危機と人類

この度、日本でも人気のジャレド・ダイアモンドの『危機と人類』(原題『Upheaval』)が刊行されました。下訳で協力させていただいたので、紹介したいと思います。

私が最初に手にしたダイアモンド氏の著作は2005年刊行の『文明崩壊』。当時アメリカにいたので英語で読みました。翌年にはアル・ゴアのドキュメンタリー映画『不都合な真実』も公開され、当時は地球温暖化って何? と気になる人が一気に増えた頃でした。当時のアメリカでは、ブッシュ政権が地球温暖化が起きているとは検証されていないという見解を取っていたのもあって政治化したので、『文明崩壊』が多くの人に読まれたのかもしれません。歴史上、文明が崩壊した原因として、過剰な環境破壊や地球温暖化といった大きな問題を俯瞰できるように語りかけるダイアモンド氏に、尊敬の念を抱いた人も多いのではないでしょうか。

今回の新刊のテーマは政治です。そして今回も「混沌とした現在」からまず離れ、7つの国の政治の歴史を比較しながら、各国がどのように政治的危機を乗り越えてきたのかを分析します。日本もその7カ国の中に含まれています。ただ、今回は個人の心理セラピーを国家に当てはめて分析しているので、そのアプローチに違和感を感じる人も多いかもしれません。日本近代史に詳しい人なら、こういうケーススタディには重箱の隅をつつきたくなるかもしれません。

本書はビル・ゲイツのお勧め本ですが、ニューヨーク・タイムズの書評は辛辣でした。「今は、一部の限られた白人男性だけが世の中を俯瞰する時代ではない。歴史は多面的で、さまざまな視点から見たストーリーを知ることができる時代なのだから」というような論調でした。この批評にも一理あると思いますが、著者は批判を覚悟の上で書かれたのでしょう。本書の心理セラピーのアプローチが功を奏するとしたら、自分の国を俯瞰できるようになる、ということではないでしょうか。まえがきに、ダイアモンド氏の目的は読者を俯瞰させることで、ここからさらに掘り下げて研究する人たちが現れることに期待していると書いてあります。

遂にHamilton

Hamilton at Chicago

シカゴで「ハミルトンでも見るか」と思い、チケットの値段の高さにひるんだのが3年前。チケット買ったのに、開演時間までにニューヨークにたどり着けなかったのが今年8月。そんな紆余曲折を経て、今年10月やっと、シカゴで念願のハミルトンを見た!! リベンジの日がこんなに早く訪れるとは思ってもみなかった。2015年の初演から4年もかかった。

来る日も来る日もサントラを聴いていた。同じようにサントラを聴きまくってから劇場に足を運んだ友達からも「サントラどおり!」と聞いていたが、まさにそのとおり。英語に自信のない人にはサントラをよく聴いておくことをお勧め。あと『Hamilton』はアメリカ建国のお話なので、少しは勉強していったほうがいいとは思う。外国人が何の予備知識もなしに歌舞伎を見てもわからないのと同じで、予備知識がないと、ラップでアメリカ建国史を歌われてもな……. ということになりかねない。

歴史をアレンジして作られた演劇や映画、書物はバカ売れすると、「史実を捻じ曲げている」的な批判が必ず出てくる。確かにバカ売れすると 、それをつい情報源にしてしまう。徳川光圀のことをあまり知らないのに『水戸黄門 』のせいでよく知っていると思い込んでしまうのに似ている。『Hamilton』は『水戸黄門 』ほど史実から乖離しているわけではないけど、初演当初は著名な歴史家たちがミュージカルと「史実」の違いを説明する記事もよく出ていた。でもこのミュージカルはそもそもハミルトンを筆頭にアメリカ建国の父たちとその周辺の人々を有色人種が演じているので、「史実は違う!」と目くじら立てるのも変。私は、にわかにアメリカ建国史に興味を持ってしまったので、このミュージカルの原作を読もうかと思っている。

それより、最近うるさく言われる「文化の盗用」。『Hamilton』もアメリカの保守系の論客に「文化の盗用」だと批判されている。カナダ首相も総選挙直前に昔のハロウィーンで「アラビアン・ナイト」の扮装で顔を黒塗りした写真が流出し、何回も謝罪していた。 この場合は黒塗りがアウトで、コスチューム自体はOKなのだと思うがよくわからない。かつての私の上司は日本が大好きだったのでハロウィーンで着物姿になっていた。きものはコスチュームではないけど、日本人でない上司のきもの姿が滑稽だったし、何より本人が大喜びだったのでハロウィーンの馬鹿騒ぎにぴったりだと私は思っていた。仮に私がハロウィーンで「トランプ大統領」に白塗りして変装すると「文化の盗用」になるのだろうか? トランプを差別してはいないけど尊敬はしていない。でも、仮に私が「ベトナムの笠をかぶった農民姿になってハロウィーンやりたい」とする。私はベトナムの農民を差別してはいないけど、悪趣味だとバッシングされそう……. 非常に面倒くさい話だ。要は、嫌いな人が悪趣味な格好をすると「文化の盗用」と騒ぎたてることが許される状況になっている気がする。だから嫌がっている人が多いんだと思う。

こういうこともいろいろ含めて『Hamilton』は本当に面白かった。もっといい座席で見たかったのが残念でならない。

ツイッター本社

Twitter HQ

毎年恒例のツイッターランチに行った。本社ビルのセキュリティは厳しい。あのような、炎上を招きやすく、ある人がある日突然世間からいわれのないバッシングを受けることもあるツールを作っている会社なので、恨みを持っている人も多いのかもしれない。それに、本社ビル周辺には浮浪者が非常に多く、変な人がふらふら入ってこないようにしているのかもしれない。

毎年ゲストリストに名前を入れてもらい、受付で写真入りIDを提示するように言われるのに、いつも運転免許証もパスポートも持ってこない。いつの年だったか「何も持ってないのでクレジットカードでもいいですか?」と言ったところ、「クレジットカードはIDのうちに入らない」と一蹴された。それでも、クレカを2枚見せて粘り勝ちしたことがある。

今年もまたクレカで切り抜けようとしていたら、「あなたが本当にあなたである証はどこにもないし、私はあなたがあなたであることを知りえない」といかつい受付の黒人女性に睨まれた。「ごもっとも」としか言いようがない。優秀な受付さんだ。

ちなみに、ツイッター本社周辺の浮浪者の多さと人糞の凄まじさはすごい。聞いてはいても、あの場所に行かなければ危機感を覚えない。マーク・ザッカーバーグの顔は毎日のようにニュースで見ていても、サンフランシスコの浮浪者の現状はトロントにいると見えにくい。何事も「現地に赴く」ことには大きな意義があるのだ。2011年(私がカナダに引っ越して1年後)と比べると、道に落ちている人糞の数は5倍から6倍に膨れ上がっているらしい( https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/a3xdae/more-people-pooping-in-san-francisco-than-ever-all-time-high-vgtrn )。

ランチの後、友達と歩いていると、あまりの浮浪者の多さにオープンしようにもオープンできないショッピングセンターの入り口の前に、巨大な人糞が2つ並んでいた。

「これは、二人の人間が並んでしたしたものなのか。それとも、一人の人間が小分けにしたものなのか」

と友達が自分の息子に訊いていた。そんなことを考えもしなかったと私は心の中で感心していたのだが、

「そんなことは考えたくもない」

と息子君は答えた。この年になっても幼稚園児の精神構造をしていると言われがちな私からみると、非常に聡明で大人な答えをしていると思った。

バッグ置き忘れ事件

San Francisco Bay

1年ぶりのサンフランシスコ。気候的には10月が最高。友達との再会も最高。でもカバンをシェアライドの車の中に置き忘れた。慌てて降りたのがいけなかった。レストランでお勘定するときになってようやく2個あったカバンが1個しかないことにようやく気づいた…… 当然貴重品が入っているほうがない。

同行の友達が呼んだリフトだったので、彼女を介してドライバーやリフトに連絡するしかない。リフトの対応は速やかで、ドライバーも最初の電話には出てくれたけど、私が気づくのが遅かったため、既に遠くに行っている。それに彼の英語が拙い。

ちなみに、紛失物の問い合わせは リフトのアプリからできる。そうすると、リフトからドライバーに連絡が回り、ユーザーがドライバーに 直接連絡できるようにもなっている。ただ、リフトを間に挟んで紛失物を回収しようとすると、リフトに15ドル払うことになるうえ、その日のうちに回収できない。旅行者の私は、直接ドライバーにカバンを持ってきてもらう道を選んだ(友達のためにも長引かせられない)。

実は、カバンをなくす直前、友達にお金を返すため300ドルを銀行から引き出していた。その現金がカバンの中に入っていた。アメリカでそんな大金をわざわざ返しに来るお人好しドライバーがいるのか?! ピザを宅配注文しても配達途中でピザが行方不明になることもある国なのだ! レストランの帰りに乗ったリフトの運転手に聞いてみると、「カバンを返してくれるかどうかは人による」らしい。300ドルの現金入り財布をその日のうちに返してもらうには、魅力的な「報酬」を提示するしかない!!  50ドルと提示してみた。

不幸中の幸いで、私は友達の家でスマホを充電させてもらっていて「ダブル」の置き忘れをしたため、友達の家からウーバーを呼び、自力でホテルに戻ることができた。

しかしドライバーからは、なかなか返事が来ない。英語のメッセージの解読や返信に時間がかかるのかもしれない。私の頭の中では、この人は小さな子供を抱えたお父さんで、子供が寝付くまでは財布を返そうにも返せない、というシナリオが出来上がっていた。この日のうちに返事は来ない…… 私は諦め、私のために奔走してくれている友人にもそう伝え、クレジットカードや銀行カードにロックをかけ、スマホから離れてネットで遊んでいた……。

1時間ほど経っただろうか。スマホにふと目をやると、メッセージの着信数が半端ない。友達から怒りの叫びがいっぱい届いている。ドライバーと連絡がつき、私のホテルに持ってきてくれる、いや、もう既に持ってきてくれた模様なのだ。

慌ててフロントデスクに行くと(走れないので足を引きずり、つんのめりながら急いだ)、フロントのお兄さんが「ああ!」と言ってカバンを出してきてくれた。「ドライバーに本当に50ドルあげるって言ったの? 本人のいないところで財布を開けるわけにはいかないけど、時間がないからって、僕の目の前で50ドル抜き取っていったよ」

あのリフトのドライバーは、友達が送ったメッセージをフロントデスクのお兄さんに見せたらしい。実はとても正直者で、いい人だったのだ。

私は今までずっとウーバー派だったけど、これを機にリフトに乗り換えることにする。さようなら、ウーバー。こんにちわ、リフト!

Parrots of Ookayama 2

Episode 1

Episode 2: Shoko in Ookayama

Alan could not allow Shoko to do nothing. So he asked her to beautify their apartment in Ookayama. She wasn’t particularly good or bad at it. But it wasn’t enough to fill her days. The problem was that their apartment was already furnished and she wasn’t bothered by the mismatched shapes and colours. She saw it as an excuse for her to feel hopeless. When she told him that there wasn’t much that she could do about it, she was met with his cold stare, to which she was so accustomed. She could suck it up without any effort. So she was taking an afternoon nap on a Friday. 

Suddenly, a loud song started blasting outside. The alarming volume woke her up. But she stayed and listened in bed. It was a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme, quite familiar to her. 

Somebody — she forgot who — had told her that the same song was played throughout Tokyo at exactly 5:00 p.m. every weekday, to check the alert system designed to be used for emergencies such as earthquakes. In the small Japanese town where Shoko grew up, it was a siren, like the one to signal an air raid, which was used for the same test, also every weekday. Although she was born decades after the Pacific War, that siren reminded her of the wartime that she had never experienced.

During her childhood, kids had been taught, as soon as the siren went off, to leave their playgrounds and head home before it got dark. On their way home, the kids started singing this nursery rhyme together. The tune was sentimental.

The sky is glowing, and the sun is setting. 

I hear a long gong from a temple in the mountains.

Let’s go home, everyone, hand in hand. 

Let’s go home. Crows are also flying back to their nest.

When the recorded tune ended, Shoko expected silence. Instead, a mix of screaming voices ensued. They were constant, and sounded like kids. She got up from her bed and slid the window open. The apartment unit was on the second floor facing southwest. The January sky was a mottled orange. She finally felt a pinch of guilt for not being productive all day.

There were some trees and houses in view. She stared into the twilight, but no one was there. When she was about to close the window, some flying creatures caught her eye. 

They passed rapidly. She couldn’t tell what they were, and followed the flapping sound. There, on the branches of bare ginkgo trees at the far end of her apartment complex, she discovered them perching, in the hundreds. They were silhouetted against the sunset. They were about the size of a crow, but their tails were longer and narrower. As her eyes adjusted to the afterglow, she could make out the green and yellow of their feathers. 

Meanwhile, the flapping sound continued. The flock grew bigger and louder. There was clamour, as if the birds were telling each other how their day went. They jumped from branch to branch. The trees seemed to thicken and shift. Shoko shivered. Then there was a chime. It was a text message from Alan.

“Hey, I have a dinner with clients tonight. Can’t eat with you. Sorry.”

Dinner with clients on a Friday? Shoko’s mind raced back to the recent encounter with a woman named Sally. 

Sally was an attractive Asian Canadian who worked with Alan in Toronto. At the staff Christmas party, she spotted Alan and approached Shoko, smiling. She was probably Shoko’s age or younger, wearing a sleek black dress and a confidence that Shoko had never possessed.  

“I’ve heard a lot about you. My name is Sally.” 

Her teeth were whitened. Her eyelashes were extended to bold, frightening lengths. Her biceps were well-defined. Her confidence and proffered hand felt like a provocation.

Shoko couldn’t bear being on display, and looked down. But she took the hand. She had to. The shake was light and short. And Alan hugged Sally with the ease of someone who had held her before. 

“Chat with you later.” Sally walked away with one hand still touching him.

Shoko waited until Sally was far enough away. “Who is that?” 

“We used to be on the same team.” 

“When?”

“I don’t remember.” He then excused himself to use the bathroom.

That was why Shoko quit her job and came to Japan. Now in Ookayama, she was tempted to ask who else would attend the dinner with the clients on Friday night. She wiped the nervous sweat from her forehead and typed “OK” instead.

A reply came immediately. “Don’t forget we’re in JAPAN.”

She did not know what to make of his response, with the all-caps Japan. Did he mean that in Japan, fidelity should mean something different? Fidelity to whom? To the company? To the clients? To Sally? To all but Shoko? 

When she looked at the phone again, he was already gone. She buried her face in her hands.

By the time Shoko left the apartment, the sun had already set completely. The birds had quieted down. She couldn’t tell if they were still on the same trees. She adjusted her knit scarf to keep herself warm. 

There was no one else in the alley, despite it being Friday evening. The alley was lined with small houses and old shops selling tobacco, liquor, stationery, meat, used books. No one was shopping. A very old woman sitting motionlessly at the register in one of the shops glanced at her, as if she had bet that Shoko was not going to stop at her store, as if Shoko was responsible for the decline in business in all these stores. 

In between were newer concrete buildings and some hollow patches of land awaiting development. Shoko thought: when that old woman dies, her shop will also be replaced with something new. Everything in this alley was so much smaller and closer together than in Toronto. She could almost smell people’s dinner from the outside. Then she came upon a brightly-lit vending machine humming electrical sounds. The machine’s glare forced her to squint. She stood upon a crossroad.

Near the intersection, she saw a soft-white illuminated sign. It had a drawing of a black cat, and a French phrase below it: “Un Chat Errant.” 

The place was dimly lit, and the window reflected the silhouette of several people. There was a stairway leading up to the door. Before realizing it, she had started her ascent. When she pushed the door open, the smell of cigarettes hit her nostrils.

Two female voices greeted her pausing at the door. The older voice was husky. The bar counter nearly filled the entire room. Four people sat at the counter, perched on stools, busy in conversation and smoking.

“Have a seat. Anywhere you like.” The old woman motioned the hesitating Shoko to an empty stool. “If you like, please leave your coat on the couch by the window.” The couch was squeezed into a tiny space. A man’s trench coat and a black leather laptop case were placed on it. There was a flower arrangement on a small table in the same cramped corner. The elegant flowers looked somewhat out of place in this place, reminding Shoko of someone’s old family room with dark wood panels. She took a seat at the bar. 

“Your first time here?” The same old woman asked in a disarmingly friendly tone.

“Yes.” Shoko was still unsure of the smell of tobacco. She could see white smoke against the dark wall.

“Welcome to Un Chat Errant. Do you live nearby?”

Shoko answered yes. “Fifteen minutes on foot,” she added.

“That’s very close,” the woman smiled. “This place is not so easy to find. We don’t advertise on the internet. No one posts a review online either. So whenever a new customer comes, I have to ask how they found us. It could be that one of our regulars invited a new customer here, you know. What would you like to drink?” The woman handed Shoko a warm wet hand-towel.

Wiping her hands, Shoko looked around to see what they had. No beer taps. She saw a bunch of whiskey bottles in the bar rail. 

“Whiskey and soda, please.” But it was met with a brief silence. 

“You mean, highball?” 

Shoko said yes, and remembered that in Japan, people normally didn’t call the drink “whiskey and soda.”  

“Is there any whiskey you prefer?” Then the woman suggested a Japanese whiskey.

Shoko nodded in reply. It was another reminder that she was in Japan; the woman’s pick wasn’t Canadian, American, or Irish.

Everyone at this bar knew each other’s names. While making the highball, the woman chatted with two men. One was an old man wearing an Ascot cap, and the other was a much younger man of seemingly barely drinking age. They were discussing a movie called Big Hero 6, claiming the university in the movie was the technical university in this neighbourhood. Only his youthful face glowed bright in the dim light. 

Right next to Shoko, there was a middle-aged couple who appeared to be meeting for a drink after work before heading home. The couple was talking to the young girl working at the counter. She had jet black, straight, semi-long hair. The girl turned to Shoko and asked how she had heard about this place.

“I just saw the sign outside when I was walking.” 

“Most of our customers live in this neighbourhood. Are you new to this town?”

“Yes. I’m from Canada — I mean, I was born in Japan, but I live there now. No, I meant… I’m back in Japan just temporarily, but my main residence is in Canada.” Shoko still felt inadequate after explaining. But she could see excitement in the girl’s eyes rather than confusion. 

“I can’t believe I’m talking to someone from Canada!”

The girl said she used to live in Vancouver. But she had never lived in Toronto.

“What took you to Toronto?”

“Got married to a Canadian.” Shoko said this as if delivering bad news. But the girl was more excited now, and looked straight into Shoko’s eyes.

“And what brought you to Tokyo?”

Shoko traced the grooves on her whiskey glass with her finger. She felt everyone’s ears tuned to her in anticipation. She replied that Alan was transferred to Tokyo for three months.

“How nice!” the girl clasped her hands. “I want to have a life like yours, spend some time in Japan and some time overseas. I don’t want to be stuck on this tiny island forever.”

As it turned out, the girl had an Italian boyfriend whom she had met in Canada while both were on a working holiday. She had worked at a Japanese restaurant, he at an Italian restaurant on the same street. Shoko was just glad to have someone who talked a lot. 

“How did you like being in Canada?”

“I loved it. I only lived in Vancouver though. My English wasn’t good at the beginning. But I picked up some restaurant English fairly quickly. You know, taking orders and stuff. But small talk was tougher. It doesn’t come easy for me even in Japanese.” The girl laughed, completely oblivious to her other duties.

Shoko realized that she saw many young Japanese like this girl, working at restaurants and cafes in Toronto, but never knew them personally. 

“I’m still learning to chat with customers here. I started this job just a couple of months ago. Mama hired me.” 

“Is she the owner?” Shoko darted a look in the old woman’s direction.

“Yes.” The girl replied as if she was waiting for this moment. “Mama owns this bar. Her name is Kayoko. Some old regulars call her by her first name. Not many customers are entitled to call her that. Only her longtime fans. Everybody else calls her Mama. She’s been doing this for a long time. She does what she loves. Isn’t that cool? This is her place. She’s the boss.” 

The couple next to Shoko signalled to the girl for the bill. She went over to Mama. Shoko was glad to divert the conversation away from Canada.

The girl came back and resumed the conversation. “I envy Mama. I wish I could find something I love. You know, something I could pursue for a lifetime. Oh, maybe I should open a bar like this in Italy with my boyfriend. He’s struggling to find a job right now.”

“Do you speak Italian?”

“Hell no. But I can probably hack it with a few words I know.” The girl chuckled. 

Mama came over to inform the couple of the bill amount. They paid in cash. The girl said good-bye to them. Mama escorted them down to the alley. 

“How old is Mama?” Shoko lowered her voice.

“I heard she was eighty.” The girl whispered back. “But she’s very sharp. She reads tons of books and tells me to read too.” She gestured to the window sill, filled with books. “She always says she needs to quit smoking. She’s just saying that, I think. She must know smoking is bad for her. I never smoke, but in my opinion, she should just keep smoking. My grandfather smoked like a chimney his entire life. Cigarettes don’t always kill people.” And she laughed.

Sipping her whiskey, Shoko threw a quick glance at Mama, who was now with a cigarette in her hand, talking to the two men at the back again. 

“What’s your name?” Shoko asked.

“My name is Yukiko.”