When a nation hides it’s organic growth / In a cellar / dark and dim

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.

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