News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Review of Inventing Japan, Ian Buruma, Part II

Little more than a year after that [1930], Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, who was trying desperately to keep radical Army and Navy factions from going to war with China, was murdered by a group of naval officers, called the Blood Pledge Society, in an attempted coup d'état. Two business leaders were killed as well, while other fanatics were bombing such symbols of right-wing hate as Inukai's party offices and the Bank of Japan. By then, the experiment with party government was over. Manchuria had been turned into a puppet state. And the war in China was only just beginning. (Page 76)

I quote this in passing because I'm often frustrated by patriotic morons on Internet forums who blame Japan for invading China. Given that Japan is not a person, but instead a block of real estate or a social collective or what have you, 'Japan' cannot be blamed for invading 'China'. Various individuals in Japan orchestrated various actions against various individuals or the collective masses in China. Call it an invasion if you want, but at least don't clog up the conversation by blaming an entity that lacks the ability to make choices and thus can't be blamed, i.e. 'Japan.' You might as well blame clouds for raining or ants for the architecture of their ant hills.

Kita's family background was neither xenophobic nor particularly romantic.... from an early age, Kita was seized by the ideal of absolute individual freedom. But the question of people's rights was too tame for him. In fact, he wasn't interested in peaceful politics at all. He was after absolutes and violent acts of will. As it did many Japanese idealists of his age, individualism confused him. (Page 77-78)

That last sentence sounds like comedy, and yet in contemporary China this is commonly the case. In part it's because idealism and patriotism usually results in the opposite of individualism: fascism. After all, all idealism is essentially a function of ignorance and stupidity as idealism is ipso facto the desire to bring into reality desires which are not pragmatic. Most peacetime patriots are simply unsuccessful lonely men with inferiority complexes who can't get laid. Such people are relatively easy to deal with because at least their patriotism is cynical. When the wind blows in the wrong direction, they scatter like quail, looking for a new cause such as victimization, reparations, entitlement, etc. You can often follow the money trail to the blank where their conscience should be found.

A different problem is people who take patriotism to heart, true believers blessed with handsome mugs and untroubled well-adjusted souls. For these natural-born messiahs, individuals are never as attractive as the people as a whole. Concepts being more attractive than touchy, persnickety unmotivated wrong-way individuals who tend to be imperfect, uncooperative and to get in the way.

Revolutionary violence, for Kita, was not so much political as religious, an act of personal, spiritual liberation.... the state, he argued, had been hijacked by corrupt oligarchs, bureaucrats, bankers, and industrialists. What was needed was a coup d'état that would give the "People's Emperor" absolute power. ... Kita’s cause had a particular appeal to junior officers in the Army, were mostly from poor rural areas and, like Kita Itte, blamed capitalist city slickers for corruption and degradation of the nation. A number of these men, burning with violent idealism, staged a coup in February 1936, aiming to give absolute power to the Emperor and purge...traitors and corrupt officials. (Pages 78-79)

People’s emperor? Truth odder than fiction yet again. Seems China tried that concept with Mao. Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom, The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution…hmm. Jiang Zemin’s MBA-sounding “The Three Represents” lacks the rhythm and timbre of a good Little Red Book slogan, but then it’s bound to do much less harm. A dumb politico is usually the safer bet if you have the best interests of the nation's people in mind.

While reading Gavin Daws Prisoners of the Japanese I had the sneaky feeling that a herd of bumpkins were running the Japanese military. This helped explain the peculiarly childish cruelty of the various wanton mass slaughters, the romantic desire of young soldiers to emulate samurai by butchering defenseless people with swords (i.e. becoming comic book heroes via slashing everything that moved with glorious traditional weapons), the often fabulously amateurish nature of the medical experiments (transfusing horse blood into people), and the almost laughable (if it wasn't so tragic) traditional boorishness of Japanese officers chowing down on the livers of white POWs. Again, if you ask yourself what frame of mind it would take for you yourself to willingly do the above, surely it would be the frame of mind of an eager child with a yearning to dress up in adult roles such as hero, doctor, etc.

Not to mention that China's Guanxi Province saw Communist mucky-mucks chewing on the livers of upwards of 600 political prisoners during the Cultural Revolution. "Samo, samo!" as Japanese POW prison guards used to say.

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