Sunday, April 22, 2007


THE DIN OF DEMOCRACY


You know the old saying, "a squeaky wheel is very like a politician..." or is it "an empty barrel gets the most votes..." I forget. Anyway, here in Japan it's election time again-- it was another election time just a week or so ago, but the trappings of democracy are repeatedly appreciated here the country of the longest single-party rule in the world, ever since Mexico turned another version of the old leaf.

So, seems like every few weeks about this time all over the country they put up one of those electionface boards with the numbered squares painted on it, each candidate allotted the same-size square in which to paste his (now some hers too) same-size electionface a few days before the election, so everybody can drive by and look elsewhere. The length of the board depends upon the number of candidates, which seems to be growing.

The foto above shows the earlier electionface board in our village. For this week's election there are 53 or 54 candidates, so it's a long board. The foto below shows a portion of the electionface board for the lovely city of Omihachiman across the lake, where we went last weekend to see a festival at Hachimangu that I'll write about maybe when the election is over and I can concentrate whatever metal capacity remains. It's hard to concentrate in mid-campaign, because it's more than just electionfaces everywhere; there's an aspect to the process in which laws regarding public peace (if any) are suspended.

To be in Japan at election time is to know democracy's true decibel capacity. This is no lone candidate on a soap box on a downtown street corner; this is candidates and their zealous supporters by the truckfuls bearing multiple loudspeakers, with loopy tapes manically shrieking the candidates' names over and over and over and over in mass syncopation, or simply soundblasting loopy live statements right outside your bedroom window on a Sunday morning, as though to say "I'm loudest, elect me!" or "I have the biggest speakers, vote for me!" or "I make the most noise by far, I deserve your vote!"

To hammer home and then clinch your sense of democracy, the trucks of all the candidates tour the neighborhood all day every day reeking soundwaves until the election, with the white-gloved candidates leaning out the front window of their deafening vehicles, smiling and waving, displaying not the slightest hint of embarrassment at the racket (the Japanese seem to accept it like the weather) that sets the dogs barking, wakes napping babies and husbands and likely worsens the condition of sickly elders, all in a country so polite that out here in the country drivers bow to each other at rural intersections... and this in the same culture that created the karesansui garden at Ryoanji...!

4 comments:

vegetablej said...

And compounded by the fact that we cannot vote!

Bob Brady said...

I'd vote for the candidate with the fewest decibels. They should save those for the governing chamber.

Annette said...

Must be destiny - the karesansui garden link does not work... I'm virtually trapped in the political din.

Bob Brady said...

Annette...don't know what happened there, but it's fixed now.