Mutual Dehumanization/Deep Belief systems in Conflict

JOHN THURSTON is back and eager to discuss Western Martial Arts, especially relating to its history.


Mutual Dehumanization/Deep Belief systems in Conflict

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:15 pm

I have three books that relate to the Samurai and when i can dig them out, I shall.

Stephen Turnbull, if I recall, sets forth a comparison of the Samurai vis a vis the Western Knight in his work: The Medieval Knight"..

This book is lost in my poor filing system but I will dig it out.

However preliminary recall says that the Samurai were a social "class" somewhat akin to the knightly class of Europe. Indeed, in a move somewhat paralled in polictical fear as was the dissolution of the Samurai Class, was the obliteration of one of Europe's best known "Fighting Order" the Knights Templar by the Pope and King of France.

Another greeat 'fighting order' was that of the Teutonic Knight, who Christianized, by force, most of what now comprise the Baltic States.

Hugh notes and recalls correctly the crushing defeat handed the Order by the Russian ("Tsar"?) Alexander.

In a great battle between Alexander's forces and the Teutonic Knights the ice of the frozen River Neva gave way, drowning most of the Knights and creating "Alexander Nevsky" as a preeminent Russian hero.

Both Eisensteins' (sp) film and Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky" are excellent, and the opening of the latter piece of music "Arise Ye Russian People" would give pause to any sane invader of the Russian Heartland.

Indeed, Napoleon was told by a seemingly weak Tsar Alexander centuries later that "the road to Moscow is by way of Poltava".

One book not buried as it was not in the library when the wallboard gave out is " The Art Of Japanses Swordsmanship"----'a manual of Eishin-ryu Iaido'.

I can at least quote one of the basics from this work regarding the Samurai: "One of the first tasks facing any leader of fighting men is that of instilling discipline in his troops. This was especially important for the Japanese, since the Samurai were part of an elite social group and were expected to behave within the rigid guidlines of Japan's ruling class."

If memory serves, the class was banned subsequent to the Meiji Restoration.

Unfortunately, later, Imperial Japan laid selective claim to the belief system of the Samurai for its soldiery.

The Samurai themselve might well have been in total horror regarding the assimillation of their beleif system (s) by the common soldiers and/of non noble Officers and Non coms.

The common soldier. non coms and officers were required, in effect, to believe that, because the government 'said' they were Samurai, that they were Samurai.

This led to the de facto dehumanization of enemies of the Empire on a colossal scale.

Not only, for example, were the Japanese not prepared to deal with the number of western prisoners taken after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, but they had been told and taught to beleive that those who surrendered could not be considered human.

What was not realized was, to paraphrase a section from the book "My Father's War" (not to be confused with Flags of Our Fathers) that Americans were deeply instilled with codes of their own: to win, to survive, that (in the case especially with Roman Catholic Americans) suicide was the unforgiveable sin and and ironclad belief in the premise that one should do things "right' whether it be being a soldier or, as in the case of the Father in the foregoing book to the effect that if he was "to make cardboard boxes, then he was going to make the best cardboard boxes there were."

I will dig out this book as well but it is interesting to note that the author's Father was killed in the first fatal commercial jet accident in history over the skies of New York in 1960.

On of the most poingnant memories of this crash that I have is the fate of the small boy who survived the horrific air to air collision as he fell into a large snowbank on the ground.

Sadly, he did not live long.

As an example of the basic idealogical difference is that a Japanese Soldier would view suicide as the most honorable of deaths and yet the products of an Irish American/Catholic world (i cannot speak for Prostestants) viewed suicide as the "coward's way out and the surest way to hell." this statement is correctly recounted by myself and is included herein only to dramatize the profound cultural diffences which assisted in the mutual dehumanizetion of the combatant powers.

"Duty is a heavy burden, but death is lighter than a feather" becomes a relevant quote, and points to a system of beliefs that assisted in this mutual dehumanization.

How much more in conflict can two ideaoligies be?

Such Intolerance and subhumanization can and did lead to stupendous acts of callous violence between the combatant powers in the Pacific War..

The Japanese used the reinvention and romanticization of an ersatz system/cult of alleged proper Samurai beliefs and behaviour to engender ways of behaviour that served the Imperial State, which, in itself, did a tremendous disservice to the memoryof the Samurai.

the American responded by acting in every way possible to dehumanize the Japanese. Just one method was to nevr show American dead except in peaceful cemeteries (with some salient exceptions) and yet showed japanese dead and dying in the most dreadful detail accompanied by not so subtle racio/dehumanizating commentary such as "lights out Mr. Nip!" and "wish to die for your emporer? Glad to help out!!!"

At the end of the Guadacanal campaign when the last Imperial troops tried to swim for it, GI's were gleefully shown 'potting Nip heads" in the surf.

More examples abound.

I apologize if I offend.
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