I don't know if I mentioned it, but the Nationalist soundtrucks often roll by my office


Forget the noise terrorism and the anger and the political distortions of Ultra-Nationalists — let’s talk about the tunes.

Oh, so very square.

First: the prerequisite pentatonic scales — because the Imperial nation-family (國體) believes in an austerity of note-saving and probably agrees with my 10th grade English teacher that “sad things have more artistic gravity than happy things.”

Second: the vaguely Prussian/Germanic orchestration — because grand military majesty is not the sound of one-hand-clapping and shamisen and taiko drum polyrhythms, but millions of Japanese marching lockstep towards modernity in the Meiji era.

This brings us to an important point: the Ultra-Right in Japan does not want to “get back” to pre-Western, pre-modern Japan; whether intentionally or not, their clarion calls hark back to the Western-influenced Modern Japan — that electric era when a bunch of old men got together and flattened out all regional customs, sundry superstitions, and local variations to pave the way for one monolithic idea of “Japanese culture.” If our local Armchair Fascists were into the Edo era instead, they’d all be chugging sake and sayin’ “Ee ja nai ka” and partying in the streets and sleeping with their neighbors’ wives. Instead we get intolerable Prussian military marches with sour Oriental melodies — because men look good in uniform and Empire-building was the owning-a-Ferrari of the early 20th century. But all this subsumed Germanic obduracy is hilarious now: If some new set of trucks rolled down Omotesando-doori protesting the death of Frederick II, no one would be able to aurally distinguish them from the uyoku.

If conservatives in the U.S. had soundtrucks, they would probably do a loop of “Sweet Home Alabama” and the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Without blinking, both Democrats and Republicans would unwittingly run out of the house after the DJ-mobile, get drunk, sing along, and then somehow end up electing Bush for a third term. These gunka don’t let you have any fun while you’re setting back the political clock 100 years.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

13 Responses

  1. porandojin Says:

    ‘having fun’ no matter what is a very American concept … just my 2 cents

  2. Adamu Says:

    Yeah because in Soviet Russia the fun has you!

    In DC it’s the far left who uses sound trucks to annoying effect. The followers of this nutjob Lyndon Larouche (who literally believes Dick Cheney is the devil) ride around in a van with this giant, caricatured FDR head while looping excerpts from his “nothing to fear but fear itself” speech taken out of context.

    But that’s only a fringe phenomenon, not the mass intimidation campaign we see in Japan. The US doesn’t have soundtrucks partly because a) There’s a broad consensus on both the right and the left that the kind of stuff the conservatives are against in Japan (corporate/government/media transparency, public input into the policymaking process, shareholder activism, foreign investment, an end to massive inefficiencies in the economy – am I missing anything?) are basically essential elements of society; and b) The powerful have learned that “free speech” will never be dangerous to the established order as long as major issues are framed narrowly enough (“should we set a time table to leave Iraq or not” is pretty much like asking if the Iraq war is totally awesome or just wicked cool). And if the two parties or the president don’t put an issue on the agenda then it stays off the agenda – issues where this is happening include genetically modified food, piss-poor beef inspection, fishery depletion (thank Japan for keeping that off people’s minds!) complete lack of public participation in our trade policies just to name a few. Of course, one of those issues used to be alternative energies, but now at least we have the president making the ridiculous argument that we can somehow preserve society as we know it without crude oil.

    Of course, that’s not to say that both sides don’t resort to intimidation – the right tends to exploit or incite moral outrage on “culture war” issues. In DC, you’ll see protests where pro-lifers hold up giant posters of mutilated, aborted fetuses for passing motorists to see, or posters on the bus pressuring people not to have sex until marriage – I wouldn’t call this intimidation but the ads use the same manipulative language of those anti-smoking “Truth” ads.

    The left tends to focus more on foreign policy or anti-Bush issues. The Larouche people, in addition to pioneering soundtrucks in the US, yells at K Street types about the Iraq war as they walk into the Metro station. The pro-Palestinian crowd likes to hold protests simulating the massive wall between Israel and Palestine and wear provocative T-shirts while handing out fliers.

    But this is all relatively insignificant to the bigger picture. And anyway, at least the intimidation is trying to convince people on specific issues (though the anti-abortion people really piss me off) and not an serve as a veiled, generic threat. And I doubt you’ll find much of this kind of crap outside of DC.

  3. Boyrand Says:

    Iwakura Tomomi drives around the whole planet trying to find you some nice neckties, and you kids just FUSS about it. Honestly.

  4. marxy Says:

    Boyrand –

    You are so clever. Channel that into television.


  5. r. Says:

    charlie d. made pretty good music.

  6. nate Says:

    it’s one of history’s great ironies that “devil went down to Georgia” is better remembered than the far superior “in america”.

  7. Chris_B Says:

    Personally I just wish the Left anywhere had something to say, most especially in the US. They’ve had 8 years to come up with something credible and the best they have is still nothing but mealy mouthed “Were not W”. Here it seems there is no real Left anymore except the commies and other equally useless splinter factions.

  8. nate Says:

    if you don’t group “the right” behind the mantle of bush, then they have no particular unity, or ideology either. In what sense has the american right acheived any goal associated with conservatism?
    All that’s really been accomplished is some tax cuts, and turning america into a country that is always bickering about everything. And a couple of supremos but that can’t be helped.

  9. Chris_B Says:

    Sorry nate you missed the point. It wasnt a troll at all. The American Right has given the appearance of message and ideas whereas for the last 8 years, the Left has not. This is not a question of execution but of presentation.

    As far as your second sentance goes, the last Democrat president (whom I voted for twice) sure had his share of misfeatures as well. The point isnt tit for tat, but President Clinton was the last Democrat to convince the voters of 1) having ideas/agenda, & 2) ability to execute them. What he actually did in his 8 years is another matter entirely.

    In any case your trolling assumption is misguided. By my voting record, I’m pretty much a Leftie, but I’ve become rather alientated by what I see as a party equally beholden to special interests with a lack of ideas or even credible front people. Hillary is a no sale, Gore has nothing to say beyond climate and its going to be a while before Obamma is ready for the big run. “I’m not W” is not an original idea or an agenda.

    Finally, all this is just my 2¢. Its opinion nothing more. Dont matter to me if you agree or not. All I can say is I hope you vote.

  10. nate Says:

    I voted last time, but I’m not going to be swaying any electoral college points, being from california.

    I still stand by what I said, the only consistent message coming from the right in america is that the left can’t be trusted… which is just “were not them”.
    Just because gore happens to be getting attention for climate change doesn’t make him a single issue man, certainly not to the extent that our current 9-11 administration is.

    I think a lot of members of the left are doing the same thing right now, and assuming that their frustration is born of their side and not the other, and finding fault with the left, and spreading their malcontentment that in a way that the right just doesn’t. The left doesn’t work on the basis of lockstep, and with adversaries like these, it’s a rough road to hoe without brainless unity.

  11. Carl Says:

    I find it sad that I hate Bush, but the only least bad candidate for ’08 that I’m aware of is Gore.

    Man, he didn’t win last time I voted for him. Why do I have to do it again?

  12. Chris_B Says:

    This is petty but one problem I have with Al Gore is Tipper Gore. Come to think of it, I had the same problem with Bill Clinton… Both wives used the power of their political husbands to push their “wont somebody think of the children” type agendas at the taxpayers expense. Thanks Tipper for record labeling and thanks Hillary for blowing a chance at health care reform you had no place pushing at all.

  13. nate Says:

    record labeling worked out to be good in the end, I think. Its the mild punishment that encourages transgression. Wiped the arena much clearer of self-censorship for fear of protests/banning.