The Daily Paragraph

Class bias

So I did it. I used the "c" word. Class. That funny old-fashioned idea that your options in life were mostly, if not completely, dictated by the family – the class – that you were born into. That relic of the past that thankfully, in our modern egalitarian society, no longer holds you down.

For in this enlightened day and age, you're free to move up.

You're free to move up – even if you're born at the bottom, born to a poor family with no assets or education. You're free to earn yourself a scholarship to a good university. And even if you can't, you're free to work as many jobs as you need to put yourself through.

You're even free to apply to your dream job. And they're free to reject you in favor of a candidate with a higher GPA. Who went to a better school. Whose tuition and board were fully paid for by her wealthy family. Who is better than you.

Not from a higher class, mind you. Because we live in a meritocracy. She can't be higher class, because we don't have class in this society. She's just better. Plain and simple.

But not to fear. The wonderful thing about a meritocracy is that you're free to make yourself better too! You're free to rent a tiny apartment, so that you might find some meager savings to invest. You're free to spend your weekends and evenings learning new skills and growing your network, slowly working your way up the ranks, until one day, you find yourself sharing meals with those who never had to.

"Oh, but I worked damn hard to get where I am. I deserve my position, and if those lazy fuckers worked as hard as I do then they wouldn't have anything to complain about."

Sure, buddy. It's not like those lazy fuckers hadn't been working at your daddy's company for decades before he parachuted your childish ass into that cushy role above them.

"Besides, it's not like people can't build themselves a better life. Yeah, sure, it takes sacrifice. But you just need to want it enough. I mean, look at me."

Sure, miss. I wish I could sacrifice some time to start a side business while studying at Yale – with money from your wealthy family friends, I might add.

"And the thing is, when you actually look into it, most billionaires have a rags to riches story. That's the thing, the rich are rich because they've worked for it. They deserve it. It's just how it is".

No, it's not how it is. I refuse to accept it, and fuck whoever suggested it.

They’re not better because their parents could afford to send them to Yale. They’re not better because their family had the connections to fund their business idea at the ripe old age of 18. They’re not better because they’d been taught enough about the world to apply to Goldman Sachs straight out of uni, or because they can now afford to take an NGO's low salary and actually do something meaningful with their life.

They’re not better because their class bias only lets them see those who've worked hard and succeeded. They’re just blind – blind to all of us who've worked hard and failed.

They’re not better than us. They’re just from a different class. And the last thing they want is for us to stop bullying each other over superficial differences in identity and remember it.

Losing my marble

Much to its dismay, the little glass globe found itself in flight.

Now to be fair, flight is not a particularly remarkable state for a marble in the employ of a little boy. In fact, in a marble’s line of work, hurtling towards hard surfaces is par for the course.

The problem was that this time, the hard surface was bigger than it. And heavier than it. And well, actually, a concrete slab. A very stubborn concrete slab, that didn’t feel particularly like moving today, thank you very much. And besides, even if it did, it was quite incapable of doing so, for it was a concrete slab.

The marble hit the slab and – much as marbles hitting concrete slabs tend to do – shattered into little pieces.

At which point the little boy, after throwing the marble as hard as he could at the concrete slab, burst into tears. And not in surprise or shock, mind you, for the little boy was quite aware of how marbles colliding with concrete slabs tends to behave.

But the little boy loved that marble. It was his favorite.

As he cried, he wondered why he’d decided to throw his favorite marble at a concrete slab.

When you grow up

If you just put your mind to it, you can be anything that you want to be. That’s what they told us. If you just believe in yourself, you can be an astronaut. You can all be astronauts.

Fucking liars.

Or maybe they were just naive. After all, they didn’t grow up having their dreams crushed by the internet. They didn’t grow up googling for “Australian astronauts”, just to find out that there’d only been 3 in 30 years, 3 out of 20 million Australians.

No, not everyone can be an astronaut when they grow up.

But I could be. Because I believed in myself, and that meant I could be anything that I wanted to be. Sure, I wasn’t going to become an astronaut by joining NASA. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. So maybe I could build my own spaceship? I mean, spaceships can’t be that expensive, right? No more than a Warren Buffet or a Bill Gates could afford?

That’s what I’d do! I’d start a business and get super filthy rich and build a spaceship. I’d lift myself up by my bootstraps, from the dregs of society to the one-in-a-billion who can direct others to build spaceships. I was going to make it. Because I believed in myself. And because I knew how to build apps. I’d be on top of the world just as soon as I launched my app.

I still haven’t launched my app.

But you know, I did got offered a job writing software to control satellites. That’s pretty cool. Or it was until they asked me to take a huge pay cut. So I turned them down. Because when you grow up, you need to pay the goddamn bills.

Just a short note today that I’m going to try switching to posting a weekly paragraph for a while. I’m hoping that this will give me more time to improve the site and app itself, bringing forward the time at which other people – with ideas more interesting than my own – will be able to start posting.

After all, my goal isn’t for this to be my daily paragraph. I want it to be the daily paragraph.

Cherry-flavored denial

There’s this question that I used to get asked a lot. And when I first heard it, it struck me as kind of odd. Of course we have four seasons in Australia. The tilt in the earth’s axis isn’t unique to Japan, you know? What, do you think I’m an alien?

Actually, that’s what they call us foreigners here. Aliens. But I digress.

Japanese culture has an awareness and fascination with the seasons that was something new to me. And other than funny questions directed at foreigners, the first thing that really drove this point home for me was the convenience store beer fridges. Like clockwork, each time the season changed, there’d be new beers in the fridge. Starting with the summer editions, then the cans decorated with dying leaves, followed by the winter editions, and finally, the spring editions – covered in cherry blossoms. Because nothing sells beer like floral patterns.

Seriously though. In Japan, one of the year’s prime events is hanami, or cherry blossom viewing. On the surface, it’s an occasion to take some time out of daily life to appreciate nature in all it’s beauty. More practically, it’s an excuse to get together with friends, consume copious amounts of alcohol, say things that a more sober you might regret – and all while maybe spending a few moments appreciating nature in it’s beauty.

But whatever the reason, hanami is an event. It’s on the street, it’s in the news, it’s on your calendar. And that calendar is moving forward every year.

To put some numbers on this, in the decade covering 1991-2000, the average date at which the Japan Meteorological Agency announced the first bloom of Tokyo’s cherry blossoms was the 27th of March. And yes, the national weather agency really does announce the start of cherry blossom season. It’s important business, okay?

Fast forward to the decade of 2001-2010, and first bloom was now happening almost a week earlier, averaging in at the 22nd of March. Which moved back to the 21st of March within 2011-2020.

But this year? In 2021? The first bloom started back on the 14th of March – the earliest ever. Not that being the earliest ever is particularly unusual right now, because the sakura have bloomed earlier than “expected” for 8 years in a row. Honestly, it’d be weirder if they came on time.

And yet. Despite the Japanese people’s keen awareness of the changing seasons – from the “does Australia have four seasons too?” questions right down to the national forecaster announcing the first bloom of the cherry blossoms – there’s still little action on climate change.

But thankfully, it’s not like there’s no action. Because Japan has started building hydrogen tankers! Technologically advanced behemoths tasked with shipping liquified hydrogen – a clean-burning fuel stored at near-absolute-zero temperatures – across the oceans. From home. From Australia. Where they’ll create the hydrogen by burning that marvellous brown mineral that we all know and love. It’s a win-win, you see. Japan saves face by burning “clean” fuel, while Australia – who couldn’t care less what the world thinks – makes a dirty buck.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that despite what the Americans and Europeans may think, we in the western pacific certainly can think outside the box. That, and hanami is for saying things that you might regret…

I like walking in the rain. Because the thing about the rain is that we can’t control it. If it’s raining, it’s raining, and there’s no switch that can be flipped to make it sunny again.

Even if humanity has harnessed the power of the atom, even if we’ve gone to the moon, even if we can beam information across the planet to satisfy our every thirst for knowledge… we still get wet. Rich and poor alike.

The weather is the great equalizer. So I like walking in the rain.

“Do you need a bag?”, the checkout lady asked politely.

“What?”

“Do you need a bag?”

To which I just stared with a puzzled face.

“Bag!”, she replied loudly in English, pointing at the bag she was holding.

To which I meekly nodded my head.

She put the sushi in the bag, I paid and walked to a park, I sat down and ate it. The sushi was delicious, yet still the worst I’d ever had.

Reverse Culture Shock

In Tokyo, it rains. It rains with such frequency that when you do the math, it turns out that there are actually more umbrellas than there are people. There’s umbrellas in the train stations, hanging around in the alleys, browsing the shops, going for walks. If aliens were to land in Tokyo, they’d probably greet the umbrellas as the obvious overlords of the place.

In Perth, it rains too. But you wouldn’t guess it after asking my dear family “do we have an umbrella?”

“A what?”

“An umbrella. Because it’s raining and I want to walk to the shop.”

“No. Why would we have an umbrella.”

Maybe I should have explained that they keep you dry in the rain, but instead I thought to contribute to the household, and inquired where in the neighborhood I might purchase one of these handy devices.

“What? You can’t buy one. Just drive there like a normal person.”

You see, even if it rains in Perth, you never actually get rained on. It’s bizarre how it works like that.

They say the dinosaurs didn’t really go extinct. They became birds, they say. Birds, those majestic creatures that go wherever they want, looking down on us from above as they wonder why we work so hard.

Birds. Those creatures whose most populous variety – by far – is the chicken. An animal bred and engineered by us to grow so fast that it becomes unable to support it’s own weight in a manner of weeks. Fat, caged, delicious, lunch.

They say the dinosaurs didn’t really go extinct. They just became our lunch.

I wonder if in a few million years, crows will be breeding and eating us?

Welp. I missed a post yesterday. It just completely slipped my mind.

It was the first time, but it was bound to happen eventually. Still, knowing that didn’t lessen the shock when I realized early in the morning. And to make matters worse, I’ve had writers block all day today, which doesn’t make the task of getting up and keeping writing any easier.

Still, even if I don’t have anything worth writing today, I’m writing all the same. Because the thing is, if I wait until I have something worth writing, it could be days, weeks, months. But if I write every day regardless? Occasionally, I’ll accidentally write something worth reading.

Maybe not today, but that’s kinda the point.