Fas­cist sym­bols have no place in so­ci­ety

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Two Chi­nese tourists were de­tained in Berlin for giv­ing a Nazi salute while pos­ing for photographs in front of the Re­ich­stag par­lia­men­tary build­ing on Satur­day. Three days later, the Shang­hai Si­hang Ware­house Anti-Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion Mu­seum is­sued a state­ment crit­i­ciz­ing four Chi­nese youths for wear­ing Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Army uni­forms and pos­ing for pho­tos in the ware­house, which Chi­nese forces suc­cess­fully de­fended against the Ja­panese in­vaders in late 1937, and call­ing their act “im­pu­dent blas­phemy”.

The youths are cit­i­zens of a coun­try where more than 35 mil­lion peo­ple died or were in­jured in World

War II and have in­ad­ver­tently, or oth­er­wise, re­opened old wounds.

The world has un­der­gone rad­i­cal changes since those days of endless hor­ror. And al­most ev­ery­thing has changed, from the in­te­ri­ors of homes to the ex­te­ri­ors of build­ings, from our modes of trans­port to the way we shop. Per­haps the only thing that has not changed is that every so­ci­ety has its taboos — some re­li­gious, some his­tor­i­cal. And every so­ci­ety ob­jects to the breaking of those taboos.

In many cases, it is what we op­pose, not what we sup­port, that de­ter­mines who we are. A pos­ture or a set of clothes may be right in one so­ci­ety but taboo in an­other cul­ture, be­cause humans, who, depend­ing on their his­to­ries and cul­tures, have their own ob­jects of rev­er­ence and set of taboos.

The hands of the clock con­tinue to move sig­nal­ing the chang­ing of time, but the wounds of his­tory and those who caused those wounds should never be for­got­ten. That’s why the tourists’ and youths’ ac­tions can­not be at­trib­uted to their ig­no­rance about Ger­man laws or their shal­low un­der­stand­ing of their own coun­try’s re­cent his­tory, es­pe­cially be­cause they oc­curred at his­tor­i­cal spots.

The ac­tions of the youths should bring to mind what hap­pens at the Ya­sukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Ja­pan’s “war he­roes” since the Meiji Restora­tion in the late 19th cen­tury, in­clud­ing 14 Class-A war crim­i­nals of World War II, are hon­ored. Peo­ple wear­ing Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Army uni­forms can often be seen swag­ger­ing in and around the shrine as a way of pay­ing obei­sance to the Ja­panese “war he­roes” and “true pa­tri­ots” — in other words, war­mon­gers.

The Ger­mans, on the other hand, have banned all sym­bols of Nazism and de­clared such ac­tions a crim­i­nal of­fense. They have re­built their na­tion by con­demn­ing the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Nazis and have put in place strict laws to pun­ish peo­ple who use such sym­bols, what­ever the rea­son. As such, Ger­many’s res­ur­rec­tion within the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is com­plete.

In contrast, Ja­pan has not even ini­ti­ated a process of self-in­tro­spec­tion, although it is known as the land of Zen that is fo­cused on med­i­ta­tion or dhyana, which in San­skrit means a se­ries of cul­ti­vated states of mind that lead to the “state of per­fect equa­nim­ity and aware­ness”. One wonders how can the Ja­panese at­tain that “per­fect” state with­out self-in­tro­spec­tion. With­out of­fi­cially aton­ing for its war crimes, Ja­pan can­not be­come a nor­mal na­tion. And if per­force Ja­pan as­sumes to be a nor­mal na­tion by build­ing a mil­i­tary, it will again pose a threat to re­gional and in­ter­na­tional peace. The Nazi salute by the two Chi­nese tourists and the Ja­panese army uni­forms the four youths in Shang­hai put on have been nailed to the shame­ful pole of his­tory. The crimes the Nazis and Ja­panese forces com­mit­ted against hu­man­ity will con­tinue to re­mind us to never let down our guard against fas­cism and its sym­bols.

If the peace­ful de­vel­op­ment over the re­cent decades weak­ens our mem­ory of the hor­rors of fas­cism and wars, we might end up open­ing up old wounds or in­flict­ing new ones on the 21st cen­tury.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.