“Professor Keyes, you’re drunk (yopparatta, 酔っ払った)! Ha ha!”

“Well?” I say. “What of it?” (Sore de? それで?)

“Nothing, nothing. Chotto shitsurei shimasu (ちょっと失礼します, back in a moment).” He staggers off (chidoriashi de aruku, 千鳥足で歩く) to the men’s room; I catch the bartender’s eye (b?ten no me wo hiku, バーテンの目を引く) and signal (aizu suru, 合図する) another round.

Waste of time (jikan no muda, 時間の無駄). I’ve dealt with editors like him before — we’ll never get drunk enough to like each other.

“As I was saying . . . ” (he’s back already?) — “what you’ve written here” — he taps a printout of the article I’ve written for him — “is just not right for our magazine. It’s not the content so much as the tone, the . . . “

“When we talked on the phone, Sakurai-san, you assured me (yakusoku shimashita, 約束しました) that I would have absolute freedom to write what I please.”

“Freedom is never absolute. Like every magazine, Varya has a . . . what’s the word? . . . not an ideology (イデオロギ ―) . . . let’s say a tendency (keikō, 傾向) . . . “

“Toward conservatism (hoshushugi, 保守主義), I know. Well, isn’t my article conservative enough for you? What can be more conservative than yearning for a lost golden age (sugita ōgon jidai, 過ぎた黄金時代)? Hell, it’s practically . . . practically reactionary (handō shugi, 反動主義)!”

“What’s this? Another round? I don’t want to drink any more.”

“Drink, drink! It’s good for you. Shinzō ni ii n da yo (心臓にいいんだよ, It’s good for the heart). Listen. What I’m saying in this article . . . It has to be said, do you understand? Somebody has to say it! This hypertechnology of ours (chō-gijutsu, 超技術) is dehumanizing us (wareware no ningensei wo ubatte iru, われわれの人間性を奪っている)! Am I the only one who sees it? It’s turning us into zombies (ikiteiru shitai, 生きている死体)! Just look at the swarms of kids out there gazing glassy-eyed (muhyōjō de, 無表情で) into their glowing little cell-phone screens (keitai no gamen, 携帯の画面). Is anything going on inside those heads? I was a teacher for 18 years, and I know, I’ve seen how those damned 携帯 literally (mojidōri ni, 文字どおりに) empty the mind (atama wo kara ni suru, 頭を空にする) like a . . . like a vacuum cleaner (sōjiki, 掃除機)!”

“Professor, forgive me, but this is simply hysteria (histerii, ヒステリー).”

“People talk about a communication revolution (komyunikēshon no kakumei, コミュニケーションの革命). Well, hang me as a counterrevolutionary (hankakumeisha, 反革命者), because that’s what I am. It’s insane (kurutta yo, 狂ったよ)! Nowadays we live online, have sex online, give birth online, die of cancer online — everything we do, we do in front of a Web cam. We twitter our fragmentary wisps of thought impulses online . . . ‘All the world’s a stage (sekai wa subete butai, 世界はすべて舞台),’ as Shakespeare said — but the stage the world has become today would have horrified him!

And what of our inner lives, tell me that? What of the private human being who has thoughts on his mind — real thoughts, not tweets — that need to develop over time in quiet and solitude, that are no business of every casual stranger who happens to ‘click here’? If you were a true conservative (honmono no hoshushugisha, 本物の保守主義者), you’d give me a hearing, instead of . . . “

“I’m a political conservative (seijiteki na hoshushugisha, 政治的な保守主義者), not a — “

“I know. You think it’s the great tragedy of the 20th century that Japan lost World War II!”

“Well, yes, in a way (aru imi de, ある意味で). But we can discuss that another time. The point is (yō wa, 要は) not whether we agree on everything, but whether we can work together in spite of our disagreements. I’m prepared to meet you halfway (ayumiyoru, 歩み寄る). I’m an editor (henshūsha, 編集者), not a censor (ken’etsukan, 検閲官). I know you think I’m a fascist, but don’t jump to conclusions. You still don’t know me very well. The fact is I don’t like censorship (kenetsu, 検閲) any more than you do. Surely I can ask you to rewrite (kakinaosu, 書き直す) without violating your freedom of expression (hyōgen no jiyū wo shingai suru, 表現の自由を侵害する)? Come, think it over, professor. Be reasonable.”

To be continued next month.

Coronavirus banner