Sunday, July 24, 2011
EAST AND WEST
I saw a little bit of some b&w film footage of the Japanese take-over of China in the 1930s, showing the time the Chinese burned their crops, homes and everything else so the Japanese could not use them. It was an intense time. The Japanese had a mean streak a mile long. I've read a novel, Red Sorghum, by Mo Yan, based in that time, and it was pretty rough. I once knew a man who spent 3.5 years in a Japanese concentration camp in Shanghai, where he was an American working as a hospital administrator. I've seen a couple of films on the time, Lust-Caution and I can't recall the title of the other at the moment. It had Zhang Ziyi in it. Got it: Purple Butterfly. They beat the Chinese people down really bad, so bad it has to be an embarrassment to anyone Japanese, but, of course, it's not. Like what we've done in Iraq doesn't embarrass the American people.
I find myself thinking thoughts given to me in school, church, listening to grownups talk, that Asians are meaner when it comes to what they do to people in wars, torture, etc. We heard the yellow peril and the Japanese were thought by Americans to be very strange people because they fought a battle to the last man standing, and when a ship was sunk, they all went with it, almost. They didn't dare emerge from the war alive. Their regard for human life was said to be not quite up to ours. Also, from my side I hear a lot of self-serving nonsense about morality and value for life. I heard that from childhood. These Victory At Sea films I've been watching the last few days are like boats floating on a sea of made up belief system about ourselves like we Americans only do what's right, morally and every other way.
I've seen the Japanese takeover of Nanking and Shanghai in documentary and fictional film, a novel, too, by one of the writers of contemporary mainland China. They were bad. A very great deal of hate was behind it. Possibly a great deal of national arrogance too. I've heard the Chinese are arrogant among other Asians. Taking it for granted what Japan wanted from China had to do with the Japanese equivalent of dollars, money. The hate was expressed in how they beat the people down, like every one of them was a target only. I see film of American soldiers in Iraq, film they've made of themselves breaking down doors, charging into mosques with big guns during prayer, taking adult men to prison for torture, shooting a few here and there, collateral damage. We don't count their dead. Not worth the bother.
It seems to me from our side it's more like indifference toward the being of the other. It's not meanness. The meanness comes in when tormenting people and torturing them. Then the meanness rises to the surface. It's not like we're mean people, but when it's collectively acceptable, look out. We've got it in us. I've got it in me. I try to live my life in a way that doesn't tempt the inner meanness I don't allow expression. In some war situations it takes letting that meanness have expression to deal with what has to be done. One of the major reasons I never wanted to be in a military war was I didn't want to ever be in a position where that inner meanness became my motivation and I couldn't curtail it. Then live the rest of my life in deeply anguished regret, it never letting go of my mind. Conclusions I would draw about myself would be difficult to live with.
One major difference I see between Asian and Western action films is the Asian liking for a razor-sharp blade, up close and personal. We of the west like guns. I believe my liking for men-with-guns and men-with-swords movies is a form of sublimation for the desire inside I've never let myself experience to kill and commit mayhem. A little sublimation from time to time keeps it in the pen where it belongs. The Asian aspect in Steven Seagal films is the readiness to kill arises from a kidnapped child and/or wife, threat of whole family being killed, revenge for a murdered son. These are not reasons in America. Our men-with-guns movies are about money. Those personal themes of the heart are childish to us, naive, unsophisticated. Asian scriptures are Buddhist and Taoist largely, sound guidance in living one's everyday life spiritually. Western scriptures are histories of wars. The West has been wanting to corrupt Asia all along to make consumers of them. As they get the taste for more money, they get an awful lot like us.
This time we're in is a time of the merging of East and West. Each has attributes the other needs. In the West, we're a bit overburdened with self; I want. In Asian cultures, other's come first in consideration. Perhaps Asians are out of balance not considering self enough. Perhaps we of the West are out of balance not considering others enough. There is a lot more to it. In this crazy time we're in now, that evidently follows post-modern, where meanings fall apart and traditions fall away like the end of a movie, people of both East and West don't know what to do, but go after more money. The End. Mountain culture happened a few hundred years, then came The End. When East meets West, money is the international language everyone understands.