Friday, April 3, 2009

Layer 142 Cherry Blossoms, The Iron & Steel Coast, the Concrete Coast, the G20 and the Soul of a Nation.

Oxzen - The Movie. The Video Diaries. The Cherry Blossom Journal.

Monday 30th March and Tuesday March 31st., etc.

This is the soundtrack for Act One. The commentary. Cue speech track, immediately after music track fades to low volume, having faded in and up initially while the point of view of the camera was still a mile up in the sky.

And . . . Action!

“I’m back in time-warp and jet-lag territory - mentally, physically and spiritually.

On Tuesday I awoke at 3.30am local time, feeling part-refreshed and semi-human again, after a blissful 3 hours sleep in a proper bed, in a proper flat. This is consciousness turned upside down; consciousness bent and reconfigured, fast-forwarded and truncated through the planet’s darkness zone, having reduced the zone’s dark duration by several hours of jet-streamed travel.

With darkness still outside the curtains and blinds, I set about settling into this most excellent apartment, allocated to me by the owner of the property, the university. The only thing it lacks is a really decent bed and a decent duvet. I unpack.

I ask myself, when was the last time I slept under blankets? No doubt the first of many odd experiences I’ll have this cherry-blossom season.

I reviewed the video I shot yesterday from the window seats in the aeroplane and in the airport coach, and I like it. I think Ike’s going to be pleased with it when we get down to reviewing and editing. He’d mentioned specifically he wanted footage of the plane landing in Japan, when he handed over the camcorder. Well he’s certainly getting plenty of it.

I felt even better when I discovered a Jean-Michel Jarre CD on the Zen music player, one from Brother B’s collection that I’ve never got round to listening to, and one that’s going to make an excellent soundtrack for the edited film. I’ll post the name of it in due course.

I need to get serious now with Yoko and Kayo about making a film about them, as well as a film about the broader picture of Japan in the cherry blossom time.”



The name I propose to give to this part of central Honshu, one that no doubt others have already given it, doesn’t exactly sound wealthy or exclusive like the Ivory Coast or the Gold Coast, let alone evocative of warmth and beauty like the Costa Tropicale, or the Costa del Sol.

But Iron and Steel is the reality of the part of the coastal strip of modern Honshu that lies between Kansai airport and Osaka City, which constitutes Japan’s second metropolis, second only to imperial Tokyo/Yokahama - Honshu’s mega-metropolis that sprawls in full view of Mount Fuji . . . the mighty Fuji-san, which looks down on it, and gazes upon it Zen-like - inscrutably and without comment.

No comment necessary. This is the final outcome of Big Business and Big Finance, the final tangible and physical outcome, that is, because banks and hedge funds and tax havens don’t really need a physical existence. They are as much virtual as they are real nowadays, and they reside mainly in the circuits of computers - zillions of dollars, euros and yen no longer need to physically exist or to physically change hands.

This coastline is an unbroken stretch of heavy metal and heavy industry for mile after mile - factories, refineries, warehouses, docks, ships, cranes and chimneys. It’s the mighty workshop of the nation, and these days, along with similar and even grimmer and dirtier places in China, it’s also the workshop of the planet.

This is the birthplace of modern digital industry, and it’s to the planet’s 20th Century what the coalfields and steel mills of Britain were to the 18th and 19th Centuries. In its turn the 20th Century provided the seed corn money for, and gave birth to, the fledgling organisation, or conspiracy, that became the busted casino of the 21st Century. The G20. The capitalist club. The conspiracy against human kind.

Here in Honshu, where the iron and the steel and the industry peters out, and the urban sprawl takes over, then you can also call it the Concrete Coast, which, let’s face it, is little, if any, improvement on Iron and Steel, depending on your taste and point of view.

Gliding past it and through it in the near-silence of the airport-to-city coach, the ‘Limousine’ - on the way to Nishinomiya, the view through the front and side windows looked incredible against a backdrop of a sky changing from blue to orange and purple in the dying embers of a late evening of a sunny and warm day in the cherry blossom season of these powerful and strangely spiritual islands, these birthplaces of Zen.

Electric lights gradually and imperceptibly came on everywhere to give added interest - studding the stark steel shapes of this technological and industrial hell-hole with pinpoints and glares of bright light. Steam and smoke completed a picture of what is by any standards an overkill of industrial crassness.

You have no real sense of all this industrial sprawl from a vantage point in an aircraft descending in the light of a red setting sun towards the Land of the Rising Sun, down through blueness towards Japan’s second international airport, Kansai, laid out on its own artificial island in a deep blue sea, created by intrepid engineers, architects, and an army of construction workers, in the beautiful and so-called Inland Sea.

As it happens the airport terminal’s architects were British, but they’re not really nation-specific people any more . . . . any more than money and glitz and technology and heavy metals are nation-specific any more . . .

It’s time for some more of Jarre’s glorious techno-reggae . . .


I’m desperate for some news of the G20 - this week’s meeting of the leaders of, quote, “The Group of the world’s most powerful industrial nations”. It used to be the G7 or G8. Changing times. Along came Russia, and then China . . .

Ah, yes, indeed . . . . China. The crouching tiger. The hidden dragon. The incubator and mother of Buddhism, whose father was India, which begat Zen in Japan, etc.

So who else is in this exclusive, though somewhat enlarged, club? (Insert here. DIY. By the end of this week we should all have the names of all 20 of this Rich List on the tips of our tongues.)

Why care so much about these bastards? On one level, we shouldn’t. At the personal level, they ARE an irrelevance. Life’s too short, and we have much more important, much more fundamental things to do with out time.

We have our individual well-being and enlightenment to take care of. We have the needs of our families and our friends to take care of. And so little time every day. So little time. With each new time-saving electronic device, each new time-compressing technological miracle, we have less time. We’re time-poor, we all say. It’s ALL about time . . .

And it’s about time . . . for a change.

Today’s the day for people to get together and not so much “protest” . . . as “demonstrate” what we feel, and to say what we want from our governments, and the “G20”. And if you don’t yet know what you want, then PLEASE find out! If WE don’t know what it is we want to change then how the hell can we let our governments know? The past 30 years should have taught is that we can’t rely on our governments to do the right thing.

I say “today” is the day because I’ve just remembered to go into “Control Panel” and change my computer’s time to “Osaka and Tokyo” time, which means that for me it’s suddenly Wednesday April 1st! April Fools. The day of demonstrations.

That’s how controlled we are by computers and abstract ideas. Back ‘home’ it’s still Tuesday 31st March, but where I sit it’s 2.30am on the morning of Wednesday April 1st. Mad. So little time. So much to think about. Time to think about time, and time to act.

It’s 2.30 in the morning and I’m drinking red wine, brought to Japan by unknown persons, all the way from the Herault. I’m drinking wine because I need some more sleep so that I can function when Kayo comes to collect me at 8.30, to take me to the university and to her seminar on the history of education.

The wine’s not bad, and the music’s good. Set to random play, it’s the unsurpassable blues of JJ Cale, and his self-written “The Sensitive Kind”.


As I was saying - why care so much about these bastards?

Because that’s part of our Social Intelligence. Because as a species, at best, we’re the sensitive kind.

Because Zen recognises that there’s no such thing as purely individual well-being, and the more connected we become as a planet and as a species, the more we need a highly-developed and evolved Social Intelligence. We need to become empathetic. We need to know that we are our brother’s keeper. And our sister’s. And everybody’s brother and sister. Everybody’s wellbeing and happiness depends on everybody else’s.

Which is a philosophy that stands in some contrast to the bankers’ ethos of individual enrichment and gated ‘communities’ - i.e. fragmentation, and envy, and conflict, and dog eat dog mentality. Which is not what I call enlightenment.

Enlightenment? Don’t know what it is!

It keeps changing. Rearranging. (Thank you Van)

But we know it’s not THAT!

This is not a hippie or even ex-hippie point of view. This is not even a utilitarian point of view. Nor a Utopian point of view. It’s an enlightened point of view.

Maybe if a few of the bankers were now made to seriously suffer - thrown into prison for their greed and their crimes against humanity, for example, MAYBE they might start to consider such things as brotherhood, social intelligence and spiritual intelligence. DUH! they might say to themselves.

So were they criminals, or sociopaths, or both? Did they know what they were doing - i.e. fucking up the planet - but went ahead and did it anyway? Psychopaths - indifferent to the suffering of others. Responsible, indeed, for the suffering of others. Those whom they’d call the sub-primes. The plebs. The masses. The morons. Deserving of ripping-off and exploitation. Within the rules of the game, of course. The rules of the casino.

Rules that were a little lax, maybe, but still - those bankers weren’t responsible for the rules, the poor loves. They just played by the completely inadequate rules, and worked damned hard to make sure they weren’t altered in ways they didn’t like. In my book that makes them culpable. To not speak out about the uselessness of the rules as inhibitors of exploitation made them culpable, to my way of thinking.

And all the while they were making damn sure they stuffed their ill-gotten gains into offshore accounts in tax havens before the music finally stopped, and everything went shit-shaped. Of course they did. Of course they were culpable.

Clever people, in their own nasty, disgusting, stupid way.

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