Monday, March 23, 2009

The manga man (Rikimaru Toho) cometh


In my capacity as contributing writer/editor to Adbusters magazine, I drafted a short article on Japan's dame ren, or "no good people," willful dropouts and slackers, artists and free spirits--and street performer Rikimaru Toho, "the Manga Man:"

Dame-Ren (No Good People)

A glimpse into Japan’s embrace of Western-style capitalism.

The Japanese language is often indirect, characterized by suggestion and context, undecipherable to the foreign ear. Translation can seem futile.
But one word whose meaning is incontestable is karoshi – “death from overwork.” Japan’s first case was reported in 1969, when an otherwise healthy 29 year-old newspaper laborer suddenly keeled over with a stroke. The word gained popular usage during the rise of the economic bubble. In 1982, three Japanese physicians diagnosed and analyzed the illness in a book called "Karoshi."

As Japan embraced Western-style capitalism, it, in turn, started suffocating the Japanese. The corporation eclipsed every community in Japanese life, providing living spaces, arranging marriages and social engagements, and, most importantly, promising full-time jobs that would last a lifetime.

Except they didn’t – at least not for everyone. By the late 90s, Japan’s long-burst bubble had politicians scrambling to emulate the west again, this time adopting the latest US models of profit-margin efficacy: outsourcing, part-time labor, low wages and scant benefits.

Lo and behold: the scourge infecting Japan today has less to do with working too much and killing oneself than not working enough – and killing others ... [read more here]


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