On the river side of Kamogawa, eating gyudon. Everything is peaceful, everything is good.
I go put my bags in the hostel I’m staying for the night, contact a friend and we realize he’s the street right next to mine (I mean, I knew he was in Kyoto so it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the center but still a surprising good timing!).
We met halfway from his street and mine and I accompanied him to his old university, at the complete north of Kyoto. I enter unknown territory and venture into the mountains of Kyoto by bus.
This is the third university I’m going to since I’m there last week, and as usual, the famous “act like you belong” works marvelously when passing the front doors. The university is situated on a hill and as we climb up, a nice view of Kyoto appears bit by bit. It’s quite cloudy but it gives it a misty ambiance. We eat there (I’m abusing my presence in a university that’s not mine) before taking different ways. I head back to the center, but not before exploring a bit this quieter side of Kyoto.
I venture on the river side (as always, I must have something with water), and after easily crossing the water to join a small rocky island, I sit and enjoy the scenery. Cranes, small birds, bigger prey birds, water, stormy skies, red trees, warm wind, a nice recipe to success.
The rest of the day is pretty calm, I walk around and see how far I can go before my legs start giving up. I punctuate the trip by a stop to the camera store to quickly develop some pictures, and I finally eat dinner next to the river, sat on the rocks of its side.
Quick walk to Gion but there’s not much to see as the area became very touristy. Head back to the hostel, where I meet some Taiwanese, Singaporian and Malaysian girls. They have a broken English but seem to master Japanese.
As I wrote these words and thought I was done for the day, these two Australians arrived and we started talking. Two brothers, one that must be in this late twenties and the other in his early twenties. The younger one just picked up analog photography and to practice, they’re on a budget trip of 10 days in Japan.
We started to talk and we went pretty far. The older is an engineer while the younger is doing media studies and would like to work on technologies such as the interaction between people and the machines, and such things.
Based on a mention of 1984 by George Orwell, we went on to talk about surveillance, Snowden, self-centering (knowing we’re being listened by the gov or someone else, we change our way of thinking and restrain to voice/speak what we think. We end up not telling our kids certain things by fear they might be used against us. Bit by bit and generation by generation, we create this abstinence of talk and free thinking and we condition ourselves in a certain discourse. In brief, we’re in this century where we still remember the pre-modern technology and can foresee the effects technologies might have in the future, and we’re at this very beginning of such ideology. We can see the beginning of it with mass surveillance by the government, in the name of ‘security’ against the “faceless threat” of “terrorism” -and pay attention to the word we’re using to categorizing ISIS, terror, I’m sure they’re delighted to have been granted such title-), a society of political numbness (we don’t participate anymore, we’re being entertained and don’t go protest anymore- for what cause would you be ready to stand up and go in the street?-) and laziness (if people could protest from their couch with their phones instead of going outside, they would).
On this last idea, the idea of the older brother was to regularly disrupt the system of surveillance with a simple thing; confusing the algorithms by using key terms they’re monitoring (all the touchy subjects words) in a big number, in the name of protesting against such means of surveillance, which are, in the long term, not beneficial for free speech.
For such idea to work, there’d be a need to have everyone participate, and as a result, the number of such key words appearing would be too great to lead to actual arrests.
The idea is really close to something happening at school: the teacher asks who did this terrible drawing on the blackboard and everyone raises their hands.
At the contrary of going in the streets, this would be doable with a smartphone on your couch. Way easier in our era of political voices being turned into clicks.
At the end, ask yourself one question: for what would you be ready to stand up?
P.S: let’s also underline the importance of reading/confronting yourself with ideas and points of view you don’t agree with. Understand their claim and analyze your counter argument, strengthen it or revise it, but remain critical.
I wrote something similar some weeks ago about Kundera. I don’t agree with his ideas, but I still think he’s interesting to read -mainly for the writing style, but also to open up a bit my mind-.