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309 pages, Paperback
First published March 20, 1997
Words can be practically useless at times, but as a writer they're all I have.A group of people killed another group of people. I could be talking about a number of things. A description of the present. An incident in history. A prediction of the future. The final result of brainwashing. The beginning of a new era. A cause. A conclusion. The means. The end. A resolution. An excuse. The threat executed by an oppressor. The exigency fulfilled by a nation. Culture clash. Revolution. Murder. Self-defense. Genocide. The right to bear arms. The death penalty. Patriotism. Nationalism. Faith. Religion. Heaven. Hell. Pick a cult, pick a cult: any cult'll do.
[I]f someone had fallen down right in front of me, I like to think I'd have helped. But what if they fell 50 yards away? Would I go out of my way to help? I wonder. I might have seen it as somebody else's business and walked on by. If I'd got involved I'd have been late for work...Japan isn't the United States, the country my country where shootings have indoctrinated the public with the regularity of the weather. One of the interviewees who had been gassed by sarin hypothesized that, had the same incident occurred in a public transport on US soil, every passenger would have been gung ho from the get go and reacted to the incident much more effectively. Perhaps, but that would've depended on the relative level of segregation of the public transport, the social net of the state within which the public transport was contained, the standard deviation of care across the board of passengers under the capitalistic gutting that is the US healthcare system. Fire in a crowded theater, more like. And, of course, the one execution of function the United States is an absolute master of that would vent the fallout of an incident like the Tokyo Gas Attack across decades of reaction: the scapegoat.
Haven't you offered up some part of your Self to someone (or some thing), and taken on a "narrative" in return? Haven't we entrusted some par of our personality to some greater System or Order?I recently caught up with a friend who's been stuck at an underpaid occupation for some time. It was manageable when concurrent with high school and somewhat excusable when conducted alongside college, but now that my friend is out and about with a degree and all, lies involving "experience" and "exposure" and less than living wage don't cut it when financial independence is a simultaneous expectation. Trust In This System And The System Will Reward, and you don't have to renounce the secular life entirely or follow the murderous orders of a cult to do it. The desk job and the standard hours and the cold hard cash may distance and disillusion, but see, I've been part of a genocidal military industrial complex since day one of my existence through no execution of will of my own, so forgive me if my priorities are a compromise of my awareness and my livelihood. There's nothing that saps the strength of continued existence more than the pile up of the little hypocrisies on top of the huge and terrifying paradoxes, so something like Aum doesn't baffle while the Navy advertises its global map of bases before Pixar movies.
Later, when the police asked me "Didn't people start to panic?" I thought back on it: "Everyone was so silent. No one uttered word."It's the same old common denominator of death drawing together the dying and the death-dealing once again in a somewhat different environment using somewhat different tools and ideological modus operandi. One thing that's different is I can let myself trust a little more the truth I'm hearing, cause if I have to read another white person talking as if they know anything about non-white people and getting paid for it before I'm dead and gone, it'll be too soon. Another is that I've gotten over my whole anti-religion fad after years of being told on a theological level morality was where it wasn't and wasn't where it was, so I don't stop at Aum as the ultimate mystery and instead continue on to the government, and the corporate work force, and the fact that a nation not giving a fuck about certain groups of its people will always have consequences. Yet another is Murakami not screwing up his intentions too much, cause while it'd be absurd to believe any of these interviews are candid, the sheer number of instances of Japanese people talking to Japanese people from both sides of a common event results in as close to an honest text as can be achieved in this global age of ours. Both the author and those he interviews throw around the words "crazy" and "insane" too much, and there's a moment of disability inspiration porn that's just plain wrong, but if Murakami wasn't disturbed by how much the sarin victims mirrored the former and not so former Aum members in terms of certain thoughts and feelings to the point of questioning it to this day, I'll eat my hat.
If there's someone looking ill on the train I always say, "Are you okay? Want to sit down?" But not most people — I really learned that the hard way.You can't come together and stay together and act all surprised when the actions of the group reflect on the individual in such a way that is completely different from the side of the story you were initially drawn in through. All that matters is the means by which you trade in the blood on your hands for peace of mind. You don't need religious fanaticism for that.
I came to them from the "safety zone", someone who could always walk away whenever I wanted. Had they told me "There's no way you can truly know what we feel," I'd have had to agree. End of story.