Expansion is tired. What about a breakthrough?

Expansion is over. Welcome reality.

In this video, Douglas Rushkoff poses a powerful challenge to our mindset: How long are we going to continue infinite expansion? I am going to introduce the part that struck a particular cord for me. (But I tell you, watch all of it.)

(Starts around 9:45) You blended into existence that interests have to be paid back, with interest, in time. So what did that set in motion? An economy that has to grow.

If a hundred thousand is lent into existence, two thousand has to be paid back. Where does the other hundred thousands come from? We’re gonna go take over India. Or America. Or South America. Or Africa. We’re gonna expand. We’re gonna extend.

And this worked really well of an expansionism, goal-oriented, ends-justifying-the-means, eyes-on-the-prize society. A narrative society with a beginning, a middle, and a justifiable end.

But we ended up reaching the limits of colonization…after World War II. What did we do? We kind of continued colonization by means of virtualization. Through the IMF, World Bank, we create money, and do all of that, a new kind of surface. And they all got pissed off…this didn’t really work…

But then the Net came along, and all of a sudden we had a new kind of territory. It wasn’t the territory of space. It was the territory of human time. Human time was how we were going to expand our markets. But it is all because we are actually basing our entire model of society and economics on an obsolete, thirteen-century, printing press economic operating system.

You know, Google and Facebook and Twitter, god bless them, they disseminate everything we know of, but they are still sitting on top of a platform that they don’t question. They are still sitting on top of venture capital and shareholders. (End of quote)

Whether it was about a piece of land or storage capacity, our economic model, and therefore our society, has always been based on expansion and growth. It is so profoundly ingrained into us that we don’t even realize what’s wrong when we utter “I am worried that China’s growth isn’t enough to sustain the world economy” and “I am worried that China is going to consume all resources” at the same time.

When we talk about “expansion” in terms of land, money, or cyberspace, we aren’t “expanding” in its core sense. We are crawling back into our familiar and safe territory, just because (physical) expansion used to bring us wealth all the time. We are just repeating whatever we have been doing, and therefore nothing fundamental is “expanded” here. Expansion, used in economic terms, no longer means expanding our limits. It means to live inside our limits—of imagination.

Some people might argue that we should literally scale back and live inside our means, by turning from global to local. That certainly is one option and it works to some extent. But if we blindly turn our attention to localism and believe that returning to our “roots” is the answer, we are also forgetting the fact that our ancestors ditched their “local” lives when great economic opportunities showed up. If we bring our past to our present, isn’t what awaits us in the future the same messy situation we are facing now?

(A great cautionary tale for anybody who tries to “escape” into the future)

Continuing the current model isn’t working anymore, but I don’t believe going back to our past is the answer either. The past led to the current. If we just go back to our past because it looks cozy, I think we are still living inside our limits of imagination, and therefore fundamentally no different than hallucinating in the continuation of the expansion model.

I do believe what we truly need is expansion, but not in the old sense. We need to expand beyond our imagination, our platform, our history, our tradition, our culture, our system, and do something that has never done before. We no longer need an incremental update. We need a breakthrough.

Going global and going local are two sides of the same coin. I think it is time for us to create something that cannot be described using an old analogy.

Well, what is it? Hmm, I am getting hungry and need to make some egg :)

From ownership to access

In today’s world, the default method of gaining access to a resource is to purchase. A piece of clothes, a mobile phone, food and drink, a car… Even renting a house, what most of us the 99%s do, is considered Plan B next to buying it. We rent primarily because of soaring housing prices.

To purchase is to claim ownership. If we focus on the ownership aspect, it goes beyond the act of purchasing and covers a broader range of our lives. We “own” our savings. Companies “own” employees. Husbands and wives “own” each other (See Note at the end before you throw knives at me). Copyright holders “own” their ideas. We so desperately want to own properties, and thus, our future.

Why do we need to claim a precious resource just to ourselves through ownership? We’re fine as long as we can access it when we want, right?

The ultimate source of our owning habit it is fear—fear that we would lose what we have in our hands unless we lock it up and guard it with a key or a contract. We claim ownership in order to free ourselves from our anxiety and to assure us that it is “always there for us.”

Instead it isn’t.

Securing a resource in order to eliminate our fear ultimately does not work, because it strengthens the notion that our fear diminishes only when there are abundant resources. Once the resource is gone, so is our confidence. The more resources we pile up under our ownership term to appease our fear, the more fear we create. Our resources turn into a bomb that blows up when the countdown timer reaches zero. Our act of securing resources increases the time, but does not rid the bomb.

I won’t say that we will be well off by having zero resources, which simply means death. But I would say that living under the fear of a ticking bomb isn’t a healthy habit either.

Maybe it is better to focus on the core issue: to ensure that we have what we need anytime, anywhere. Purchasing or claiming ownership is just one method. It bloats the “anytime” “anywhere” aspect of the original concern into full spectrum and replaces them with “all the time” “everywhere.”

I believe what we truly need is access, not ownership. The ultimate protection to our well being is to make sure that we can always access the resource we need, at that time, on the spot. We are only resorting to ownership tactics because we don’t want to “negotiate” access each time. We just want to be lazy, and therefore, we hog resources—be them money, time, food, vehicle, house—to make sure they are always there, just for us.

“We aren’t being greedy,” most of us say. “We just need to secure our life first.” But are we fully aware of the fact that 99% of the resources we carry just to “secure our life first” are sitting there as dead stock?

When we need something, we access it. When done, we leave the rest to others. Can’t it be that simple?

“We can’t trust strangers,” again most of us say. “We need to pile up more than we need because there is no guarantee in this modern world.” Yet just like ownership amplifying the very fear it tries to address, the trust issue is also self-propagating. Other people become stingy and greedy because they see us being stingy and greedy by hogging the resources.

Human beings are made to copy each other. I am pretty sure that as we start to shift into the sharing & access mode, the society will be needing less and less ownership and more access and sharing.

Note: I do not say that a monogamous relationship doesn’t work. It does, obviously, and I believe in it. But monogamity, or the framework we put two people in, should better work as a way to enhance the love that exists between two people, not to shield them from external world so neither will “escape” the prison.

The means is also the end

I used to get baffled by the price differences between local cuisine and foreign cuisine in Taipei’s restaurant scene. I may enter a noodle shop (麵 in Chinese term), have a delicious bowl of beef and tomato noodle, and pay 80NT (= US$3). Add “Italian” to the name (義大利麵, meaning pasta), mince the beef and tomato and garlic, make it soup-less, and wow—the price has doubled (while the flavor, as well as my appetite, has been halved). Tripling the price by adding some coffee, salad, and dessert is optional.

I blame our Asian mindset, the automatic admiration of anything that comes from the West. But soon I realize: why aren’t everybody converting from beef noodle into pasta business? Beef noodle is a tough business. The margin is low and the customers are fussy—every Taiwanese knows what a great beef noodle is, and everybody has a different opinion on that topic. Isn’t it logical to convert your stand into a pasta joint and enter the blue ocean?

But if I add time into equation, a different story emerges. In a Taiwanese noodle stand, it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare a dish. Since I will be sitting on a tiny chair with no back rest, the food will be consumed quickly within 15 minutes: 20 minutes total. In a Western restaurant (or a pasta joint), if I order a set menu, I will be spending an hour. 60 minutes in total, which is equal to three Taiwanese beef noodle customers.

Therefore, from the point of the restaurant, serving a beef noodle with 80NT or a pasta course with three times as much price (240NT) might not make that much of difference—provided that customers flow in at the same rate. Both options make sense.

From the paying customers’ point of view, the choice comes down to cheap & fast or expensive & slow. Take the fast-food course to appease your hunger quickly and get back to work, or go for the expensive and slow one to throw sales pitches to your clients or persuade a girl or bond with your family. Again, both options make sense.

For us consumers, it goes down to the choice of how our time is going to be spent. If it is just for ourselves, why spend our time on it? We got to consume time, the most important resource in our life (more so than money), on something that counts—to build relationships (關係).

And therefore, although we are eating in one of the greatest mix of cuisines in the world, food isn’t the center of our attention. What we should achieve at the end of the dining ritual is what matters, be it efficiency, contract, love, or family bonding. Eating is an investment. Is this worth spending xx hours and xxxNT? There goes the fast/cheap or slow/expensive matrix.

However, recently I have been seeing changes in Taipei’s eating-out scene: the rise of casual café. Elegantly designed, modern, and relaxing coffee shops are popping up everywhere. People sit down to drink, talk, or browse Internet on a porch facing the street.

The new wave of coffee shops are different from the previous generation in two fronts: 1. They are inexpensive. A quality brew costs only 60 to 120 NT, far lower than 180 a cup at—yes—Starbucks. 2. They are catered for individuals. Most tables are equipped with two seats, which often translates into one person + his/her bag.

Finally, we have a new combination in the matrix: cheap & slow. (What about expensive & fast? It exists, and it is called sushi. Let’s get over it, shall we?) We order inexpensive food (drink) and spend a long time with it. People sit down idly, chat or browse or do nothing over a cup of coffee. There aren’t many “goals” that have to be accomplished. Customers are enjoying just being there.

From an old person’s point of view, they might look “isolated.” I do not disagree. We are well aware of our separated modern lifestyle. But I think we are also finally getting back our lost treasure: time. We aren’t necessarily drinking coffee and sitting idly to reach somewhere, where it is our office or a give-and-take agreement. We just want to be there, be ourselves. The means is also the end.

When we talk about the emerging individuality in Asian cultures, the rising social positions of women or X-generation millionaires does not pop into my head. What I see is people taking back the most important resource, the time, into their own hands, on busy streets. That might not be efficient, but is humane.

Melting yourself to stand out

(Today’s post has also been contributed to Red Room Taipei, a network of monthly open-mic event where anybody can share anything for 5 minutes.)

Whenever I meet a new Taiwanese friend and strike a short conversation, I have an obligation to answer two standardized follow-up questions: 1. You speak Chinese so well! 2. Why are you in Taiwan?

And I reply with an equally standardized—but equally honest—answer: Thank you, it is because I love Taiwan. (This answer catches three birds in one stone by issuing a preventive strike against the third question: Do you love Taiwan?) Technically I am not answering anything but we both become happy and that’s what a conversation was born for.

To be precise, I love living in Taiwan because I can be myself in this country. (I do stay inside a special privileged category called “foreigners” where local people generally leave me unbothered.) The strange thing is that living here for eight years has been turning me into a “local” year by year, but at the same time my self-identification of “this is who I am” is reinforced. It is just contradictory: I am assimilating and identifying myself at the same time.

But anywhere in Taipei city, you may just stop in the middle of the street and look around. You will realize that despite being a bustling city with three million residents, Taipei is green. Plants somehow find a way to invade everywhere: on a porch, on a rooftop, and sometimes inside a house.

You will then realize that the old and the new, the East and the West, the soft and the hard, all occupies their places, welding each other across their boundaries, forming a symbiotic system.

I don’t care if I am a Japanese or a nomad or a translator or a business owner anymore. I am I. You may define me however I am, but I myself is just a fluid being, blending my identification like a chameleon, comprising a small part of this Taiwanese landscape.

I become this comfortable myself by allowing myself to melt into my surroundings, and vice versa. I have no doubt that various “Taiwanese-ness” is infiltrating my skin. I might even be thinking like a Taiwanese unconsciously. But no matter what, I am becoming free from associating myself with any label and am comfortable in my own skin. And that has been achieved by learning to co-exist with my environment.

In my olden days I defined myself by being separate. I had to “lift” myself up artificially to call myself, because I was in fact too weak and insecure and the only way to claim my identity was to put myself into a mentally sterilized cage. Imprisoning myself was how I claimed my independence.

I might look identification-less these days. I might not fit into any category. I might look no different from other “Taiwanese” elements. Yet I am being myself, more so than ever.

You will become more “You” by allowing yourself to be influenced, and to influence back. That is the beauty and power of Taiwan. I will continue to morph and melt into my surroundings. I might not remain distinct, but I will certainly broaden my existence—by fusing with others.

Meet your small death and birth

So far, the most important ability I have been building in my nascent freelance life is to reset myself every morning. When I wake up, I am a different person, reborn out of a small death called sleep (a concept borrowed from a friend of mine).

Resources in a freelance life, I am discovering, is similar to rain in a sub-tropical climate: You either have too much or too little. The most stable element in my life is, as everybody says, instability.

A career in an employed environment was similar to driving a car on a paved road. Sometimes it was congested and there were blocks and holes occasionally. But sometimes I could also drive on an expressway and upgrade my car. And no matter what, the road always took me somewhere to a known destination. Almost everything was paid by someone else. Of course, that “someone else” was always sitting in the back seat and telling me where to go.

A career in self-employment feels like driving my jeep in the field. The road is never flat. Sometimes I get stuck in a mud or a typhoon. I have only one vehicle and I have to maintain it myself. And nobody gives me a direction or destination. But that also means nobody is in my back seat unless I invite him or her in.

The uncertainty and lack of visibility give me a strange habit of extending whatever is happening currently into the future. This trap happens in both good and bad situations. At night I wonder what will happen if I continue this way. When a financial drought or a serious error or a disappointment occurs, I assume life will always suck. When well-paid and interesting assignments come in a row, I assume life will always work. Either way, I am trapped in the moment.

The scary part is that it is possible for me to go for days in delusion, for not having a boss or colleagues to “wake me up” by bringing changes—or more likely distracting troubles—on the table. I need to set a “wake up” alarm on my own.

Therefore, regardless of what happened during a day, I put myself into a small coffin during the night, to put all incidents into rest. In the morning, I wake up with a set of beginner’s eyes, carefully avoiding the trap that awaits me to pin me down into yesterday.

Many books are written on the subject of making ourselves excited every morning. Some even recommend that we recite what we want to carry onto the next day during our bedtime, so that we can continue our positive streak.

I am not exactly sure if I want that. One big reason I got out of employed life was to avoid repetition. Why go back into the repetitive mode, even if it promises to be continuous excitement? Also, if we create the habit of carrying the present mood onto tomorrow, doesn’t it backfire when we are having a bad day?

Twilight is our requiem and our sleep is our limbo. I guess I prefer resetting everything when I wake up and face the day as a new reality, new world.

Great ideas always start weak

I recently started riding a manual-transmission motorcycle, switching from the previous automatic-transmission scooter. The motorcycle has no place to carry luggage, is heavy and long, sounds like a tractor than a motorcycle (I named it Tract-One) and the biggest of all is, it is slower than the tiniest scooter you can buy in a second-hand shop.

It still has two virtues. One is its motor-esque look (let’s skip that part) and the other is what I call the “sweet spot.” When the right gear is combined with the right speed on the right road condition in the right weather (a space shuttle launch contains fewer restrictions, I suppose), the motorcycle creates a comfortable and steady motion that makes me want to stay in it for as long as I can. Even the puny tractor sound turns into a nice BGM.

I cruise without thinking. That is what the motorcycle has been born to do (the only reason, I suspect). On the other hand, my previous scooter had no spot. It just accelerated or deaccelerated in linear motion. It was easy, cheap, convenient, fast, and even fun, but it did not make me wanted to just stay on it.

During my extended stay in Tainan this month, I am living in a kick-ass guest apartment. Every morning I sit on a couch facing the large front window, write while watching the sun goes up and the students in the neighbor school warming up to their exercises. Almost everything is sedentary and tranquil. But the whole atmosphere is wrapped in invisible flow. I just want to be part of the picture that carries me along. As with the motorcycle, I want to stay in it for as long as I can.

We all want to find those “spots” in our life, starting with our loved ones. We want places or people or products that automatically activates the engine inside us. We just need to be together, and the magic happens inside us.

The question is How. How do we get to find such places/people/products that stops and moves us at the same time, puts us into the meditative bliss?

I read advice online and offline. Some say we should change the way we think and react in our current environment. But we do know that the best way to get out of an abusive work/life is to literally get out of it. Yet we all know that we might be repeating the escape ritual for our lifetime and oftentimes the abusive ones are ourselves. So, should we stay or not? Is it a matter of changing our mindset or our physical environment?

I remember my agony when I was constantly doing this stay-or-not struggle over a career or a person or a country. In every case, I never got a clear solution. When I was battling inside my head, both sides tried to out-voice the other, resulting in mental noises covering all over me. In the end I couldn’t even decide whether I was hungry or not because my brain did not have the capacity to process body signals, which were all buried under the noises.

I used up all my mental energy, exhausted and desperate for seeing no way out, and sat down on the couch, feeling the weight of my body, both physically and mentally.

Only then some hints started to flow in, slowly and weakly, similar to a timid child peeking into his dad’s room, hoping he is not angry any more. Those ideas existed before, but I somehow always rejected them outright because they did not fit into my “plans.” The only reason I let them come in was because I was too tired to resist.

And yes, it was always those weak thoughts that led to breakthroughs. I moved my fingers, first to note them down, then moved my ass out of the couch to take a bite, and from then on it was automatic cruising.

Of course my ego took over and made up a beautiful false story that somehow I carried that magical solution all along, but looking back I see that none of the ideas that worked really well started strongly.

Hopefully I do not resist listening any more. That saves tremendous energy and time.

It is not about being ourselves, it is about having people to tell us that

We say “Be yourself” all the time. I get it, but I don’t get it. What does it mean to be “myself”?

  • The endlessly procrastinating person facing a pile of assignment/obligation is me.
  • The uncontrollably emotional person going through an unpleasant incident or news is me.
  • The hopelessly depressive person feeling nothing but numbness and dullness is me.
  • The uncannily deceiving person doing one thing but meaning something else is me.
  • The pitifully cheerful person serving others in hope for gaining love is me.

Although I prefer not to be those version of “me,” they are genuine parts of myself that existed or exist or will exist. When I was/am/will be in one of those modes, all I want to do is to get out of it as soon as possible. I guess everybody does the same. And doesn’t it contradict the “Be yourself” mantra?

In fact, I am always “myself,” including the moment when I am pretending to be someone else, because the doer is still me. Whatever I do or think, I am always there. There is no need to “Be myself.” I already am, all the time.

Then “Be yourself” must mean something different, because it still indicates that something isn’t working and we know it. Think of the time when we use that phrase; it is always because that person (it might be us) is “out of touch.” We might be out of touch with our usual self, friend/family/lover, or just reality. When we tell someone to be himself or herself, we are warning him or her that he or she is losing connections, mostly with us.

“Be yourself” = “Stop pretending”. That is more likely it.

But what if we are trying to get out of the version of us we do not want to continue? Isn’t it okay to “pretend” that we are doing fine in order to finish our tasks or calm our family or just wake up from the bed to embrace the day? I think it is more than okay—it is necessary. Bootstrapping is one of our fundamental survival instincts.

Let’s look at the “out of touch” problem. The truly annoying issue isn’t the fact that we are not being the usual us or that we aren’t able to do so. It is the fact that we don’t know that we are out of touch, that we are acting while believing we are behaving normally. It is the lack of awareness that matters. Therefore:

“Be yourself” = “Stop pretending” = “Look at you.” Good, it is getting warmer.

As long as we are conscious of what we are doing, then it should be fine even when we are outside our comfort zone, pretending to be someone, or just purely acting. As long as we are aware of where and how and what we are all the time, being in the “usual zone” or not might not matter that much. After all, no matter what we do, we are always “being ourselves.”

But because our eyeballs aren’t facing inward (I like this phrase a lot), I am not sure if we can fully comprehend our state all the time. We can only guess how we are doing, and in order to check ourselves (at least on the surface), we use a mirror. For complex human interactions, what can be used as our mirror?

Yes, the other people. The people who said “Be yourself” to us in the beginning, leaving us perplexed and frustrated. The people who care about us enough to say something unpleasant for us and them likewise.

Do I care enough to say “Be yourself” and do I open myself enough to attract “Be yourself”? I think that is the question.

A job changes you. Suck it up.

A university professor advises potential students to not apply for a prestigious (=expensive) university, probably including his own. Seriously. Why? Because due to the increasing tuition cost, they won’t be able to pursue their dreams after graduation.

The burden of student loans they amassed while getting their degrees would be too great to take the risky but motivative path of joining a startup or founding their own business. Instead, they are forced to choose a more financially rewarding position, at least in the short term. Several years later after paying their debt, they can do something they want.

The scenario makes sense. But does it work?

According to my own experience and tales from elsewhere, no. There is a fact that isn’t advertised very often: Once you live inside a framework, you will become a part of it. The scary part is that you realize it until you lose the framework. You might think of yourself as a prisoner biting his time, but rarely you realize that you are also making yourself a guard for that small eco-system.

Joni Mitchell’s classic song says it right (though originally it was meant for something different)

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

In The Shawshank Redemption, a long-time prisoner gets freedom at the end of his life, only to realize that his life existed only inside the prison. He chooses to hang himself.

These prison walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.

And the more high-paid a position is, the more risk-averse it becomes. Every single prestigious job requires you to work inside a “proven” framework. You have rooms to assert your creativity, they tell you, but that creativity must be applied to finding a solution inside that framework.

Yet the first and most important thing you need when starting a new challenge is an out-of-the-box thinking, because you are joining the game as a latecomer. But is that easy if your creativity has already been modified to work inside your previous box?

Of course, the world isn’t divided between prison and freedom, and most of us choose a stepping-stone approach instead of a complete makeover. In my case, I started as an electrical engineer (which ended up in disaster), then switched to a technical support for an international company, followed by a technical writer in Taiwan, sliding into a nomad technical translator as of now.

I learned I was no engineer the hard way, but leveraged whatever engineer-ity inside me for subsequent paths toward a more satisfying life. Even though the initial match-up ended up in disaster, engineering has been with me all along. I totally embrace the life I have now, but…sometimes I still think what my life would have been if I had chosen a completely different degree or the first job. I know, the life I have now is the only and the best. But still.

The first thing we should ask ourselves before agreeing to a less ideal career in exchange for security isn’t “How long does it take for me to get back on track?” It is “Will I be okay making this choice a part of me for the rest of my life?”

Does it sound too much like a marriage? Yes, it does. And leaving a career is not unlike having a breakup or a divorce either. It is doable, even multiple times, but each time the scar remains—and forms us along the way. Eventually things will turn out for the best, but the idea that we can “clean up” several years of experience in us is utter nonsense.

Attracting debris

I am standing inside a muddy pond. I am surrounded by all sorts of debris—rotten leaves, branches, plastic bags, pet bottles. This is my mental world, when I am right in the middle of negative emotions.

I try to let the debris go away by swinging my arms. It doesn’t work. I might cause a slight disruption in the surrounding current, but for whatever reason the debris comes back to me as if I am pulling them back. The more I try to let them go by violently wiggling my arms, the more debris I attract.

Frustrated, I decide to move to a new spot where it seems to be clear of debris. I wade toward the spot, settle down, and tell myself everything is alright. Little did I know that my old debris came along with me and settled in this new place too. And because the new place wasn’t exactly without its own debris, I am surrounded by even more debris than before. I start to think when will be the right time to move to the next location.

The above scenario used to be my emotional coping mechanism for a long time. I used a tremendous amount of energy to let whatever emotional issues go away, change something small, get a brief relief, and repeat the same issue. It was an eternal losing battle.

I only started to win it, little by little, after I declared defeat and surrendered. Out of despair (and tiredness), I just stopped thinking too much about the debris, and started to swim along with them. I got tired of finding a new mental spot or teaching or state that might have been the promised tranquility land (but wasn’t). I gave up in the end: Let’s just float a while and think through. I could even use some garbage as my buoy.

And then, after finally starting to “enjoy” swimming, I realized my debris was falling behind one by one. What I needed was not a violent turbulence or a clean, safe spot. I only had to move constantly with my own comfortable speed. I was waiting for someone to cause a flow to clear me up. How stupid of me—just by swimming along my natural rhythm I could create my own flow.

I still found out that some debris did not go away no matter what. I looked at them and I saw they were attached to strings. And the strings are attached to…me. Yes, it wasn’t the debris that was following me. I was the one pulling the debris around. I just could not see the existence of the strings previously because I was either too busy mudding the water by wiggling my arms or aiming for a new place. All I had to do was to wait until the water cleared up and observe.

I keep swimming because it feels nice, but at the same time I slowly untie the strings that connect myself to the debris. It takes time and patience, but I know it is worth it, so I just keep doing it.

On the horizon I see greater ocean. When I untie most of the emotional strings, I might be able to swim free-style in that vast space. Maybe, one day when I start swimming gracefully, dolphins might accompany me. I might give a back rub to a whale. Say hello to a sea horse in standing posture.

Someday.

Radiation and Akira

Two thoughts on 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

1. The real agenda is (still) to fix the nuclear disaster

I honestly thought Tokyo never had a chance because of the radiation that is getting out of control from a nearby idilic city called Fukushima.

But whatever was going on inside IOC member’s heads, the decision was made and the Japanese government and TEPCO will be finally forced to “fix” whatever is going on in Fukushima. Radiation hits everybody equally on a physical level, but looks like the international society has a far less mental tolerance compared to the people in Tokyo. That is one good news.

One big conspiracy theory popped in my head: what if the IOC or somebody behind decided to solve the radiation problem by giving Japan an international kick in the butt? Seeing that Japan is never going to solve the issue in his own hands, one realistic plan is to invite MANY foreigners over, most of them health-sensitive athletes, so everybody’s eyes will be watching over Japan for at least 7 years from now. And the humongous double-cost of cleanup and hosting will be on Japan’s shoulders.

Ending the Fukushima disaster is one rare thing that pro-nuclear lobbies and anti-nuclear activists agree upon. The former wants it to go away to sell more plants, and the latter wants the term “nuclear” to become “No, clear.” Well, so much for my conspiracy theory.

2. Reality is catching up with fictions

The iconic 80s anime film Akira was based on the year 2019, one year before the fictional Tokyo would be hosting their second Olympics. That is a weird coincidence.

I am remembering another case of an 80s sci-fi movie predicting how reality would catch up later.

In case of Blade Runner, it was simulating a future L.A. Chinatown covered in neon signs and acid rain (Akira took hints from this movie too). Look at the trailer and doesn’t it look eerily similar to…present day Asia?

One of the reasons I decided to live in Taipei was because it basically was an extension of the set of Blade Runner. I was no Harrison Ford but I simply loved strolling around the everlasting flashy billboards and dark clouds. (I still do, although I have found other goodies in Taiwan.)

In case of Akira, the future Tokyo will become a jungle of monstrous buildings and dystopian authorities, which will be eventually demolished by a teenager’s psychic rage against the society. It was the dream every frustrated Japanese teenager had during 1980s, when Japanese economic muscle had been flexing all over the world.

During the era, the powerless ones (the young and the old) secretly desired to destroy everything that made up the “prosperous and harmonious society” propaganda. That was why Akira resonated with so many people’s hearts, including mine.

Now that the economic lies have been exposed by the great bubble and Tokyo has been on the defensive side since the beginning of the new century, people want Tokyo to be strong again. I just hope they won’t mislead.