Tokyo Damage Report

imaginary jobs

books like DOGS AND DEMONS talk about Japan’s crazy public works projects. To keep unemployment down and money circulating in the economy, they straight make up fake jobs for people. And it works – people have jobs and coffee that cost 300 yen this morning does not cost 450 yen the next morning.  It works, and that’s why I don’t mind if taxpayer money – paid by people with real jobs –  is being used to create fake, imaginary  jobs.
What I mind is how 99.9% of these fake jobs ACTIVELY MESS WITH regular Japanese.  I mean, is the iron triangle (beuracrats, politicians, industry) actually doing that ON PURPOSE?
DOGS AND DEMONS mostly documents the environmental damage done by these public works projects: the rivers with 7 bridges per kilometer, the once-majestic mountains all covered in concrete, etc. So, there’s that. But even if you were born in the city and have never even SEEN “the environment”, chances are there’s always some street construction blocking your way to wherever. And a lot of that is imaginary jobs. Dudes tearing down the rotary (cement plaza around which taxis circulate) in front of the train station, and building a new one that looks exactly the same. Yeah, let’s take  jobs that are as noisy and disruptive as they are un-necessary, and put them right exactly in the busiest part of town.
And let’s not forget: all this construction and inhaling concrete dust all day is hard fuckin’ work! You think these hard-hat guys are so dumb they don’t realize they’re busting ass for no reason? That’s got to mess with their minds as well as their aching bodies. So these imaginary jobs mess with the welfare recipients as much as the taxpayers.  
And if anyone actually tries to USE the pretty new rotary that the guys painstakingly constructed, the police chase them off, because “You need a permit for that.” The rotary gets used twice a year on festivals.   So not only is the construction crew working really hard for nothing, but the product of their labor is actually declared off-limits by cops to insure that no average citizen benefits from the public works they paid for. Wild! Like, just in case you didn’t get the message.
Or the mean old grandpas that steal your bike if you park by the station. You got to pay them to get your bike back. That’s not to keep the station looking nice. That’s just a social welfare program for unemployed grandpas – designed specifically to mess with regular employed Japanese. Wtf? 
Any one of these cases could be explained away as just a mistake or bad planning, but taken together, the pattern is clear: it’s not enough that Japanese WITH jobs subsidise those without jobs, the government has decided that the fake jobs should ALWAYS CONSTANTLY DISRUPT AND MESS WITH the regular Japanese, AS WELL AS being back-breaking hard labor for the welfare recipients.
Which is pretty amazing.
Especially when you consider that the set of all “useless jobs” (i.e. jobs that are never intended to generate profit) exceeds the set of “useful jobs” by approximately infinity percent.  
That is the part that blows my mind – these iron triangle guys could have the redundant workers do anything!  And yet they on purpose pick the jobs that are the worst for everyone!
Like during the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal paid unemployed Yankees to paint murals, write novels, and doing ethnography, where they’d interview old people about their life stories, to preserve American heritage. Yeah they were imaginary jobs, but they were way more fun than digging concrete, and they probably even brightened the day of regular Americans. And I would go even farther: why doesn’t Japan pay for performance art? Pay  the mean old granpas to dress like zombies and sit on nearly-empty train cars in the corner. And then when you get on the train, they ALL POINT AT YOU until you get off. Then they point at someone else. Not talking or moving. Just pointing.
Then the next day they’re doing the same exact same thing, dressed as horses.
I mean, why not?!?  They’re imaginary jobs, so USE YOUR FUCKING IMAGINATION, Iron Triangle!
OH NOES IT’S DADA WEDNESDAY. A homeless guy in a g-string rolls by on a seguay and gives you a free balloon with the words “BUTTOCK STRANGLER” printed on it.  The street ends up being full of people, all strangers , walking to work, reading each others’ balloons and laughing, making actual  human contact. OK that’s kind of burning man lame, but you get the idea.
Why not give unemployed kids jobs where they learn a foreign language and translate shit?  At least do the shit about ethnographing the fuck out of old people. What could be more traditional than that? Get very traditional with it: Pay dudes to just write haiku all day and stand in front of Lawson reciting it. “Oh convienience / marvel of the modern age / get me a beer dude”
Tyco drummers in the train stations, announcing the next train is coming.  Every day could be a fucking festival instead of a jackhammer and a stolen bike. AND IT WOULDN’T COST A PENNY MORE.
If you got Japanese friends, and some time to kill, try asking them, what is a task or service that they actually WANT the government to pay people to do? What do they want their welfare money spent on? What would help or entertain them?  Let's do a fucking poll, people.
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7 Comments so far

  1. Ryan February 18th, 2011 7:11 pm

    Those fucking grandpas… my bike….

  2. François February 18th, 2011 7:31 pm

    Love the way you describe those construction workers "welfare recipients".

    Plain truth you're writing here, me friend. Plain truth.

  3. unyari February 19th, 2011 2:06 am

    My bike… :(

  4. Ortho February 19th, 2011 4:27 am

    Can any of this be linked to "face-saving"?  Like you obviously can't just give the guy the money bc that would hurt his pride, and you can't give him a job that's too obviously just charity, so you make it some really hard shitty job and everyone's happy?

  5. hank February 19th, 2011 4:30 pm

    second time this bike shit happend I just left it with the grandpas. my good old mamachari…. :(

  6. Joseph February 20th, 2011 11:07 pm

    You know what'd be good?  Old man tourist guide.  The guy's probably lived in that part of town forever and could tell anybody where to go lickity split.  And if the tourist is so inclinded, he or she can listen to the old guy jabber away about what  life in Ueno was like in the seventies or some such shit.
     Also, the old guy could take kick-backs from whatever restaurant, liquor store, whorehouse he sends the tourist to.  It be a perfect job for all those retired mobsters. 
    It's win-win situation in my humble opinion.  

  7. admin February 21st, 2011 1:46 am

    @joseph: how about, drunk old man guide, with eye-rolling translation by a trilingual korean-japanese? That’ll double the number of jobs right there.

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