On Judgement

If you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you. Turn your gaze inward and try to figure out why that is.

This is not some kind of nebulous or ambiguous concept, like karma or the law of attraction. This is a reality born out of the simple relationship of cause and effect.

A popular theme among the young of mind is that of judgment. Don’t judge people, you have no right, is the general gist of it. But I think in the interweb land of groupthink enabling, the act of judging is getting a bad rap.

Without making judgments, we can’t function as human beings. “That looks like a shitty movie, so I won’t waste my time seeing it.” “That guy seems like a toxic asshole, I’m going to avoid him from now on.” “The road seems icy, I’d better slow down.” These are all judgments. The ability to quickly assess people, places, and things, and adjust our behavior accordingly is a critical factor in a person’s success and happiness in life.

“Yes, Captain Obvious,” you may well be thinking, “but we shouldn’t judge people for their personal choices and behavior (unless they’re conservative). That’s wrong!”

No it isn’t. How are we supposed to judge someone other than their behavior? Their eye color? The words people speak, the ideas they support, and how they treat themselves and other humans is all behavior. We make judgments on that behavior in order to categorize people into groups: friends, assholes, dangers, necessary bores, and whatever else.

Proclaiming: “I will not be judged,” is nonsense. Of course you will be. We all are. Never forget it. Much better to say: “I don’t want to hear your judgment of me, so shut the fuck up, asshole!” That is perfectly valid.

Making the distinction is important. We make judgments, and that is normal and necessary, but telling people what they are is another matter. In ninety percent of cases, our judgments and opinions are not something other people need to hear. No one gives a shit, and nor should they. If you are qualified to have an educated opinion in a matter, have been asked what you think, or are a real judge with legal power in a courtroom, then by all means, communicate your judgments to the world. But, otherwise, shut the fuck up and let people get on with their day.

The difference between making a judgment and being a judgmental asshole is the ability to shut your mouth.

Now there may well be times when it becomes necessary to communicate our judgments. For example: when a friend started pushing me into joining his family for a marathon viewing of the Star Wars prequels, which they all think are fucking awesome, I finally had to tell him that I think the movies suck. And what a fun argument that was to have!

In your life, perhaps your friend has graduated from blowing strangers at parties to blowing strangers at parties for meth that their boyfriend gives them. You may feel it is time to say something; to make your preexisting judgments about their choices known. Keep in mind, though, that saying something at this point is entirely about you feeling okay about you and your behavior: you have to speak up because to do otherwise would feel wrong. That’s good, just don’t expect this to go well or alter your friend’s behavior. Then, once you’ve spoken your mind the once, it’s time to shut the fuck up about it. If it’s too difficult to be around them, then say goodbye as respectfully as you can manage.

To flip this coin over, we get to being judged. It is never pleasant when someone tells us how they think we’re fucking up. However, whether they are an asshole or not, or even right or not, this person is doing you a service. Most people keep their judgments to themselves (albeit fewer and fewer these days). In eighty percent of cases, an asshole will never know that they have offended someone. People make a judgement, reassess their opinion of the offending party, and move on with their lives. So when someone makes their judgment known, you don’t have to accept it, but you can be assured that many other people feel the same way and are not saying anything about it. Indeed, most will not even tell you what they are really thinking even if you ask them to. Consider the judgmental asshole in your life as your canary in the coal mine.

(As a related aside: Germans are very useful in this regard.)

This brings us back to my original thought: that if you are unable to find respectful, kind, and intelligent people to be with, this means that the respectful, kind, and intelligent people are avoiding you.

I have known many an asshole who engages in all manner of douchebaggery, and they invariably believe that the silent suffering of those around them is acceptance and enjoyment of their bullshit. Then, when someone finally tells them off, that person becomes the villain. “How dare they say that to me! It was just a joke! I’m a funny guy: all my employees laugh their asses off every time I make fun of them.”

Just because an asshole has found a group (usually their family and coworkers) that have to tolerate them, it doesn’t mean they are tolerable.

This is the central idea to my original point. Birds of a feather flock together. So if every person you date winds up being a toxic asshole, and all your friends are toxic assholes, then, I’m sorry to tell you: you are a toxic asshole too.

Now I don’t mean to say that this is a totally universal phenomenon: there are overlaps of social circles, of course. And judgments are being made back and forth even if they are never articulated. And these judgments have very real repercussions in our daily lives; both good and bad. Some people call this karma. I prefer to think of it as interpersonal consequences.

Say my company is looking for a new employee. This is a good, entry-level job that has real room for advancement. I am in a position where who I suggest for the job will probably be hired, because I have a sound reputation there. I have a number of friends, from different walks of life, who are unemployed or hate their jobs. Who do I get the job for? Well, I’m going to have to make a judgment call, and it’s a serious one, because whoever I choose is going to reflect on me. So, that’s too bad that your job sucks so much, Biff. I’m sure something will come along soon for you, just keep looking. And, yeah, that’s a really awesome new tattoo you got of a flesh-eating zombie on your neck! Good work, buddy! Have you thought about going back to school to be a welder? It’s a good gig and you’ll fit right in.

It’s every person’s right to behave however they want, within the bounds of the law. But all of our behavior is judged, constantly, by everyone we meet and talk to. This is life. If you are feeling the lack of a certain kind of person in your life, the only remedy is to be that person yourself, and then you will find who you are looking for. Because that type of person will stop avoiding you.

Do what you will, it’s your life. Just don’t act like you are powerless to change your life and the people in it.

You are anything but.

A Touch of Class

by Balls Malone

Classy Man is sitting enjoying a scotch on his sumptuous white leather sofa. He takes a sip and smiles at us. Some light jazz starts playing.

“You know, there’s nothing like a touch of smooth jazz to really loosen me up.”

Xylophone enters the musical arrangement. Classy Man closes his eyes and smiles in appreciation.

“Yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s getting into all those hard to reach places, isn’t it? That’s what I’m talking about. Why don’t you come on over here and join me?”

Classy Man shifts his weight to slide over on the sofa. As he does, he shits himself with the sound of a seasick drunk vomiting in a snorkel.

“Ohhhhhh no… that kicked in a little sooner than I expected,” Classy Man murmurs.

He gags as the smell of his shame hits him and slides off the sofa to curl into a fetal ball, his once pristine white leisure suit now an obscene ruin.

After choking down a sob, Classy Man rallies to prop himself up on an elbow with a wooden smile:

“Yeah, that’s jazz for you!”

Japanese Commuter Diaries

Intro here.

They are flooding the rice paddies now. The vistas of dirt fields are now filled with water; transformed into wetland almost overnight. In the evening light, they reflect the sky and mountains behind; like a placid lake segmented by the grids of paddy walls.

Looking down at the nearby paddies from the train, we can take in small, organic, squishy scenes. Muddy pools still, with baby rice seedlings poking up in their neat rows. Ducks and herons going about their business, clearly delighted. The little rice planting tractors at work, with the tiny farmer trucks supplying their trays of seedlings parked on the narrow roads between the paddies.

Later, these pools will become seas of deep green. And later yet, yellow: drooping low under the heavy burden of grain.

But for now it is water and mud. Ducks and rubber boot wearing oldsters in their straw hats going about their labors together.

The junior salarymen from my last instalment have put in another appearance. Just the youngsters, though: none of the managers are in attendance.

At first it was just two of them sitting in the booth opposite me on the morning leg. Nothing unusual here; with their pressed black suits, white shirts and striped ties, overly shiny patent leather shoes, briefcases and overnight wheelie carry-on bags. At the next stop down the line, however, they are joined by another of the lads. This one is different. He is rocking street clothes and has with him a full suitcase.

He sees his two compatriots are wearing suits. He expresses his concerned surprise at this with one of the many expressive Japanese vocalizations they use instead of words. (“ehh!?”)

His two chums are surprised too. You’re not in your suit? (“Sutsu? Sutsu?”)

Oh dear. Buddy in his trendy ripped jeans and rocker shirts whips out his smartphone and hurriedly accesses the email that summoned all of them on this excursion. He’s almost frantically scrolling through it now, looking for some way out of this nightmare. Perhaps the two guys in suits are the ones who misunderstood.

His two mates look on with a mixture of amusement and sympathy. Of course, there is also the subtle edge of predatory satisfaction over the failure of someone who is nominally your competition.

No salvation in the email, the street-clothed fellow sits with a stricken look as he contemplates whatever situation awaits him at the other end of the journey. Will he have time to change into the suit he has carefully packed away in his suitcase?

Not likely.

His pre-trouble embarrassment is not over yet, however. At each of the next two stops, another young colleague boards the train and joins the crew. Both of these fellows is, of course, wearing his suit and has a small overnight bag for his toiletries and street clothes.

Oh dear, oh dear. The one odd man out in the five. Not good.

Later, on the terminal platform, I watch the crew. They have been met by an older gentleman salaryman I have not seen before. He leads them off to their destination. The street-clothed chump with his oversized suitcase takes his place in the duckling procession following in the manager’s wake. Stone faced expressions all.

The manager has made no mention of the lad’s fuck up. Probably all the kid got from him was a raised eyebrow and a cleared throat. Maybe a cough.

This doesn’t mean he aint fucked, though. If they are on their way to meet a customer and don’t have time for him to put on his suit before they do, the manager himself is going to have to bow and scrape to Customer-sama for this breach of etiquette.

The subordinate’s fuck up reflects on the manager, you see. It is his responsibility. His bad.

But being anything other than five minutes early for an appointment is not an option either. Do they have time to handle this? However this plays out, it will not be forgotten. Careers have been torpedoed for less.

Oh well, sucks to be him. It’s the kind of fuck up that the managers will all happily bust a gut laughing about at the post-work drinking party, once the acute tension of it has passed. A “shit happens” incident that won’t truly upset anyone too deeply.

But that doesn’t make the youngster any less fucked.

This is Japan.

Corporate Capitalism Fucks the Gizmal

To start with, let’s get one thing straight here: capitalism isn’t bad. Basic capitalism isn’t the problem. People selling their goods and services for money that they can buy goods and services with is a fine way to function. There’s nothing wrong with this.

It’s the parasitic class of corporate capitalists that are the problem.

Let’s say I notice a hole in the market. I see there is a need for a product that does not exist. I form a company: Gizmo Inc. Then I make a small run of this product: The Gizmal.

The Gizmal works! I sell as many as I can make. Success!

However, I have a problem. I am not a multinational corporation. At this stage, I cannot afford to make all the Gizmals that I would be able to sell. I don’t have the capital to produce that much. But I only have a limited amount of time before other companies copy the Gizmal and exploit that market.

I have to scale up and make those Gizmals.

Well, thankfully, capitalism has developed a system for doing this. I take Gizmo Inc public to raise that capital.

The market analysts check us out and see that we’ve got something here. The numbers look good! We raise all the money we could ever need, and more, and scale the fuck up. Gizmals are flooding the market. It’s a hit!

Success!

In year one after going public, we sell ‘x’ number of Gizmals.

In year two, we sell 3x.

In year three, we sell 6x.

Our stock keeps going up and up! Gizmo Inc is flying high. With increases in sales like this, our profits are increasing at a level that makes the company very attractive to investors. The corporate capitalists love us! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, here’s the thing:

The market for Gizmals is finite. There are only a certain number of customers that need Gizmals. By year three, the market is saturated. Everyone who needs a Gizmal has a Gizmal.

Now, thankfully, we expected this, so our engineers cleverly designed Gizmals to only last for one year. They are designed to fail.

So, thanks to this clever planning, in year four we still sell 6x number of Gizmals. We also know that we will continue to sell 6x Gizmals every year until the Chinese figure out how to copy the Gizmal. But that will take them years. The profits will continue as before and we will keep churning out those Gizmals.

Good enough, right?

No.

See, the market capitalists are in the mix now, right? 6x Gizmals sold in year four is unacceptable. This is failure.

The market capitalists, with their analytics and projections, valued Gizmo Inc’s stock with the assumption that profits would continue to increase at the exponential rate of its first three years.

Getting the same profit this year that we did the last is not okay. This is failure!

Seeking to please the market capitalists, Gizmo Inc brings out some new products. We release the Gizmole, the Gizwizzle, and the Gizwizard.

Sadly for us, none of these new products are something the market needs. They sell okay for a year, but people quickly realize the products are bullshit.

The market capitalists need to be satiated, though. They need their fucking profits.

So, onto cost cutting. We slash jobs and move production overseas.

Success! Profits are up!

However, now the Chinese are catching up faster than ever, as our foreign production facilities hemorrhage workers to the competition as fast as we train them.

As well, the quality of our Gizmals plunges, effectively erasing the difference between our product and the Chinese knockoffs.

By year eight, Gizmo Inc is fucked. The market capitalists pick over the bones a bit, chop up the subsidiaries to sell whatever intellectual property still has value to the highest bidder.

Then it is done. Gizmo Inc is over.

And the market capitalists move on to the next host.

And begin the process again.

This is our world now.

A system requiring unlimited, constant growth trying to force its will on a finite world.

The highway has to run out sometime. Going full throttle right to the end of it might not be the best choice.