Wednesday, 11 July 2007
Cafe Cultural Revolution.
I was a fool not to notice the belligerent, even primitive look in my hosts eye.
'This table is reserved for Self-Criticism and Struggle. No entry without a conical hat’. A sign at ‘Deng’s Counter-Revolutionary Lunch Counter’, China, 1966. This was just before his arrest for "dancing and provocative signage crimes against the people". No, really.
What's up, Non-Doc? It’s a little known fact, but for a while I thought about writing under the name of Madge Williams. It’s a nostalgic name but with a down to earth strength. I’ll write under any name for almost any publication that may be interested and in the styles required, maybe even my own. As long as I eventually get paid in opportunity and or some kind of cold, hard monkey, as they say.
Madge Williams, eh? Even though she’s a complete fiction, I heard she was once runner up in the annual ‘Koo Wee Rup Joseph Stalin Look-alike Contest’, but sadly lost out to a competitor with a less aggressive' moustache, as the rather insensitive Judges in my opinion, commented at the time.
Beyond earning said cash and mastering the yo-yo, my plans include that one day, my family and everyone I know and care about will be fabulously successful, or like Michael Caine, I can say, ‘I bought everybody a luvly big ‘ouse every time I got paid for all those ‘orrible bad films I made. ‘Swarm’ paid for my Auntie Rubies bungalow in Sorrento’.
Then each morning, we all meet and share a table at a groovy cafe, thus always starting the day in a civilised way. The need for a single table goes some way to showing my rather narrow diameter of friends and acquaintances.
Last night I wanted to call one of my narrow diameter friends but the phone was out, so I tried using the local, desolate, wind swept but filthy, public phone box, urinal and spittoon. There was a group of delightfully marauding teenagers ‘just hanging out’, in that winning Clockwork Orange way they have. They seemed to be plague affected by some kind of bacilli, perhaps from a recent germ warfare conflict that I was not informed of, which shows how parochial and shallow the local media can be.
I think one of the crazy mixed up kids that was wearing a stylishly compulsory Che the child killer Guevara T-shirt said, ‘Burn it all. Kill the human. He’s not one of us’, or something like that, the naughty scamps. Speaking of cafe society, I remember another horrible experience with an alleged lawyer guy that I obviously did not know well enough at all. Lucky me. I should have seen it coming.
After he invited me to a cafe’ for midday Tiffin, he said to the waitress in the middle of a crowded lunch hour, with a combination of nonchalance and strange defiance, as if he was making a valid point, ‘Nothing for me’. Yeah! I’m giving it to the man! Right on. What do they call that? Oh yes, freeloading. Being an embarrassing creep is good too, as you shall see, gentle reader.
We started off nicely, me with my solo coffee and cheese sandwiches trimmed of crusts, sitting outside discussing the facts of e-commerce, advertising, business and linoleum. Then, or so it seemed to me, the methamphetamine he must have taken earlier, kicked in and he started raving at the rate of one vast topic per every three seconds. I prefer one.
As our delightful afternoon salon rose to a peak, he continued to harangue me saying I was lacking intellectually and a narrow minded fascist, but not in those exact words. This surprised me as I always thought of myself as a broad minded fascist.
All this because I didn't approve of heroin use and addiction! He demanded to know why I refused to agree that there’s no difference between heroin users and say, I kid you not, people that use herbal remedies? You can call me an old stick in the mud but hey, maybe just don’t call me.
'All units. Be on the lookout for members of the Bache Flower Remedy Gang, last sighted in the vicinity of a downtown department store perfume and make-up counter. Approach casually with a tastefully selected and professionally wrapped gift'. As shown here, you may have noted that the Police are temporarily using dated TV banter in their radio communications as part of ‘Banal, Neutered and Meaningless Language New Heritage Week’, showing how old ways of speaking weren't always nice and sometimes hurt peoples feelings.
The Commissioner had received many complaints from those listening in on the Police frequency who were traumatised by the ‘overtly male, utilitarian and graphic nature’ of standard police call outs, ‘that reinforced the hierarchical nature of the dominant patriarchy by labelling some people as ‘suspects’. “I felt I was being forced into a stereotype”, said one client later sentenced for bank robbery and aggravated assault.
Anyway, the basic line my luncheon guest and upholder of the law seemed to be proffering, me being the potential proffee, was that everything here in the West meaning Australia, USA and the UK in particular, was evil rubbish, which is where he currently was, and that it was better somewhere else, where he wasn’t. Looking at him, I had to agree, and that he could reverse that order by both he and his failed Cary Grant impersonation simply leaving, preferably to the paradise that he had neglected to mention, or did he mean Cuba?
Amid this charming tension, I tried to affect a casual and reclining pose while concentrating on arranging the sugar packets in some kind of respectable and might I say pretty impressive order. Well, it escalated somewhat when he said that Cuba was not actually Communist and then began angrily glaring at me rather enquiringly and asked me what I was writing.
"I must write Fidel immediately! He's got to know!" I said impishly.
At this point I tried to leave by glancing at my watch and saying, “I’m sorry, but I must go, as my apartments on fire”. He didn’t go for this clever ploy as he was busy wiping spittle from his chin and vigorously pumping blood into a vein on his temple. His beef seemed pretty much to be, ‘How dare I criticise the Revolution!’ Yeah, but it stinks. Anyway, it’s great to metaphorically urinate on a museum piece master plan relic of the 1960’s and not have to care about being arrested then shot.
The high part of my fun afternoon, though there were so many precious memories, may have been when he said the Cuban medical system was superior to here. Er, no, but I tactlessly added, "You know you’re right! You just can't get a decent rectal examination here that also comes with a firing squad.”
I then foolishly compounded things by rather undiplomatically letting slip that it was a shame the said medical system had lost a couple of hundred thousand out-patients on various rubber rafts, oil drums and inner-tubes as part of the Revolutions float-away plan.
Sadly at this point, like the one on his head, he became actually physical while using the kind of swear words I haven’t heard since I was responsible for a particularly disappointing Mothers Day. Then drawing further on his reserves of expletives, he jumped up and as he tripped he accidentally flung his mobile into the wall where it flew apart with a squawk. ‘We simply must do this again’, says I, with a hearty cheer and a wave.
As he gathered the various tiny pieces of his personalised symbol of the eventual collapse of Capitalism, anyday now!, he accused me of making value judgements. Me?! Me?! I said thankyou for noticing. People with children often do. If they didn’t do this at my son’s kindergarten, well, the place would be shut down by morning tea. Same with my dentist. I go to him solely for his continuous value judgements.
"Hey man, don’t lay that medical training trip on me!" I don’t think so.
I seem to remember that was just before he made the values-neutral statements that I was some kind of a fucker, that the ‘Queer Eye for a Straight Guy’ Fab Five team are superficial idiots. Maybe, fuzzball, but they’re so good at it and that’s what I like about them.
Damning the Fab Five?! You don’t like Carson Kressley?! I won’t have it, I tell you! I really love those guys. I wish they’d come and help me with my horrendous decor, grooming, health, food, fitness, social skills, etiquette, dinner party hosting abilities, etc, etc, etc...Yes, I can see how the Fab Five are so easy to hate, being charming, stylish, mature and successful, especially when you ain’t.
It wasn’t until later that I realised what was wrong, among many other things, with my own wonderful host for this particular afternoon’s luau. He was one of those guys that the Fab Five try valiantly to bring out the best of, or at least cement over. But he was rejected for the show after becoming violently hostile when offered practical advice on a good exfoliate and moisturiser.
According to ‘The Creep’, good grooming is so superficial, bourgeois and unimportant. It sure helps if you’re on a crowded bus in summer though. Lawyer Boy continued on that all of ‘the leaders’ are not doing anything. I assumed he meant political and not Yves St Laurent, Carl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford.
Presumably as we spoke, all our elected representatives were sitting in an immobile group in a darkened room just staring. I certainly felt as if I was. Gosh, it’s obvious what’s wrong with the world today; my lunch companion was not in charge. I must remember to put in a humble recommendation for this guy as ‘World Leader Thing’.
I should have seen the early warning signs in a lawyer who grooms and dresses like a twelve-year-old Gilligan. Shouldn’t a lawyer at the basic level have the ability to think clearly and objectively with some semblance of an adult, without having counter clockwise spinning eyes and the need to be placed in a restraining position? It’s a funny thing, but I find people who talk with smug and fashionable disapproval about value judgements, often seem to have no values or judgement. I have noticed that the same people still always call a qualified plumber and don't often accept coconuts in place of cash.
Hey, it’s all relative, baby. Unless of course it’s about their chosen default position value judgements. When I hear dime a dozen ideologies spoken by those whose standards are either skewed or an amorphous and fashionable nullity, I make a mental note to keep them away from my children, with or without video surveillance.
A loathing for your own culture is merely an extension of self-loathing, sometimes backdated from student activist days or similar, and passed off as a kind of suffering with or without a raised fist on behalf of ‘the people’, who in practice, the same fist raisers are often not really interested in, in any meaningful way. If you can’t see where you came from and who you really are with any nuance, insight or balance, it may be a little bit of an uphill push to think that with this level of thinking skills, you can understand a place and culture that you were never from.
My wife is Japanese and our son is naturally Eurasian. I’ve lived in Japan, advanced and crazy place that it is and I’ve not yet met a Japanese who didn’t value and respect much of their own culture, with its great attributes and dark flaws. While considering what effect Japanese having a less ignorant take of their fairly recent and hideous past would have, I can’t say. I doubt they would totally try and reject being Japanese.
Their distinctive and singular Japanese character is central to who they are. It’s virtually immutable and is why after more than 1500 years, it’s still intact and vibrant without even a hint of help from any kind of 'diversity'. They also don’t have the attendant Western hang-ups about living a la' ultra modern. It just is and if anything, they go full bore into perfecting it to the 9th degree. Even suicide, which the Japanese see in a very, ah, uniquely hair raising and Japanese way.
The Japanese genuinely like, admire and are fascinated by other cultures such as Italy, France and perhaps to the discomfort of those of a leftish pose, especially places such as the United States, the UK and Australia etc. Maybe some folks need to find out who they really are first. No, I mean really. In Japan, those foreigners and other out of towners that paradoxically seem to have the most enjoyable time and are well liked as well, are those with their own cultural confidence.
As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum, Mark Steyn said that some folks live in a fantasy life completely supported by the system they despise. Strangely common in the West, pretty much unheard of in Japan.