I need to lighten up on my reading. I used to read a fairly balanced mix of fiction and non-fiction but no longer. I don’t actually know why but that’s just the way it is. The world I’m living in right now seems a fairly entrancing mash of fantasy and cruel reality, so perhaps I don’t need the fiction at the moment.
But I do need to lighten up. Yesterday I finished Iris Chang’s devastating Rape of Nanking and I followed it with a google, as I do, reading the Japanese response, which seemed a little sad and delusional, but still underlines the fear much of Asia has to the current rush to re-arm by the Japanese nation, and the ignorance, once again, of history and contemporary attitudes outside the beltway shown by Bush in his push to give them F-22s and the like. And you have to wonder if the re-teething of other Asian nations has more to do with that than any fear of Sino aggression. Memories last a very long time here.
And I’m reading Geoffrey Robinson’s Dark Side Of Paradise, a history of political violence in Bali over the past century. The historical perspective it gives to “paradise”, and especially those, like the commentator on my last post, murmuring about his “paradise lost”, very much a western concept and utterly divorced from historic realities, is important to me. Less than 2km from where I type, a whole village was massacred – everybody – by the forces of reaction in 1965. And so few, anywhere understand the horror in paradise past.
Finally, I’m quite a way into Richard Evan’s compelling The Third Reich in Power, a seemingly definitive history of the pre-war years in Germany and the acquiescence and ease at which a democratic, but fiercely militarised and self-proud society, albeit with all the trappings of “freedom” was led down the road to Auschwitz and Barbarossa, almost without a murmur from the masses.
Which is why, and yes Godwin’s Law and all before someone reminds me, things like this give me such great unease:
Loyalty Day, 2007
….. We believe deeply in freedom and self-government, values embodied in our cherished documents and defended by our troops over the course of generations. Our citizens hold the truths of our founding close to their hearts and demonstrate their loyalty in countless ways. We are inspired by the patriotic service of the men and women who wear our Nation’s uniform with honor and decency.……..
Although the day goes back to 1921, I can’t help but feel this particular proclamation has a little darkness about it in 2007, given the events of the last few years. I detest patriotism in virtually any form, and this century nowhere has it been abused more dangerously than in the United States. Couple it with this (yes via Greenwald again, but I like him, and this is yet another must-read), as an editorial in one of the United States’ leading newspapers, and we have a lot, all of us, to be worried about.
It creeps; it really does – five years ago would any of us be discussing whether torture was acceptable in US prisons. Godwin be damned, there is a slow slide to something in the world’s only superpower. And I think Obama scares the bejesus out of me too, he has visions of his own grandeur and twigs the ugly shadow of patriotism and national destiny as much as the Bushies do.