Sunday, 9 December 2012

SGT ABE'S LONELY HEARTS - 2012 Japan Election Diary: DAY 23

Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.

9:30pm (0 words)

Tonight Our Man has an upset stomach. This is literal, not figurative. Our Woman has threatened to kill him if he spends more than an hour at the computer. This may or may not be literal, but Our Man knows from bitter experience not to assume she is joking. So, dear reader, today's entry will by necessity be a rush job, even more than usual.

But look, this is a first draft and Our Man reserves the right to put out any old nonsense and you have the right to look elsewhere for your amusement, most people do. Our Man has no right to tell others how to read or write, but he will let you in on his own view, which you are free to ignore as the ravings of a man who usually can write no more than 350 words an hour.

And this post has to go at three times the normal speed to stand a chance. But here's the thing. I'm not sure if you think Sgt Pepper's is the ultimate Beatles album, but for argument's sake let's say it is. Should the Beatles have stood around twiddling their thumbs, waiting until 1967 before picking their paisley ties and saving us all from that Love Love Me Do kak of the early years?

No, of course not, because that's not how it works. If they hadn't spent the 50s in Hamburg they wouldn't have formed such a tight musical unit, if they hadn't broken through with those crappy teenie bopper songs they wouldn't have had an audience to give a crap when Revolver and Rubber Soul redefined their sound, without which Sgt Pepper's couldn't have even been conceived. But hey, what would I know, I prefer the Stones.

But the point is, you can't wait for the right moment, wait for that flash of inspiration and keep all your musings and near misses to yourself. Well, you could, but how would you know if you'd written anything worth a damn? How do you know that your near misses might not have been hits? Chances are you wouldn't have written anything worth a damn because the way we learn is by trial and error for the most part. But, you can't get to the second draft, the third draft, however many drafts it takes to get to the final draft, until you've written the first.  

9:50pm (395 words)

Our Man doesn't believe in writer's block. Sure, people will tell you how they've struggled with it, stared at a blank screen and the words didn't come for hours, days, months, years... Well, I'd just say this: Don't be such a self-absorbed arse, what luxury it must be for the tinker, the tailor, the candlestick maker to say to his long-suffering Missus "Sorry luv, can't work today because I just can't visualise the finished candle, this has to be the best candle that has ever been made or else there's no point." Reject perfection, adopt instead "good enough" as your mantra. Perfect can wait for the next draft or better still, the next book. How else can we explain Frog Chorus?

And I wondered if the same isn't true of Japanese politics. Think of the Democratic Party of Japan not as the final draft, but the first or second. Back in 2009 they stormed up the charts with a thriller with a great villain -- the Liberal Democratic Party that had twisted modern Japan into this bureaucratic quagmire where dreams go to die. It was a pretty compelling story with plenty of realistic bits in it, there was just one hole -- the hero wasn't up to the task.

10:18pm (610 words)

Sure, you want your protagonists to battle against odds that are stacked against them. And the Democratic Party had to slay the Yomiuri Shimbun-led forces of reaction, who championed the bureaucrats, business as usual, build a bridge to nowhere types and keep all swearing fealty to their masters of the cement mixer. But Japan said no, and the party of the status quo, the Liberal Democratic Party was vanquished as the good guys swept 311 seats of the 480 of the House. They set about doing battle to the bureaucracy with televised show trials in which the pen-pushers had to justify their excesses, and they invariably couldn't.

So far, so good, the story arc is compelling with characters (we the people) we can really root for. But the Democrats' Achilles Heel was they had no hero. Prime Minister Hatoyama got mired in trying to move the Americans out of Okinawa instead of battling Japan's true enemy: its own demons.

10:31pm (768 words)

The one man with the political ability, Ichiro Ozawa, was too cowardly to lead, and the Japanese ship of state was already adrift (its default course) when catastrophe struck on March 11th, 2011. The Prime Minster Naoto Kan did his best and prevented TEPCO from running away from the mess they had created, but in the meantime the villains of the piece were let off the hook and the Democratic Party lost the plot.

And so here we are, with the story arc incomplete, with protagonists only able to deliver farce or tragedy. The next chapter looks to be a long and winding road through the middle parts of Moby Dick where nothing much happens. But in the never ending story of politics, we just may just have to wait for another, better thought-out instalment.

Tomorrow never knows.

10:44pm (908 words)
This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.

Go to DAY 24

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