loss of life and money. The (hoped for) redemptive OBL action was in fact a simple assassination, costly, but of no worth to anyone. Now we know the fix was in and it was scripted, a wrap before the helicopter lowered the troops into OBL's courtyard.

The is No Easy Day to be an American.

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