Monday, May 14, 2012

Rock and Roll and a Reason Why American Musicians No Longer Capture the World's Imagination?

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.” -Pericles 
I sit at the Yakitori-ya (BBQ chicken on sticks restaurant) and nurse my Hoppy and a few delicious sticks of chicken. Kashimura san, the neighborhood school English teacher besides me howls about the decline of Japanese civilization,

"Japanese kids today don't care about studying English. They don't want to go to the United States anymore. They are not fascinated by the west. If Japanese kids don't learn about other cultures, especially the United States, Japan is doomed!" He says.

I laugh. Kashimura san comes from an older generation of Japanese. He is from the generation that grew up with Elvis Presley and Rock and Roll music. The United States, to his generation of Japanese, represented dreams and freedom. Kashimura even has posters of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe - very old American idols from a day long past - on the walls of his classroom. But, that's not what the United States represents to young Japanese people anymore... I say to him, 

"Don't worry about it, Kashimura san. It's not the end of Japanese civilization, it is the end of the United States. You are just witnessing the fall of the American empire, that's all. That's what it is."

Kashimura stares at me incredulously.

"Seriously, that's what it is, Kashimura san. Japanese kids are not interested in the United States anymore NOT so much because the Japanese kids have changed so much, kids are always kids and interested in fun and excitement,  they are just not interested in the United States anymore because the United States isn't fun and exciting anymore. It has changed, and not for the better. The United States isn't a good place full of dreams.

It used to be that the USA were the good guys, but they are not anymore. The USA and NATO lackeys as well as the UN (which has become a rubber stamp organization for US imperialism) bomb and destroy the homes and families of brown skinned people all over the world 24/7 and it is obvious to everyone (excepting many Americans).

I hear that Japanese enrollment at Ivy League universities are way down. I know for a fact the enrollment in English schools in Japan has crashed. I submit to you that it is because of three things:

  • The United States has a very bad image of a country full of crime and a definitive lack of safety
  • The United States has a very bad image of a country full of abusive police and a police state (TSA, Homeland Security, etc...)
  • The United States and its people have the image of a nation of war mongers

I'd like to add another one to that list but I don't think most Japanese realize this (I do - I talk to Americans all the time) and that is: Far too many Americans are completely out of touch and ignorant of the extent of the murder the US government and military are involved in in the name of the people. The really dumb Americans act like and say, "I'm apolitical." When, in fact, it is these very same people who are responsible for what has happened to that country. They can bury their heads in the sand all they want. But they are responsible.

I wonder if the sixties artists who protested the Vietnam war, guys like Bob Dylan, would have gotten very far if while the Vietnam War was going on and we were bombing those people 24/7, he'd have shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know about it. I'm apolitical." 

Ha! How can you be apolitical when your country takes your money and uses it to kill children in other countries? That's like Germans in World War II saying they are apolitical while the Nazis killed minorities and Jews and wiped out entire populations.

"Yeah... But, well, I don't know about that!" Typical American says. 

Since when has ignorance been an excuse?

So this situation is why Japanese kids are no longer fascinated with the USA. I believe it is also a big reason American and western rock artists are no longer popular here. What ever happened to musicians who had a message and something to say? Weren't politically charged and motivated artists in the sixties moving entire segments of society? They sure were in Japan!

What's the difference between the artists of those days and today's American artists? Back in those days, the American military were bombing and killing brown skinned children 24/7, yet American musicians sang about it and protested. They were popular all over the world.

Today, the American military are bombing and killing brown skinned children all over the world 24/7, yet American musicians, for the large part, are in muted silence... They tell me, "I'm apolitical."

Ha! Yeah, and you don't sell records all over the world like you used to either. 


Anonymous said...

It's true... where are the protests songs? Why isn't music disturbing to the older generation? It should be edgy, full of opinion, lots of angst, politics.
Mike... the times... they are a-changing. And, you are correct... it's not for the better.
Oh... as a Canadian, I apologize Beiber.

Anonymous said...

It - is - crazy over here.

It's almost as if the CIA dumped a bunch of Scopolamine on the population. The results seem about the same.

That is some wild stuff, the zombie drug, a.k.a. 'The Devil's Breath':

- clark

Boo said...

This post covers a lot of ground, but on the original point of interest in English, foreign education/experience is not generally a good career move. Even if the company offers to pay for a Stanford MBA, a career-oriented employee would have to consider the opportunity cost of being out of the loop for two years while colleagues set themselves up for promotion.
In the 1980s, jobs were plentiful so one could easily take a few years out without worrying. Not the case anymore.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

That last good music movement that scared the establishment and actually meant anything was Punk Rock of the late 1970s and the Sex Pistols. I thank god that I was there to witness it...

Mark Davis said...

American music has, just like the rest of America, come to be dominated by big corporations. Big Corporations install gatekeepers to keep any subversive messages out of the mainstream media outlets. There are some anti-corp and anti-state songs on the internet, but they are not well known. The corporate money producing new music seeks formulas based on past big hits, not groundbreaking or edgy new sounds. Finally Hip Hop/Rap is considered the new standard bearer of "protest music" which is very repetitious, monotonous and difficult to understand being largely just angry rants trying to rhyme unrelated words. We could certainly use another new wave of talent who has had enough of the same old crap.

Mr. Nobody said...

Hello Mike,

I heartedly encourage more articles like this one. Even if many US citizens become infuriated. :)

With minor exceptions, it seems in the US that the anti-war movement is simply the protest wing of the Democratic party. Since Obama entered the Whitehouse, what happened to the the anti-war movement? It appears that they are all for killing and crippling people, so long as it's a Democrat that is doing it.

If the PIIGS are the sick men of Europe, then the US is the sick man of the Americas. Who wants to be around a leper, even if he currently has all of their fingers? How vibrant economically, and even culturally, do you think that PIIGS and the US will be in the next decade, with both negligible growth and rampant unemployment?

From a career angle, what is a better option for a young Japanese, learning English, Chinese, or even German?

How much responsibility do the citizens of any country bear because of their government? I believe it is in direct relation to how representative the government is the the wishes and aspirations, of its people. In the US, I think that the citizens generally do not live under a representative government, as compared to say Germany, Japan, or Canada. It seems that in effect, it is a gerrymandered plutocracy that gives the illusion of a representative government.

In regards to Bob Dylan, he may have gotten even further, especially for a short period of time, if he acted more like Pat Boone. For example, who do you think would sell more products in JP, another AKB48, or a punk band that calls the parliament a bunch of wannabe-Yakusa, but without the coolness?

People, at least in the short term, seem to want clean cut, and benign if not sweetness, compared to rough and scathing. That being said, over the long term, there is a reason why Bob Dylan has a long term resonance with people and is still touring in 2012, compared to Pat Boone, whom as I believe, never tours.

I think that most US citizens dislike the idea of dropping bombs on children, just like they dislike the idea of aborting them, but feel basically powerless in both cases in doing much of anything about it. I think that in times of both economic and political repression, the only option many people have, is in some way keeping one's head down by being apolitical.

I think that ignorance has always been an excuse for one's knowledge and behaviour, if one was never inculcated of educated properly. If one is illiterate, had the desire to read, and isn't mentally challenged, who is to blame, the individual, or the educational system/government? Couldn't the same be said of the individual with the media? Is it the job of the media to to act as the fifth estate, or to be the mouthpiece of the powerful? What does the media do in the US?

All the best...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Nobody wrote, "I think that most US citizens dislike the idea of dropping bombs on children,"

That's not the impression I'm getting from the People around my neck of the woods. ...And online too.

Of the "apolitical" People I've known, it's not due to not knowing, it's about not caring. And most of the them when pried let out they are ok with things as they are.

There's enough guys out there like myself who are filling the gap left open by the main stream media, so they know, er they know some anyway, or call it, enough they ought to know better.

I read one guy sends his clueless relatives and friends print outs from the internet and mixes them with print outs from .gov websites and sends them in a manila envelope without a return address.

I thought that was cool,... and funny. Especially when he said those relatives and friends ask him if he got one of those manila envelops too.

- clark

Anonymous said...

1)Its interesting you change the last hypothetical name to Tanaka in the LewRockwell reprint.
2)While it would serve my ego to think Japanese youth are more antiwar and political than American youth, maybe its because US culture is all played out. Young people especially the ever curious Japanese are always looking for the 'new'. Something different that the last generation.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

I figured that the real name is too difficult for average American with little or no interest in Japan... Hence, the name change to a simpler name.... Maybe I should have picked "Suzuki" or "Yamaha"? ....

Mr. Nobody said...

A few things are interesting to me regarding the media and culture at the current time. During the US wars in Indochina, Uncle Sam was destroying more people and things at a much more prodigious rate than currently, and yet outside the US, I'm rather surprised at how much goodwill, mostly undeserved, the US had at the time. It seems rather amazing how strong the music and anti-war movement were in the US.

It seems during the current era, things have flip-flopped. There is virtually no goodwill towards the US, in fact I think that there is a reserve of ill-will that has developed. Plus as I said before, that with a democrat in power, the antiwar movement has almost completely disintegrated in the US, and fizzled out abroad. How many protests in the world have there been, after O got into the White House? It seems that after he got in, the world collectively shrugged. O even got the Nobel Prize for not doing anything, except not being GWB.

Many people are hypocrites, especially in the US, where it doesn't matter very much what someone in power does, but mostly who does it, and to whom. There are always sycophants to power. Some view it as unpatriotic to say anything wrong about one's own "dear leader". I'm unsure how many people in the US are willfully ignorant, versus just plain ignorant, but combined, I believe it is a not insignificant number of the population.

It seems that the most of citizens of the US aren't pro-war, but on the other hand, aren't willing to protest, or do much about it, considering that they are more concerned about putting food on their plate. Plus, it's generally poor people who are getting killed and crippled, from both the US and abroad, and Democratic White House doesn't seem to be helping matters. Finally, in these economic times, and with the repression that is going on, who wants to get beaten and arrested with the chances of high bail, losing ones children, losing ones employment, and years of imprisonment, to march somewhere?

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Dear Mr. N. Yep. If people are so concerned with putting food on their plate then I can understand them thinking they have other, more pressing concerns... It is a lack of education that they can't figure out that a massive military expenditure overseas causes this economic hardship at home.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'd use Japanese youth as a litmust test for these sorts of things. That being said has interest in going to China, learn Chinese, or listen to Chinese music increased a commensurately?

mike in tokyo rogers said...

The question about China is a total and complete non-sequitur. This is an article about American music and art. Japan lost the war to the USA, not China and it was American culture that permeated Japan for 6 decades.... Not Chinese culture. I don't understand how anyone could relate a question of the collapse of American music and rock sales in Japan with China.

Anonymous said...

Well perhaps young Japanese people are less interested in general in other countries these days. If so, it would put in question the degree of causality you are suggesting.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Nobody wrote, "It seems that the most of citizens of the US aren't pro-war"

I was thinking about that today, if that were true, more People would be turning out to support Ron Paul, no?

Or at least not be supporting RoBama, and there wouldn't be numerous variations of, 'God bless our snipers, and thanks to them' bumper stickers all over the place.

Every single Person I've met in real life or read their comments online who say they like some of what Ron Paul says, but they won't vote for him, they All say it's due to his foreign policy views.

That says a lot.

Warmongers, the whole lot of them.

Also, Anonymous @ 1:04 PM wrote, "perhaps young Japanese people are less interested in general in other countries these days."

Man, I don't think this Person understands how Deeply permeated American culture is there. It's something you have to go there to understand, imho.
I think the shift has very little to do with, "less interested in general".

Hmm, I'm writing about two different things in this comment, but maybe they are the same?

Anonymous said...

I thought of this thread while reading this paragraph:

"... The voters are committed to irreconcilable goals, all over the world. They do not trust the state, yet they rely on the state for welfare payments. They perceive the corruption, yet they do not want to de-fund this corruption by spending cuts. They see that their liberties are being taken away by the state, yet they call for more action against undefined terrorists. They are, in a word, schizophrenic." ...

I am surrounded by warmongering schizophrenics,... great, just great.
What could possibly go wrong?

- clark

Mr. Nobody said...


Regarding the costs of US military spending, it brings to light the idea of the boiling frog. The claim is that one can put a frog into a water filled pot, and boil it to death, because by gradually raising the temperature, it will never escape by jumping out of the pot. The reason that is given is because the rise in temperature is gradual, the frog is never aware that it is boiling to death.

The same can be said I believe of deficit spending, waste, and mal-investment. Which is more palatable to a population, increased taxes, or decreased spending power through inflation? Who benefits more from inflation? The public or the government? If the US budget actually had to be in surplus, how long would military spending remain as large as it is currently? Put another way, without deficit spending, how long can the military-industrial-complex last?

I think to a large degree with tough economic times already here, and much worse times on the horizon, why would someone in Japan want to study English? I will try to find a statistic that I found rather worrying. It stated that of Japanese men who were university graduates under the age of 30?, ca. 80% earned less than 3 man a month.

What can the US generate in growth culturally and economically? Is it possible to generate more than 3% growth in the US? What can China generate in growth, 9%? 10%? Culturally/musically, is there any group/singer on the US horizon that is better than say Lady Gaga?

What "bet" looks like a winner or a loser? The US or China? Or even the UK vs. Germany? My general point is that yes, culturally, but especially economically, the US is declining, (and to some degree Japan), and that many people don't want to be on a sinking ship...

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