Lately, I can’t help noticing that the walls of the city are being plastered with political posters by The Happiness Realization Party (幸福実現党 or HRPs as I like to call them). Here’s a picture I took today of HRPs posters heavily outnumbering the poor chap on the Komeito Party poster. You can practically see the happiness slipping through his fingers.
There were actually even more HRPs posters on the next wall but I couldn’t fit them in the shot. I’ve been wondering about these people for a while now as they parade up and down in their vans, waving their white gloved hands and promising us all HAPPINESS… They seemed suspiciously cultish. Could it be that they have combined the creeping hypocrisy of organized religion with the snide corruption of politics to create a new breed of überwankers?
So I did a bit of a search on the interwebs and it turns out that yes they are the new political wing of Japanese religious sect “Happy Science” (幸福の科学). I’ve come across these people before. Once upon a time in Fukushima, a co-worker, who seemed like a nice enough sort, handed me one of their books with the words “This might interest you. It’s Buddhism.”
“Oh, thank you, ” says I innocently, “I’m interested in Buddhism.”
Well, it’s not Buddhism. Not even remotely. More like very badly written science fiction. I think I managed to get through about a chapter of “The Laws of The Sun” before I just couldn’t take it anymore and threw it away (and I like Science Fiction). I don’t remember too much to be honest, just something about Venusians and Atlantis and how their leader Ryuho Okawa is the reincarnation of the Buddha. Judging by his writing style it’s more likely he’s the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. There are plenty of other wacky beliefs though. Just look them up on wikipedia. Anyway, I was a bit taken aback that my co-worker, this seemingly rational, kind, caring lady (she worked with handicapped kids) believed all this nonsense. But then people who set themselves up as prophets do seem to have this power to feed off and thrive on people’s insecurities. Bit sad really when you think of each individual victim, but scary when you think of vast numbers of people supporting this sect and the kind of power this gives their leaders. It seems that Mr. O. studied International Finance in New York before realising his higher calling: you can make heaps more money inventing your own religion. And he has. And he has a lot of power and influence as a result.
And now he’s got his spooky looking wife (that’s her on the posters) leading a political party and clearly has funding for a massive propaganda advertising campaign. So what are their policies? Basically, we are all doomed and North Korea is going to bomb the crap out of us unless Japan drops “the pacifist Article 9 of [Japan's] constitution and prepare to defend itself against North Korea and China“. It’s worth remembering that the leader of HRPs is married to a prophet so she knows what she is talking about. Current Buddhist teaching it seems, is “flawed”. In an interview last year, the Stepford wife explained:
“If you take the ‘thou shalt not kill’ precept too far, you cannot protect your country. Historical fact shows that weakness in Buddhism,” Kyoko said. “That’s why we wanted to develop Buddhist teaching.”LINK
How do you plough through a door? Please God – NO!!!
Meanwhile, here in Japan, we celebrated Taisho’s birthday at Joao last Saturday and followed the party by going to Alphabet Ave. and drinking till dawn. Here’s a picture of my gang all lined up at the bar:
Aren’t they lovely?
This is what happens to them if I play with them at Photfunia:
Last night I went to Woodnote which is a fine little 25 year old cafe in the Kitaoji area where you can hear Irish music and drink organic coffee and eat cinnamon toast. And you can see pictures of that here: LINK
And tomorrow I’m meeting up with Kageyama-san for the first time since Small Town Talk closed down in February and I’m really looking forward to it!
At the clinic this morning, one of the English conversation group’s was what chinese character would you choose to sum up this year? I chose the kanji for hope: 望. Barack Obama winning the American Presidency this week has given me hope. It’s the first really good news I can remember hearing for the last eight years. I was so happy I couldn’t even bring myself to blog about it for the last couple of days. The world just seems like such a better place knowing that the moronic Bush years are on their way out and somebody with intelligence and eloquence is on his way in.
Not that I am under any illusions that Obama will be anywhere near as progressive as I would wish him to be. But he is certainly a step in the right direction. And maybe if everyone who voted for change keeps pressuring for change, then we can keep on stepping that way. Writer Charlie Stross has a list up on his blog of the kind of changes he would like to see: LINK
And here’s a list of Obama’s actual campaign promises:
* Reduce the US’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol
* Withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country
* Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe
* Close the Guantanamo Bay detention center
* Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculoses and Malaria
* Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions
* De-politicize military intelligence to avoid ever repeating the kind of manipulation that led the US into Iraq
* Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur
* Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labor and environmental protections
* Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015 LINK to barackobama.com (via avaaz.org)
Now they don’t look too bad now, do they? Hopefully, if, during the remainder of his term, Bush can restrain himself from destroying the world entire in one last cataclysmic burst of incompetence, we can then see just how Obama keeps his promises. And here’s a couple of outstanding headlines from The Onion to help keep us from entering into a new era of smug self-satisfaction:
Recently organisations I basically agree with have annoyed me by muddying their messages with bad propaganda. Yesterday, for example Greenpeace sent out a mail that read:
The world could eliminate fossil fuel use by 2090 — That’s what Reuters and NewScientist wrote today about our new Energy [R]evolution plan. We can beat climate change. And with aggressive investment in renewable power generation and energy efficiency, we can create a 360 billion dollars-a-year industry…. Please watch this historic video.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? So I watched the video and basically it was a pretty seamless mash-up of John F. Kennedy and (presumably) an actor’s voice giving a speech on Greenpeace’s projected Energy Revolution. I hate that kind of thing. It’s just poor taste to put your own words into a dead man’s mouth. It’s disrespectful and it does the message a disservice. Of late Greenpeace propaganda has been irritating at best but this is a new low in uncool. I’m not even going to link to it.
Then today (!) Avaaz sent out a mail today that read:
Right now, desperate conservatives are employing the dirtiest of tactics in the US election — distributing millions of videos, online ads and fliers deceptively linking Obama with terrorism, deliberately inciting hatred against Muslims and foreigners, and creating a sense of global fear and suspicion amongst Americans voters. We won’t remain silent in the face of these negative and misleading global messages. That’s why Avaaz members from across the world have made a positive advertisement calling for change, which we aim to have viewed by millions of Americans before they go to the polls in just one week.
And I thought, “I could go for that!” If you look at what Sarah Palin has been saying in recent weeks, it’s definitely dangerous stuff. But they were being a little disingenuous. I watched the avaaz vid and it was a pro-Obama propaganda ad pure and simple – nothing to do with appealing for an end to incitement. Not only that but it seemed to be claiming that America was the darling of the world, a country that never put a foot wrong before the dark days of Bush: “I can remember when America was headed in the right direction…”, says an American, and then other people from all over the world chime in with praise for the Golden Age of the America they remember they used to love so much: “you stood against tyrants and inspired us to dream…” blah blah blah. Well, I’m sorry I don’t remember it that way. That aint cool propaganda. You can watch it up here if you want, but I’m not posting it here.
This next link though is very cool propaganda indeed. I’d post it on the page but the player just won’t work. Click on either link and find some very cool and funky propaganda remixed by Tano Sokolow:
When Allen Toussaint wrote Yes We Can for Lee Dorsey in 1970, both men obviously knew what was to come in 2008, and felt the need to pave the way for young Barack Obama….Yes We Can! mp3 LINK
Watching the markets freefall, we know this crisis will utterly change our daily lives — we’re not just spectators any more, and we’re seeing something new –- people and governments directly intervening in the chaos that until now was controlled by reckless and greedy financiers.
Today and all weekend, extraordinary choices will be made by the world’s most powerful finance ministers, meeting to decide our response to the financial crisis. Together, we must make sure that governments don’t just use our money to bail out the banks, but claim a share of public ownership in these institutions for our future, and oversight powers to fundamentally fix the wider system.
We’ll deliver our call for a global buy-in package in 36 hours to G7 finance ministers and again to a bigger Global Crisis Summit planned for November — please sign the petition at the link below, and forward this email to everyone you know. The decisions made this week will shape our lives for years to come:
Three weeks ago our petition to regulate global finance was waved by Denmark’s former prime minister as the European Parliament voted. Two weeks ago our US members bombarded Congress with phone calls for a buy-in not a bailout — investing in the banks so they stop choking off capital, while giving the public a share for their money and the power to fix the system — and yesterday, as Britain launched a bold buy-in of its own, word is the United States might finally change course.
Only concerted action by the global community can build a better system, and we can’t leave it to the financiers — so today, we’re launching an emergency campaign calling on leaders for a global public rescue to save all our economies. This is what’s needed — a ‘buy-in’ to financial institutions not a reckless ‘bailout’, massive public investment stimulus to stave off global depression, temporary guarantee of loans/deposits, and strict new regulations to fix this broken system once and for all. It’s a sensible and public-spirited package supported by progressives and expert economists alike — add your name here:
Leading economists now agree that citizens and our governments are the only force powerful enough to solve this crisis — only the public can mobilise the investment and oversight needed to fix the financiers’ failings, get the economy moving and revive things on a sounder basis. The Great Depression of the 1930s teaches us that we cannot address this crisis with each acting alone — only by acting together can countries head off disaster.
How we respond to this crisis will shape our lives for years to come. We’re still a long way from tackling the fundamental problems of the global economy, but the tide is moving in our direction. So let’s take control of our future in the interests of people not financiers, and raise a worldwide voice across borders for a global public rescue. 3.4 million of us in every nation of the world will get this email — that’s a start. Click below to sign, forward this email to all your friends and family, and let’s raise a voice our leaders can’t ignore:
The problem with blogging is that unless you are an anonymous blogger and the peeps that read you are total strangers, there is no way you can write about the really juicy stuff that happens to you day by day because if you did you’d land yourself in a whole heap of shit with a whole lot of people. If I were to tell you about the really nice chap I met today IN ANY DETAIL AT ALL (as to why I met him for instance and what we talked about) I would be getting it in the neck from several quarters. Again, if I were to tell you anything about the two hour phone conversation I had this evening in distressingly difficult Japanese, I would get it in the neck from a whole set of different directions. Neither am I at liberty to tell you that much about the really fun stuff either – there’d be hell to pay. I guess what I’m saying is it’s difficult to COMPLAIN and WHINGE when I want to, or indeed to BRAG and GLOAT on other occasions and get away with it. So instead I talk about the news. Or rather I link to other people talking about the news far more proficiently than I ever could.
But believe me behind the scenes in mikeylambeland – total madness.
Anyway, until I have grown and nurtured a nice, safe life (with nothing but mutual respect and understanding on all sides) that I can actually talk about publicly, here is Charlie Stross’s take on the current financial crisis and the Bush administration’s ridiculous answer to it. Of everything I’ve read he puts it most succinctly: SHIBBOLETHS
And here is yet another clip from the Daily Show, showing in awesome clarity the Bush administration’s use of fear as a tool to manipulate the masses.
In an attempt to actually make some money from my unhealthy blogging obsesson, I’ve been tweaking this blog (and Deep Kyoto also) a lot recently; adding an extra column and a lot of amazon stuff, mp3 players etc… Let me know if it get’s annoying. Up on Deep Kyoto tonight there is a fresh post on cafe and cake shop Sugary. And on Japanese Reboot there are some foxy phrases here, here and also here.
Japan Focus has posted a nice piece of non-fiction manga (in English!) by Mizuki Shigeru the creator of the famous youkai series “GeGeGe no Kitarou“. Entitled War and Japan it starts off explaining how it was for Japanese people in general during the war and then tells of Shigeru’s own experiences serving overseas (he lost an arm and many many friends). I read it yesterday and found it very interesting indeed. There’s quite a long introduction to it by Matthew Penney, but you can skip that and just scroll down to the cartoon if you want to. Shigeru tells his own story better than anyone else can. LINK
This news today in the Independent and the commentary on Worldchanging that we are all effectively doomed, (I mean even more certainly doomed than we already thought we were) was quite depressing.
Finally, I found this video of bad-ass Taro Aso on boingboing this morning and it made me laugh despite being doomed, so here you are.
It looks like Taro Aso is the new Prime Minister. Here’s today’s BBC article on his selection as leader of the ruling party: LINK For some reason in every BBC article they talk about “Mr Aso’s brash straight-talking style and charisma – he is known for his love of adult manga cartoons”… Why does liking adult manga cartoons (hardly an uncommon trait in Japanese adult males) represent charisma? The BBC also has this interesting piece on Japanese popular discontent with the leadership selection process – the Japanese people rarely get to choose their leaders… LINK
The Mainichi quotes Aso as saying: “Is there any party other than ours that is capable of pledging to solve various problems that the people face, those involving their lives, concerns about their future and security that protects the country and its people and implementing them?” Aso said in his speech. “It’s never the Democratic Party of Japan. The Liberal Democratic Party will fulfill that duty.”LINK
Cocky, isn’t he? And Japan Probe has some interesting background information, this little snippet gave me a smidgin of hope:
He has been called a hardliner/conservative, but it isn’t exactly fair to label him just another conservative. Aso has suggested giving up the territorial claim to some of the islands Japan disputes with Russia, and he is in favor of un-enshrining Class A war criminals from the Yasukuni Shrine. He’s also said that he’s open to discontinuing the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean. LINK
The global financial crisis is spilling over into our lives, threatening jobs, savings, pensions and public services everywhere — worldwide recession could be next, while the public bears the cost. It’s time for citizens around the world to raise our voices and demand that the fundamental causes of this crisis are addressed — we need tough rules to stop the financiers’ folly, and a new framework that better serves the public interest.
Our campaign will be delivered by Denmark’s former prime minister to European leaders next Tuesday, then to US and world leaders as they grapple with this crisis: sign the petition and spread the word!LINK