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The underclass wants to become the overman! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Wed, Dec. 9th, 2009 04:50 am
The underclass wants to become the overman!

100CommentReply

imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 8th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)

Some interesting points popped up here while I was sleeping. I'm going to answer what seem to be the basic ones. First, ask a Japanese. That's absolutely what I recommend too, and in that spirit I'm going to tell you in detail what the Malaysian-Japanese I spoke to on Monday night told me.

First, the Japanese mother in the family told me about how she was in labour (giving birth to her new baby, who has a Malaysian father) for 36 hours, and that her entire extended family was in the delivery room with her stuffing golf balls into her anus to stop what she called "a tsunami" from emerging there. In retrospect she thinks this is what prolonged the birth so long, and was a mistake. (By contrast, Kahimi's baby, scheduled to have a super-natural-organic water birth with aromatherapy for palliatives, was in the end delivered by caesarian section because the doctors thought the pain and difficulty would be too much, and because the baby was too large. These two birth styles -- no extended family or golf balls for Kahimi! -- reflect a class difference.)

Then the Malaysian immigrant cook spoke to me. I asked him how well he was accepted in Japan, and he said fine, but noted that the Japanese are very strict at work and very lax at play. That division is very different from Malaysia, where people play and work, I guess, in somewhat the same spirit. He said that he really appreciates the Japanese sense of harmony and politeness, because in Malaysia people spend half the time arguing pointlessly with each other, and get nothing done.

Then I spoke to his 17 year-old daughter (by his first marriage to a Malaysian) and just asked her if she liked Japan, and if she wanted to live in Malaysia again at some point in the future. She's been in Japan just three months, but wants to stay here all her life. She loves it.

hyperuberextremeconsumerism

The danger we face in abstracting terms like "ability" and "creativity" is extracting them from all contexts in which they apply. I'm not at all sure I have any problem whatsoever with consumerism per se. Bring it on -- it is, after all, simply the commercial expression of making things, of ability, of production. There are no workers without products, and no products without workers. What I have problems with are extreme inequality of access to consumer items, irresponsibility when it comes to environmental issues, and consumerism that sacrifices other values to pointless consumption. That's why I've paid particular attention to the Slow Life movement in Japan. I'm convinced that the thing-after-consumerism will emerge from the societies which are most frenetically engaged in it. I think Japan is poised (particularly in terms of a growing interest in sibling differentiation from China) to pioneer post-consumerist values, and that's one of the main themes in the Aftergold exhibition I'm here to put together (or "feather my costume with", as the cynical Anon-Johns prefer).


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 9th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
wtf

"What I have problems with are extreme inequality of access to consumer items, irresponsibility when it comes to environmental issues, and consumerism that sacrifices other values to pointless consumption."

good god; this is unbelievable. sounds exactly like the neo-liberal pabulum zizek is always raving against...

not to mention the original post was talking about excessive consumerism in particular. which is the vibe you certainly get in japan...and america too...and hong kong. there's absolutely no denying this...


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Dec. 9th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

Is Japan's consumerism really any big surprise? It is, after all, the second largest economy in the world.

What's worth mentioning is that, while Japan and America are on the same wavelength consumerism-wise, there is far greater access to consumer goods in Japan than in America. in other words, Japan is far more equal in terms of wealth distribution.

Now, one might argue that it doesn't much matter if more people have access to a bunch of useless shit they don't need, but certainly such a society is better off than one in which a disproportionate number are too poor to even really participate in the economy. You know, since money isn't just for buying McMansions and Ferraris, but also for buying things you need like food, paying rent, etc, etc, etc.

Not all mass consumerism is created equal, which is why you can't just paint with a broad brush and say, well Japan is consumerist and America is consumerist, so therefore they're both equally shit.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 9th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

yes, good point. what's so great about a majority of a populace being able to buy tons of shit they don't need...

and no, not both equally shit...both materialistic/overly-consumeristic societies. why is this such a fucking unbelievable fact???


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Dec. 10th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

Yes, both consumerist/materialistic, but with a major difference, which is that access to wealth is far more equal in Japan than in the U.S. Again, this may not mean a whole lot if we reduce consumerism to bitching about people buying McMansions, or whatever the Japanese equivalent would be. But then again, the vast majority of consumerism has nothing to do with that. The problem isn't with pointing out criticisms about Japan. It's with pretending that there's an equivalence where there really is none at all.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 10th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

the fact that japan has a more equal distribution of wealth, is hardly an argument against it's hyper-consumerist mindset; in fact, the fact adds to the fact that EVEN MORE people are able to get in on the bullshit game...


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 10th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

indeed, the original point wasn't about distribution of wealth, but about how first world places are shameless about their mindless consumerism and are reaping havoc on the world's resources as a result. the fact that this activity is distributed more "fairly" in japan is HARDLY something to tout. "Japan's culture is noticeably materialistic." "Yes, but the mindless materialism is engaged in rather equitably!!!" LOL


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Dec. 10th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

Did you even read that last bit? You don't only buy unnecessary shit with money. I hate this Puritanical attitude some people have where they'd rather see people go poor than be able to sustain themselves, simply because there's the risk that they'd be subject to the eternal damnation of aspirational consumerism.

And also, the more equally distributed the wealth, the less a culture begins to reflect being designed only for the wealthy to play in. Fewer Ferraris and McMansions, more sensible family cars and middle class housing. Equal distribution of wealth actually helps to curb the most rabid, detestable aspects of consumerism, even as consumerism marches on. And let's all admit, it will march on, whether the majority of people can afford to "play the game" or not. Using anti-consumerist attitudes in order to justify poverty--which almost never has to do with an explicit choice to be anti-consumerist--is despicable.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

dude, the point of these over-consuming first world places is precisely that they're buying SHIT THEY DON'T NEED. we're not talking about rent and food, and subsistence for fuck's sake. we're talking about CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION. wastefulness, over-consumption, hypermaterialism, importing millions of tons of overseas resources to satisfy their disposable lifestyles. this kind of shit.

and as for the distributed wealth of japan, it's hardly lead to "sensible" tastes. unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the japanese are WORLD FAMOUS for their "tastes" for super-high-end products. it's almost cliche at this point. good god.

WTF? nobody's talking about poverty!


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

If wealth is more evenly distributed, more people will have access to middle class luxuries, but fewer will have enough money to engage in the stuff that exemplifies overboard materialism (i.e. having entire fleets of luxury cars, yachts, multiple mansions and/or luxury apartments around the world, etc).

What you (or other anons, I'm not sure) seem to be saying is that there is absolutely no distinction between a country with materialism problems that has less economic equality and a country with materialism problems that has more economic equality. Obviously, there is a clear distinction here, though. Just one which you, for whatever reason, deem unimportant.

The entire point of this argument is that you think America/Japan are sinning in the same way, and others of us think it's wrongheaded to simplify things like that.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

no one said overly materialistic "in the same way." but they they both are indeed indicative of wasteful societies with a ravenous appetite for capitalist consumption.

that they have different degrees of wealth distribution is noted and not germane to the above (and original) point.

and, in fact, as has also been noted, that the japanese have a more equitable economic society has not tempered their tastes for conspicuous, over-priced "brands" from around the world. not to mention their (and america's) relentless demand for finite natural resources.

lastly, have you even been to japan??? modest tastes are scarce ; it's the BLING capital of the earth!


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Fri, Dec. 11th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

But the point is germane, because there's a supposed equivalence being drawn between America and Japan regarding consumerism, when the overarching economic conditions of the two countries are vastly different. To say that the overarching economic conditions are not germane is to say that economic conditions have absolutely nothing to do with consumerism. Which would be a doltish statement, to say the least.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

but they're BOTH resource-wasteful, hypermaterialist cultures; one where the majority of people can afford to be and one where fewer and fewer people can afford to be.

the fact that japan's wealth is distributed more equitably and they STILL behave in this way makes it even WORSE.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Sat, Dec. 12th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
Re: wtf

Well, not only are the economic conditions of these two countries pretty radically different, but I'm not convinced that Japan is anywhere near as resource-wasteful as the United States. So that's another area where we can't draw a simple equivalence.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Dec. 14th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: wtf

"Is Japan's consumerism really any big surprise? It is, after all, the second largest economy in the world."

I dont think the original poster meant it's surprising, only that it's lamentable and that both Jp and the US could do much much more in terms of conservation and being less of a burden on the world's resources.


ReplyThread Parent