"Perhaps you should think less of yourself and more of your group, try to work like in Japanese. I grew up with your soldiers; you were wise then. Now - music and movies are all America is good for. We make the machines, we build the future, we won the peace." -- Black Rain (1989)
If you can remember the 1980s you'll recall the blinding light of the Rising Sun. That was the era when Japan was to rule the world forever as a consequence of its "superior" manufacturing methods and overwhelming amount of global capital. Panic infected the American punditoids that Japan was poised to become the new superpower; that Tojo was going to get his mojo.
Anti-Japanese paranoia was the order of the day for those that don't really understand how exceptional America actually is. The fear was expressed nicely and bracketed neatly by two films of the time. The first was the Michael Douglas / Ken Takakura Yakuza splatterfest, Black Rain (set in Japan) in 1989. The second was a groaning Snipes-Connery 1993 epic of hooker homicide in a highrise, Rising Sun. The addition of Snipes to the latter film was especially handy since you could then run a racist rap against Asians while keeping your Hollywood creds clean with Snipes. Both films are still in slow rotation on the cable movie channels.
Alas no victorious do-over of Pearl Harbor using economic weapons ensued. If you can remember and observe the aftermath for Japan, you'll know that world domination was once again put off for the island nation. In it's defense Japan does do some pretty tight variations on German automobiles along with some tasty barbecued chicken while running up the global price of tuna to the point of extinction.
Today we observe the rise of yet another power of the orient, China, today's expert pundits opine, shall surely "rule the world forever as a consequence of its 'superior' manufacturing methods and overwhelming financial control." At least that's what it sometimes looks like to pundits from a world away or a quick Friedmanesque drive-by in Beijing.
Looking a little closer in, however, and we can see clear cracks in the walls along the Chinese economic miracle miles. Cracks into which many, many people seem to have fallen and gotten stuck. Human dynamite inside the cracks in the walls. An explosive mixture when combined with just a little bit of freedom.
Here are some samples from the photo essay China's "Rat Tribe"
The evening sun sits low in the smoggy Beijing sky. Beneath a staid, maroon apartment block, Jiang Ying, 24, is stirring from her bed after having slept through the day. Day is night and night is day anyway, in the window-less world she inhabits three floors below ground.
Waiters, karaoke hostesses, hairdressers, chefs, security guards, domestic workers and kitchen helpers, these basement dwellers are the backbone of Beijing’s service industry. But they have been unkindly dubbed the “rat tribe” for making a home in Beijing’s 6,000 basements and air raid shelters -- about one-third of the city’s underground space.
They pay monthly rents of 300 to 700 yuan ($50 to $110) for partitioned rooms of seven to eight square meters, or sometimes, a closet-like space barely wider than a single bed. Some 50 to 100 rooms often share a single bathroom and several toilet cubicles. A chilly draft filters through the tunnels, which are also often dank and moldy in the summers.
Can a country thrive, in the end, on a lot of money and "just a little bit of freedom?" Can you be "just partially pregnant?"Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 16, 2012 8:59 PM