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My favorite YouTuber
My favorite YouTuber is Martin. On Twitter he goes by the handle Gaijin Otousan and I am never disappointed by his content whether he is being deeply moved, deeply ordinary or deeply sarcastic.
One of my many hacks of the interwebz is to be several different people. I have, easily 8 different emails, some of which are honeypots for spam, others get my specific attentions for some subject matter. One or two are serious and public and a few are very hush hush. The point is I rarely get the same kind of spam across multiple accounts. But one of my favorite hacks is to abuse YouTube by subscribing to puppy and baby videos. It keeps the algorithms off balance because everybody loves those. It’s the equivalent of wearing a Dodgers baseball cap in LA. It’s so common it practically makes you invisible.
Despite the fact that I almost never watch CNN or any news videos and I don’t suffer from it, I actually do expect the time I spend on YouTube to be both edifying and enjoyable. Martin provides both in his casual documentarian style which presents the small towns and countryside of rural Japan from his point of view.
I first came upon him as he sat behind a desk in his home describing for his audience his frustration with the bureaucracy of getting a driver’s license in Japan. I was immediately drawn into his story. An expat from NYC, he failed several of the hurdles to getting his certification and he was ready to throw in the towel. Ultimately he prevailed and it returned him to the kind of calm reserve of someone who has found inner peace once again.
Otou-san means ‘Papa’ in Japanese. Gaijin means ‘foreigner’ but with a darker implication. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Still I have the feeling that there are likely many interpretations and Martin’s may or may not be ironic. But watching this video should immediately convince you where his head is at.
What’s not to love?
I mention Martin because I got something of a comment that somebody said my writing is too brainy. And yeah I see that. So I’m gradually turning that dial down. On the other hand I almost always feel that my podcasts are too folksy. When I’m putting together, often spontaneously, examples of some fundamentally serious philosophy I manage to sound like Morgan Freeman after a couple too many drinks. But it’s also because I’m parsing through 3 branches of thought when I speak. Sometimes I leave stuff out. As I begin to record what I’m writing here, you’ll get another dimension of how my mind actually works, for whatever that’s worth.
So today, while featuring Martin, what I want to emphasize is something about the alienation we Americans often feel in our [culture war & political] squabbles with each other - stuff that I by and large don’t engage, often to the detriment of my potentially larger subscriber base. What I say is that we Americans are highly leveraged in our self-esteem based upon our capacity to ingest idea-McNuggets. There’s a lot of pre-chewed, directional and sometimes ideological thinking that’s part of our social intellectual diet, and it gives us no rest. As much as I hack my way away from the interwebz, it’s starting to feel like the 70s again, with people doing nothing while women are beat down on the street. People are talking about nuclear annihilation again. Between those two extremes, we are witness to devolution and second-hand suffering. There is a fine line between Stoicism and an overwhelming sense of helplessness to the outside observer. But a successful Stoic finds home.
Home is under your control. You can civilize and cherish your home. Even if you cannot protect it from that destructive world, it is your own. Martin’s life in the Inaka, in the Japanese rural countryside, reminds us that there are places where we can be at home. Places with built-in comfort and discovery, both. These places are physical, and generally that’s how we Yanks think about a vacation. We want to ‘get away from it all’. There are other ways to establish that inner peace and personal sense of self-possession. The desire to have that for yourself is the first step on the journey, but it’s certainly admirable to see how Martin has both that discovery and home in the same physical place.