Monday, April 02, 2007

Just Cross the Street, OK?

I have to hand it to Japan's Meiji revivalists : they illustrate the implicit perils of acting out Zeno's paradox.

Rather than crossing Reconciliation Street to the other side, they choose, out of a sense of fair play and going along with the game, to go halfway.

Then, whining at the unfairness of it all, they drag themselves halfway again across the remaining distance.

They then plant themselves, arguing that to go any further would be an affront to the dignity of Japan/Japanese culture/the soldiers who died creating a new Japan (Amaterasu, do I ever dislike that formulation!)/Japanese virtue--oh, whatever.

They are stunned to stupefication when the street lights change and they get run over.

What is to be said of these protagonists when they have already safely crossed a street but then choose, out of a sense of self-destructive orgueil (I cannot help it, the English word will not do) to retreat back into traffic?

EDITORIAL/ Okinawa's forced suicides
The Asahi Shimbun

The government has instructed publishers of many high school history textbooks to alter descriptions of mass suicide incidents during the World War II battle in Okinawa. In latest textbook screening, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology told the publishers to eliminate all references to the Japanese military's direct role in these tragedies.

The ministry criticized descriptions that said civilians were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to commit mass suicide. The government says it is not clear the military issued such orders. Many publishers complied, and their textbooks now state vaguely that civilians were "driven into mass suicide," instead of that the people were "forced by the Japanese military to commit mass suicide."

The tragic mutual killings of civilians took place in the Kerama islands, where invading U.S. forces landed first in the Battle of Okinawa. Several hundred islanders killed themselves and their families in mass suicides.

By removing references to the Japanese military's direct involvement in these acts, the government obscures the abnormal nature of Japan's militarism. The military did not want to allow Okinawans to be captured by American soldiers and so it forced them to commit suicide. Isn't this move to rewrite textbooks an attempt to distort history?

I could say something cruel on the order of, "If you believe A to be true and the other side changes the wording so that A is no longer true, yes, you can say, 'This is an attempt to distort history."' Really, you have the right to say that, oh righteous editors of The Asahi Shimbun. Honest, you do."

But why bother?

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