Monday, September 30, 2002

"Radical Reform" Is the Best Path to Business as Usual

One thing I've learned about life and society in general is that you need to be ready to change, and to admit error and move on, without becoming neurotic about it. This took some time, as I grew up in a very neurotic time and area of America, where people would wring their hands about small things and bypass the large issues because they didn't touch our small, tedious, consumer lives. The combination of working too hard, feeling guilty about missing existential pleasures and thus turning to religion, and basic boredom created a neural stimulation festival where the slightest error or change provoked mental screaming and insidiously evasive behavior. Anything would excite a mental flaring except the issues most commonly avoided: mortality, love, meaning. It almost felt like you really could fool people by saying "he passed on" instead of "he fucking died."

This morning, I open up the virtual paper (still killing trees, are you?) and found an article titled "Reshuffle Points to Japan Reforms." While normally this would not strike any of our registers, perhaps the intense moralizing before a war that has afflicted America has affected me, because I find myself looking through narrowed eyes at the language of the press. They remind me of the suburban neurosis I describe above crossed with a high school theatre department sense of Drama, creating a self-important demand to categorize all things with a spin. It's sort of like religion itself. He didn't die, but it was "his time to go to Heaven." Oh, so it wasn't the interactions of a natural system, but it was deliberate in some form. Should it feel better then? In theatre departments, tights don't simply tear, they become recalcitrant, they fight back at the actor or actress in question, and eventually triumph as paragons of the resistance and futility of life. Same way with the news: an article whose content is basically "Japan moves to plan B for failing banking system" becomes a crusade toward "reforms."

When people were less inclined to turn bullshit into cake frosting, "reform" meant a place where you went after drugs, alcohol and fast living had wrecked your prospects. Reform school. Parents would tell their children that if they screwed up once more in a big way, they were heading off to the large impenetrable brick building just outside of town surrounded by a tall iron fence. "If I find cocaine in with your coloring books one more time, I'll send you to reform school!" has become antiquated, because society has eroded to the point of this being commonplace, but the linguistic implication remains. Reform is fixing what was "bad." It can't be an error, it has to be an honest to goodness "bad" intent.

The article goes on:

"As a result, Koizumi has been under heavy domestic pressure to change
his economic ministers, who have been criticized for not instituting more
radical reform.

Yanagisawa had been criticized for being too timid with the county's
depressed banking industry, while Takenaka is a proponent of bold
banking reform."

The implication here is that "radical reform" is the absolute necessary course of action. It's like an executive who picks up the phone and barks "Fire him!" whenever a subordinate has a bad day. Or Apple CEO Steve Jobs, long known for berating his employees into resigning only days after praising their significant efforts, and his famous "hero-shithead roller coaster" style of management by fear. What we have in Japan is similar, a panic reaction disguised as something positive. Like most of the rest of the lies in this society, this one rolls easily off the tongue and confuses us. What once was is bad, so we need some vast and gigantic change (as if banking itself has changed radically). We need progressive, liberal, radical changes. As a knee-jerk reaction.

In other knee jerk reaction news, Mark Zach has fucking died. Described as "distraught" by the news media, he was the police officer who last week pulled over one of the suspects in this week's grimy and bloody failed bank robbery in Norfolk, NE. Apparently when entering a serial number from a gun found in the car into his computer, Zach transposed two digits and therefore didn't realize the gun was stolen. Thus a heinous crime in theory was not prevented. Even though it's a tenuous jump to assume that all four collaborators would have given up had one gotten busted, Zach obviously felt the pressure of many things, including a hysterical local community and a sudden zooming in of the news media who are slowly dramatizing every commercial-second-selling detail of the robbery. With all of this bearing down on him, Zach succumbed to the disease of America, and in a moment of assumption saw himself as both powerless and responsible, therefore fatally neurotic, something he put into action like a good, diligent worker.

Events like this make me think that the true enemy of humanity is the television screen, and the media culture it has endowed. After all, you can't have a boring newscast. Jazz it up a bit. Add the human element. Put some "spin" on it. It wasn't another boring day - someone has a cat who can spread its feces in the shape of the Virgin Mary, or is instituting progressive "reforms" to some system that happened to fall upon hard times. Get more smiling faces of "the common man" onscreen and show us how important the tedious, neurotic lives of the small people are.

Because that's what sells, and the art of the parasitic seller needs no reform to be profitable.