Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Japanese Minotaur

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   What do we remember about Minotaur myth? Minos, in order to get Poseidon's support in wars, pledged to sacrifice a splendid white bull to the god in case he wins. Poseidon helped, but the King decided to keep the divine bull for himself and offer some other, from his own cattle. Gods' revenge, as we know, is always heavy and merciless. This time, Aphrodite has made Pasiphaë fall in love with this bull. So Pasiphaë asked Dedalus to made a wooden cow for her so she could satisfy her needs. From this encounter a monster was born - Minotaur ("Bull of Minos").
Modern history of Japan is also this kind of monster, just when the country thought they tricked history - history payed back. And is paying still.

   I mentioned earlier about the issue of "comfort women" and the reaction to Hillary Clinton's statement. The whole issue is going viral and suddenly everyone has something to say. Since few days I've been reading dozens of websites a day just to find myself more and more amused and terrified at the same time by the comments. I'm not going to explain why Japan and Korea have such terrible relationship, although delving into history is equal to delving into human's psyche, in my opinion.
"Comfort women" issue is a very, very tentative topic. 
First, let's see this from a usual woman's point of view. For men and women rape is not the same thing. Men can't simply understand the implication of the rape on woman's psychology. For them it's just another sexual encounter, because - brutally speaking - sexual act doesn't expose men on the same level as women. Maybe in these days we are living, the terror of rape faded to the point it doesn't mean much for the generation that sees one character raping another in manga AND finding this "womantic", cause they both fall in "wuuuv" by the end of the chapter. Rape, as many things, lost its brutality.
But still, there is no sane woman (not a squeaky little girl) who could find "rape" excusable. Having sex with someone without their consent is called a rape. Thus - those women were raped.

   Other angle of the same case. Some people are writing that those women were volunteers. Volunteers my foot up yer ass! Imagine - countries occupied by another where everything is confiscated and taken for the army, and girl is being told that she will get a job/medicine/help for her family if she decides to work. Of course not saying what kind of job. When you have such a choice, don't call it a free will or volunteering, you know. You just have NO choice.
   Some people compare this to modern day prostitution. If we classify all women who have sex with more than 5 guys as prostitution, well...

In Palisades Park, New Jersey there is a small monument that reads:

 The monument is there since 2010, and since then Japanese right-wing activists try to get rid of it. This post is mainly inspired by this mysterium tremendum et fascinans that is happening just before our eyes. We witness a modern country that is trying to change the history. What Japanese delegation offered to the city if they get rid of the monument? Cherry blossoms trees... please excuse me while I die laughing.
Supporters of the petition say that Koreans shouldn't make any monuments outside of their own country. Well, it stands where Korean population lives in that particular city (52% of the population). Plus, somehow no one protests when another Holocaust monument is erected in U.S. or Australia or wherever. According to that logic, all Holocaust monuments should be placed in Israel only. 

   The strong resentment towards Japanese prevents constructing any monuments in countries that suffered during WWII (and one has to remember that WWII started in Far East in 1931, not merely in 1939). So, right-wing idiots are not so comfy that Hello Kitty is not gracing every square in Philippines? Oh, that's just too bad, I feel really sad.

   The petition was signed by over 28 000, but here's the thing - one person could vote once a day, and I don't believe some didn't vote every day for their own crusade (or should I say torii-ade?). This way - the petition is going under the White House decision. In their statement we read:
"We petition the Obama administration to: Remove the monument and not to support any international harassment related to this issue against the people of Japan," the petition reads. "False accusations regarding the South Korean comfort women issue have disgraced the people of Japan for decades. Over the past few years it has come to light that many of the original charges were false or completely fabricated."
"Yet despite this new information, the United States continues to lend credence to the original false charges by memorializing the comfort women in a monument in New Jersey and a street name in New York. Not only is this perpetrating historical untruths, but it also leads unnecessary racial conflict and suffering of people of Japanese ancestry," the petition reads. "We strongly request President Obama to remove the monument and not to support any international harassment related to this issue against the people of Japan."(source)
Here you can read the statement of one "comfort woman" but beware, it's not nice and easy. Oh yes, a volunteer indeed.

Another lobbying group:
The second delegation arrived on May 6 and was led by four members of the Japanese Parliament. Their approach was less diplomatic, Mr. Rotundo said. The politicians, members of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, tried, in asking that the monument be removed, to convince the Palisades Park authorities that comfort women had never been forcibly conscripted as sex slaves.
“They said the comfort women were a lie, that they were set up by an outside agency, that they were women who were paid to come and take care of the troops,” the mayor related. “I said, ‘We’re not going to take it down, but thanks for coming.’ ”

Photographer An Sehong's exhibition was cancelled without any word of explanation. He took photographs of old, old women who were "comfort women" during WWII. As he himself says:
"The reason I do this work is for these grandmothers. The government and some Japanese people just hope these women will die and history will be erased. It's not right."
There is an ugly truth in his words. Lately Japan started to change the history but claiming the country was not an aggressor but a victim of WWII. People of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the victims, not Japan as a whole. And that makes the difference. Soon, they will start to write that it was Burma that begged to be invaded, and actually war prisoners decided on "Death March" without even notifying Japanese military.

The reason why I'm writing so much about the issue is simple - this tension is fascinating. Horrible yet fascinating. It's like the Minotaur myth - although the monster was locked up inside the labirynth, he fed on hundreds of young people that country could gather. 
Myth doesn't blame Pasifae who was just a tool of Poseidon's revenge. The myth makes Minos responsible for the horror that was embedded in Minotaur. It was Minos who claimed what wasn't his. It was Minos who distorted the truth and stole gods' offerings. 

The problem is, Japan doesn't want any Theseus to kill that monster. As long as the monster is inside the labirynth and fed up well.

Picture from NYTimes.