Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Japanese brain-washing victim

Should you come across a book called Japan at War - An Oral History I recommend you to pick it up. It's gripping in a way that no piece of artifice could ever manage. It's a collection of various Japanese people talking of their time in WWII. It runs the gamut: School-kids making balloon-bombs; settler-housewives from Manchuria; wicked Kempei head-loppers; everyone is here. And they tell you of their experiences in their own words.

I do not recommend this book for the simple-minded seeking to have their racist Hollywood delusions confirmed. This book is too full of humans. There is a great deal to Japanese culture - it is as complex as a thing can possibly be. It can, like our culture, produce perfect villains. It can also produce astounding people like the fellow I am dubbing here, 'the brain-washing victim'.

I can't even remember his name. Understand, I read this book years ago and it's now in storage a thousand kilometres away, so I necessarily run on recollection. Our villain-victim provided insights into two aspects of the Japanese at the time. Initially he was a standard occupier doing his small part in the subjugation of China. He hunted 'bandits', or 'terrorists', or whatever phrase-du-jour was then in use to avoid calling a patriotic resistance something truthful. But it's what happened to him after the war that lends him significance. After Japan's defeat he was captured by the communists, imprisoned, and 'brain-washed'.

This was the precise term he used. And he wondered at the words themselves and made a simple point: said he - Why do we shudder at the words 'brain-washing'? Isn't 'washing' good? When a thing is 'dirty' and we 'clean' it, isn't that better than leaving it as it was? This fellow, believe it or not, was of the opinion that the Chinese had removed the filth that had been clogging up his brain. His understanding that others were 'unter-menschen', or 'beasts', or any other self-serving bullshit, was broken down and washed away. He could look back clearly and know the falsity, indeed enormity, of who he had been.

As an aside - if you're given to thinking that 'brain-washing' is some kind of evil, hypnotic, drug-fueled mindfuck, then you've obviously been reading about mkultra and Sirhan Sirhan. I can dig it. I read that too and it's all true. But just put that to one side for the moment. This fellow's experiences were no such thing. The Chinese had neither the resources nor the mindset of the CIA. They did not mistreat him, drug him, or torture him. They simply demanded, implacably, that our Japanese victim-hero stop bullshitting them. And himself, of course. They would not stand for his lies. They demanded nothing less than that he cast off delusion and face the wrongness of his behaviour. And he rose to the occasion.

I always imagined that his experiences resembled those of Pu Yi in The Last Emperor. And like the ex-emperor in that film, our Japanese hero possessed no hatred for his 'brain-washers'. Far from it - he rejected any label of victimhood. With a clear mind he saluted his jailer's humanity and expressed his gratitude. They could have just shot him. It would have saved a lot of time and money and achieved a similar result - ie. ensuring one less murderous racist scumbag. Nobody would have blamed them. Instead, his jailers freed him. And he thanked them.


Anonymous said...

I was just going to post this (along with some other words) over at SM.
‘Re: The Ugly Truth: The only use for guns is to kill or maim, soldiers are taught to use guns.
There is no place in my world for either.’
Then I thought, I can't do that, I'll be thought an idealistic idiot, completely impractical - so I didn't.
Then I came here, read your post (thank you for that btw) and had a think about Patty Hurst, violence, psychology, the psychology of violence etc. etc.
It has to do with how each of us perceives the world, mainly our immediate world, our street, our town, state, country; as the circle gets wider the concern lessens. Unless as it is now intruding into our living rooms.
So, as you say from the perspective of ‘standard occupier’ your villain-victim was fine until his capture whereupon it was prudent for him to view things from a different perspective.
It’s prudent for the USA citizenry to do as they are doing now because NO ONE is on their side. Ron Paul, fine. How old is he? Do the people who support him have any real power? Look who his detractors are or even who the people who ignore him are. There is no real administrative support for what he espouses beyond him.
What happens if ‘we the people’ do start to make waves – ridiculed, beaten, arrested, and worse (to come)?
They know the answer; they are just not prepared to apply the solution… yet.
It’ll come.

nobody said...

Hey Tony,

Just quickly, since there's a cold beer waiting for me, I'm with you bra, but our villain-to-hero didn't come to a new perspective because it was prudent. He did it because it was right. He did it because he'd embraced truth over delusion. Can you dig it?

And Australia is copping a hiding in their first innings against India. Carn the underdog! Tinny time.

Anonymous said...

My grandma used to tell me leopards don't change their spots, nobody. Now, this woman was a legend in my life so... well... OK some people can do the right thing but majority normally rules in this world mate. And yes while I can believe your villain-victim recognised the truth when he saw it and as I haven't read the book I can accept the context of the story as you say. Thank you.

annemarie said...

What a beautiful, powerful and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

He did the right thing. He was able to (learn to) do the right thing, to (learn again) to think rightly because his captors did the right thing.

--- And that right thing (in this case) was the act of allowing, of enabling/facilitating the opportunity for the right things to sink in and replace the ugly programming that had been placed into his heart/mind. I don't regard it really as an act of "brainwashing", though I really appreciate learning another way of looking at, thinking about that word. Yeah, washing does imply cleaning, cleansing, purifying. Doesn't it. That's the literal meaning. Very cool. On the other hand, I see it overall as an extreme act of love... an extreme act of tolerance, and teaching. After he'd been cleansed, they set him free. Yup, an act of love, the supreme act you can do in life. Wow. ----

Funny how simple it really is (doing the right thing), rather how simple it really can be...if we WANT it ;)

Cheers mate, have one for me.

Got much work to do over the next few days, but wanted to drop in, read, and say this.

Latah, annemarie :)

Go India. Go India. hehehehee

nobody said...

Hey Folks,

Not every truism is true. That thing about death and taxes is bullshit. Death, me, I won't argue, but there's plenty of people who pay no taxes. Same, same, leopards and spots.

The only certainty is change. Believe it or not, with the passing of enough time leopards will change their spots. Me, I am so utterly different now from ten years ago that even I can barely believe it. And sure my skin is still spotty, ha ha. But, big deal. It's the least important part of me. Mind you it's pretty handy for stopping all my bodily fluids from leaping out of me and I do appreciate that.

Anyone can choose to, or be made to, shed delusion. The price is usually a variation of nervous breakdown. But you can't make an omelette of truth without breaking a few eggs of delusion. Thanks Gran!

And annemarie - bingo.

annemarie said...

There are countless others who have undergone belief-altering or life-altering experiences. Might even be millions or billions of these people. But since they're mostly ordinary folks, the world won't hear enough about them or their stories.

Spots or no spots. No amount of camouflage can disguise a person's true colours. Real change occurs on the inside, where it really matters.

'and i see your true colours shinin' through.
and i see your truuuu colours and that's why i love you' ;)

nobody said...

Oh annemarie, you may sing to me anytime, ha ha.

Also mate, it appears we are at odds, you and I, over at Les' latest piece. But we're not of course. I've had many protacted battles with trolls in various places. Eventually I grew sick of it and that's why I limited myself to Les' blog. It's almost totally troll-free and that's due entirely to Les. Anyway I'm pretty sure that that yoni cove was the anonymous who jumped in earlier yelling 'genocide!' in the crowded cinema. He didn't consider, he just accused. I got no time for such cheap bullshit stunts. By way of misstating/second-guessing Les' and everyone's position, it accuses everyone of being genocidal racists and spooks people into running away from a perfectly worthy topic of discussion. Can you dig it? And I'm glad you understood what he was on about. Made no sense to me. Personally I suspect it was a smokescreen designed to avoid my challenge to him. I've seen a lot of that. If the question is unanswerable act like it was never asked, run in another direction, and spread the blame.

Anyway the leopard thing, which actually isn't germane to our Japanese fellow but nevermind, was in my head as I left the cafe. But only by way of rebuttal, ha ha. What I should have said to Tony was, 'Sure but can it change it's mind?'. Neat huh? I always think of exactly the right thing to say exactly after the right time to say it. Unlike you, ha ha.