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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 18-Dec-07
Chinese commemorate the 1937 Massacre at Nanking (Nanjing)

Web Log - December, 2007

Chinese commemorate the 1937 Massacre at Nanking (Nanjing)

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were raped and killed in the one-time capital city of China, in a Japanese invasion that began on December 13, 1937.

The NY Times of December 18, 1937, photographed in the Nanjing Massacre Memorial in Nanjing, China, with news of the Nanjing massacre as the lead page one story. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Xinhua)</font>
The NY Times of December 18, 1937, photographed in the Nanjing Massacre Memorial in Nanjing, China, with news of the Nanjing massacre as the lead page one story. (Source: Xinhua)

There seems little doubt that the massacre occurred, especially because there were Western observers who reported on it, and because the Japanese themselves bragged about it in Tokyo newspapers shortly after it happened.

Nonetheless, remembering the Nanjing massacre causes pain among the Japanese, to the point where many "nationalist" Japanese are denying that it ever happened, or that more than a few dozen people were killed.

The result is that the Nanjing massacre, along with the Japanese army's use of Korean and Chinese women as "comfort women" during World War II, remains a festering and growing sore in the relationship between the Chinese and Japanese people. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these sores are going to be a major part of the visceral emotions that will lead to a new war between China and Japan, as part of the Clash of Civilizations world war.

The incident is even a source of division among the Japanese themselves. A new movie, "The Truth About Nanjing," by Japanese producer Satoru Mizushima, will premiere in January. The movie reportedly contains newsreel footage from the time that shows the Japanese military entering the city and bringing peace and order. This point of view has divided Japanese opinion, but is generally condemned outside of Japan.

As part of the Generational Dynamics theory, I use the word "genocide" quite often on this web site, but I use the word in a way that differs from the strictly legal definition. The Generational Dynamics definition of "genocide" refers to any action that clearly gives little value to individual life. Generally this means that the society gives much higher priority to scoring a victory in war than it gives to the goal of preserving individual lives, especially civilian lives.

For example, under the Generational Dynamics definition, the following would be considered genocidal actions by the United States in World War II:

Other examples of genocidal acts during World War II are the Holocaust (by the Germans) and the Bataan Death March (by the Japanese).

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these kinds of genocidal acts are what characterize a crisis war. Non-crisis wars do NOT have these genocidal acts, as can be seen, for example, of America's actions in the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, where internal political pressures force us to criminally prosecute soldiers who harm civilians.

I've said on occasions that no nation ever remembers the genocidal acts that they perpetrate against others, or ever forgets the genocidal acts that others perpetrate against them.

That's an exaggeration, but there's still a good question to ask: What does it take for a nation to be "forgiven" for its genocidal acts? It would appear that it takes an admission, an acknowledgment, and an apology.

This is obviously a subject that's not easy to deal with, and there are several contemporary disputes on genocide:

Memories of these events can last for centuries. My mother, a devout Greek Orthodox, would express anger at an event that occurred centuries ago. When I was young I never even knew what she was talking about, but it was clear that it was important. In 1204, a new Catholic Crusade was heading out to recapture Jerusalem back again from the Muslim Turks. Along the way, the Catholic army sacked Constantinople, starving and murdering its citizens, and plundered the Orthodox Church's treasures accumulated over the centuries. The deed was capped by placing a prostitute on the Emperor's throne at the church of St. Sophia, at that time the most beautiful church in Christendom.

This event has caused centuries of hatred and conflict between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, because there had never been an apology. Finally, in 2004(!!), Pope John Paul apologized for the 1204 sacking of Constantinople -- exactly 800 years later.

Since World War II, there's been a difference between Germany and Japan.

The Germans have largely received international praise and respect for their willingness to admit and discuss their Nazi past during World War II. This openness is something that Germans can be proud of although, of course, not everyone has forgiven them.

It's been very difficult for the Germans to go through that self-analysis, but the Japanese have had an even more difficult time. Their reluctance to apologize to "comfort women" or to clearly acknowledge the atrocities of previous generations, their ambiguities about Japanese "war heroes," their willingness to revise history texts, and their nationalist movements to deny the past have infuriated modern Koreans and Chinese. The difference is easy to see: Just look at the the relationship today between Jews and Germans, and contrast it to the relationship today between Chinese and Japanese.

The fact is that genocide is really not so strange; in fact, it's as much a part of being human as sex is. When there isn't enough food to feed two nations, then they fight over existing resources, often with the intent of each to exterminate the other. Genocidal warfare is necessary for "survival of the fittest" in human evolution. Without both sex and genocidal warfare, human beings would not exist today.

Despite all that, "Anti-Japanese feeling runs deep in many Chinese breasts," according to an American reporter. "But especially in Nanjing, where Imperial Japanese troops ran amok in December 1937 in what has become known in China as the Nanjing Massacre. One Chinese taxi driver told me that on every Dec. 13th, the anniversary of Nanjing's fall, none of his colleagues will carry a Japanese passenger though they don't discriminate the rest of the year. He said that it was a special day."

There are several movies describing the massacre being released at this time. The Children of Huang Shi is about a British journalist who saved a group of orphaned children during the massacre.

And Nanking tells the story of the massacre, aided by original news footage.

Al-Jazeera has put together a well-done news story on the massacre, which can be viewed here:

(18-Dec-07) Permanent Link
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