Sunday 26 October 2014

Saiichi Maruya, Ninomiya 'Concession' & the true Paradox of Thrift

The Student Protests of 1968- a year when Universal History reached a turning point, but failed to turn- has left many monuments in fiction, all more or less shite, save Saiichi Maruya's 'Singular Rebel'.
Why? How did it come about?
Suitably interrogated, Sartre might say it was because those Uprisings were Serial not Singular and, armed with this confession, Deleuze might quite reasonably deduce that what was happening was not the Hegelian 'generality' of Rebellion but what he himself distinguished as the ironic & artistic notion of 'Repetition'- thus providing us a plausible explanation for what would otherwise be the naked scandal of Cohn Bendit's De Gaulle besting Generalship, not to mention, for dusky sub-continental types, the Trotskyite tadil-i-arkan posturings of our own, always hilarious, Tariq Ali.

However, for the novel,  Deleuzian 'difference without a concept' effectively means that dynamics can't be Aristotelian- the unfolding of an inward hamartia- nor, indeed, Augustinian- universal sublation as arising out of the out-spooling of one privileged haecceity. How, then, can it bridge chorismos and establish an, at least minimally, moral causality?

Ad captum vulgi theodicy- i.e. old wives tales & vernacular shibboleths- perhaps tarted up a bit by things like the Buddhist bardo (i.e. antarabhava) or Sufi barzakh or Shinto jujutsu-teki- or, indeed, what synteresis could come to mean in that Limbo between the Holy Ghost's Eckhart and the Too Wholly Human's Eckermann- informs that lacuna for us deeply subaltern St. Columba's types, unless (obviously) we were actually smart enough to go on to St. Stephens or Cambridge instead of Ramjas College or the equally declasse LSE, in which case we wouldn't be ignominiously blogging but, infinitely more humiliatingly, actually getting paid for writing obscenely patronising Op-Eds more imbecilic yet than our own obsolescent Paideia might warrant, thus endowing even the most egregiously side whiskered of surviving soixante huitard retards with, alas!, a continuing relevance.

Getting back to Maruya's novel and seeking an explanations for its, not sui generis but universally ouroboric excellence, I think what happened is that our distinguished Joyce scholar, with Joycean cunning, hid the mot theme foundational to its moral economy, disguised the sphota of its occult  systems of synteresis, from its (very able, but Gaijin) translator by means of the too cheap and obvious trick of waving a gold watch in front of us like a comic book hypnotist.
I should explain, Clocks and Watches do a lot of the semiotic heavy-lifting in Maruya's book.
Yet, the one word not used, the one type of clock not mentioned, is wadokei- the pre Meiji horological innovation allowing for 'feudal-rice-economy' Lunar time to run in parallel with that Western, 'Modern', 'Capitalist' Time whose monopoly of Buddhist momentariness, monopsony of Bergsonian duration, was only enforced in 1872
The author encourages us to jump to the conclusion that because Japanese Society displayed features
characteristic of a 'dual economy' it, therefore, was an imperfect imitation of a Western Liberal Democracy and only had what we in India call 'damaged modernity' with the result that its protagonists remained in the grip of Kantian heteronomy and thus suffered from the Borgesian dysphoria of knowing deep down that they weren't wholly real.

Obviously, such a view is pure horse-shit. Every fucking economy is dual as is every Society. Kantian autonomy is fucked in the head.

It's all very well to say- 'in Japan, there is a mis-match between the Westernised sector which follows Newtonian Time and the Traditional Sector which is like regulated by some fucking stone age Mayan Calendar and so, like, one of these days the two types of Time will go out of sync and then Japan will fucking explode or Godzilla will rise up or them Nips will start bombing Pearl Harbor or committing Hara Kiri all over the place or summat similar coz let's face it them slitty eyed little bastards just look different from us okay?  and like you know how them furriners are- they might look okay, even behave okay but they are furriners all the same and sure to go totally tonto sooner or later. I mean David Cameron is clearly a French Cambodian lady boy wot can't speak a word of English and has never set foot in this country. How did he become P.M? It's all the doing of that slitty eyed I.D.S; he had a Jap grandmother you know. Fuck you Ian Duncan Smith! Fuck youse and fuck all the rest of yourse fucking foreigners wot are ruining this country. Can't even get a decent balti anymore.'

Urm...sorry? Got a bit carried away there. Too nakedly revealed my blogging agenda. Anyway, my point is though it may sound scary to say that there are two or more types of Time keeping in operation, this really isn't a big deal.  No doubt, there will be real time effects but, like, 'Triple witching hours' in the Stock Market  these are things we can predict and plan for. Watch makers in Europe and Japan discovered long ago how to show two or more different types of time simultaneously on a clock-face, or later on, a pocket watch. Japanese horologists, like Japanese gunsmiths, were always very technically accomplished and highly inventive and so forth. Maruya's generation may have had a bit of an inferiority complex about the 'made in Japan' label, but he himself was aware that things were changing pretty rapidly on that front.
But, if Maruya isn't whining about how Japan aint modern enough, what is he actually doing?

On first reading, the novel appears written in a sprightly enough style, though hobbled by the stilted interchanges between the three creakingly 'modernist intellectual' middle aged bourgeois characters who establish its topos and set the wheels of its Comedy in motion. These are- first, the slobbish Sociology graduate who edits a Beer Company's promotional magazine and who introduces the two lovers to each other: second, the personable protagonist, an Economist who once worked at MITI but, supposedly, resigned because he refused a transfer to the Ministry of Defense; and, third and most egregiously, the Liberal Arts Professor whose surname, chimes ironically with that of the great 'Peasant Economist', or Japanese Samuel Smiles, Sontoku Ninomiya who, himself being a poor peasant from a remote Northern province and innocent of Rangaku , though distilling the essence of the Da Xue & the spirit of Moh Tzu, nevertheless possessed only an old fashioned solar watch.

Explicitly mentioning the Sage Ninomiya, early in the book, the protagonist, the ex-MITI bureaucrat, quotes him as inspiring, in his native province, a backlash against his own Merchant Class ancestor by a Bakufu feudalism on its last legs- a bankrupt 'back to the land' Moralism enforced by Samurai romantic thuggery morally equivalent to that of the yakuza movie gangster. Except, the protagonist's ancestor wasn't actually cut down by a pack of swordsmen as he returned from a cherry blossom viewing. A drunken ronin lunged at him with a spear during the famously corrupt Elections campaign of 1892 and the merchant ran ignominiously away- that's all.
Still, the boozy Sociologist, and later on the 'angry young man' activist photographer with a big dick, respect the hero because they believe he, like his ancestor, defied the Militarists under the banner of Bourgeois individualism. However, during the course of the novel, the protagonist learns that the Japanese people at large, by some mysterious 'invisible hand' market clearing albeit sub-conscious system of arbitrage,  adhere to a system of moral equivalences such that shirking your duty as a Civil Servant actually equates to being 'damaged goods'. Yes, the protagonist gets a hot young wife, but with her comes a grandmother just out of jail for killing her husband. Worse yet, at work, what is entailed is a transfer out of Tokyo to take charge of a provincial factory, which, ironically, he will restore to profitability by employing female convicts from his wife's grandmother's old Jail. His hot young wife, who has a one night stand with the activist photographer with the big dick, similarly must go with the hero and drudge as his salaryman spouse in that Provincial wilderness. She too has been judged and found wanting. Singular rebellions are tolerated but sooner or later Society pronounces its judgement and the punishment fits the timidity of the crime.
Of course, the same thing happened in Maruya's lyrical previous novel, set before the Student Unrest, when it appeared Japan was moving rightward, not leftward. In 'grass for my pillow', the hero finds out that his status as a draft evader entails an arranged marriage to a hot young virgin (so one better than the ex MITI guy) but a habitual kleptomaniac. He too discovers that, instead of promotion, his career will end in exile from Tokyo, running a provincial high school.
Had both protagonists boasted of their 'singular rebellions' and, more importantly, gloried in the erotic adventures which those rebellions made possible, they would not have faced Provincial relegation and got stuck with 'damaged goods' wives with sub-par cooking skills. Why? The Japanese value Hedonism for its own sake- but it must be bold, heartless, and laugh in the face of death.
'Singular rebellions' and timid trajectories of escape- conceal what they should proudly display so as to receive the moral equivalent of a rent from Society.
After all, what attracted the fashion model, Prof. Nonomiya's daughter, to the ex MITI salaryman was not the story about his grandfather being cut down by Samurai, because he'd dared to set up a Rice Exchange or a Private Bank, but the story of his extravagance towards a sickly courtesan for whom he bought 12 Piaget pocket watches in succession because her only remaining delight lay in flicking open their cases to hear a mechanical music till, one by one, their escapements too broke down.

The protagonist deprecates his ancestor's extravagant gesture but is, perhaps, secretly proud of it.
Reading the novel, one way to parse plot developments is by saying to oneself- 'The Sage Ninomiya counselled thrift. Samurai disciples of Ninomiya attacked this extravagant merchant. Yet, by the Field theoretic workings of that which is Societal in karma, the daughter of a literary scholar (the sage Ninomiya was a self educated Confucian, his statue stands in front of many schools) is attracted by this ancestral extravagance to the widowed Economist. Her father, anxious to get her married before her grandmother gets out of Jail, barges in on the ex MITI official and gets him to propose honourable marriage to his daughter by harping on the surely equivocal fact that she is no better than a kept woman. How does he manage this? Does he wave a katana in the air? Does he weep or quote Confucius? No. It is his savoir faire and knowing-too-knowing references to Japan's 'damaged modernity' which seals the deal. But only seals the deal because both parties were- this their mutual 'unthought known'- morally equivalent 'damaged goods' bound together indissolubly- Economists call this a zero-regret equilibrium- by reason only of a future, that too wholly undetermined, mutual ontic betrayal and epistemic infidelity.
 So, it turns out- and this is what makes Maruya, despite himself, a great writer- Japan's modernity wasn't damaged at all; its foundational synteresis, or unspoken system of moral arbitrage wasn't 'dual' or 'schizoid'. On the contrary, it was univocal and that too in a manner which shows that the Sage Ninomiya's economy was actually a General Equilibrium free of the sort of fault which the Sixties discovered in that concept. The hero, you will remember, is an Economist. He'd know about the Sonnenschein Mantel Debreu result which essentially says we can't distinguish 'good' equilibria from 'bad' ones because of wealth effects. But, in the Sage Ninomiya's work, Saving is defined as 'Concession'- a deliberate choice to increase the consumption, improve the welfare, of the other. Thus there is no 'Paradox of Thrift' or 'Income Effect' swamping pure Golden Path Gross Substitutability. Why? That Golden Path is the Peach Blossom Valley, it is the Chinese Unicorn, it is Rihaku- 'Golden Millet's next life'- drunkenly drowning to save the Moon's reflection.  Plainly put, Society is that Satori we set aside so our Singular Rebellions save anyone but ourselves.

So, bluntly speaking, Japan in the Sixties is more 'modern'- i.e rational and objective in solving 'stable marriage type problems'- than the America of the Great Moderation.
It doesn't just deliver better standards of living faster, it actually has an unspoken Moral economy which is univocal with actual outcomes.
To my mind this is a remarkable result.
To be clear, in 1941, if we had to predict who would be massacring South East Asian 'gooks' a quarter of a Century down the road- who in their right mind would have replied Yanks not Nips?

One final comment-
It is a pity that Gandhi, who had a book about Ninomiya in his library, didn't absorb its message. A Ninomiya type Gandhian activist, or Gandhian novelist could have repaired our 'damaged modernity'.
Perhaps, some young person in India who stumbles on this blog while looking for porn will take up the challenge of giving 'Modi-ism' a coherent foundation in Moral Science (as Economics used to be known) by reading the works of Prof. Aiko Ikeo of Waseda University in this regard.
What am I saying? There probably already are Indian students at Waseda University who have taken precisely this course. Oh well, I'll just go back to posting dirty pics of Veena Malik and P.Chidambaram who is like seriously hot dude and the spitting image of Pippa Middleton when viewed from behind.


Anonymous said...

Jeez, this is all over the place. Are you mentally ill?

windwheel said...

Obviously, when writing about Maruya we must be sensitive to the 'jujutsuteki', or unthought known, of the common people of Edo regarding 'karmic' causality- which enables us to discover that the whole testosterone fuelled 47 ronin thing was just a camouflage for a salutary and patriotic act of husband killing- which we simply oughtn't to mention at all coz why go putting ideas into wifey's head?
Speaking for myself- i.e. by talking random nonsense which is like totally all over the place, dude, and seriously mentally retarded- I, of course, establish that ontological dysphoria is what makes one at home in this world and the willing agent of karma's invisible hand acquiescing in its moral economy with the sentiment- om purnamadah purnamidah & c- or as Three Idiots has it 'All izz Well'.
Mind it kindly.