2016年5月1日 星期日

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Recently I have read the following book. The main points in the first six chapters are:

Book title:  John W. Dower. 1999. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. W.W. Norton.

Main points:

Introduction: -Japan’s emergence as a modern nation was stunning to behold: swifter, more successful, more crazed, murderous and self-destructive than anyone had imagined possible. (p.19)

-In the book, Dower tries to convey ‘from within’ some sense of the Japanese experience of defeat by focusing on social and cultural development. He tries to capture a sense of what it meant to start over in a ruined world by recovering the voices of people at all levels of society. WWII did not end for the Japanese until 1952. War, defeat and occupation left an indelible mark on those who lived through them. They were the touchstone years for thinking about Japanese national identity and personal values. (p.25)

-The ease with which the great majority of Japanese were able to throw off a decade and a half of the most intense militaristic indoctrination offers lesson in the limits of socialization and the fragility of ideology. (p.29)

- the preoccupation with their own misery that led most Japanese to ignore the suffering they had inflicted on others help illuminate the way in which victim consciousness colored the identities that all groups and people constructed for themselves. (p.29)

-what matters was what the Japanese themselves made of their experience of defeat; most of them had consistently affirm a commitment to ‘peace and democracy’. This is the great mantra (repeated saying) of postwar Japan. (p.30)

-Ch. 1- see shattered lives in japan. There was the unconditional surrender. The ravages of war could never be accurately quantified. There were the coming home of 6.5 million Japanese stranded in Asia, about 3.5 million were soldiers and sailors. Veterans were despised. Ch. 2 it was about demilitarization and democratization of Japan. Reforms were imposed.

- Ch. 3 – in post war Japan, the persistence of widespread exhaustion and despair was rooted in material conditions. American decided to adopt a hands-off policy. Misery was accepted as proper punishment for a defeat adversary. (p.89) There were inflation and economic sabotage. A massive looting of the public treasury underlay the economic chaos and social hardship. Sudden conversion to non-militarize economy would have proved a staggering task. Loss of overseas empire stripped the economy of access to raw material. (p. 118) These circumstances led many Japanese to perceive themselves as the greatest suffers from the war. (p.119)

Ch. 4. It was a testimony to human resilience that the great majority of Japanese transcended exhaustion and despair to refashion their lives in diverse and often imaginative ways. Recalling all this year later, a critic spoke of a new ‘space’ suddenly exiting in society. People behaved differently, it was a moment of flux, freedom and openness. People were conscious of the need to reinvent their own lives. (p.121)

- two incidents gave prostitution a face in occupied Japan as they serviced the conquerors. (p.123) The black-market entrepreneurship flourished. (p.139) Men who only months earlier had been willing to die for their country (‘shattering of the jade’ in Okinawa) were now mercilessly gouging their compatriots. (p.144)

- there was the Kasutori shochu, the drink of choice among artists and writers. Kasutori culture flourished into the 1950s. Like the panpan and the black marketeers, kasutori culture conveyed a strong impress of liberation from authority and dogma. (p.148) An entire genre of “fresh novels” emerged. Dazai Osamu came to epitomize the captivating degeneracy of kasutori culture. (p.158)

-Ch. 5. - Defeated Japan was engulfed in literature works. The kasutori magazines and the literature of degeneracy were but currents in a great river of communication. Familiar words and slogans cushioned the shock of defeat’ (p.168)

- they were mocking defeat. Witty language accompanies many of the quick adjustment to peace. Military uniforms worn by man after the surrender was rechristened ‘defeat suits’, footwear became ‘defeat shoes’. Such cynicism helped to diminish the pain and disgraced of defeat. (p.70)

- the most hackneyed wartime sloganeering such as  ‘cooperate’, ‘give your all’ became staples of post war exhortation to work for reconstruction, peace, democracy, or a new Japan.(p.177) Old words now had new meanings. The list of tasks to be accomplished was endless, but central to all was the creation of a society based on social justice and responsive to the will of the people. Only that kind of society would prevent tyranny a dictatorship from arising ever again in japan. (p.187)

- the top-ten bestsellers form 1946 to 1949 collectively conveyed an impression of cosmopolitan breath and serious purpose never again to be matched. There was the great writer Natusume Soseki, whose boom seemed to have reflected the desire for a renewed engagement with the torments and solace of the individual. He had spoken strongly about the need to maintain a spirit of ‘individualism vis-à-vis the state. (p.189)

-Ozaki Hotsumi was a best-selling posthumous hero. The greatest appeal of the published letters written was the love directed to his wife and daughter – to the real, nuclear family, that was as opposed to the ‘family state’.(p.193) It was yet another indication of how much the war and defeat had prepared the ground for elevating the preciousness of intimated persona relations. Until the surrender, the state and its ideologies had dictated that the primary love a human should feel was patriotism, or love of country. (p.193)

- as time passed and the occupation’s censor permitted greater freedom, the vision hope and realm of peace found provocative new forms of expression. In 1948, two local books emerged as bestsellers that offered varying perspectives on the issue of victimization, respectively written by Dazai Osamu and Nagai Akashi. (p.197)

- edited by progressive intellectual and evocatively titled Kike – Wadatsumi no Koe (Listen –Voices from the Deep) transformed war words into pace words was inspired by the belief that these intimate communications from the very maw of the war itself would be read as an eloquent cry for peace.(p.198)

- ‘Listen’ perpetuated an image of sacrifice that came perilously close to the imagery of the militarism had promoted. These were pure young men. They could not be faulted for having offered no resistance to militarism. It was their death, rather than the deaths of those they might have killed that commanded attention and were truly tragic. They were selected as a figure to mourn because they wrote so well, but also because it was easy to imagine them was the future leaders of Japan. (p.199)