Thursday, May 24, 2007

Red moon rising

He who laughs last, laughs best

For the last 50 years and perhaps much longer, the word "imported" had a certain cachet, but until I was well into my adult years, things made in Japan were a primary exception. I remember the sinking feeling you had when you got something from a catalog or brought something home from the store and found that little "Made in Japan" sticker. You felt you'd been had, been almost cheated, that you'd been foolish not to check more carefully. I remember snickers of "yeah it's imported . . . from Japan!"

Japanese products were associated in our minds with cheap tin toys made from flattened Budweiser cans and when, during the late 1960's I read in an electronics magazine about something new on the market: a made in Japan stereo receiver, me reaction was "yeah - right." Japanese companies strained themselves to come up with names that sounded Anglo. Ishibashi became Bridgestone tire and when you found out, you were depressed that you'd been taken.
I don't have to tell anyone how things have changed. Americans will pay more for a Japanese label put on an American made product then they will for the identical thing without it. Chrysler's association with Mitsubishi proved it. Irrational contempt has been replaced with irrational fondness.

How long will it take before we stop linking Chinese products with cheapness, Wal-Mart and low quality? How long will it be before there won't be any more Made in the USA products at all? China is poised to become a leader in space based communications, has launched astronauts, is building a lunar lander, has a manned moon expedition planned and a robotic Mars lander under design and they are building and launching communications satellites with their own rockets.
Our response to our increasing marginalization is isolationism and patriotic mumbling about being "number one." Have we chosen to be overwhelmed by the future rather than to become part of it? Are we afraid to become part of it if it means we can't be "number one" all the time? One of the things we continue to excel at is borrowing money from Japan and China and Europe and buying imported goods with it. Another is getting into disastrously expensive wars and internal disputes. To many, we seem both an excellent host for parasitic relationships and a dangerous, unpredictable pit bull with confused ideas about what needs protecting. Perhaps we're equally as good at not considering the results of any of this.

For a long time I thought Japan had had the last laugh. Now I think there's another and better one coming.


d nova said...

yeah, we always say we're number one, but we always worry about being competitive.

king of the mountain, i guess, everybody trying to drag us down, hobbesian war of all against all, but especially all against us.

insecure ego trying to fight all threats 'there' so they won't come here, but all we do makes threats grow.

mrsleep said...

China will eat our lunch if we don't wake up soon, and it might be too late. I hope not, but the risk is very real.

Capt. Fogg said...

Eat our lunch, use up the oil, the concrete, the steel.

Money is more powerful than nuclear weapons and China will soon have both in abundance.