Game of Truth

REZ: i remember one summer a long time ago
REZ: probably middle school
REZ: i went to a “writing camp” over the summer
REZ: i.e. a class run by non-teachers
REZ: and for some reason i forget we played this game
REZ: two people would be blindfolded and put into a ring
REZ: a rolled up newspaper would be thrown in there
REZ: and there’s two stages to the game
REZ: first is someone needs to find the newspaper
REZ: second is when the newspaper is found, it’s announced, then the guy with the newspaper needs to be able to find and whack the other guy
REZ: arena size was…
REZ: i was a kid so it was smaller; i’m trying to imagine how large it’d be for an adult
REZ: 9×9′ or 10×10′, thereabouts
REZ: i wasnt the first to play so i got a chance to see others play for a while, maybe it was even the second or third time it happened until it was my turn
REZ: maybe multiple days, maybe not, i forget
REZ: but the way i saw people do it was really really obtuse
REZ: granted it’s young teens doing it but whatever they had in their minds, it was different than mine
REZ: newspaper’s somewhere on the ground, and what they do is they reach out at different spots with their hands to see what’s there
REZ: second phase was basically the same except standing up and with one guy not reaching out at different spots
REZ: maybe 3~5 minute rounds of people blindfolded, acting as if they weren’t blindfolded
REZ: as if the lights had just been turned off
REZ: the whole time.
REZ: then it came my turn with some girl
REZ: and i swam along the carpet
REZ: the objective was to find a newspaper and there was nothing that would hurt me, so the strategy as far as i could tell involved covering the largest amount of area as soon as possible
REZ: made me look like an idiot but i wasn’t interested in that
REZ: so basically, breaststroke.
REZ: unfortunately my strategy wasn’t able to get me the newspaper because i hadn’t thought through how to measure covered ground versus uncovered ground, and i started in a bad direction
REZ: i hit the edge of the arena multiple times and didn’t know where i was facing after i got turned around
REZ: so now i’m the hunted versus the hunter
REZ: and rather than walking around with the smallest profile like a girl in a movie walking down a dark unfamiliar street
REZ: my upper body was about as wide as it’d normally be
REZ: but i was basically squatting with how far apart my legs were
REZ: and rather than having (nothing) to indicate to me where my opponent was
REZ: i listened and felt for heat
REZ: if i felt something, i’d move far with only a few strides
REZ: i’d stay mostly put otherwise unless something changed
REZ: it went on for 10~15 minutes until the “teachers” finally stopped it.
REZ: i got pretty popular afterwards for a few minutes.
REZ: then afterwards the game was broken and i don’t think anyone really felt tension from playing it anymore.
REZ: both players would always start out with breaststroke and whoever got the newspaper would instantly start swinging it around like a madman
REZ: i forget if everyone actually got a chance to play in the end or if it was just stopped without comment.
REZ: oh yeah i forgot one part of the story
LAX: I feel like someone would have accidentally gotten punched like that
REZ: when the blindfold was put on, i was also the first to insist on a certain way it was put on
REZ: namely, that they didn’t cover my ears.
REZ: oh sure
REZ: i meant relatively speaking
REZ: rather than a swordsman in a dark dungeon on the wary for large monsters
REZ: the hunter actually did assume the role of the hunter after that
REZ: moved quick, “sword” in front, extended arms
REZ: one time where i really did change ‘everything’.
REZ: i solved it
REZ: and then i ruined it.
LAX: What do you mean ruined it?
REZ: what’s the point in playing a game?
LAX: To win
REZ: no no no
REZ: that’s the point when you’re already playing a game
REZ: why do you pick up a game?
REZ: why play a game rather than do something else?
LAX: Because other stuff is boring?
REZ: yes
REZ: because games are fun
REZ: it wasn’t fun after i and whoever came after me solved it, me with the search and defensive standards, and him with the offensive standard
REZ: “everyone” had a certain understanding of “how” the game was played
REZ: then i played it
REZ: and that other guy played it.
REZ: it was a game of tension and mystery
REZ: then it became a dice roll.
REZ: or rather, a coin flip.
REZ: i wonder if i was the dumb one in the end.
LAX: Nope
LAX: You were the only one to think outside the box
LAX: The rest of the kids followed in your footsteps, no one else attempted to change it
LAX: It’s like when a new “unbeatable” meta shows up in a game
LAX: Everyone conforms to that meta and no one tries to break it
LAX: Everyone was doing what you did rather than thinking about how to beat what you did
LAX: AKA they were fucking stupid sheep
REZ: as was the case with most educational summer camps, no kid actually wanted to be there and little of it was interesting at all
REZ: that was the first time something happened that was both interesting and something they couldnt simply replicate at home
REZ: you really do need a human ring creating an arena for no danger of running into things to be involved, and enough eyes on the scene to determine what the objective state of the game is
REZ: but after those two games it was just another thing to do.
REZ: and then not a thing to do, because it stopped.
REZ: back to writing stupid shit no one cares about and no one reads.
LAX: The problem with your story isnot that you ruined the game
LAX: It’s that the game was stupid.
REZ: oh sure
LAX: Or more that the rest of the kids were….
REZ: we’re adults and we have experience with games so we can see that the design was absolutely retarded
REZ: but i don’t think that changes the purpose and niche the game filled for that situation at that time
REZ: everyone played the game as if there was also the rule that you had to act as if you could actually see
REZ: and that created a certain feel for the game
REZ: i played as if that rule didn’t exist and revealed that the emperor wasn’t really wearing any clothes
REZ: good for me i suppose
REZ: but all that was left for me and everyone else after that was looking at a hairy fat ugly old man.
LAX: The real problem is that you were theonly person that actually played the game
LAX: In a competetive game the goal is to win
LAX: Or rather to beat the other person
LAX: Everyone saw that you found the winning defense strategy
LAX: If there were a few smart kids in that group the game could have been a bit more like rock paper sissors with a phsyical aspect
LAX: The problem with being smart is you tend to ruin the “fun” for everyone else who isn’t smart.
LAX: No one else there had the physical or mental capacity to win aginast a decently thought out plan
LAX: But, was there a point to that story?
REZ: i’ve been reading some of the kaiji stuff i hadnt before since i cant sleep and something in there reminded me of this story
REZ: the point was that i wasn’t sure if it was the right move
LAX: It was the right move for you
REZ: it was the right move inside the game.
LAX: Same difference
REZ: no, i think it was the wrong move outside
REZ: there’s fewer smart people than dumb people
LAX: No matter what, the same outcome would have happened
REZ: if smart people can figure out a way to win, they should also figure out the cost of ruining the whole thing
REZ: on a long enough timeline, yes
REZ: but it was a camp of like 4 weeks, maybe 16 days
REZ: and its not like we played all that time
REZ: the dumb kids wouldn’t have made it out, only the smarter ones
REZ: we could’ve played for a few hours longer rather than not
LAX: With enough iterations the game would have evolved anyways
LAX: With your strat that is
LAX: Someone would have figured out how to beat it
LAX: Really, the burden lies on the teachers.
LAX: For ruining the game
LAX: They’re the ones who cancled it, presumably
REZ: i think that way of thinking will evade the understanding of a lot of things people do
REZ: there are more dumb kids than smart kids, more dumb people than smart people
LAX: Sure
REZ: how much of society is run with the super smart people pretending just enough so that all the dumb people continue enjoying life the way things are?
REZ: or rather: not seeing how absolutely retarded their situation is, not realize such a thing, and thus also never start trying to even want to look for a way out of it?
LAX: A lot.
REZ: probably.
REZ: and people like us, not-dumb not-super-smart people, spend time looking at how to win the individual games instead.

Advertisements

BART, Americans, and Attitudes, vs The East

This is what the best BART station looks like.

Yesterday I had my only trip on American public transportation in recent memory and it was even more disappointing than I expected. I love trains, I love cities built around trains, I love being able to go places without having to lug around a huge metal box, but now that I’ve bothered paying attention to it, Bay Area Rapid Transit does not run a metro. It’s not a heavy rail system. It’s not even a light rail system. It will never be a heavy or a light rail system. Comparing my experience riding BART to the one riding Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway and it became instantly obvious that BART is just a glorified parking lot shuttle that just happens to run on the rubberless kind of wheels.

But this isn’t only the BART’s fault. Even if by some hand of god all the people in the administration on down were removed and replaced with perfect candidates to fill every conceivable need, including the contracted union construction workers who are the mafia in all but name and the Department of Transportation guys who are all bought out, BART would still be garbage – because it doesn’t go anywhere by itself. If your destination is Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco, fine. If you’re going anywhere else, you take BART, you get off at your final station and then what?

Walk the rest of the way?

BART… and I’m back in a parking lot.

“But the population density is too low! We’re not crowded like Hong Kong!” is the common response and until now I grudingly accepted it as the truth, the reason why everything is shitty. If only we had more people in the San Francisco Bay Area, if only more people wanted to come to Silicon Valley, home to the most valuable companies in the world, everything would be fixed!

Then I realized that it’s exactly backwards. Low density isn’t the reason for lack of results, low density is itself the intended result – among a bunch of other intended results. Sure, the people want a fast high quality public transportation system. They probably want it to be free too. But god have mercy if it comes at the cost of their backyard, or if it causes buildings with more than 3 stories to pop up anywhere before the horizon. If someone really wants something they know they can’t have everything and can usually come to some sort of compromise. But the public, uneducated on little and sold on everything, compromises for nothing. So, as a result, we pay a few billion dollars every few years to keep it afloat, and otherwise keep it out of sight out of mind, ignoring that the system was outdated when it was introduced almost half a century ago, and with all the money poured into it has essentially never updated since.

Everyone who’s gotten to highschool has this figured out, even if they only believe it’s true of people they disagree with. This is all fairly common knowledge:

The people will accept politicians being stupid and wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects, so long as the people get to sit comfortably in their sofas at home calling politicians stupid for wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects.

Now what’s not common knowledge is that it’s wrong – specifically, it’s not “the people”. It’s not a function of homo sapiens, it’s somewhat a function of masses and democracy, but there’s something more accurate we can say, that no one will ever say:

The American people will accept politicians being stupid and wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects, so long as the American people get to sit comfortably in their sofas at home calling politicians stupid for wasting billions of dollars on pork barrel projects.

BART sucks because Americans suck.

I don’t mean this in the ‘you allow people in power to screw you!!!’ sense; democracy is a sham, and it’s unreasonable to say that unorganized masses are “allowing” organized interests to do whatever they want. I mean this in the sense that the American pasttime of schadenfreude against their political leaders is an attitude they take everywhere. There are the big problems which, fairly, only a very select few with power can do anything about this moment. Then there’s ten thousand little ones which everyone can do something about. Things which add up and eventually make the world a better place.

Things which Americans won’t do, and will defend to the death not only are they right in not doing it, but that you’re wrong and weak in wanting it done to begin with. It’s not important if you’re actually wrong or weak. It’s not important if they’re wrong either.

What’s important is they get to call you the names, and being comfortable while doing it.


This is what one of my rides on BART looked like. I don’t have pictures of the other ride, but there were a bunch of really dirty people “teens” in really dirty clothes each taking up a whole bench, and empty boxes and bottles here and there.

I suddenly don’t like software engineers.

Two doors per side per car, seats are arranged front/back except for doors, which have one side-bench per. Not shown in picture is the map of the system, which is either once per side or once per car.

This is what an older MTR car looks like.

Some of them have TVs mounted on top of the central bars too. 2 per car.

4 doors per side, all seats are arranged as sides, no padding, bunch of things to hold onto.

All these differences aren’t so important. Lower density system, you can afford put in wider comfier seats. Comfy is good. Makes sense. What is important is that BART had a paper printout of the system occurring 1 or 2 times per car, while MTR had 8 of these:


Does Silicon Valley not have that because of lower population density too? We can’t scrounge up enough money because lower ridership, and who cares it’s just an unnecessarily fancy display that only has one purpose anyways?

How about the audio announcement then? I could never make out what the operator was saying on BART, partly because half the time riding BART is louder than flying turboprop, but also because the PA system was trash and the operator didn’t enunciate. MTR I could hear everything just fine, even if I had to wait for the English version of it. It was also all prerecorded. I guess the population density isn’t high enough to justify prerecording. It isn’t high enough to justify the operator saying the name of the station before the train arrives either. Or sometimes, saying the name of the station at all!

Man low population density causes a lot of problems.

This was at the Kam Sheung Road MTR station, effectively about as backwater as you can get in Hong Kong. It is on the inside door of the restroom. The restroom at the time had the janitor chilling in his utility closet; in Hong Kong public areas in general you can often see janitors and other custodials doing their work.

Oh, thanks for reminding me.

I’d show you a picture of what the inside door of a restroom in a BART station looks like, but there are no restrooms in BART. Apparently though the janitors which I’ve never seen and which think trash littered cars are fine are paid 270k a year (USD not HKD). Because they deserve a living wage. Or something. Overworked understaffed? Maybe throw a little bit of higher cost of living in there too.

Now, on the BART website, they claim certain stations actually do have bathrooms. Supposing they bathrooms do physically exist in the stations as they say, they don’t fit the definition of public. What kind of restroom is it if a member of the public who wants to use it can’t find it?

Someone who alighted at my station on a train before mine asked where the exit was. I can’t blame him, because this is what an aboveground BART deck looks like:

The far side actually does have its exit in-frame.

This is what the Tin Shui Wai deck looks like. I specify because they’re all obviously visibly different in some way. If you memorize the colors on the walls or pillars, you can tell where you are in the line. BART is the same concrete wherever you go.

There is no exit in this picture.

Both of the above depicted stations have their exits below their current floor. One of them is significantly easier to find than the other. Are exits easier to find if it’s higher population density? An inch of glass is more expensive than another foot (thick!) of concrete?  I’ll admit the sign isn’t particularly helpful but that’s one error out of a hundred corrections. Why are there two decks instead of one, anyways? If someone mistakenly missed their stop and got off at the next one, one of these stations would fuck them if the return train arrived at the same time, and the other wouldn’t.

Obviously, the American one is the better one.

Am I just salty? Y I Mad Doe? No, it’s impossible that I might be right on top of that. Everyone claims debates and discussions are about truth but most people jump to pointing and laughing at the other guy the first chance they get and declare victory after that. Sorry – most Americans. Call someone salty or anti-American or any number of names and it doesn’t matter what they say anymore. Am I anti-kid if I don’t give a fat kid candy? These are the same kind of people who will recoil and put their hands up if you start calling them imbeciles, but we’ll get into that topic another time.

American attitudes toward everything is can be summarized in

  1. Fuck you got mine” and
  2. I’m/We’re the best“.

Must be because I’m not AMERICAn enough.

Who cares about the rest of the world when you have AMERICA?

To begin with the state of public transportation is mostly an afterthought because when it’s brought up it’s simply written off. Who cares about public transportation? I have a car. I can get where I want to when I want to. What, too poor to have a car? None of my business. Don’t ask me to pay taxes to fund someone else’s life. Then they’ll turn around and complain about how traffic is so bad lately and they have to get up earlier and earlier so the freeway moves at the actual speed limit rather than at 10mph.

It simply doesn’t occur to them that everyone else thinks the same thing and cars have geometries and physics which cause certain effects. It isn’t some economist rational actors model where everyone’s carefully and quantitatively measured out how much they value each thing and voila, now we have a shitty public transportation system as well as a shitty private transportation, but all of this is okay because we value detached single family homes so much. None of that goes through their head. It’s literally just “I don’t care, I don’t see a problem, why are you yelling at me? I was promised owning my own home in the American Dream! If you say I shouldn’t have one then fuck you!”

Why do aboveground BART stations have two decks instead of one?
Because if you miss your stop then it’s your fault you’re an idiot.

Why aren’t there bathrooms in BART stations, or if they exist, why can’t they be found?
Because you didn’t look hard enough, or if they don’t exist, why didn’t you just take care of business before leaving the house?

Why doesn’t BART have a clear announcement system or a display that shows where in the system you are at all times?
Because you should know which stop you’re stopping at anyways.

Why does BART allow trash on its trains?

Are you saying you saw trash and didn’t clean it up? Why aren’t you doing your part? If you did, why are you complaining? The problem got solved, didn’t it?

If you’ve heard the line “You didn’t get the job because you just weren’t passionate enough”, this is the same thing. Every systemic problem that’s brought up turns out to be the result of a lack of individual responsibility, effort, and faith – until they also happen to have a problem with it, then it’s always a call for somebody to do something, as long as it doesn’t turn out that “somebody” includes them. Not my tax money. Not my car. Not my backyard.

Or in case of BART employees, Not my job.

Hong Kong Central Library, not MTR.
I don’t want to talk about the state of American libraries.

Whose job was it to put this label up? Did it need to be put up?

Do you think he was paid more or less than 270k a year (USD not HKD)?

Considering it’s some text on laminated paper secured by tape, it was probably decided and put up by someone lower down the chain than whoever put up this other one:

This is on a pedestrian path on the side of a mountain.

These little things put life into what’s otherwise an environment that just happens to have other people in it and is just somewhere you have to be in order to get to the next place. It’s not just some path, it’s a paved path with clean railings and cleaned plates that have a contact number on them indicating someone is involved in maintaining it and they care about their work. It’s not just an elevator to the library, it’s one whose surfaces are cleaned every hour and someone decided it was important to let people know it’s clean – clearly not someone at the top but someone much further down.

Meanwhile, BART operators could care less if you heard them or if you know where you are. BART police could care less if you’re getting robbed by 50 “teens”. Or murder, which I won’t bother linking because it happens so often none of them are worth noting anymore. Everywhere you go in America you feel that people are basically just showing up for the paycheck. Nothing is improved, nothing gets better over time, and if really terrible things happen as a result of ten thousand little things not having been done and not building up to anything larger, hey, I was just collecting my check. That wasn’t in the job description. Hell if I’m going to let you add things to it. Better pay me more next year though. I have a union.

And this attitude goes all the way up.

A high-speed railway connecting Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, railway was brought up in the late 1990s by the Government of Hong Kong. This Regional Express Railway (RER) proposal was developed in the 1994 “Railway Development Study”(RDS); it foresaw a continual growth of Hong Kong’s population over the next two decades and strong demand for cross-border passenger traffic. The Hong Kong (SAR) Government commissioned a second Railway Development Study in March 1998. The Study went further on the British proposal of connecting Hong Kong and China from Kowloon. […] Since the typical timeframe for rail projects, from conception to completion phase, would take eight or nine years, the Railway Development Study recommended that the Hong Kong (SAR) Government should commence as soon as possible, so that the new express railway could be constructed in time to meet capacity demands.

This sort of talk of foresight seems fairly common among public planners.

Wow, 2040! They’re planning 20 years ahead!

But you look at the past 20 years and for BART it’s taken 15 years to still not completely build a single new station 5 miles away from the current terminal. They’ve been using the same train cars since the system was built in the 1970s, and the technology was outdated even back then, and they have the gall to talk about 20 years in the future.

America has the best people in the world though right? Immigration land of opportunity diversity is strength blah blah blah wow, train stations must be the hardest thing ever to build if it takes them 15 years. Maybe we should get Elon Musk to build them.

Meanwhile in China:

“But Chinese stuff always breaks and they always break regulations” Should I compare how often MTR or Shanghai trains are delayed or broken down, to how often BART trains are delayed or have murders? I’ll be the first to preach mainlanders are terrible but there’s things that are objectively better and things which are objectively worse.

“But China is communist and uses eminent domain” what’s wrong with eminent domain?

Let me repeat that: What’s wrong with eminent domain?

In broader terms and different words:

Why do cities exist, and what would an ideal city look like?

Rich peopleville.

This is the BART station in Walnut Creek. Out of all the stations, this is probably the one where most Americans would ideally want to live next to. San Francisco has rent out the nose for a tiny box, Berkeley same idea, Oakland has “teens”… This, on the other hand, is perfect. Single family homes, short distance to highway, to public transit, to shopping malls, to DMV, and if there’s parties or events in the bigger cities, there’s no need to haul a car there to find or pay ridiculous prices for parking. All you’d need to do is

I think I figured out where the creator of this tagline lives.

The problem is Walnut Creek can only be true for a very small number of people. Works fine for people who already lives there, Fuck you, got mine, doesn’t work for everyone else. And unless some Lee Kuan Yew appears, the land divisions set in that image will always remain. There will never be any development into higher density housing on the left side of the freeway because people will always hold onto their house, and if they let go they aren’t going to let go at the same time. And the city planners will never go against The Will Of The People because democracy.

But, also because of democracy, they do want to create more business and more jobs so they can make more money, which means more people will have to come from elsewhere to do the work or at least be customers and pay the bills, and they will come via… cars.  There’s only so much BART parking space, which at most stations is always full, and it’s not like it’s that close anyways once you get there. A train that’s louder than a plane, doesn’t run on time, only comes every once in a while, has trash lying around like it belongs there, and when I get there I have to see this?

Closest buildings on one side of Walnut Creek station.

I have to walk through parking lots where I as a pedestrian am clearly an afterthought? You want me to use this train, which means leaving my car, but at the destination I have to wait 10~30 minutes for a bus, there’s no taxis, no light rail no pedestrian paths with any nice scenery, all of which put me right next to with no barriers inbetween, one or two ton cars going by at 30+mph? I have to deal with this as I walk 10~30 minutes just to see how many shops? And I have to carry everything with me the whole time because coin and baggage lockers don’t exist, because it’s just expected everyone has a car?

Closest buildings on the other side.

Might as well just take my own car the whole way then.

So then we have clogged freeways. And the attitude towards this is “oh well”.

So are you going to tell city councilors off? Or is it not a journalist’s job description to do that?

The American people will accept losing extra hours of their life 250/365 days a year waiting in line to go to work, so long as they get to sit comfortably in their own little metal boxes with speaker systems tuned to their favorite radio stations playing their favorite music, and read some journalist on some website say “Ouch” about their daily experience.

The average person can’t do anything about traffic or how cities are set up. They want their own things, live their own life, and that’s about it. Having a place to live, being able to get to work, being able to shop at nice places, and being able to visit a lot of friends, without a lot of time – these are all things I think everyone wants.

In other words, these things are why cities exist.

This is the equivalent of Walnut Creek station in Hong Kong:

Station is underground. Park on roof. Lots of residential + 1 commercial building on top.

A mall of 3 floors and 123 shops awaits you the moment you step out of the paid area.

A whole grocery store without having to step outside.

I should’ve taken more pictures.

The park on top.

Ignoring the cost: How many people live in those buildings? How many people can get basically whatever they want, see the sights, go to work, without ever having to leave this complex?

One article estimates that there’s 70,000 residents, hotel guests, and office workers occupying this space: about 0.14 square kilometers.

The population of Walnut Creek in 2014 was 67,673 and its square kilometers is 51.

Imagine how much parking/road space 70,000 cars takes.

Kowloon Station/Elements/Union Square is a really nice place and I’m sure a lot of people around HK come here for various reasons. And they get there by… train. Buses are frequent, pedestrians get elevated and undeground walkways to not have to walk on sidewalks all the time, where there are sidewalks there’s rails so it feels safer, light rail connects to heavy rail, heavy rail comes so frequently they don’t print schedules, and, even though there are backwater places in Hong Kong, new developments aren’t spread out single property divisions anymore. The MTR corporation with the assistance of the Hong Kong government gets land and develops it as a single vision, Kowloon Station being the current newest and largest one completed.What we currently see wasn’t even developed all at once; the station was done 94~98, the current mall opened in 07, and the buildings on top opened in years from 00~10. But it was all done under one architect, one corporation, one government.

This isn’t the only way to do things, the Japanese do it much more organically, but in both cases there is no “NIMBYism”. The Japanese accept it when someone decides the land is worth enough to start building higher than all the surrounding buildings. The Hong Kong government opens up or claims lands and decides that certain things need to happen, and is generally effective at it. I’m sure HK and Japanese residents more informed on the details will have their valid complaints, but overall, the major desires are met for a very large number of people.

Compared to what BART did over about the same period (1997~2011):

The invisible station in the center under the highways, a parking lot north and south. Maybe a few of the apartment blocks starting with the inverted triangle? I don’t know where exactly BART-owned land begins or ends here but it doesn’t really matter. No matter how you cut it this 15 years had, to say the least, a lot less accomplished.

It’s not so much that there’s not a Kowloon Walled City v2: 2 American Boogaloo popping up near/in Silicon Valley (though it should).

It’s that there’s nothing.

You built a dinky station… and like a building or three?

Are you serious?

What have these fuckers done with 15 years of their life? Remember when you were still in diapers and daddy showed you a highway and a field and said there’d be a train station? Well now that you’ve finished highschool and college degrees are worthless, daddy can get you a job at that station! Nevermind that its floorspace is about 3 minutes long. It was really hard! Kids these days don’t understand hard work.

While doing a bit more research on dates I found this image on wikipedia. It’s the newest station, which started construction in 2009, currently in 2017 is half operational, and was supposed to open in 2014. This is what it looked like in 2014

The rails shown aren’t BART rails, they’re national freight rails.
In other words, they’re unrelated.

It took five (5) (V) (五) years to build the amount shown in the above image.

Okay whatever no use shedding tears over lost idioms. Now that it’s built, next to old NUMMI new Tesla factory. Great! Finally BART serves a purpose other than being a glorified parking lot shuttle for San Francisco. People all over SF Bay Silicon Valley can now work for Tesla and not have to drive! Saving the planet is awesome! Insert more boomer marketing taglines here. Maybe we have to drive to a BART station first, but BART… and we’re there! Just hop off the train and walk the rest of the way to work!

See that T-shape above “Tesla Delivery Center”? That’s the factory entrance.

All 2 miles of it. Pop quiz, what’s the average human walking speed?

Given that number, would you spend that amount of time walking to work? After spending the probably 10 minutes or so to drive to the station, assuming you can find parking and get on the train just as it arrives (trains are every 15 minutes during rush hour) the probably 30 minutes on the BART ride itself, after all that – would you walk the amount of time you calculated on a path that looks like this?

This is a 45mph road. It’s also half the walk. No, the other side has no sidewalk either.

“But Tesla looks good on a resume”

Yes… Tesla’s the best. If you’re really passionate about helping mother Earth, you’d do it. America’s the best, if you really treasure your freedom, you’ll put up with 60 minutes every day each way to go 20 miles, a distance which might as well be in the middle of nowhere because it’s all single family detached residential around here. Stop complaining already. Everyone else has to deal with it too. If you don’t like it why don’t you leave? I just suck it up like a real man. I’m proud of my country. I don’t like it either,

but look at me,

I don’t complain.

This attitude is why I hate Americans. “My country, right or wrong” – except worse, because it’s not about foreign vs domestic, it’s about “Fuck you, got mine“. There’s no reasoning going on, there’s no considering of alternatives, there’s no constant seeking for improvement, it’s “eh, who cares, fuck you, got mine”. American gamers say those who are better than them “have no life”, and say those who are worse than them “casuals”. Americans who are more successful than them are “lucky or “talented”, but when they taste success themselves it’s because they have “passion” and achieved it through “hard work”. It’s so prevalent everywhere it’s would almost be funny, except they get really serious when the shit hits the fan and still refuse to believe that any of this is related.

People want housing to be close to jobs and shopping. Higher population density means more people are closer to the same amount of things. Metro systems, which have guaranteed right-of-way on their rails, connect speedily and reliably even more people to the same amount of things. This speed simultaneously connects those people to more areas than before, meaning there’s more areas competing with each other, driving the price down of, among other things, rent. All of these things are objectively desirable. All of these things are required in an ideal city.

But the people don’t care. And the city planners don’t care. The public transportation workers don’t care. The public transportation leaders don’t care. No one cares, until it looks like it might be time for them to get their cut. Then it’s not in my backyard, not my job, sorry the project was more complicated than expected, it’ll cost twice as much and take three times as long, man that janitor worked really hard this year, he deserves a raise. And then it’s back to not caring. Maybe once every five years we’ll do a week’s worth of work. Maybe once every four years they’ll pay attention. And we’re the world police superpower anyways, it’s always going to be better to live here. If those slanty eyed chinks start getting uppity we’ll just nuke them. Time for a nap.

“That’s just how America works, you have to learn how to play politics”

Americans are so far up their own ass in marketing they can’t see what’s real anymore.

I say “they” because I don’t identify with any of what I described. I say “Americans” because that’s the largest and most accurate group for which I can see these traits. They appear in idiots everywhere, but in America they appear in general from bottom to top.

I also know, from bottom to top, it’s not true in Hong Kong, and from what I’ve heard it’s also not true in Japan. It’s not a “people” thing, it’s not genetic or inherent in human nature. It can be changed, it can be fixed. Hong Kong has problems with their attitude toward society, and so does Japan, but there are always imperfections, and the attitude towards that is “we will fix them“. Whatever the actual distribution, the rule of culture is to do your part. Society there naturally pushes people to contribute more and more.

Thanks to the isolation of suburbia, I’m not fully AMERICAn.

What does society in America tell its people? How do Americans treat each other? Not just the hello how are you nice weather today, but the actual systemic results?

BART… and I’m…

What does America think about anything that happens outside of America?

What do Americans think of anyone who has ideas about how the world could be?

Because fuck you, that’s why.

Parents as Stars, Children as Supports

I don’t mind the woman being a realistic bitch. I don’t mind the man being an unrealistic cuck. I don’t even mind the art standards of western webcomics and all the words words words words words.

What really grinds my gears is the portrayal of the kid.

I absolutely refuse to believe any kid would respond to that sequence of events in that way. They’re not that stupid. Or more importantly, unlike ~mature~ adults, they call shit as they see it. The stated intent was obviously not fulfilled. There’s innate physical truths which are immediately observable and understood by instinct, stronger than any understanding by words: if you assume a specific physical stance and are moving forward and then, for no discernible physical reason, start going in reverse, then obviously something is wrong.

At “best” the kid’s response would be “oh… okay”. Wouldn’t be uncommon for questions to start appearing. If it was a ballsier kid they’d just voice their disappointment. But a “Wow! You got serious game dad!“? I’d be really worried.

There’s screwing with visual beauty standards ala “tumblr art”, and then there’s… whatever this is. I want to say “logical beauty standards” but it’s not really logic. There’s a natural order to the world that’s understood innately by everyone and this screws with it at a primal level. I don’t even like kids, but they act a certain way and can see certain things, a way which is useful to everyone else in its own right.

And this comic says that unique insight of kids is “Hey everyone, my shit doesn’t stink!“.

I’ve heard the idea before, but it didn’t really hit until seeing this “comic” that this parent generation is the first one where baby pictures are more important than the actual baby. All the kindergarteners holding up signs about abortion or trump or immigration were just whatever to me, I suppose, because in their minds they’re just holding up the sign mommy told them to. But a comic depicting “the whole situation” with no direction or prepping beforehand… maybe I’m just stupid. But better late than never.

And something I’ll never do is making children the supporting cast for their parents. If I made something where a bunch of adult women drooled over my dick, either 1) it would be taken as an obvious joke, except for the part where I’m a pervert, or 2) it would be taken seriously and I’d be delusional, as well as a pervert. I wouldn’t be able to do that with less-than-adult women. People take children seriously. As they should.

But not seriously enough, it seems.

If you had asked her if she wanted to raise a transvestite she’d have said no– she wants a child free of stereotypes– because there are stereotypes of boys and girls but not of boys who dress like girls. That mixed logic reveals the true intent of her “gender-neutral” project. It isn’t for the kid, it is for her. If it wasn’t for her, you wouldn’t have heard about it. Wasn’t the whole point not to call attention to the gender? Oh, I had it backwards, the whole point was entirely to focus on the gender. Sigh. The main character in this story is herself. The kid is supporting cast. He is not a person, he is a blog topic.

“”Did you see that wonderful melodrama, Stella Dallas with Barbara Stanwyck? She has a daughter who wants to marry into the upper class, but she is an embarrassment to her daughter. So, the mother – on purpose – played an extremely vulgar, promiscuous mother in front of her daughter’s lover, so that the daughter could drop her, without guilt. The daughter could be furious with her and marry the rich guy. That’s a more difficult sacrifice. It’s not “I will make a big sacrifice and remain deep in their heart.” No, in making the sacrifice, you risk your reputation itself. Is this an extreme case? No, I think every good parent should do this.” […]

She is doing the exact opposite: sacrificing her child’s reputation, subjecting him to potential ridicule and god knows what else, not for his benefit but in order to promote her own identity. It’s not the gender neutrality that’s going to mess this kid up, though it might; but being raised by parents who are using their kid as something other than an end in himself. As was said in a movie I hope has no parallel here: this isn’t going to have a happy ending.

A self-aggrandizement parent comic for self-aggrandizing parents.

But what will the idiots think?

The ability to sustain a disagreement is one of the qualities of power.

If you cede power to idiots, you will be ruled by idiots. Since idiots in power don’t exist: If you cede power to people determined to hold their opinion over yours, you will be ruled by people determined to hold their opinion over yours.

The idiots are just a convenient excuse which exploit the easiest chokepoint of human psychology. Oh no, we can’t offend nice little Billy Bob down the street! What will he think of us? What will he say to his friends? Until you say “fuck Billy Bob” you’re stuck whatever Billy Bob thinks. “Thinks” is generous; you really think Billy Bob thinks? He votes one way one year and the other way the next! Of course he has reputable sources. Of course he has arguments. But you get what you pay for, and reputable sources with analysis and evidence these days comes pretty cheap. Is that all it takes?

How cheap is it to stop you?

Why does the West feel the need to filter the fuck out of Japanese games before introducing them to the market?

Because they fear an uninformed consumer ,like a soccer mom or whatever, getting the game for themselves or possibly some kiddo like their child or whatever. And then if something objectionable, saucy, or even edgy that offends or bothers them they would shit up a dumb ignorant storm. So they get what they deemed is the worst and easiest things that would offend the uninformed dumb consumer soccer mom type person.

so dumb people essentially the remove/censor shit cause of dumb people and to avoid a stink that the dumbest of people tend to cause all to often.

The Education Mythos

Today I learned that guns today don’t actually use “gunpowder”, and that modern “smokeless powder” is required for automatic weapons.

This is almost as big a revelation as the fact that cars can’t actually theoretically run forever on the smallest bit of fuel.

I hate education.

>scienceforums.net
>reading up on how smokeless powder is made because it’s clearly significantly different than gunpowder, which formerly explained one of the most important power shifts in history
>thread gets locked early in discussion by mods
>”3b. Descriptions of the construction or synthesis of illegal or hazardous devices or chemicals are subject to removal at the discretion of the staff.”

Among the other things education lies to you about is how complete it is while hiding where its holes are and how important those holes may be. There’s so many fucking holes in goddamn everything we actually do live in a magical world; the only differences being the terminology and artistic theme has changed to be dominated by angular metal and glowing glass rectangles rather than by twisted wood and colorful balls of light.

SOLAR ROADWAYS!
MANNED MISSION TO MARS WITHIN FIVE YEARS!
KEYSTONE PIPELINE IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!
GLOBAL COOLING NOW GLOBAL WARMING NOW GLOBAL COOLING AGAIN!

People will buy fucking anything if “Scientists Believe” is attached to it. Educated scientific society my fucking ass it is.

I actually wouldn’t have too much of a problem with it either, if they would actually just come out and say what knowledge was forbidden. But no, they have to talk about how it’s about obtaining truth and knowledge and truth will set you free and some other bullshit, doing it themselves while stopping you from finding out how.

But I guess it’s consistent enough with the general mythos of the West. “YOU can do it, YOU are in charge”.

It’s what they said about democracy, and who’s in charge of the government?
It’s what they said about free markets, and who’s in charge of the economy?

Why wouldn’t they preach the same for knowledge of the physical world?

This also reveals another huge fucking hole in another narrative, namely that higher education is nothing but Middle School Pt. 3 and fails to prepares you for any real jack squat work in the real world whatsoever. I thought it was odd when looking for jobs that there were so many seemingly super-niche fields requiring odd expertise, that it might’ve just been my lack of specialization or choosing interesting classes, but stuff like manufacture of smokeless powder is is literally hidden information.

You can’t fucking learn it in books or in classes or online or from undergrad research, because they’ll get the patent police on you. There is literally no way you can learn it without spending several lifetimes with the blessings of fortune and hidden unless they tell you how to do it. To put it another way, you don’t get qualified to receive that knowledge by knowing other knowledge, by having some “expert understanding”, you get it by fucking direct transfer. It is literally a secret.

Who knows how many other things out there are designated secrets, either by religion or the government or patents or any number of other powerful “old men” interests? The full extent is unclear, but the principle is well-demonstrated just by the huge divide between what’s listed on the curriculum and what’s listed on the job posting.

And this principle explains fucking everything. All the range of super-niche engineers, all the range of super-niche game developers, all the range of super-niche visual effects, they didn’t get there by knowing how to do any fucking bit of it straight out of “higher education”, they got it by either cozying up or being given a chance or something – anything – other than the “certifications” or “skills” it’s claimed to be.

What higher education prepares you for is to be a replaceable grunt of a marginally different kind. To be a replacement part for the gods of money. Maybe -maybe- if you’re lucky, not only will you not have to move to the third world to use your knowledge, you may even be arbitrarily endowed with a berry of knowledge. A shredded page which for once doesn’t describe the world as it worked two hundred years ago. And of course, it’ll be attributed back to the greatness of the alma mater and, when the time is right, to the Advancement of Knowledge for Humankind.

What a disgusting fraud, the “education” mythos is.

(originally posted to personal facebook in three pieces over the span of an hour; combined here with original pictures and slight edits)

Contractor Without a Contract

These past two and a half months have been the most stress I’ve had for as far as I can remember. The stress wasn’t from the work, which though was much more for much longer than I’ve had to do for a while, paled in comparison to the anticipation. It was from managing senior design, which not only contained this jewel of a human being, but gained a few just like him. The managing and planning weren’t the problem either. I’m not the best at those, and it was a challenge to have to be the one with the most foresight to try and set a path.

The most energy was spent on being ready.

Gout took almost a month out of me, which wasn’t too big a logistical deal since I had worked a bit ahead and caught up quick. But the orders for materials weren’t approved until three weeks in, and came in weeks four and five out of nine total. Then there were unforeseens like two feet of material being straight stolen off of a part we had already cut, the provided gasoline engine being completely unusable, people disappearing and loading off three weeks’ worth of work on me to do in three days. “You’re an engineer, deal with it”. I find the US Army Corps of Engineers motto “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” very inspiring, but in the army there are comrades and the tangible reward is living for another day in a world of death. I dealt with it “because I could”, because my standard way of learning and working through something is to throw energy at it until it works, but with the project essentially forcing me to not go or do anything related to my other two classes or anything else in my life, I’m having to have to stop giving a shit about everything through jack squat for a good month or two to regain my full sanity and composure.

Certain things like the material theft I had taken into account for previously by having a high enough margin, but things like a measuring instrument that was supposedly “tested and working” and then having it “fried” or the given engine straight up being too violent to stand next to discovered two weeks before the end aren’t things I can really deal with in a project that’s already moving twice as fast than it was planned. But because no one above me gave a shit and no one below me gave a shit and I appeared to and did give a shit, I had to deal with it.

It was like being at the starting line of a 100M sprint, legs tense and ready to make the hardest first step of acceleration, body perfectly balanced with core holding everything proper, eyes burning the path about to be taken. And waiting. Waiting for the starting pistol to fire. Waiting, waiting, waiting, for something that you don’t know whether or not will come, but you’re told to be there, you can’t leave, and you can’t just be sitting around. There’s no one else at the starting line. You can’t even see anyone else in the stadium. But you’re supposed to run the 100, so you have to be ready. And so you wait.

“Would you recommend this class to your friends?”
“No. Absolutely not.”

Then there was the way other people handled how things were going, which to put shortly would be exactly what you’d expect out of people who like going to meetings.

I paint myself as the only one doing work and interested in doing work, which is ~85% true. Near the end the shitstain would start showing that he could be promoted to a pile rather than a stain, and occasionally my friend would decide to actually do things rather than waiting for me to check on what he was doing. In general however they basically had to be told what to do and didn’t care about anything else. “You sound authoritarian, have you tried communicating and not being a dictator” would be a vaguely valid criticism if I hadn’t actually tried it and the other two weren’t pieces of shit. If you think completely unreliable people who have shown every sign of pursuing their individual interests at the obvious cost to the group should be consulted and given power because they’re “equals as human beings”,  you should go back to econ or wherever they teach the prisoner’s dilemma.

If one of your group members was singlehandedly responsible for work that accounted for 25% of the group’s grade and hadn’t shown you the slightest evidence of work the day before it was due, how would you feel? “Totally chill dude, it’s his grade too” is how they thought. If that’s how you think, please report to your local police station so they can put you on the watchlists. I did it to verify their reactions and because I didn’t feel like showing them anything. I had been transparent with my work and planning the whole time, and each of them had unloaded significant work on me at a moment’s notice. When I took on the task of doing the final poster along with the final report and the final presentation, I just set my own schedule. If they had the balls to complain about me not being transparent, I’d ask for twenty dollars. One to buy them a mirror, one for shipping and handling, and eighteen for wasted time and fuck handling bills less than twenty.

TA and Prof were garbage. TA was a cheerleader and didn’t grill or help with anything, might as well not have been there at all. Professor’s response to literally every problem we had was some variation on “that’s not my job”. Which brought to my mind every time, “what exactly is your fucking job”. It wasn’t to check that the sponsor had approved of our orders on time, it wasn’t to push for progress on the project on time, it wasn’t to check that team members had done their assignments on time, it wasn’t to resolve internal team conflicts, and as far as I can tell, the TAs handled the logistics of the “”””””class”””””” so what the fuck was her job? “Oh she’s a very busy woman” And I’m a very busy fucking man, maybe we should compare how busy we are? I wish I could just sit around and look busy to collect money “But she’s not doing that” Yes she is and that’s why any attempt at transparency is negated at every turn by the poorest excuses I’ve ever heard. 23 teams with 23 preference lists on which projects they’d like to work on and it’s “a 23 way optimization problem”? Any idiot can see that there’s no way to choose which team gets which project if several want a particular one, and with 15 of them being universally agreed to be total shit people had to be getting preferential treatment based off of prior connections. “But that’s why we asked you to send in resumes and a proposal!” So you’ll read 85 pages of resumes and 85 more pages of proposals but won’t bother to give a short explanation to what exactly it is that slob of a menopause does in this course other than being the email chokepoint. I’m sure we have other things to do with our time like talk this *week* about our *weekly* progress and then be totally satisfied with a summary of what’s been done so far this whole quarter. I guess that makes me a really busy man too. Let me just learn from the best for two weeks and see exactly how much this project falls apart.

Sponsor taught me a lot too. The official explanation is that he “accidentally overlooked” the orders or perhaps misclicked buttons, but unbeknownst to him I had full view of all orders for his whole lab. Approximately ten orders were shown before my orders, and ten after – only mine were skipped. The orders I had placed were not exceptional in cost in comparison to the others, and the others sandwiched mine by a few weeks. Later I would ask for a reimbursement, for I had gone on my own time to get some other materials to save on exorbitant freight shipping. I was told that the sponsor “was a very busy man” and I could rest assured that I’d get my money back, along with a message that I should be grateful for my opportunity in working under a former astronaut. I did forget to take that into account. Being from NASA, I should’ve had the fullest of expectations that half the things I would be receiving from this man would be completely late, and the other half straight up “forgotten”.

Similar of note was that one team member tried to play a pity card in combination with an insult. Since I had been giving him a lot of passes for not getting things done on time because he was my friend, or so it seemed, he thought he could simply tell me that he hadn’t been doing the poster for the past three weeks because he was getting kicked out of his house and was spending time looking for jobs, unlike me, because I get to go back home blah blah blah. This would’ve had more impact if I hadn’t heard his life situation a hundred times before as off-pass remarks on anything, if he actually had a record for doing his work, if he wasn’t basically asking for me to do three week’s worth of his work in three days on top of all the work I was already doing for him, and if our friendship didn’t basically consist of me listening to him tell stories, doing him favors, and him showing me le funny maymay reddit cancer. But it didn’t, so I just did the work and that was that.

It certainly was a capstone project.

The *people* involved in had personalities and behaviors with such contrast and discord to my own that they must have been placed there by God, and to deal with them I’ve had to make some pretty big adjustments to how I act and think. They’re are all things that are really helpful to be sure, and in the future I’m sure I’ll be much more prepared to deal with significantly shittier situations. In truth, I have little problem with this teaching style, this ‘trial by fire’. I prefer learning by experience, and harsh teachers are often my favorites. But that’s not the style they claim to use, and subsequently, any criticisms I make of them they take and paint to others as unwarranted personal attacks from a mentally disturbed nobody. As such, I will give them no credit for anything that I ever do. They’ve each earned themselves a place in my memory though, just as a stovetop earns a place in a child’s reflexes.

Commencement was a pretty good first self-aware exercise at looking the top people in the face with the brightest eyes, greeting with the darkest smiles, and exchanging the greyest words.

Maybe I’ll enjoy it someday. In any case I’ll get good at it because that’s what the optimal moveset seems to include.

I’ll write the big things I learned both out of this project and college as a whole with some short stories maybe to go with them.

Can’t really say when. I’d love to say “soon” but I can’t really put any weight behind that either, and not just because setting a time limit on good pieces is bad, or because I have been writing very sparsely recently anyways. It’s because I can’t be fucked to do anything in relation to timing outside of games at the moment. Perhaps returning to daily physical and piano and go exercises will straighten things out more quickly, but I need to feel I have some control over my own life, and with all the shit I’ve had to do on other playdoh fuckers’ schedules at a minute’s notice, I can’t be fucked with applying for jobs, waiting for anything, or anything to do with anything logistical that isn’t 100% simulated and completely under my control when it’s supposed to be under my control.

Maybe this is what a rape victim feels like recounting their rape. I felt progressively worse as I wrote this. Which technically isn’t abnormal, it’s fairly common in some of the longer things I’ve written – I feel like I’m being forced to finish something that became unpleasant, but can’t go back and finish on a different point because the flow of things doesn’t work that way anymore. This “forced” being amplified by this experience going through this tragic farce of a simulated professional collaboration.

Fuck this then.

Fuck senior design too.

Fuck school, fuck university, fuck all the money that they sucked out, fuck higher education, fuck astronauts and fuck NASA, fuck them all with broomsticks and blowtorches. You want to learn the lessons I learned, learn from someone who can tell you the stories in the way you can understand. I won’t claim to be such a good writer that in my next post or three I can successfully appeal to your sensitivities in particular. But learning the hard way is called the hard way for a reason, and I think one thing everyone should learn is to read better so you can see more from lesser writers and absorb more from better ones to bypass all of this which can only be called pain and withdrawal. Originally I was supposed to be applying for jobs since January, granted I’ve had trouble with the whole “selling yourself” thing, but now I can’t really care enough to even do things that I do often enjoy doing. All I want to do is sleep, because even jacking off doesn’t feel satisfying right now.

I’ll be back when I fucking feel like it, and that means a good week after I fucking feel like it. “A good week” being approximately as long as the week God created the world.

“Then you interpret!”

Yes. Yes I do.

Freedom is not being expected to do anything in particular, and I’d an order of that right about now.

There Is No Scapegoat

仕方が無い
There Is No Scapegoat

 

 To stand atop other people… is to bear a great many responsibilities, and hand down a great many decisions. As a result, governments and organizations have different beliefs and ideals depending on their positions. People are no different. When one wishes to do something, there are inevitably some who see it as good and others who see it as evil. However, if you are able to place yourself in different positions, then all of them will appear to be right.

And… although it is sad, there may not always be a path which satisfies each and every one of their wishes… No matter what you rely on at those times, or what path you show to those below you… If you hesitate at those times… then you must have the courage to stand still and look back at how you arrived there.

And… you must never hesitate to stain your own hands with blood. Those who show others the way must not avert their eyes from the weight of responsibility.

煌武院 悠陽,マブラヴ オルタネイティブ
Yuuhi Koubuin, Muv-Luv Alternative

 

If there is a will, is there always a way? When discussing The Human Condition in class, many people found that the characters portrayed as good or nice people were actually wrongdoers because they failed to act. “Michiko’s ignorance is inexcusable”, or “Kaji could’ve done something else, earlier”. This echoed an earlier discussion of the Japanese concept of “仕方が無い”, commonly translated as “It cannot be helped”. Most who voiced their thoughts took the stance that this was very passive and fatalistic, an opinion other Westerners have shared [1][2]. “In any situation, you can do something that makes your situation better, so if you don’t do it you are responsible!” is the idea, but how realistic is this? While the Japanese may have fatalistic tendencies, their literature and reality itself make a solid case that most things cannot be helped. They attempt to take responsibility, but responsibility itself is too idealistic. Responsibility is largely an irrelevant concept: in general and in the greater scheme of thing, there really is nothing to be done.

 

The Japanese place an importance on personal responsibility; they simply also do not place too much worldly significance on it. In Japan, people do expect others to take responsibility for their actions, and do take responsibility themselves. In Ihara Saikaku’s (1642-1693) short story Hunting Early Mushrooms Sows the Seeds of Love, a man merely knowing his lover and a stranger shared a cup of sake caused him to attempt a murder-suicide [3]. This man does not consider reporting it to the authorities, or writing about it in the news, or taking it up with the stranger: he takes it upon himself, literally immediately. More recently in post-WW2 Japan, there were many people who took the emperor’s message to “bear the unbearable” to heart, and took it upon themselves to do what they could. John Dower’s Embracing Defeat retells a housewife’s story of the time, where even in the harshest of times, she does not loot or engage in other immoral activities:

Out of principle as well as poverty, the family tried to use the black market as little as possible […] [Her husband], too, began to suffer noticeably from malnutrition, his entire body beginning to swell up. The children ceased screaming and lay motionless. Only feeble cries from the newborn baby broke the silence. [4]

The Japanese famously have companies where the upper management take pay cuts and scale themselves down in times of financial hardship. Nintendo’s CEO halving his salary is a recent example: regardless of the shame vs guilt culture, a particular man made and executed a decision on himself [5]. However, these individual responsibilities aren’t treated in the same manner as responsibility in Western cultures. There is no sense that if one does something wrong, they will stand before the one omnipotent god with a checklist of their every last sin and be ultimately judged for all eternity. Similarly, each individual decision, no matter how important and no matter how dire the situation, is considered to be a choice that only affects the situation locally in both time and space. Would the CEO of Nintendo’s salary cut really change the course of a company worth over a trillion yen? Would being an amateur looter or user of the black market really have helped the housewife’s children? The Japanese find it personally important that they take the actions they do, perhaps even to an extreme. Unlike Westerners though, they do not think that the world therefore changes.

 

Humanism, the most prominent philosophy in recent history that dictates responsibility, is wholly unrealistic. Traditional responsibility for crimes only covers direct active harm, but humanism extends this to indirect passive harm. Wang, the leader of the Chinese prisoners, had a line for the literary climax of The Human Condition: No Greater Love[1] summarizes the humanist position. The impending situation in the movie was the execution of some Chinese prisoners under the watch of Kaji, our protagonist. Kaji was assigned these prisoners by the kenpeitai, the all-powerful Japanese military police, and he wanted to treat them as humanely as possible. The meaning of Wang’s statement is that if Kaji does not stop the kenpeitai from executing the Chinese prisoners accused of attempting to escape, then he will be a murderer:

You and I will both make minor mistakes. We can be forgiven if we correct them. But an error made at the crucial moment becomes an unforgivable crime. So far as I can see, your life has been a long series of errors stemming from the conflict between your work and yourself, though you’ve probably tried to correct them. But for this coming crucial moment… that moment will separate the murderers who wear the mask of humanism from those worthy of the beautiful name “human being.” [6-1]

It should first be clear that Kaji isn’t actually a murderer; he does not aid and indeed makes many different honest attempts to stop it from happening. Despite this, Wang says “And yet you do nothing?”, as if all of the actions Kaji did take might as well have not been taken. No attempt except one that actually ends up stopping the execution is good enough for Wang, only the result is important. In itself there is no problem in only evaluating results; a murderer is a murderer regardless of their reasoning. However, Kaji quite literally had nothing to do with the situation except that he was assigned to those prisoners. He did not encourage, help, plan, or tell the prisoners to escape or anger any of the mine authorities. He did certainly get more involved, but according to Wang all the things he did do up until that conversation were irrelevant because they didn’t yet stop the final conclusion. If Kaji fails to stop the executions, he is no longer a “human being”? From the time of making this movie to the present day such fleeting logic has exploded in usage, and its implications are just as nonsensical. One netizen noticed the necessary logical conclusion of pinning responsibility on those who are causing indirect passive harm in the video game industry:

>person 1 does not have money to buy $60 new VIDEO GAME
>person 1 watches the paint dry on the wall for entertainment
>person 1 contributes $0 to game dev

>person 2 does not have money to buy $60 new VIDEO GAME
>person 2 pirates game and plays game for entertainment
>person 2 contributes $0 to game dev

Person 2 contribution = Person 1 contribution.

Not playing the game and not paying hurts the dev as much as playing the game and not paying.

Using your logic every human being alive should be forced to give money to dev because otherwise they’re hurting the industry. [7]

The in-class discussion of The Human Condition showed that people do indeed think this way, namely, that Kaji’s wife Michiko was also partly at fault for the poor conditions and the executions at the mines. If Michiko, who basically never leaves the house except for errands, is responsible for occurrences at the mine where she never visited and people she’s never met, why don’t we hold some random British sergeant on the other side of the planet responsible? Supposing the story was real, you and I and Abraham Lincoln would also be “murderers” because we didn’t stop the execution. Saying that the Japanese or those with the Japanese mindset, from Kaji to Michiko, fail to be humanists is fine. But saying that they’re passive, fatalistic, and fail to be responsible is a simply not true in the slightest.

 

In the stories of The Human Condition and of Psycho-Pass, the Japanese craft a strong stance: Across all fields and schemes of life, one human is ultimately powerless.

 

Revisiting the execution scene of the Human Condition, could things really be helped either way? As Wang declared Kaji a comrade/countrymen to everyone after three executions, it’s unclear whether Kaji’s rebellion against the kenpeitai would have made a difference if he made his declaration right before the first execution, or right before the last one. More broadly, Kaji’s existence at the mines doesn’t really change the general situation for the Chinese P.O.W.s. The prostitutes were the mine president’s idea and the barbed electric fence the kenpeitai sergeant’s idea, so about the only major difference Kaji made was less whipping and occasional time outside the mines and fence. The latter activity was not shown to have any consequence except making the Chinese expect more out of Kaji, and the former saved probably as many lives as he did at the execution. That being said, those improved margins were things Kaji took pride in improving, and all he got in the end was shame from the prisoners, sent off to the military by his company, with all his work undone by the next guy that would be replacing him. Short of a high-ranking kenpeitai of Kaji’s beliefs gracing the mines with his presence and declaring something different, the situation would not have changed in any realistic way – which would be unrealistic in and of itself. In the book version of The Human Condition it’s shown that the kenpeitai sergeant was himself just a poor farmer who learned his cruel ways from the military [6-2]. How strong does one’s mind have to be to endure past such indoctrination?

 

The 2013 anime Psycho-Pass creates a similar setup with the relation between its protagonist Akane Tsunemori and her subordinates. In this post-cyberpunk world the automated Sibyl System actively determines your aptitude for everything, and largely plans out your entire life for you. One of the things the system is able to determine, based on your psychology and motives, is your potential for criminal activity. Akane joins the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division where she works with “latent criminals”, people who have been determined by the system to have a high “Crime Coefficient”. Latent criminals in this world are generally locked up with little to no contact with the outside world, but a lucky few are chosen for their detective abilities. These few instead spend their time confined to the PSB building, unless they’re out to make an arrest, in which case an entire area is sealed off by automated robots first. Even during the high-tension scenes, it is the Sibyl System which gives the final decision: the only weapons the PSB are allowed are guns called “Dominators”, which fire to stun or kill depending on the Sibyl System’s judgement, and remain locked otherwise. It is in this world that Akane, with her near-perfect aptitudes and the uncloudable color of her psycho-pass, tries to act on her idealism.

The ostensibly perfect Sibyl System is revealed to be fundamentally flawed first by the humanization of the latent criminals and then by the existence of the primary antagonist, who, standing at the other end of a Dominator, has a Crime Coefficient that drops to zero as he murders a woman. While the kenpeitai system of The Human Condition is portrayed to be largely destructive and cruel, the Sibyl System of Psycho-Pass is lauded for achieving John Stuart Mill’s “greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people”, its city the wealthiest and safest place in the world, and is intimately necessary for the fundamental logistics of the whole country. Through befriending her coworkers and the death of a few of her friends, Akane comes to despise the system. However, she cannot bring herself to support the antagonist, whose goal is to destroy the Sibyl System. Kaji had a fairly easy to criticize position in comparison, as he had to prevent the executions of seven prisoners by a single man. In opposing the Sibyl System due to its flaws, supposing she could find a way around her own personality and all the automated scanners and robots and was able to succeed, Akane would bring “the only country on Earth ruled by law” to anarchy.

You instinctively hate and emotionally detest us right now. And yet, you still cannot deny the Sibyl System’s significance and necessity. You accept the fact that the current social order cannot hold without Sibyl. You place the importance on its necessity rather than its justifiability. We highly value your standards. […] Akane Tsunemori possesses a sense of purpose that is shared by the Sibyl System. Hence, we decided that the chance that you’d reveal our secrets and endanger the system is infinitely small. [8]

Supposing Akane did choose to oppose the Sibyl System, more likely than not she would simply get eliminated and then replaced. The world would continue on.

The one person that does almost make major changes is the antagonist, Shougo Makishima. His special “Criminally Asymptomatic” personality allows him to evade scanners to set up and execute elaborate plans, but as the series continues and his plans get more and more devastating, the character himself is actually revealed to be less and less powerful. In the final episodes, though the setup and the motives of all characters are made clear and reasonable, the most crucial of events are shown to be results of chance. The final fight is a knife fight between the story’s main latent criminal and Makishima where the main character happens to win. By their nature, knife fights cannot be trained for and are highly variable as every cut could be the last, so this is plausible [9]. Shortly after in another location, Makishima attempts to shoot Akane, but the gun is out of bullets, as five shots were shown earlier in the episode and no reload had occurred by the only person who possessed bullets [10]. From the standard narrative structure of “main character trains harder and has more willpower than the enemy, therefore the main character wins no matter what”, what occurs in Psycho-Pass amounts to deus ex machina. Every instance is nonetheless believable. Every character did what they could in accord with their means and beliefs, and as with The Human Condition this is one of Psycho-Pass’s strongest points. The Japanese posit that one’s means and beliefs do not alone determine the outcome of a situation; that most things affecting your life are out of your control. These modern cinematic stories echo the more ancient and traditional book Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, often referred to as the Book of the Samurai: You can only do your best.

It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim. [11-1]

There is a saying that goes, “No matter what the circumstances might be, one should be of the mind to win. One should be holding the first spear to strike.” Even though you have put your life on the line, there is nothing to be done when the situation doesn’t go as planned. [11-2]

 

As Hagakure is a book for samurai, often they would only be able to make the one final choice, but even in less lethal circumstances the 仕方が無いway of thinking is not unrealistic. As Americans the individualist culture is as common to us as the air we breathe, but how often do Americans take personal responsibility and go against the grain? As the accusation is that Japanese don’t do it enough, do Americans do it more often than the Japanese? From the 1600’s writings of Saikaku to the 2013 anime Psycho-Pass, it is fairly clear that the Japanese admire taking individual responsibility at least as much as Americans do. They do their best, but don’t expect that the world will change because of it. There are powers in existence greater than our individual wills, many whose existence we cannot fathom and whose extent we cannot imagine. Taking into account such powers and the infinitely detailed logistical proceedings that consist of real life, the mindset of 仕方が無い arose. Those crucial differences make the Japanese attitude much more pragmatic.

 

Cited Works

[1] Hugh Cortazi, “The curse of ‘shikata ga nai’”, The Japan Times, April 16, 2001. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/author/int-hugh_cortazzi/

[2] Robert Neff, “Japan Explained”, Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct 29, 2000. http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2000-10-29/japan-explained

[3] Ihara Saikaku, “Hunting Early Mushrooms Sows the Seeds of Love”, trans. David Gundry.

[4] John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat (New York: Norton, 2000). pg. 102

[5] Ryan Fleming, “Nintendo’s CEO Takes 50-Percent Pay Cut Following Poor Earnings”, Digital Trends, Jan 29, 2014. http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/nintendos-ceo-takes-50-percent-pay-cut/

[6] James J. Orr, The Victim as Hero (Hawaii: University of Hawaii, 2001). pg. 120, pg. 124

[7] korezaan, “Mar 22”, Lines, Mar 22, 2014.  http://korezaan.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/mar-22/

[8] Psycho-Pass, Ep 17 – “Iron Heart”. Dir. Naoyoshi Shiotani, Writ. Gen Urobochi, Makoto Fukami. Production I.G., 2013.

[9] “Knife fighting lies”, No Nonsense Self-Defense http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/knifelies.html

[10] “Fridge: Psycho-Pass”, TVTropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Fridge/PsychoPass

[11] Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, trans. William Scott Wilson (Boston: Shambala, 2012). pg. 3, pg. 145