The Cell Phone Contributions to the Decline of Civilization, Lame Pigeons, Babies and other Random Thoughts
I think the proliferation of cellular telephones compromises civility in society and actively contributes to the deterioration of manners, the decay of morality and the prosperity of vice over virtue in mundane life. It is not that cell phones cause these things. Not at all. But they are part of a broad array of indicators of the direction of things. Also, when I say “civilization” I am speaking more about common civility than institutions and infrastructure. Certainly the proliferation of cellular telephones indicates the stupendous growth technological infrastructure. But to what end?
Firstly, it is commonly and accurately understood that the function of cell phones is more so that you become accessible to others at theirconvenience, not the other way round. I admit that that is not their purpose, but I think it is still obvious that that is their function. This means that people can rudely call you up at uncivil hours and occasions to say - what? Rarely anything important. Most of what I hear people around me saying on their phones is ridiculous chatting - a waste of valuable time.
This exposes my second objection, that rather than being used as tools of communication, intellectual enhancement, and cultural advance the devices are helping to set a new, low bar for the level of thinking, expectations of police behavior and social intercourse.
Next, what is it with all the lame and crippled pigeons I see around Tokyo? Maybe it is true of other large cities in the world, too.
But over the years I have seen many, many pigeons in parks and train station platforms missing a leg, or a foot, or a toe from a foot. I have seen birds with wire tangled about their feet walking around train platforms trailing it like a tether. Victims of our littered urban environment? Maybe they suffer frostbite in cold seasons and other limb damage that way. But being birds I would expect them to be naturally accustomed to it. I have a suspicion that some birds get their legs tangled in something that then tightens, cuts off circulation and kills a foot. I’ve seen it. It seems so common to me that I wonder what, if anything, can be done about it, and where are the animal rights activists to call attention to
Next, I have two children - one 14, the other 9. Over the years I have often said to people that I would love to have another baby, although it’s a little late now. (Not impossible, though.) In the past when I have suggested another child to my wife she has vehemently said NO!, invoking the pain excuse as her main reason. Money, cost, expense was always a close second. I know that a child would cost a lot. But in my thinking a baby means more to me, not less - more love, more fun, more chance of genetic success. But in Junko’s equation it seems that another baby only means less - less money for us, less comfort, less standard of living. Am I wrong in this, or is it an algorithm of Western arithmetic? Recently, however, when I once again fielded the idea of another child just to test the waters, I was surprised by my wife’s response,
“No! We don’t have the money! Only if you have a good job.”
It was the very first time that she put my job up front as her primary rationale against a third baby. I felt like I had been slapped. Does she mean that my job(s) for the last 18-years have not been “good?” I think she certainly does mean precisely that. It is a reflection of my foreignness. Foreigners are largely expendable in Japan. We live year-to-year on one-year renewable contracts and (often) shrinking remuneration. There are many others who will do our jobs for less. We are highly susceptible to infringement of our legal rights - because of basic ignorance, because of language insufficiency, because of lack of financial means to litigate offenses against us. I am not on a career trajectory like many Japanese are who enter the corporate world straight out of their universities. Traditionally for Japanese job security, promotion and increasing remuneration have been automatic with perseverance and longevity. It has been compared to riding an ascending escalator - progress without effort or exertion. In fact, the escalator is so crowded that exertion can be detrimental. Passivity is rewarded. The downside is that traditionally Japanese have sacrificed their family lives for their jobs and given themselves body and soul to companies that, sometimes, literally work them to death. (Death by over work is called “karoshi” in Japanese.) My job is a financial disappointment to her. If she had married a Japanese she would probably be enjoying a more affluent lifestyle right now, not to mention arguing less and suffering less mental aggravation. But I thinking and reminders to her that marriage to me is more interesting, exciting and adventurous than marriage to a Japanese man are received very lukewarm.
Next, what is it with toilet stalls in Japan? Often the cabinet is so small that I almost literally cannot walk into it and turn around to close the door. It can be a struggle if I run into a department store to use their facilities and I am carrying a bag and, maybe an umbrella. Closing the door behind myself must look ridiculous, like a Three Stooges sight gag. The average toilet stall in Japan is about the size of an airplane lavatory. Maybe even smaller, really, because many times when I sit down my knees are up against the wall in front.
After that, I have discovered many washroom sinks in Japan where the water faucet is set so close to the edge of the sink bowl that it is almost impossible for me to get my hands adequately wet to wash because the water is half running down the side of the bowl. It is not that I am a Western giant with hands too big for Japanese sinks, because the position of the faucet is bad for Japanese, too. It is a design flaw that I have seen again and again in many locales.
Finally, why can’t I get no Tang around here?