It is a clear sunny spring day. The Japanese festival of Hanami, the celebration of the beauty of flowers, is in full swing as people shake out of their heavy winter coats and enjoy the season of renewal and rebirth. Sakura petals drift gently down from promenades and parks onto the picnics of friends and families enjoying the warm weather. It is a time for new life to grow out of the long and harsh winter and the darkness of days. Along the river promenade is the endless hustle and pitter patter of people of all walks of life appreciating the flowers in bloom.
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten." - George Orwell 1984
What is more dangerous – to be in a cage where you can see the bars, or one where you can’t. Is it more dangerous to know that you are being controlled or to believe that you are free to choose while being just as constrained?
This article first appeared in Critic Issue 3, 2017.
Our world is different to that of our parents. While they were the first generation to pioneer the internet and begin the information era, we were born citizens. While they were the generation that maintained tradition, we are increasingly challenging old ideas. Ideas about what constitutes love, what constitutes marriage, and even ideas about what constitutes ownership.
This article first appeared in Critic Issue 11, 2017.
Call me paranoid but airports always make me nervous. There is the ever-present fear that you might have forgotten something. That you might be late. That you might miss your flight having to go through yet another security checkpoint. And there was that one time when I was 19 when I was held in an interrogation room in Incheon International Airport before my flight.
This article first appeared in Critic Issue 15, 2017.
When it comes to politics you can never judge a book by its cover and 20-year-old Sam Purchas is a great example why. Standing at a lanky 6 foot 3 and dressed in a bright flowery suit that looks like a Coachella attendee’s LSD fuelled vision of ‘smart casual’, Sam looks more like a psychedelic hippie than a Randian right-winger. When he’s not singing bass in a Barbershop Quartet, or playing Doctor Who in this year’s Capping Show, Sam serves as the president of Young ACT at Otago.
This article first appeared in Critic Issue 17, 2017.
You’ve made it. After three years subsisting on a diet of Mi Goreng noodles, the cheeky seven-dollar fat bird, and too much caffeine, you’ve proven that you’re ready to take your place in the world with a fancy piece of paper, and a crippling student loan. You’ve had some great times, some horrific times, and some half formed blurry ones pieced together the next day from your snap story. Now what?
This article first appeared in Critic Issue 25, 2017.
Time is a wheel. Being someone of Korean descent who represents New Zealand on the JET Programme (Japanese Exchange and Teaching meant to improve international relations), living in Japan is a surreal experience. On one hand, their ancestors conquered mine and instituted an oppressive police state in the 20th century, doing things like gunning down school children for singing the national anthem in public. On the other hand, their descendants’ taxes now pay my salary and I teach their children’s children English in an effort to show them the international world. I try not to get caught up in ancestral grudges.
It all started with a watch.
Just a regular ordinary diver’s watch that had stopped working a long time ago, the little cogs and gears all frozen in time with the small hand poised at the edge of midnight.
‘What’s the story with the watch?’ my co-workers would ask with a hint of playful humour in their eyes. There must be a story; they’d think to themselves, there must be some reason why I’d choose to wear a broken watch, hidden under my neat white shirt. The curiosity would be almost palpable, as one by one they’d all come over to have a look at the diver’s watch on my left wrist and see the tiny arms unmoving.
‘It’s just something my dad gave me’ I’d tell them neutrally and the playful humour would switch immediately to confusion or bewilderment. Some small part of them would whisper gently that this was a topic not to be discussed and best left for the gossipers and rumour mills.
I didn’t mind all too much, after all I’d probably do the same in their shoes. When you spend eight hours a day pouring through papers and turning in forms stories become a gateway into a more glamorous world.
Born somewhere between the old world of Korea and the new world of New Zealand Isaac is an award winning writer, teacher of literature and nomad currently residing in Nanjing.