A History of Japan – A Lesson in Amnesia

The world war is a permanent wedge in history.  An indelible scar that should remind us all of human greed, paranoia, idealism and ideology. Whipping up frenzy in a closed society today seems easy and inevitable. Reading Shigeru Mizuki’s detailed retelling of the war is harrowing. How individual incidents and choices of families, that are rationalized under mostly well intentioned reasons of national exceptionalism, honor, duty to fatherland and emperor, Asian liberation etc. build up to monstrous atrocities. If all this sounds a little dramatic for everyday reading when scurrying to reply to the pressing email your boss demands a response to, let me point out the case of current India.

Correcting Misdemeanors

India has always had sub par political backbone. The democracy has at best been compromised, at worst, tokenism. If there have been individual cases of well meaning powerful leaders, their contributions have been severely diluted both by self serving bureaucrats and a non exacting population. A media culture that dramatizes the trivial and vulgarizes discussions has only added to the sorry state of affairs. To say, India is at it’s worst today since it gained self rule and independence is surely a lie. Genocides, scams and corruption have always plagued any ruling party and the middle and elite class of India has always run with it, endorsing and decrying it at the same time. A grotesque flirting dance of compromise.

With nationalistic feelings replacing this decayed setting in India there is a greed in the eyes of Indians who are desperately seeking instant gratification and economic development. Their eyes dazzle at the prospect of earning in parity with European and American counterparts. Their egos swell at the thought of rivaling Japanese and Chinese cultural prestige. So starved are they that the obvious impossibility of the promised land without fundamentally reworking the entire nation’s working, ethos and sensibilities does not strike them.

Nationalistic temperament (a perfect manifestation of Kokutai during the Japanese build up to war) has started legitimizing intolerance. Whether such sentiments are legislated, endorsed or actively spread by the government is irrelevant. Perception is reality in such cases. What is the use of arguing that on paper there has been no change, when lynching, mob justice, a cry for blood and extreme violence against peaceful dissent (to name but a few) is the norm. We have still a long way to go as individuals when we hide behind caustic one liners on social media, strutting puns and witticisms but do not actively denounce such acts in real life.

What could have passed off as an individual misdemeanor, an endorsement of caste or a sly dig at protest movements under the garb of political cynicism, is only adding to the decay today. For sometime, I shall try and suspend my sense of humor, and call out people on it, and see how it affects me materially.

After all, if, as a privileged Hindu male, I can’t or won’t do it, what right do  I have to expect the same from everyone. Zenning out in such thoughts.

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