Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Week Off

I missed last week. Sorry all. Had a bit of a stomach bug that had me hurrying to get ready for the week of work. But also, I have this week off!

So, I figured now would be a good time to tell the world about Super-Golden Week. This week marks the end of an era in Japan, literally. A new emperor will be named and in the land of 12-hour, six-day work weeks, everyone--well, arguably many people--will have the longest holiday they have seen: 10 solid days off. That is, unless you have any responsibility involving the calendar changes. The year in Japan will be going from Hesei 31 to Reiwa 1 on May 1st. This means there will be countless Japanese IT workers chewing on pens at midnight the way the world did for y2k.

For many people though, it seems a great time to travel, camp and relax. I hope this is truly the case.

As I'm sure many reading this know, those of us here who are not Japanese live a blessed life. Though there are of course certain problems (glass, nay, concrete ceilings, always being an "outsider") for the most part (and I know there are exceptions; and in particular with people newly emigrating from other parts of Asia to do manual labor) we're not expected to pull the crazy hours that our colleagues must.

Some of you not in Japan may have just a sense of how much people work here, so let me clarify it for you. Many white-collar workers in Japan work hours of overtime everyday. Many people with well-paying jobs are expected to work most weekends too; some people I know work 6-days a week every week, others get only a few days off a month. In addition to this, many are also expected to work through part or all of the longer holidays (Golden Week this time around being an exception) and are expected not to take contracted days off work.

People actually die of overwork here. Not suicide due to overwork (although this happens frequently enough) but die of exhaustion.

I don't think this nonstop-work is the case for all workers here, but it is for enough that it seems the norm. And with very little interest from the powers that be to enforce any restrictions, it seems to be a growing trend.  It's a hard life.

I worry in particular about having a family here because I think my immunity to working those hours (or, in other words, the fact I have the work I do have) is achievable only that I'm not Japanese. Though my son may grow up to be better than me at the work I do, he'll be expected to preform his duties as a Japanese citizen.

So, for those of you reading this who, like me, have found a way to enjoy these long breaks from work and make a living, let's keep in mind those of our friends, colleagues and family who are still plugging away. Let's help Japan make much needed reform or help our help the next generation find a way away from this country working them to death.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Person Eaten by Lions : D

Every so often there's a link to an article on Facebook about a poacher or big-game hunter being killed by some animal. It used to be I'd only see such stories celebrated on Ricky Gervais' page, but just this week I've seen (and I imagine many of you have seen) an article shared from news sources including CBS News and The Guardian about a poacher being trampled by elephants and then eaten by lions. Usually this article is shared with some joke about karma and many people laughing about it. 

I find this troubling for a few reasons. But first let me say I am on the poacher side here, but the human side. I find it odd to celebrate the death of some unknown person doing an illegal act that doesn't involve harming other people. I mean if, say, a cocaine dealer was murdered by one of his clients, would we similarly celebrate? Even though this is a person much more directly harming other people? Further, many of the same people I see celebrating animal justice are also fervently against capital punishment. Again, not supporting either position here, but I just find it a strange dichotomy. 

Another interesting aspect of this is that many of those so adamantly for the animals in this situation, have never seen these animals outside of a zoo. I, like many of those I see sharing these articles, see lions and elephants much in the way Europeans did hundreds of years ago; they are semi-magical creatures from another content. Although, unlike Europeans of previous centuries, instead of wanting their skins on a wall, I find their lives to hold more value than chickens and cows. That seems obvious I suppose, but why? I've touched cows and chickens, I've never touched an elephant or lion. Perhaps this distance keeps these animals in their majestic state?

But here's the unsettling part: does celebrating the death of a poacher over the death of a criminal whose victims are human place the lives of these animals over the lives of humans? Again, I think those who break such laws (abusing animals, threatening a species, etc) should be punished, but should the punishment be death? And you might say, "Well, this is nature acting, not society," but does that mean we should celebrate it? How far removed is the act of celebrating the death of a poacher and killing a poacher? Are we heading for a world where killing a poacher will be seen as fair punishment? Are we already there? 

With this, another question, what is the life of a poacher? How many of us can imagine any likely details outside of killing rare animals illegally for money? Are they rich? Are they desperate? In either case, what do we think these words translate to in their world? That is, if they are rich, what is "rich" to them? I don't imagine them idling they Porsche in front of Starbucks on their day off. If desperate, what is that to them? Like the lions and elephants, their roles in this are also preserved in their distance from ourselves. The poacher too is a semi-magical creature.