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

Sunday, April 05, 2009

History doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes - Mark Twain

Biff: There were several comic aspects to the barbarous stage of occupation of Taiwan by KMT forces from 1945 onward. One was the notion instilled into common soldiers by their captains and political officers that Taiwan was to be liberated from the vicious grasp of the amoral Japanese while the Taiwanese themselves were a disreputable crew of Benedict Arnolds. Either way, the theory ran that the Taiwanese had been deprived of the patriotic milk of human kindness oozing from the withered teats of the civil-war exhausted motherland and were not only unaware but, much worse, ungrateful. They not only suffered under the iron grip of the Devil Dwarves but had been brainwashed into credulously believing they were superior to their native Chinese brothers and sisters, who, though equal, were more equal than they, when all was said and done, given their superior provenence and hence enhanced authenticity.

Theory, all theory usually, hits the road for the first time with a crash. When the KMT soldiers arrived, they found themselves in a wealthy land which had prospered under Japanese oppression. In fact the land was so oppressedly wealthy and prosperous, and the common soldiers from China rendered so poor and deprived care of their patriotic paymasters, that quite a few liberators took to stealing with abandon from the ostensibly oppressed.

Theft by itself is unremarkable. But it was sometimes done with style. KMT soldiers stole bicycles for example. Unable to peddle them away because they couldn't ride them competently, they gave the game away by carrying them on their shoulders. Too obvious, like a forlorn fashionista carrying her pocket pooch (the more successful ones collar a man-serf, a lap-dog if you will, to carry their toy coolies, er, collies). Excuses that the bike belonged to the porter underneath the purloined contraption, i.e. bike rides man, rather than the other way around, were to no avail.

And then there was the common soldiery witnessing the holy prodigy of household running water, streams of which emerged from an appliance called a tap, planted in many a Taiwanese wall. Inspired to purchase one of these miracle gadgets at a local hardware store, the tap was screwed or otherwise forced into the wall of one's own dwelling on the theory, assisted by a belief in the miracles of Western science, that turning said spigot would generate running water. Failure to comply with expectations clearly indicated that said tap was defective. Those tricky Taiwanese turncoats! This in turn led to heated arguments with hardware store owners and accusations of retailing faulty goods to take advantage of innocent patriots, patriotic emancipators that is, who having converted weapons to plowshares, were now helpless in the face of emancipation of their hard-earned scrip.

In Poland, the USSR troops, same same. History rhymes. Check out the below.

The following excerpted from (War Through Children's Eyes) by Jan Tomasz Gross.

...The first visual contact between the Soviets and the population of eastern Poland revealed something that neither side anticipated. The red Army was, of course, an army, but there was something odd about its makeup. True, its tanks rolled proudly along streets and country roads, but then horseman and horse-drawn supply carts came. Most of the animals appeared to be on their last legs. Soldiers poured in endlessly -- there were thousands of them -- but some had saddles and some did not; some had shoes, but others only cloth wrapped around their feet; some wore long coats, other short ones; some had belts, while others had only strings attached to their rifles (Docs. no. 17, 9, 43, 110). And there was a strange look on their faces -- a mixture of suspicion, incredulity, and joy. For they literally could not believe their eyes when they saw those images, unbelievable riches. Take, for example, the peasant horses and cattle, all so well fed and well kept. Many a red Army soldier jumped on the grazing horse and sped away. Many swapped their nags for the healthy and strong horse of a helpless peasant. Then, too, there was food, in dazzling amounts and varieties: orchards bearing fruit which they freely helped themselves, food offered in peasant huts, including delicacies rarely seen in their kolkhozes or hometowns -- butter, sour cream, meat, sausage, eggs, cheese. But perhaps the greatest revelation came when they reached the towns with their material objects and commodities: shoes, clothes, fabrics, and industrial products of all sorts -- watches, for example, were great wonder. And all this can be seen in the shops; it could be touched, bought, appropriated.

It was a very confusing experience for Red Army soldiers who knew they had come to liberate the oppressed blood brothers from the masters yoke. For they also knew that the masters, by definition, were a small minority and that everyone else was suffering deprivation. But where were the masses if everyone lived so well? (this is even more ironical since the eastern half was the poorest part of Poland, which itself was rather poor by contemporary European standards.)

Before being ordered into Poland, red Army personnel had been warned of propaganda tricks that would be pulled on them in this foreign country, and they were taught how to protect themselves and how to behave... There were even standard phrases to memorize such as "U nas vse est'" (we have everything) and "U nas etogo mnogo" (we have plenty of that). But as the soldier saw many commodities for the first time in their lives, they blundered repeatedly and made fools of themselves. Soon the boldest young pranksters in Lwow and other towns were entertaining audiences by engaging soldiers in conversations about Soviet factories that produced oranges, Greta Garbos, and Amsterdams (Doc. no. 77)

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