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.