Tokyo air-raids 1944-1945
Top: The genocide guidebook disguised as an anthropological work
Bottom: Its author Ruth Benedict
I read this book in Japanese translation when I was 13 years of age. Our teacher at the social studies classes was a son of Kazuo Aoki, former minister in charge of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in Tojo's junta. He told us to peruse it because we would find our own selves exquisitely described in the reading assignment. As he had promised, I found a lot of stereotypical characterization of "Tanaka San, the Japanese 'anybody'," as Benedict put it, but didn't find myself or my father at all there. I concluded that The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is an anthropological rubbish.
Sixty years later, however, I somehow felt an urge to revisit the same crap because these days things on both sides of the Pacific seem to be unfolding as if people are still suffering the aftereffects from overdose of a toxic agent administered by the author. In recent years it's increasingly evident that people of my generation, and our children and grandchildren alike, feel deep inside that something has remained unsettled and that it's long overdue by now.
As for the U.S., Obama's silver tongue is on a roll more than ever. On April 5 at the Hradcany Square in Prague, Czech Republic, he announced a bold plan to negotiate a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia by the end of this year. As usual he tried to get around the most sticking points involved in the issue he was talking about.
With the exception of START I signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, any arms reduction deal has not been effectively implemented to date for various reasons. And more importantly, the hypocritical and unrealistic anti-nuke frameworks such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the multilateral talks over the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea have long proved dysfunctional.
To gloss over the real issue, Obama said: "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." The empty incantation, of course, heartened equally empty-headed Japanese people, especially the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's appalling to know these learning-disabled people still think we can undo what we've done in the past. If we could, still we shouldn't - because it's looking away from the ever-changing reality.
In Japan, the approval rating of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and Komei-to (the party backed by the legitimized cult Soka-Gakkai) has inched up since March thanks to the revelation of the wrongdoing of Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, although his collusive relations with the construction company is nothing but a sideline business for the crook who has milked Japan's Defense Ministry in the last four decades.
On May 11 Ozawa finally announced to step down as DPJ head to take responsibility for the irregularities he would never admit to. You won't understand his queer logic, if there is any logic at all, until after you read Ruth Benedict's book. This is a typical way a bandit takes responsibility in this country. On Saturday, Yukio Hatoyama, one of Ozawa's henchmen, was "elected" to succeed him as the party head.
As a result, by this fall we will see a general election for the House of Representatives fought between the LDP headed by the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida and the DPJ now headed by the grandson of Ichiro Hatoyama. Yoshida always bragged about his "friendship" with Douglas MacArthur, but in fact, he was one of those who gave the general an indelible impression that all Japanese adults were 12 years old. Ichiro Hatoyama was the first prime minister under the 1955 System. As you already know, the political system known by that name is a trap artfully set up by MacArthur against the Japanese people.
This is an unmistakable sign that this nation has been going around in circles for the last 64 years amid the sea change you've seen everywhere else.
All this indicates that the unviable Japan is really invincible now. This country can't even collapse on its own, let alone change. That's why I made up my mind to part ways with 1.3K yen to purchase The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in its 2005 paperback edition from Mariner Books. I just wanted to have a fresh look into the collusive relations between the two peoples.
The Purpose of the Book
In June 1944, perhaps days after the D-Day, the American government gave Ruth Benedict an important assignment. Her task was to analyze the behavioral patterns of the Japanese. But, in effect, she was expected to answer two specific questions.
Question 1 was how to accelerate the process toward Japan's surrender. At that time, some in Washington were saying the war with Japan would last three more years, while some others were saying it might last ten. In Japan, "they talked of its lasting one hundred years." The full-fledged Kamikaze suicide attacks had not yet been launched, but the Americans were totally at a loss over what goal the Japanese were pursuing so fanatically. The U.S. government was dying for a tip on how to make them give up on their goal whatever it was.
The second question referred to the viability of democracy in the mysterious country. In fact, though, what the U.S. government wanted her to tell was not about the viability because democracy must prevail everywhere, anyway. Benedict was expected to tell how to graft it into posrwar Japan. Obviously she sold her soul to the devil at that point. She chose to recommend her client deform this culture, rather than reform it. It's hard to imagine the reputable scholar didn't understand that there's no such thing as democracy that is not homegrown. But she seems to have thought that was the only way to meet the deadline.
Benedict proclaims that when addressing these questions, she adhered to two guiding principles which she thought were crucially important for any project concerning anthropology. The first principle was "tough-mindedness" to recognize cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. The other one was "a certain generosity." To borrow the words of Ian Buruma, who wrote a foreword for the Mariner Books edition, this generosity refers to an attitude "to see that other perspectives, even if they go against our own views, can have a validity of their own."
The first principle means nothing because it's just a truism. Although the foreword writer stops short of saying it in deference to the author and the publisher, the generosity principle is exactly what has done irreparable harm to postwar Japan.
Among other ways to characterize the Japanese people, the single most important concept the author came up with was haji no bunka, or a "shame culture." The author noted that the Japanese say, "Sumimasen (I'm sorry or I apologize)," or "Katajikenai (an old-fashioned way to say I'm insulted)" in a situation where an American would say, "I am grateful." She wrote: "Virtuous men do not say, as they do in America, that they owe nothing to any man." Even today, the Japanese people are excessively thankful and unnecessarily apologetic about anything in their everyday life. As Benedict observed, use of the same words in two different situations is attributable to the fact that they always think they are indebted to their forebears or contemporaries, and at the same time, they feel they are unworthy of the benefaction.
Needless to say, the ultimate benefactor was the Emperor when Japan was at war with America and its allies. But it is equally important to note that since their sense of obligation toward the Emperor had nothing to do with the moral absolutes of a monotheistic religion, it was a "situational" thing.
Benedict concluded from her precise characterization of the Japanese people that they were not fighting the unwinnable war to defend their value system, which was virtually nonexistent. To paraphrase what she wanted to argue, they were fighting against anything associated with man's values. This was evident from the thousands of suicide attacks on U.S. warships, although the author spent only a couple of sentences to describe the "Kamikaze Corps".
In this respect, however, there is one important omission in her analysis. What did the descendants of samurai feel particularly sorry about with the demigod? Actually their sense of guilt dated back to the 1850s when the Emperors were still playing largely ceremonial roles in Kyoto as is true with their postwar descendants. When Commodore Matthew Perry forced the feudal government in Tokyo to sign the unequal trade pact, the ranks of Samurai couldn't do anything to defend the Shogunate and the Emperor despite all that bravado they had been wearing. That was why the Japanese thought deep inside that they had owed their ruler something that had to be repaid at the cost of their worthless lives.
It was none other than the commodore of the U.S. Navy that had turned the relatively harmless shame culture into a belligerent one, nine decades earlier. But Benedict used her modus operandi here and just ignored the most sticking point involved in her characterization of this culture, perhaps due to time constraints.
Mastermind Benedict had drawn up, on time, all the plans to destroy and rebuild Japan so ingeniously that it was a breeze for MacArthur and his boss Harry S. Truman to carry them out. In Chapter 13 of her book captioned The Japanese Since V-J Day, the instigator endorsed everything the perpetrators had been doing to postwar Japan. She wrote: "The retention of the Emperor has been of great importance. It has been handled well."
As to the destruction part, Benedict didn't give specific comments on what had happened to Japan during the last days of the hostility because she was not in a position to meddle in military operations. Presumably on the same pretext, the author did not spare a single word about the apocalypse in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet it should be noted, and never be forgotten that the respectable anthropologist, in effect, abetted her client in Washington in going ahead with something to be called a selective genocide.
By the conventional definition of the word, any act of genocide can't be selective. But Truman's definition was more flexible. Or it's just that he didn't believe it should be construed as an outright crime to take part in what his enemy's dai gensui, or divine supreme commander, had already started with his own subjects. Actually U.S. Commander-in-Chief did nothing more than adding an extra hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives to the corpses piled up before the altar.
Having been brainwashed by Benedict, MacArthur thought a decapitation tactic was out of the question. He presumably suggested his boss that the A-bombs not be dropped on Tokyo. Truman was in Potsdam when he received a coded telegram, dated July 16, 1945, that read the first A-bomb had been tested successful in Los Alamos, New Mexico. At the end of the Potsdam Conference, he and other participants issued a communique in which they further ratcheted up their demand for Japan's unconditional surrender. The Tokyo government ignored it once again. So nobody can say the use of nuclear devices, as such, constituted a genocidal act. In a sense what happened in early August 1945 was yet another incident of mass-suicide committed on the part of Japan. These people with burning desire for self-destruction might even have appreciated the mercy killing with the first WMDs if what was intended by Truman had been an "ordinary" massacre.
But it's a different story if the United States slaughtered 200 thousand citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just to intimidate the shameless bastard named Hirohito. And nobody can deny that was exactly the case. August of 1945 should long be remembered as the time when America abandoned its moral authority, totally and perhaps for good.
On the scenes of conventional warfare, intensive airraids on Tokyo started in November 1944. By August next year, the capital city was reduced to ashes in 106 airstrikes. The Great Tokyo Airraid was carried out on the night of March 9, 1945 with large formations of B-29 Superfortress bombers. 325 of them showered 381,300 incendiary bombs, including cluster type, on the Tokyo streets. By the wee hours of March 10, an estimated 100,000 citizens were incinerated.
One-and-a-half month earlier, the very heart of the city was targeted. Records have it that thousands of bodies were piled up in Yuraku-cho Station of the Japan National Railways, located just around the corner from the Imperial Palace.
When all the hostility was over, however, Tokyo citizens couldn't believe their eyes; what they saw was the Palace standing upright there in the totally flattened land. There was another undamaged structure looming across the moat from the imperial estate. It was the headquarters building of Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Company which had been specifically earmarked to house the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers after the war. It was as though the U.S. Air Force had already used precision-guided munitions.
Although nobody has dared to point it out to date, it's obvious that U.S. Defense Department first developed the technology to minimize royal casualties rather than collateral casualties inflicted on ordinary citizens.
By the same token, MacArthur did his best after the war to prevent the Emperor from being prosecuted on the charge of driving 3 million Japanese to death for the absurd cause of preserving the imperial institution. It was as if George W. Bush had pardoned Saddam Hussein on the grounds that he was not directly involved in the hostility against the U.S.-led allies and that the people he deliberately slaughtered were all Iraqis and Kurds.
Well-established Intelligence Report?
How can we call the book hastily written to please Franklin D. Roosevelt, his successor and MacArthur a first-rate anthropological work?
But what if the surface-scratching scholar had been an intelligence officer, instead? We would have to admit her report was almost flawless.
As the makeshift intelligence officer precisely predicted, the Japanese people "changed" overnight when Hirohito on the radio told his subjects "in a quivering, barely intelligible voice" (Ian Buruma's words) that he had made up his mind to "bear the unbearable."
To be more precise, however, it's not a matter of prescience. It's just that she had known the Japanese were the world's most suggestible people - so suggestible that they would automatically mutate into anything Westerners expect them to be.
By the same token, they are very good at doing whatever they are told to. We would never have seen Japan's spectacular rise from the ruins of war to the world's second largest economy, had it not been for MacArthur's effort to pave the way for the postwar reconstruction of this nation. Small wonder that the Japanese have been at a loss over how to deal with the post-bubble doldrums since the early-1990s.
The well-written scouting report certainly helped Truman come up with workable measures to bring a quick end to the Pacific War. But not without a prohibitively high cost. The Japanese remained essentially unchanged because Ruth Benedict recommended her client artificially preserve their pathological traits with her "generosity" principle.
As a result, even today they keep looking at their own selves in an imaginary mirror to make sure they are not deviating from their descriptions drawn up by Westerners. They are nonexistent, so to speak, unless someone else tells them that they are there and what they are doing.
When you are through with the book, you will conclude that these Americans just took advantage of the intractable mental illness the Japanese people had been suffering since the early-8th century. For my part, I just renewed the same old rage against America, which has been smoldering deep inside throughout all these years.
Now you see Benedict's fingerprints everywhere.
The Mirror Effect
Lately I have started suspecting that the mirror put up somewhere on the Pacific Ocean is both-sided. Having flirted with these change-disabled people for so many years, the Americans have also contracted the same refractory disease. Now they, too, need a mirror to rediscover their lost identity. The good news for them is that a both-sided mirror is already there. The bad news is that in the mirror they will find ugly folks who are tormented by guilty conscience for the crimes committed by their parents, grandparents and distant ancestors - be it slave ownership, a selective genocide against the Japanese, or Vietnam invasion. Worse, they don't know how to atone for these crimes. The only person who can tell how to restore America's reputation as the champion of freedom and justice is Obama.
That means America is sunk now. The U.S. presidential election 2008 was the last chance to restore its moral authority.
Obama's senseless speech in Prague is a telling evidence of unstoppable America's decline. Actually he should have delivered an address to us Japanese, not to the Czechs, to announce that he is now determined to leave us alone because that is the only way to make up for the unforgivable crimes committed against us by his predecessors, the compassionate general, CIA agents and the generous anthropologist.
In the last six and a half decades, we've had more than enough from the Japanophile America. I would rather see my home country go belly up all by herself than see her commit a double suicide with the rotten Obama Nation.