Hong Kongers have chosen political stability in the past 17 years. That is changing rapidly

DARKER TIMES AHEAD

In two days, Americans will unite and celebrate July 4th, full of pride, with parades. Across the ocean, Hong Kongers commemorated July 1st – the city’s Establishment Day since the 1997 handover – in an entirely different fashion: divided, and for many, filled with anger and shame.

On one end, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stared onto the flags of China and Hong Kong, as the Chinese national anthem is played in the background, and will sure enjoy an extravagant firework display across the Victoria Harbour later that evening.

For Leung, his bureaucrats, and (no doubt) many patriots, July 1st is of as great significance as the Independence Day to Americans. But for all that, Leung has distanced himself further away from people across the aisle, who took the streets of the city under an uncanny storm to show their discontent towards, amongst all things, China’s vision for the city’s political future.

A resolute march

Tens of thousands of citizens went on a protest to support the pro-democracy call to make the next Chief Executive election in 2017 to meet international standards for democracy. The protest, in the form of a march through Hong Kong’s Central district, is an annual event to voice citizens’ mixed demands of democracy, universal suffrage, rights of racial and sexual minorities as well as to show resentment towards the administration in Hong Kong and it’s puppet masters in China.

The number of participants is expected to match or exceed the benchmark set in 2003 when a crowd of 500,000 marched in light of a proposed anti-subversion law, Article 23, combined with the fact that the government handled SARS poorly. Prior to that, 1.5 million gathered sympathising the victims of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China during its immediate aftermath.

Turnout this year is proliferated by a recent white paper from China which said that Hong Kong’s autonomy under ‘one country, two systems’ is restricted and comes solely from the authorisation of the leadership in Beijing. This document exacerbated the effects of the city official’s misplaced economic priorities (which are, themselves, shortcoming) and repeated, bureaucratic call for ‘stability’ coupled by words (but not action) of ‘trying hard to forge consensus’.

Change is desperate

Many citizens also feel misrepresented by the parliament of Hong Kong which, because nearly half its seats are only open to a small number of voters belonging to an assigned professional or special interest group, is largely occupied by pro-Beijing legislator. Though even the most outspoken patriot amongst these legislators silent this night and refused to defend Leung’s unhurried political reform on television amidst strong opposition voice.

Leung’s legitimacy is no better than the parliament’s because he was elected by a 1200-small council which makes up for a pitiful 0.017% of Hong Kong’s population. This council is also largely occupied by special interest groups and thus, unlike the rest of Hong Kong, has a strong Beijing-bias; in the most recent 2012 vote Leung received a mere 689 votes because of infighting within the pro-Beijing representatives combined with infidelity reports of his opponent, not because there was genuine competition.

Protesters are numbed by the state’s failure to deliver change which had momentum back in 2012 but fell quickly on its feet due to officials’ successful delaying tactics. Many feel that the government is unable to deliver and consequently their altitude has been radicalised despite the fact that Hong Kong is by tradition a socially conservative city and intolerant towards change, particularly among its large elder population.

Young student groups are among those which are radicalised. Scholarism, led by 17-year-old Joshua Wong, has emerged in 2011 when the group opposed a proposed scheme of ‘Moral and National Education’ which aimed to elevate patriotism amongst youngsters but in its textbooks included bias and often fictitious language that favoured the Communist Party of China.

An uncertain future

This frightened the public and brought politically inexperienced students to the front stage of opposition through speeches and silent protests. Three years has passed that even but when Beijing insisted that the next Chief Executive to be ‘patriotic’ recently, fear of a Communist crackdown reignited. Only this time it is met with an increasingly aggressive crowd.

Growing in number and strength, strong believers of democracy such as professor Benny Tai sponsored a plan of civil disobedience as their last resort if they fail to achieve their goals. Some 10,000 citizens are organising sit-in protest in Central which will cripple Hong Kong’s financial district. The student group Scholarism has planned for a trial run of such occupy movement after today’s protest and they fully expect to be arrested.

It will be a shame if government’s neglect is met with violence and violence is met with arrests in order for progress to be made. The first of its kind, Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ promised 50 years of autonomy and is designed to make the city flourish economically as well as socially and politically, and act as a shining example for Taiwan – which China wants to overpower under a similar system but has gotten nowhere – and to the world.

America will mark their 238th anniversary of independence on Friday; Hong Kong’s political system is only 17 years old. Yet the city is already exceedingly divided and politicised, and a gloomy future seems set for the three decades ahead.

NJTransit sets record Ticket Sales, Ridership at all-time highs

NJTransit: A Successful Mass Transit Super Bowl

by Jersey Mike

On Super Sunday, thousands of satisfied fans were able to arrive and leave the MetLife stadium at record time.  NJTransit, which had spent months preparing for Super Bowl 48, touted their high ridership numbers as a key indicator of success in playing part to the first “Mass Transit Super Bowl” of its kind.

“This..set an all-time record for ridership, which was previously 22,000 for (the) September 2009 U2 concert,” said NJ Transit spokesman John Durso Jr.

The crowds was in surprisingly good spirits, and they continued the Seahawks and Broncos chanting that had started on the train.  Many fans were impressed by the large number of trains and mass transit networks.

“We live in the country,” a Broncos fan said. “We have cars — we don’t use subways or anything like that.”

Surprisingly, despite angry rumors of people fainting, NJTransit assured us that there are no incidents of people fainting or being addressed by local EMT services.

NJTransit said the crowds were being orderly and passengers were being moved out in a “safe and efficient” manner. Dozens of buses were later brought in to help shuffle fans out of the area and ease the congestion.

Thanks to NJTransit, New Jersey and many football fans were able to enjoy a green and safe “Mass Transit Super Bowl.”

“The number of people moved, not only on game day, but in and around New York City, the number of people moved to multiple events, in and out, I think that’s an extraordinary achievement,” said Eric Grubman, the league’s executive vice president of NFL ventures and business operations.

Grubman added that NJTransit successfully moved 30,000 people from the venue in a way that was safe and designed to be easy.

Once again, NJTransit has shown the rest of the country how a “Jersey Strong” mass transit system can benefit the state and the entire country.

What are some prominent Asian American issues?

If you’re referring to the political and social issues that Asian-Americans face today, these are a few that come to mind:

Combating the “model minority” stereotype

  • The myth that all Asian Americans are economically successful, and that other races should emulate them.
  • Due to this myth, many Asian Americans in need are denied access to public assistance programs.
  • It treats Asian Americans as a monolithic and homogeneous entity by aggregating statistics of several different groups.
  • The racism that Asian Americans face in society and their achievements in overcoming racism are often understated or ignored altogether.
  • It promotes divisiveness between Asian Americans and other racial minorities
  • It’s dehumanizing to base a people’s identity on little besides (often inaccurate) perceptions of high income level and education.
  • It promotes the notion that Asians are apathetic, apolitical, and okay with the status quo.
  • It creates even greater expectations of achievement out of Asian-American students, which can be psychologically harmful.


Breaking the bamboo ceiling

  • Asian Americans are often excluded from executive positions in the workplace or passed over for promotions because of negative stereotypes.
  • They are less likely to been seen as having leadership potential, charisma, or creativity.
  • They are assumed to be quiet and complacent, less likely to seek out raises and promotions (not “go-getters” or risk-takers, lacking in confidence).
  • They are often pigeonholed into certain roles based on stereotypes of being good at math or the “Asian nerd” portrayed in media.
  • Even American-born Asians are seen, for no reason based on fact, as having weaker English and communicative/interpersonal skills.
  • Those that try to break these stereotypes are often viewed negatively by the general American population for trying to deny their Asian-ness


Gaining political access and minority rights

  • As mentioned earlier, Asian Americans are often seen as politically apathetic due to the expectation that they be quiet and accepting, etc.
  • Likewise, there are fewer policies in place to protect the rights of Asian Americans than other minorities.
  • Because Asian Americans are relatively recent immigrants, they are less politically established with fewer role models in office.
  • Asian Americans are often treated as “perpetual foreigners” and unassimilable (“Where are you really from?”).
  • Many Asian Americans are not citizens, and never apply for citizenship.
  • Many Asian Americans don’t speak English well enough to feel comfortable exercising their right to vote, hence the push for more multilingual ballots and English language classes.
  • Asian Americans are far less represented in state and federal government than is proportionate to their population.
  • Some argue that the US still has racist immigration policies (I don’t know about the extent to which this is true).
  • Many Asian Americans feel helpless to change the system, and because the community is so diverse, it is hard to organize politically.


Addressing Media Stereotypes

  • Orientalism in Western art and literature.
  • The “Asian nerd” stereotype, social awkwardness (this is often the only role available to Asian American men; there are few AA men in television).
  • Asian Americans as misogynists or otherwise culturally “backward” (every plot with an Indian-American woman somehow involves an arranged marriage, for example).
  • “Geisha girl” and “China doll” stereotypes; exoticism of Asian women who somehow always fall madly in love with their white colonial oppressors.
  • Asian American women as submissive and obedient.
  • South Asians treated as “terrorists” (see baseless accusations against Huma Abedin, for example).
  • South Asians as call center workers or “job-stealers” due to outsourcing (still reflects negatively on Indian Americans).


Other issues: hate-based violence, these days often targeting Sikhs and others mistaken for Muslims post-9/11; in the past, there has been a long history of anti-Asian violence, extending from the murder of Vincent Chin to the LA riots, etc. Anti-Asian bullying in the military (and possibly schools) has also gotten more attention lately.

It’s OK to discriminate against Asians (for high school admissions)

When is a minority not a minority?

NEW YORK, NY – Last year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a civil rights lawsuit with the federal government to eliminate testing as the sole basis for admissions to top public schools in New York City, such as Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant, since it discriminated against ethnic minorities. They argued that factors such as school grades, teacher recommendations and personal experience be taken into account, which would make the admissions process similar to university admissions. However, the majority of students admitted to these top NYC public schools are ethnic minorities. They’re Asians.

According to the New York Times, approximately 59% of the students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools are Asian. In 1971, the Stuyvesant High School student body was 10% Black, 4% Hispanic, and 6% Asian with the rest being White but is 72% Asian and around 4% percent are Black or Hispanic in 2012. Based on concerns about the lack of test preparation from minority groups, the city initially offered a free test-prep program to Black and Hispanic students and later to all students. However, it was still an issue because the majority of students enrolled in the public test program are Asians.

The Times article exploring this controversy spent considerable time profiling the Asian students who were accepted into the top NYC high schools. One account was about a son of Chinese immigrants who often sacrificed weekends studying for the high school entrance exam. He rarely saw his parents because they worked long shifts.

Other Asian students profiled came from families that either lived in Third World conditions or emigrated from countries experiencing violence. These families managed to pool their limited resources to ensure their kids had the time and money needed to do well in school and pass the high school entrance exam.

Although the writer made efforts to show these students made sacrifices and worked hard to be in these schools, he also made a point of emphasizing their “foreignness”. In the same article, the writer quoted Jerome Krase, a professor emeritus in sociology at Brooklyn College, suggesting Asian students are culturally obligated to do well since “[They] hold the honor of the family in their hands“, which implies they are different from Americans.

Moreover, the interviews with non-Asian parents were critical of the current admissions process. One parent agreed with expanding admissions to consider more than just the entrance exam results while another parent felt that it was abnormal for students to sacrifice weekends just to prepare for the entrance exam. Despite these criticisms, both parents have children who are preparing for the entrance exam.

While it is true that Asians make up the majority of students in the top specialized high schools in New York City, other groups such as Blacks, Hispanics and Whites also successfully passed the tests. Instead of just profiling Asian students and emphasizing their ‘foreignness’ and their family’s limited links to American culture, the writer should have also profiled Black and Hispanic students who successfully passed the exam to show that success is not limited to Asians.

Interviewing parents of successful Black or Hispanic students would give readers ideas of how non-Asian parents and their children worked around their respective challenges to succeed since they might be more relatable to readers than the Asian students and families profiled in the article. As a result, the article appears to perpetuate the idea that Asians are undermining the perceived character of New York City’s top public schools and unintentionally promoting tensions with other ethnic groups in the city due to their “foreign values”.

Another area the writer should have explored is the root cause for test prep programs.

It is strange that students have to enroll in test preparation programs to prepare for a high school admission exam that supposedly tests students on items they should have learned in the city’s primary and middle schools. If the primary and middle public schools are properly teaching their students, then there should not be a disparity between students enrolled in test prep programs and those that are not since the exam is based on things they should have learned in school.

Sadly, these disparities suggest there is an issue with the quality of public school education in the city, not of the race of students in the city’s top high schools.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund believes that changing the current admissions process into a holistic process would solve the problems with the current system that allegedly gives wealthier families an advantage due to their abilities to get better test preparation. However, this change would actually harm many poor immigrant Asian families and may not necessarily help the intended Black or Hispanic students in high school admissions.

If the city switches to a holistic approach, wealthier parents would still find ways to ensure their children have the means to join extracurricular activities, enroll in better primary or middle schools for improved grades, hire admissions counselors to develop strong admissions essays, and still send their children to test preparation programs. The less well-off, regardless if they are Black, Hispanic and Asian would still be at a disadvantage in the admissions process just like for university admissions. Most of all, in the midst of this controversy, the status quo for many wealthy families and their children would still be preserved.

Read more at TLR: It’s OK to discriminate against Asians (for high school admissions) | The Libertarian Republic http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/ok-discriminate-asians-high-school-admissions/#ixzz2jk3XymkV
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The Asian-American Experience & How to Deal With It

Asian-American is a constructed demographic by some California-based Asian-American activists and promoted by the majority group in the US of A.  However, a collective Asian-American experience doesn’t exist and never did despite being promoted by vocal Asian activists in an effort to unite the various ethnic Asian groups living in the US of A for greater recognition, greater rights, and greater social mobility.

In reality, ethnic Asians in America are broken up based on their language, nationality and sometimes religion. First generation immigrants separate themselves into their local ethnic communities, and their children partly define their racial identities from their original cultures.   On the other hand, descendants of first generation immigrants become disconnected with their ancestral cultures and start to think of themselves are “Americans”.  Regardless of generations, many Asian-Americans will make friends outside of their own little cultural group and often feel necessary to compromise their own identity, culture, second language to fit in.

Because there are Asian-Americans who are willing to compromise themselves and their self-respect to fit in, many non-Asian Americans believe that it is more socially acceptable to disparage Asians because they are a “model minority” and will not assert themselves for fear of being excluded in American society.  As a result, Americans believe they can get away with producing racist garbage such as the Asian Girls music video and song with excuses that it was done with an Asian model and because they have a “cute” token Indonesian-American as a band member.

I was also told by many White, Black and Latinos that the Asian Girlz video is not a big deal because it has incoherent humour and to just “lighten up“.  At the same time, they would change their tune by complaining that the George Zimmerman acquittal is racist and unfair. Despite what some people say, Asian-Americans are expected to tolerate this kind of abuse as they are compliant model minorities while others such as Blacks or Latinos are expected to assert themselves in the face of abuse or racism.  This perception in America is simply a blatant example of double standards yet it is somehow accepted in society.

Over time, these ongoing stereotypes give the majority population the impression they can get away with casual racism against Asians and arbitrarily judge Asian-Americans on an abnormally higher standard than other ethnicities. While the racial discrimination is nowhere near the levels of Chinese exclusion and Japanese internment during the 19th and 20th centuries, Asians are still seen as perpetual foreigners or by historic stereotypes.

With all these problems surrounding Asian-Americans whether it is culture shock, discrimination or a lack of clear identity, much of the ongoing dialogue in this so-called community are ultimately tied to racism or identity issues.  This is because the core of the Asian-American experience is the ongoing frustration of not being accepted in American society regardless of how hard they try to fit in whether that involves compromising one’s original identity; jettisoning the family’s native language or culture; or screwing over fellow Asians in a misguided attempt to avoid being seen as disloyal towards America. The point is no matter how hard Asian-Americans try, they will never fit in and it is better to be happy with who they are and accept their multicultural background.

Latinos had these kinds of problems for decades and managed to gradually destroy these labels by asserting and actually retaining their dual cultures regardless of stereotypes and without generally compromising to fit in.  These problems facing Asian-Americans were faced by Latinos living in America whether they are natural citizens or immigrants and eventually became an accepted and defining part of American society.

While other Asian-Americans claim they have little to learn from the Latino experience because they also face discrimination and because Asians have a supposed advantage via the “model minority” stereotype, Latinos did change America’s perception of being perpetual foreigners to being considered an integral part of American society.  Many Latinos have been increasing their presence in media, government, and in the workplace at various levels.  They are valued due to their multicultural background, many are functionally bilingual and most of all they are free from the “bamboo ceiling” that keeps Asians from reaching management levels due to ongoing perceptions by Americans that Asians are uncreative, compliant and lack individuality, which they believe is not the case with non-Asians.

Latinos who are US citizens are able to assert themselves and become recognised for being a major economic contributor and voting group in the country.  At the same time, I do not see this kind of solidarity among Asian-Americans in the US of A since it has become too easy for US politicians whether they are Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, Racist Party or Green party to divide and conquer the Asian-American community when it comes to elections (eg Taiwanese-Americans support any politician who gives lip service to Taiwan Independence and demonising China, Vietnamese-Americans support any politician who claims to demonise Communists, Laotian-Americans support anyone who claims to care about the overseas or Hmong community, Tibetan-Americans will throw their lot with any politician ranting about evil Chinese Commies or how they love the Dalai Lama, etc).

As long as the Asian community is divided and easily fractured, they will never have a voice in the American government and society at large. Also, Latinos generally assert themselves when they are mistreated or when they receive citizenship, which is not truly the case with Asian-Americans as seen by how Levy Tran took the gig without complaining about the Asian Girlz subject matter or when Marcello Lalopua, the band’s Indonesian member, did not speak out when the racist Asian Girlz song was being produced.

Most of all, many Latinos have learned they will never fit in American society no matter how they tried ranging from passing as white or abandoning Spanish as their second or foreign language. This is why many of them maintain a working knowledge of Spanish or express pride in their multicultural background unlike many in the Asian community. I still see the heavily Americanised Asians distancing themselves from the less Americanised Asians and labelling them as FOBs, weirdos, or Unamericans or becoming ignorant of their parents’ culture.

At the same time, I’ve also seen some Asian-Americans gravitating towards other Asian cultures that seem more popular than their own home cultures such as Chinese or Filipino-Americans learning Japanese and Japanese culture to the point they know more Japanese culture and history than their own or to the point Japanese becomes their second language instead of Chinese or Tagalog. This also applies to Asian-Americans who lean towards Korean culture or try to integrate themselves into the Korean-American community when they are not and never will be Korean.

I don’t see Cuban-Americans or Chicanos trying to pass themselves off as Puerto Ricans; or Colombians knowing more about Mexican culture and history than their own. I also don’t see many Latinos railing against other Latinos who recently moved into the US of A as FOBS or outsiders.

This is why it is would be better to look at how the Latino community went from being seen as perpetual foreigners to being considered part of America rather than dwelling on Asian-American frustration in a cultural bubble. It’s time Asians in the US learn from them and their struggles and victories to benefit the Asian-American community and to stop dwelling on these issues in a bubble.

The Publicis Omnicom Groupe Merger is Great for Advertising!

So this weekend in the ‪#‎adlife‬, Omnicom and Publicis Groupe announced they will merge into a creatively named holding company called Publicis Omnicom Groupe. What this means is that they will become the largest advertising holding company eclipsing WPP and leaving IPG and Havas behind.

From the company’s point of view, this will be a win-win with their increase in overall market share, synergies between formerly competing shops/agencies, and increased efficiencies. In other words, this will suck for the average ad professional since there will just be an illusion of choice when switching shops, possible redundancies due to consolidation, and aggressive cost-cutting in reduced healthcare and 401k benefits. Regardless, this will be great because it will increase overall ROI for shareholders, result in an increase in freelancers from all the project layoffs, and lower starting salaries due to the glut in freelancers and reduced costs.

On the flipside, this will be a boon for indie shops since they have a chance to steal some business away from the corporate agencies. With the merger, there are now clearer conflicts of interests and less stability for the ad professional, something indie shops could take care if they make the right decisions.

This will also be great for the other holding companies due to the expected increase in freelancers and available talent. With the increase in freelancers due to resignations or layoffs, this means companies can work harder to get contract work at lower rates or lower starting salaries since we all know that a glut in talent leads to lower costs. Also, this merger will get other holding companies such as IPG, Havas or even Dentsu to start thinking about merging or strategic alliances.

All this news about holding companies merging at the corporate level may seen boring and academic, but the short story is that all ad professionals need to start protecting their necks. Whether this means kissing up to the department heads or senior colleagues to get them to protect them or act as their advocates during restructuring time or simply switching jobs before things get bad at the office, everyone is on their own in light of these changes.

This means people who are out of the job will expect to be competing with more freelancers for gigs or will need to pare down their expectations for salaries or benefits. Most of all, everyone needs to get ready for shops being reshuffled, re-branded, realigned and relaunched similar to what WPP did with G2 when they merged it with related shops and relaunched it as Geometry something after severing its links with Grey.

Also, the Asian economies are going to slow down so don’t expect to find work in this side of the world because ad spend if also going down just like in North America and Europe.  Or this could all fail due to anti-trust regulations in the US and EU.

Merger Of Advertising Giants Brings Together Largest Collection Of People With No Discernible Skills

NEW YORK—In a historic announcement that analysts say marks major changes for the advertising industry, senior leadership at Omnicom Group, Inc. and Publicis Groupe SA outlined plans on Sunday to merge the advertising giants into one firm, bringing together the largest collection of people with no discernible skills whatsoever. “With thousands of employees and billions of dollars of assets between them, the consolidation of Omnicom and Publicis will create an intimidating workforce of 135,000 utterly talentless men and women who are not marketable in any industry other than their own and whose jobs add zero value to society at large,” market analyst Mark Goodnough said of the planned $35 billion merger, adding that not a single person involved in the merger has ever made anything with his hands, knows anything about information technology, or is capable of doing quality writing or research. “These two ad behemoths will have the industry’s largest and most formidable talent pool of people called ‘creatives’ who have never created a single thing in their lives and whose only apparent ability is to trick other people.” At press time, over $500 billion was spent on advertising last year.

Thank You Jack Hunter

Today I learned Jack Hunter has resigned from Randall Paul’s staff after allegations of his past as a Southern “Shock Jock” came to light from an obscure blog promoting neo-conservative and reactionary views.

The blog alleged that Jack used to hang around neo-Confederate groups when he was in his youth and used to make a series of off-colour antics as a “Southern Avenger” character in the spirit of stupid fun.  As a result of these allegations, the corporate media has used this to paint Mr. Hunter as a far-right reactionary with an intolerant worldview and as an attempt to smear Randall Paul through Jack Hunter’s past antics.

The Jack Hunter of the present is nothing like the Jack Hunter in his youth.  The person I met is articulate, open-minded, tolerant, and familiar with major issues in the country.  This seems a far cry from the naive youth who believes Lincoln deserved to be shot for winning the Civil War, different from the guy running around screaming off-colour comments while wearing a wresting mask decorated with the Stars and Bars and far from the stereotypical Southerner who fears venturing beyond the county line.

At the same time, it does show how individuals can mature and grow as they are exposed to more forward-thinking and open ideas.  Being exposed to universal ideas of liberty and of the possibility of an open society did bring out the best in Jack Hunter as seen in his book about the Tea Party and his contributions to the American public discourse.

That being said, his resignation, most likely at the advice of his colleagues and politicians, is a sad example of the consequences of past behaviour.  It’s a lesson that we should all be careful about how and what we say or write in public as it can be easily taken out of context or used against us in other ways.  This is even more relevant given that the NSA is currently recording all possible written or verbal communications on their massive cloud-based databases.

I can only hope Jack takes a break from all this nonsense to reflect, recharge and return to the scene when the time is right.

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations”

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations”   (August 9, 2010)

Japan’s stagnating economy and society are still operating on a postwar model which no longer makes sense. In response, its young generations are opting out of workaholic career paths, marriage and having children.

We in America are already getting a taste of the social costs of grinding economic decline. Young people who are graduating from college find a world of greatly diminished opportunities for full-time employment.

Many of the jobs that are available are free-lance/contract or other temp jobs, or part-time positions which pay one-third of what their parents earn.

Lacking sufficient income, young people are moving back home or staying at home because that is the only financially viable option open to them.

The cheerleaders cranking the hype machine shrilly claim that the U.S. economy will soon start growing smartly. But as this weblog and many others have documented over the past five years, that assumption has essentially no foundation in reality.

Much more likely is an “end to (paying) work” of the sort I have described here many times:

End of Work, End of Affluence (December 5, 2008)

End of Work, End of Affluence I: Cascading Job Losses (December 8, 2008)

End of Work, End of Affluence III: The Rise of Informal Businesses (December 10, 2008)

Endgame 3: The End of (Paying) Work (January 21, 2009)

Demographics and the End of the Savior State (May 17, 2010)

What happens to the social fabric of an advanced-economy nation after a decade or more of economic stagnation? For an answer, we can turn to Japan. The second-largest economy in the world has stagnated in just this fashion for almost twenty years, and the consequences for the “lost generations” which have come of age in the “lost decades” have been dire. In many ways, the social conventions of Japan are fraying or unraveling under the relentless pressure of an economy in seemingly permanent decline.

While the world sees Japan as the home of consumer technology juggernauts such as Sony and Toshiba and high-tech “bullet trains” (shinkansen), beneath the bright lights of Tokyo and the evident wealth generated by decades of hard work and the massive global export machine of “Japan, Inc,” lies a different reality: increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity for the nation’s youth.

The gap between extremes of income at the top and bottom of society– measured by the Gini coefficient — has been growing in Japan for years; to the surprise of many outsiders, once-egalitarian Japan is becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

The media in Japan have popularized the phrase “kakusa shakai,” literally meaning “gap society.” As the elite slice of society prospers and younger workers are increasingly marginalized, the media has focused on the shrinking middle class. For example, a bestselling book offers tips on how to get by on an annual income of less than three million yen ($34,800). Two million yen ($23,000) has become the de-facto poverty line for millions of Japanese, especially outside high-cost Tokyo.

More than one-third of the workforce is part-time as companies have shed the famed Japanese lifetime employment system, nudged along by government legislation which abolished restrictions on flexible hiring a few years ago. Temp agencies have expanded to fill the need for contract jobs, as permanent job opportunities have dwindled.

Many fear that as the generation of salaried Baby Boomers dies out, the country’s economic slide might accelerate. Japan’s share of the global economy has fallen below 10 percent from a peak of 18 percent in 1994. Were this decline to continue, income disparities would widen and threaten to pull this once-stable society apart.

Young Japanese, their expectations permanently downsized, are increasingly opting out of the rigid social systems on which Japan, Inc. was built.

The term “Freeter” is a hybrid word that originated in the late 1980s, just as the Japanese property and stock market bubbles reached their zenith. It combines the English “free” a nd the German “arbeiter,” or worker, and describes a lifestyle which is radically different from the buttoned-down rigidity of the permanent-employment economy: freedom to move between jobs.

This absence of loyalty to a company is totally alien to previous generations of driven Japanese “salarymen” who were expected to uncomplainingly turn in 70-hour work weeks at the same company for decades, all in exchange for lifetime employment.

Many young people have come to mistrust big corporations, having seen their fathers or uncles eased out of “lifetime” jobs in the relentless downsizing of the past twenty years. From the point of view of the younger generations, the loyalty their parents unstintingly offered to companies was wasted.

They have also come to see diminishing value in the grueling study and tortuous examinations required to compete for the elite jobs in academia, industry and government; with opportunities fading, long years of study are perceived as pointless.

In contrast, the “freeter” lifestyle is one of hopping between short-term jobs and devoting energy and time to foreign travel, hobbies or other interests.

As long ago as 2001, The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 50 percent of high school graduates and 30 percent of college graduates now quit their jobs within three years of leaving school.

The downside is permanently downsized income and prospects. Many of the four million “freeters” survive on part-time work and either live at home or in a tiny flat with no bath. A typical “freeter” wage is 1,000 yen ($8.60) an hour.

Japan’s slump has lasted so long, a “New Lost Generation” is coming of age, joining Japan’s first “Lost Generation” which graduated into the bleak job market of the 1990s.

These trends have led to an ironic moniker for the Freeter lifestyle: Dame-Ren (No Good People). The Dame-Ren get by on odd jobs, low-cost living and drastically diminished expectations.

The decline of permanent employment has led to the unraveling of social mores and conventions. Many young men now reject the macho work ethic and related values of their fathers. These “herbivores” reject the traditonal Samurai ideal of masculinity.

Derisively called “herbivores” or “Grass-eaters,” these young men are uncompetitive and uncommitted to work, evidence of their deep disillusionment with Japan’s troubled economy.

A bestselling book titled The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Who Are Changing Japan by Megumi Ushikubo, president of Tokyo marketing firm Infinity, claims that about two-thirds of all Japanese men aged 20-34 are now partial or total grass-eaters. “People who grew up in the bubble era (of the 1980s) really feel like they were let down. They worked so hard and it all came to nothing,” says Ms Ushikubo. “So the men who came after them have changed.”

This has spawned a disconnect between genders so pervasive that Japan is experiencing a “social recession” in marriage, births, and even sex, all of which are declining.

With a wealth and income divide widening along generational lines, many young Japanese are attaching themselves to their parents, the generation that accumulated home and savings during the boom years of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Surveys indicate that roughly two-thirds of freeters live at home.

Freeters “who have no children, no dreams, hope or job skills could become a major burden on society, as they contribute to the decline in the birthrate and in social insurance contributions,” Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor wrote in a magazine essay titled, Parasite Singles Feed on Family System.

This trend of never leaving home has sparked an almost tragicomical countertrend ofJapanese parents who actively seek mates to marry off their “parasite single” offspring as the only way to get them out of the house.

An even more extreme social disorder is Hikikomori, or “acute social withdrawal,” a condition in which the young live-at-home person will virtually wall themselves off from the world by never leaving their room.

Though acute social withdrawal in Japan affect both genders, impossibly high expectations of males from middle and upper middle class families has led many sons, typically the eldest, to refuse to leave the home. The trigger for this complete withdrawal from social interaction is often one or more traumatic episodes of social or academic failure: that is, the inability to meet standards of conduct and success that can no longer be met in diminished-opportunity Japan.

The unraveling of Japan’s social fabric as a result of eroding economic conditions for young people offers Americans a troubling glimpse of the high costs of long-term economic stagnation.

There is even a darker side to this disintegration of the social fabric and convention: child abuse is on the rise as well. Sadly, people under long-term stress often take out their multiple frustrations on the weakest, most marginalized people–including children:

Record 44,210 child abuse cases logged in ’09

Japan hit by huge rise in child abuse

Both Japan and the U.S. alike desperately need a peaceful revolution in expectations, financial justice (i.e. the absence of fraud, collusion, looting, gaming the system and parasitic leeching by financial and political Elites) and in the social definitions of wealth, security, community, “growth” as a measure of well-being and prosperity, and ultimately, what constitutes meaningful “work.”

In effect, postwar Japan grafted a mercantilist export economy based on insane work-hours onto a traditional patriarchal society in which women were expected to sacrifice their autonomy and ambitions for the good of their children, husband and the husband’s parents.

The male “salaryman” was expected to sacrifice his life up to retirement to his employer, via 60-70 hour work-weeks and killing commutes. Children were expected to sacrifice their childhood and teen years to study, in order to pass hellishly demanding exams on which their future livelihood, career and income depended.

These extremes of sacrifice might have made sense or seemed necessary to rebuild the nation after World War II. But now, 65 years and three generations after the war, these sacrifices make no sense and are destroying the social fabric of Japan.

Men who work 70 hours a week have no real role in their children’s lives, nor are they able to be husbands and fathers in any meaningful day-to-day sense. Understandably, many young Japanese men are opting out of that life of absurd, fundamentally meaningless sacrifice to corporations or the government.

For their part, young women are opting out of the burdens of being in effect a single parent who carries the immense responsibility of guaranteeing the academic success of her son(s) and the marriageability of her daughter(s). Further, as in standard traditional societies, she essentially leaves her own family and throws in her lot with her husband’s family, as she is expected to care for his aging parents as a daughter-in-law.

Given these burdens, it’s no wonder a third of Japanese young women have not married and have no plans to marry. According to one female author quoted in one of the above articles, Japanese men sometimes propose to women with lines like: “I want you to cook miso soup for me the rest of my life.” Quelle surprise that Japan’s increasingly educated and well-traveled young women are not impressed with this offer of lifetime menial servitude.

Japan’s youth are opting out of its stagnating economy and traditionalist society for good reason: the sacrifices demanded are inhuman and no longer make sense.What Japan needs is 35-hour work-weeks and shared jobs, not 70-hour work-weeks for some and dead-end jobs for half its youth.

If Japan wants to encourage families and women to have children, then it needs to recognize that the sacrifices demanded of young men and women no longer make sense in today’s world.

On Obama vs Obama – The First American Presidential Debate

All this debate hoopla between Willard “Mitt aka Obama 2.0″ Romney and Barack “Socialist Kenyan Muslim” Obama has really gotten out of hand. Sure, I enjoyed the memes about angry Big Birds, the Jim Lehrer incompetence rants, and the fact everyone was getting so worked up on Obama 2.0 supposedly beating Prez Obama to a pulp in last night’s debate.

But to be honest, I was more excited that the New York Yankees are going to the World Series again and how Ben Bernanke‘s QE3+ is causing inflation in Hong Kong. Since QE3+ was announced with the intention of propping up the stagnant American economy until unemployment drops to 5.5% (ROFL), inflation in Hong Kong has increased around 5-10% and the real estate bubble has gotten to the point where the government is getting involved to deflate it. Also, the price of food has increased and the HKD is going to lose more value against the Renminbi.

Note to self: begin splitting half of my HKD holdings in the bank into RMB to hedge against more damage from QE3+.

For all the theatrics and political WWF-style wrestling in the debate, neither Romney nor Obama really said anything substantial. Obama was just being passive as usual while Romney just pulled numbers out of nowhere and made them real with his confidence and photogenic smile. And yes, we now know Romney is a capable multitasker because he was able to both moderate the debate and hand Obama his ass at the same time.

I can say all these things while others are getting worked up over comments on their debate posts to the point of deleting either the comments, posts or even dropping a contact or two because I am not going to vote in November. Yes, I am not going to vote. No absentee ballots, no online voting and no write-ins for you-know-who and that Johnson fellow. Full disclosure, I voted for Obama in 2008 and it didn’t seem to pay off in any way so I am not voting for him or his Obama 2.0 (Romney) tool presented by the GOP. Even if I voted, my vote would be just filtered down to a handful of electoral votes that would go to Obama and my supposed absentee ballot will take its sweet time to pass customs to be added to the totals.

So no, I am not going to vote on November 6th. Conversely, I have no plans to play Halo4 that day either. I am just going to go to work, focus on the work, attend a few client meetings, have lunch with colleagues, and then head home to exercise and read a William Gibson novel or even one from Phillip K. Dick. Not voting on election day by choice will be one of the most American things I will do since becoming a naturalised citizen of the United States of America.

Thank you and I love Big Bird too.

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