I just tell myself: This is part one.
Agonizing even over what I can say on Rui’s birthday has plagued me for some time. It sets me an un-meetable deadline every year, along with the anniversary of his abduction in the middle of June. The pressure to speak wisely and feelingly builds, but the truth remains unspeakable. The trauma – abduction itself – is something people no longer have so much interest in hearing about, aside from those of us whose children have been abducted. Even that is a group of people who honestly want and deserve to be relieved of the distress, not have it brought back to their immediate attention.
As if any of us could ever stop thinking about our abducted kids! No, we cannot, in case they are related to you and you’d like to know. The most we usually want to do is to spare others and ourselves the revelation that it’s hurting over here, over there, over there and everywhere. And that is as much about feeling ashamed of the anger, the sorrow, and the grip that invisible forces like these have on us as it is about knowing that others will feel they have got to do something about it or respond, when truth be told, they are mostly feeling fairly helpless themselves. What can they say dear, after they say, I’m sorry?
Having crossed a little way into this territory, I can give a reflection of what the thoughts are that most urgently scream at me to be expressed. I write quite often but never enough, and do not publish it. So this one is blather and announces itself as such. They always feel that way, but I refuse to edit or write carefully today, because I’m tired of that sort of constipation! My notebooks and computer files are full of attempts to formulate the problem of Japanese international child abduction and the violation of children’s and parent’s lives (by US and global politics of capital) in psychoanalytic, political, legal, class and state power terms. It would make a great book if it ever got done. (Don’t hold your breath, but say something nicely encouraging please!) And a significant part of that story is the story of the parents’ miseries. Can’t be helped. It’s also the part we can BLOG about.
So, back to the unedited “today.” Today, Japan and the US have both joined a treaty (since April) that has a history. It was drafted by the two countries and a few others in the early days of what we now think of as The Era of Writings about Globalization with a capital W and a capital G. Japan took 35 years to join this treaty, because it conflicts with its nation-state law, in which children cannot be represented in the legal system, and parents must forfeit 100% of their rights as a parent if they and their spouse divorce. Parents must legally abduct their children in order to keep their children. This is what Japanese elites wrote into law, in order to bridge the old family forms with the one “needed” (so they thought) in the 20th century ultra-rapid modernization regime. And now, Japan has joined the convention with this uber-state, controlling, modern family law intact.
The Hague Convention is (Again) a Neoliberal Response to Neoliberal Globalization
Such is the state of the 35-year-old treaty, one that came into being at the very moment that international capital was going into a major round of destruction of “excess”capital because in an overbuilt, fixed form (the urban form), combined with the coming to maturity of a system of enormously-scaled overproduction of consumer goods, it was becoming less profitable to banks and their sponsors in the state. And capital wanted an astronomical increase in movement of capital into other geographic locations, which brought crisis and change of the form of capital accumulation since the 1970’s (known sometimes as financialization or the final, nearly total break of the exchange value of capital from anything realizable in a real economy – sheer speculation on speculation on bubbles of speculation). Hence the state everywhere was moving to open the gates wider so that capital could freely whip itself on into ever changing, moving spaces where it wanted to speculate. In the US, the result was deindustrialization, the collapse of many major cities, the destruction of the famous U.S. wage-earning “middle class,” and countless grave urban crises: New York City’s bankruptcy first of all, followed by the destruction of all US smokestack industries and most of its manufacturing (Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Gary, Camden, etc., etc.) and the movement of production out to cheap global labor. Capital here in the US then ran to seek profits in property market speculation (housing and mortgages and land rent), encouraged by lax regulation and absurd practices, high levels of abusive lending, and turning house loans into “securities”, all of which pseudo-economy came crashing down around us all finally in the economic crisis of 2007-2008, and which continues today in the form of massive corporate profits for big firms, alongside low wages, high unemployment and precarious labor here.
What’s all this got to do with the Hague abduction treaty? Well of course, the treaty in the minds of its creators and implementers forms just one part of the many managerial moves made by and between globally powerful states to impose some mild, selectively applied restriction on the inevitable more humbly scaled sorts of abuses invited by the system required by global capital as just described: a circuit of mobility for capital, and management of the affected populations (sometimes now superfluous, sometimes not) affected by the weakening of territorial sovereignty and the global flow of money, guns, raw materials, and persons the banks and treasuries of various states require.
It’s also equally important that even in this context, the movement of people is not only or exclusively affected by capital movement; but by numerous other socially consequential matters which are always and now more than ever undergoing enormous change, again, with all this money-dynamic fluxus as context: the curtailing or end of traditional forms of social life; urban communities destroyed by gentrification; family relationships broken in the context of insecurity and precarious working lives; the loss of public spaces and shared experiences that solidify relationships among people to private utilization, “malled” public spaces with private police at security doors, or in places like NY, semi-barricaded areas in the city – the complete commodification and simulation of “street life”. Every state apparatus from schools to prisons, is being moved somewhere outside of direct state or popular control, with political alliances falling into irrelevance or completely under the heel of profit-seeking and privatization. This upending of the foundations of social reproduction, tossing everyone into the hopper, has also contributed burdgeoning pathologies to the mix of complex problems. And so, now to talk briefly about Rui’s abduction and my inability, to now, to save him from it.
Rui Forced to Lose His Parents (A family tradition – such as his current Japanese grandpa and his grandmother’s first husband)
Rui was abducted in the immediate aftermath of the economic crisis which began in the US housing market in 2007 and 2008. Between the two of his parents, I was and am a teacher and a reader who wanted to give Rui a cultural education through music & art, books and outdoor adventure, and so on, because that is what I loved, and thought would have the best impact on his person. I was and am a regular reader of NLR and other left journals, so I knew that the economic crisis was looming and that it was being predicted to be a very heavy one. As a precarious employee of Hunter College of the City University for 25 years, I felt it in the fluctuations of demand for my services very keenly.
While Machiko also read voraciously, hers was exclusively done in the fashion business press: Women’s Wear Daily and numerous glossy mags with lurid phantasms of the Ideal Male and Female. Now if you’ve ever read anything in the fashion press , you will have a good idea of the lines along which our difficulties escalated. She claimed to reserve a space of serious resistance to all of this imagery, but I felt that we had begun to drown in it; it was omnipresent, and she worked with it all day, every day. It was becoming a sort of family value, which I tried against my nature to enjoy, but deeply detested.
There was more however. From her businessperson’s perspective, the way forward was always, always, to commodify yourself, entrepreneurialize yourself and twist yourself into a commodity that had such obvious value to your chosen industry that it could hardly escape your inevitable rise and its equally inevitable need for you. This mythology is the neoliberal paradigm, par excellence; and Machiko more and more began to live it. She sought contracts with the biggest clothing retail firms, and she was certain that it was worth anything, any life change, any alteration of her priorities and those of everyone around her to obtain them, including mine and especially Rui’s. Machiko’s talent and obssessive workaholism worked. She found success, contracted by large corporations and smaller rising-star fashion firms (Lord! What a lot of god-awful boring people!): United Arrows Ltd used her as their primary and only United States-based representative and consultant, a fact which opened many, many other doors for her. Steven Alan, the NYC shirt salesman and store owner who had designs being made for him and successfully sold on both coasts and was penetrating the hyper-profitable and obssessional world of Japanese clothing shoppers. She had contracts with Joi’x Corporation and with Isetan Mitsukoshi. She was on friendly and business terms with every designer of her generation in Tokyo, and made even more certain of it if they had a connection with New York. The list is long and wouldn’t interest most of my blog’s friends; but most importantly, she kept close to her Tokyo PR firm, Steady Study which I believe continues to support her abduction of my child to today. If you are working with any of these people, please know, they supported her move “back to Japan” and assisted her in some instances more, in others less directly, in a child abduction for which there is still now an international kidnapping arrest warrant. They should know, and certainly their customers should, that people don’t like to see the abuse of children.
Rui’s chilidhood began in the world’s most culturally diverse multi-ethnic urban enclave, not far from the East River in Queens. Not a perfect community (this is New York!) and not a particularly beautiful place, but nonetheless one where he had possibilities – to become a worldly young person with extraordinary love of his parents. This was not enough, however, for the ambitions of Machiko Terauchi (then, Machiko Terauchi Prager). She felt increasingly pressured by her commitment to the Big Firms in Japan she was contracted to, demanding so much from her, and yet who tended to be boys’ clubs that treated her as a disposable, female commodity, easily replaced if they even wanted to maintain the expense of having such an employee in New York. As the economy and market in fashion worsened, they began to think they could send their own people from time to time to do the job Machiko slaved over in New York. Denigrated in this way, resentment with not a little racist tension in it began to replace her previous appreciation of the ethnically diverse Western Queens communities; she longed instead for the non-temporality of the clean, Bloombergian class-prestige of hyper-corporate, predominantly white, suburbanized Tribeca, where huge treeless, concrete blocks with heavy truck traffic, a block-long Whole Foods Market, enormous Bed, Bath & Beyond megastores, and Barnes and Noble stuffed with plastic wrapped toys and trinkets had replaced the grime of the old warehouse, industrial district of the pre-Giuliani era. The New Tribeca, which was really a group of steel, glass and granite buildings stuck into the grounds of the Western edges of the financial district near the hole in the ground that had been the World Trade Center, was garish, loud, and as bland as any suburb, such as the Texas one I grew up in. Cultural diversity, class diversity, were yesterday there. Long before our catastrophic move downtown, everything I had once loved about New York had been in the process of being rooted out by speculation and finance capital, and replaced with cheap, temporary, community-less, class unconscious shlock for the aspirationally rich. Now, my wife wanted to force me and my son not only to live near it, but to be inside of it, part of it, and aspire to its hollow claims. I protested, but out of fear I tended to emphasize the cautionary, the economic difficulty of moving to the richest neighborhood in the world during a global economic crisis which was real, and put less emphasis on the complete cultural and political betrayal she was forcing us into. She claimed that she would move herself and our son there, and told me I could come with them or stay miles away in Queens, alone. She had declared her indifference to the deeply transformative experience of father-and-son-hood her husband and child were locked into. It was with this that I began, I can now see in retrospect, to become rather sick with worry for our well-being.
My spouse transformed herself very rapidly; her artistic and creative nature, her enjoyment of beauty, her easy laugh, and the lovingkindness of her nature, disappeared. They were replaced by a new voice and demeanor; it was a staggeringly rapid development. Had I known her Japanese life before she came to the US to temporarily escape it, I would no doubt have recognized better what she was becoming. The repressed had truly returned. But this reality was unknown and unknowable to me.
Now I know that the path to abduction was there long before I became part of it, and is still being set for others.
In order to relate that story, we need history and theory.
November 17, 2014
Rest assured, none of this would need telling if Rui had not been abudcted. He is growing up without the father who loves him, if indeed he is even still alive. No one, not ONE of the former students, friends, fellow travelers and supposed friendly presences in our old lives in New York, so many of whom are now in Japan once again, or still in some way able to find her or stay in contact with her and who know where Rui is… NOT ONE of them has taken it upon themselves in all of these years to contact me, to let me know where Rui is, to reassure me or send me photographs or reports of his goings on or his development. And all of them saw with their own eyes how deeply Rui and I loved each other, despite all of the trouble and difficulty that Machiko’s demands and cruelty made on us. Not ONE of them has bothered to reach out to me, to help my son recover his father.
This curse on all of you who lied, and who still lie every day by failing to do the one, only, obvious, decent thing there is to do.
2 thoughts on “Remember, Remember, Sixteenth of November”
It must be difficult every year around this time!
Keep the hope alive, even though Japan isn’t helping thus far.
cheers, Tim Johnston Japan
Kai Endo Japan
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Thank you Tim. You’re a loyal friend to the LBPs!