apan’s Shadow Shogun puts Americans under a microscope
“Americans are somewhat mono-cellular.”
This statement by Japanese politician Ichiro Ozawa at the Foreign Press Center next to Tokyo’s Hibiya Park jolted the smug Washington Establishment, puzzling even its brightest and best policy wonks as to: What exactly did he mean?
Was it a racist slur, the new “M” word? Or just one of those curious Japanese misuses of English? Or was isomething innocuous, like “Americans on average own one mobile phone, while everyone else has two or more”?
The veteran politician is the kingmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan who recently evaded prosecution for illegal campaign funding to now challenge Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the upcoming DPJ party elections. If, on September 14, Ozawa wins the vote among DPJ legislators, he will become in effect the ruling party’s nominee for prime minister in the next general elections.
So when Ichiro speaks, the world listens, especially State Department types and Pentagon brass who’ve had rough going recently with the Yankee Go Home protests in Okinawa. They’re very worried about Ozawa’s pledge to re-negotiate the Futenma U.S. Marine air base deal.
Ozawa used the Japanese word “tansaibo“, which translates as a “single-cell microorganism.” The Kyodo news agency, ever ready to appease angry foreigners, interpreted his cryptic phrase to mean: “simple-minded.” Americans are somewhat simple-minded. Sounds tame enough, but high-school biology begs to differ. Single-cell creatures are anything but simple, tiny as they mY Be.
Close-up through a microscope, a mono-cellular plant or animal, for instance, chlorella or an amoeba, turns out to have no brain at all. In theory, having a brain requires at least two cells, and even so, no two-cell animal with cognition has ever been discovered. Brains are like supercomputers that require a lot of chips, or cells, to do the calculating.
Without a brain, how do mono-cells make decisions and run their daily lives? Primordial nerves based on biochemical signals that work like our senses and communication systems. Americans certainly have a lot of nerve, and many of them are on biochemicals.
Microbiology therefore suggests the more correct “Americans are somewhat brainless.” This sentence is still troublesome because a person cannot be “somewhat” brainless: You either have a brain or you don’t.
Since Americans are human, each must possess a brain unless it’s been surgically removed. An empty skull, of course, indicates that you are not an American but more like an incomplete corpse.
For the sake of clarity and anatomical accuracy, Ozawa should have stated instead: “Americans act like a mono-cellular.”
How do mono-cells behave? Let’s peer into the microscope once more. Most conspicuous is the flagella because it flagellates. No, not like members of Opus Dei. These boat-shaped beasties flap thousands of tiny oars to hunt down even tinier game. The flagella is somewhat like – here we go again with that one-size-fits-all term “somewhat” – like a US Navy aircraft carrier. Nothing can challenge its mighty dominance over the infinitesimal cosmos, except a UFO (ugly floating organism) such as a sea slug or a tube worm.
So the analogy fits, sort of. Americans flap around the oceans, gobbling up whole nations and swallowing billions of cans of beer.
Whoa! Here comes something strange, a nearly transparent blob. Amorphous and flabby, it’s an amoeba. Yuck! That’s what arrogant ultra-chic bulimic foreigners say with disgust at seeing the American physique. After decades of calorie-fueled evolution, this jelly belly can no longer flap after its next meal. It feeds by engulfing its prey, like a flour tortilla wrapped around the bean-and-guacamole filling of a burrito. Now that is truly awesome. It’s whole body is a mouth.
Turning quickly from this terrifying sight, we search for some color. There, floating quietly is a harmless ball of chlorella, which is not a carnivore but a type of photosynthetic algae. Without zillions of these little green guys, there would be no oxygen for us humans to breathe. “Guys” is the wrong gender since chlorella never get to enjoy the messiness of sex. They replicate by neatly dividing in half. The metaphor in human terms would be a split personality.
Hold it. Maybe Ozawa has something there. Gestalt psychoanalyst Stanley Fish concluded that America is a nation of schizoids, an observation that confirms the saying: The difference between neurosis and psychosis is that a neurotic thinks he’s crazy and everyone else is sane, while a psychotic knows he’s sane and everyone else is crazy.
Congratulations, Ichiro! You’ve won the Impossible-is-Nothing challenge. You peered into the American Soul – others would call it an Abyss – and came up with a scientific theory, brilliant though somewhat undiplomatic.A bit of advice for next time: If you had only said in reverse “Monocellulars are somewhat like Americans,” nobody would have taken offense.
To summarize: Mono-cells can be lazy and voracious crazed little bullies, and they lack the smarts to change their behavior. So what to do? Extra-strength Valium? 200 million strait jackets? Send them to a quiet rest home, for instance, Sarah Palin’s Alaska? What about brain implants?
America awaits your remedy, Ichiro Sensei. O Wise One, we bow in gratitude to you for enlightening us with the secret knowledge that It’s a Small World After All.
The author WaiWai Daojin is a reclusive scholar of international relations in Shangri-la.
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