Friday, 21 August 2009

Rising Sun

Michael Crichton's books come with a bibliography, and I love that - I find it an excellent way to make it easy for the reader to become more knowledgeable. The bibliography of Rising Sun (1992, Ballantine Books, New York) is introduced with these words:

“This novel questions the conventional premise that direct foreign investment in American high technology is by definition good, and therefore should be allowed to continue without restraint or limitation. I suggest things are not so simple.
Although this book is fiction, my approach to Japan’s economic behavior, and America’s inadequate response to it, follows a well-established body of expert opinion, much of it listed in the bibliography. Indeed, in preparing this novel, I have drawn heavily from a number of the sources below.
I hope readers will be provoked to read farther from more knowledgeable authors. I have listed the principal texts in rough order of readability and pertinence to the issues raised in the novel.”

I enjoyed Rising Sun immensely for it not only entertained but taught me quite a bit – which is precisely why I read: to be entertained and to be taught. Here are some quotes:

“In Japan”, Connor said, “if a company is doing poorly, the first thing that happens is the executives cut their own salaries. They feel responsible for the success of the company, and they expect their own fortunes to rise and fall as the company succeeds or fails.”Connor sighed “It took me a long time to understand,” he said, “that Japanese behaviour is based on the values of a farm village. You hear a lot about samurai and feudalism, but deep down, the Japanese are farmers. And if you lived in a farm village and you displeased the other villagers, you were banished. And that meant you died, because no other village would take in a troublemaker. So. Displease the group and you die. That’s the way they see it. It means the Japanese are exquisitely sensitive to the group. More than anything, they are attuned to getting along with the group. It means not standing out, not taking a chance, not being too individualistic. It also means not necessarily insisting on the truth. The Japanese have very little faith in truth. It strikes them as cold and abstract. It’s like a mother who’s son is accused of a crime. She doesn’t care much about the truth. She cares more about her son. The same with the Japanese. To the Japanese, the important thing is relationships between people. That’s the real truth. The factual truth is unimportant.”

This is the twentieth century. Leadership is the quality of telling people what they want to hear.

I found myself thinking of Lauren. When I knew her, she was bright and ambitious, but she really didn’t understand very much. She had grown up privileged, she had gone to Ivy League schools, and had the privileged person’s deep belief that whatever she happened to think was probably true. Certainly good enough to live by. Nothing needed to be checked against reality.

No comments: