One thing you'll find as a student of the German language is that as you begin to immerse yourself in modern German culture and politics, there's a certain individual whose legacy you won't be able to escape no matter how hard you try.
It wasn't that long ago that I commented on the inanity of Congress arrogating to itself the right to meddle with American foreign policy by passing a resolution calculated to embarrass Japan, America's most important ally in all of Asia. Having gotten away with that usurpation of the Presidential prerogative without any seeming consequences, it was perhaps only natural that a Democratic Congress would think it an easy way to show up the Bush administration by playing the same game with the Turks, i.e. passing a resolution condemning yet another ally for acknowledging brutalities carried out several generations ago in the manner American congressmen would prefer, as if the Turks and the Japanese were no more than vassals of Imperial America, subject to the caprices of a reincarnated Roman Senate at the height of its independence.
An issue I've repeatedly touched upon on here is the rank hypocrisy of Western efforts to push Japan to apologize (again, and again, and again ...) for its war crimes, even as the very same countries prefer to bury their own misdeeds - many of them much more recent - as "old history" the victims need to just "get over." As it turns out, this commentator on Aljazeera currently linked to on Itai News picks up on this double standard, which will be glaringly obvious to many non-Westerners even if not to those Americans, Australians, Dutchmen and Frenchmen inclined to seeing history in rosy terms of their "good guys" fighting against "evil" Japanese imperialists, never bothering to ask themselves by what right Europeans were lording it over South-East Asians in the first place.
I don't agree with Mr. Ming's paranoia about the United States wanting to "fulfill its own goals by destabilizing the region" - this latest resolution is just the kind of thing to be expected of self-righteous, parochial Congressmen raised on an excess of self-congratulating "greatest generation" propaganda, and eager to usurp the Presidential prerogative in foreign affairs - but I do think it would serve a useful purpose if some people in this part of the world started to ask themselves a few searching questions whenever the next row over Japanese apologies raises its head: how would Americans take it if the Japanese Diet passed a resolution condemning the US for its failure to apologize for genocide against the Native Americans, enslaving millions of Africans or allowing legally entrenched discrimination against non-whites right up until the late 1960s? What would the Aussies say if Japanese MPs were to sanctimoniously mouth on about the absence of any apologies for "White Australia" or Australia's long history of disgracefully mistreating Aborigines?
It seems to be an article of faith with the British newspaper industry that nothing quite shifts copy like an article on Adolf Hitler: how else to explain the fascination with obvious nonsense like this?
A brief encounter with a Jewish prostitute may have led to Hitler's genocidal Holocaust, claim psychiatrists.
They believe he may have caught the sexually transmitted disease syphilis which, if untreated, can eventually cause madness.
According to a report, mental and behavioural disturbances triggered by the advanced stages of the disease could have resulted in Hitler targeting Jews and the mentally retarded.
There is "ample circumstantial evidence" for the theory, according to a team headed by psychiatrist Dr Bassem Habeeb.
Yukichi Fukuzawa's "Argument for Leaving Asia" 「脱亜論」 is a seminal Meiji-era essay whose lack of an English translation has long puzzled me, so much so that I'd made up my mind to attempt a translation of my own however poor, on the basis that even a poor translation was better than none at all, and someone else could always build on what I'd done. Unfortunately, the necessary free time just never seemed to be available.
The reason why I'm writing this blog entry is that it appears someone else has been thinking along the same lines as I've been, the big difference being that they've actually begun doing something about it beyond just idle dreaming: the blog "Sparkling Korea" has translated the first portion of Fukuzawa's essay sufficiently clearly so that only a few minor edits should be required by native English-speakers, and even without any such edits the translation should be perfectly understandable as is. The significance of this effort is easy to underestimate if one fails to appreciate how influential Fukuzawa's essay both historically has been and presently continues to be within the discourse of East Asian international relations: that "Datsu-A-Ron" has been generally unavailable online in English is as peculiar as expecting foreign students of American history to study the Civil War period without ever running into the Gettysburg Address ...
A decent biography of the former Russian president's life and career can be found here. While it's important to acknowledge the good aspects of Yeltsin's rule, the negative aspects of his legacy are difficult to overstate - not least of which was his handing over the reins of government on a platter to a controlling, autocratic Chekist monster like Vladimir Putin. Still, Boris Yeltsin was the man who dealt the death blow to a Communist Party responsible for inflicting so much suffering worldwide during its eight decades of existence, and for that much there are tens of millions of people outside of Russia who will have only good things to about the man, whatever resentments his own former subjects might entertain.
There's an interesting post up on The Asia Pages about the desire on the part of South Koreans (especially the youth) for "independence" and "self-reliance", and the way in which this desire is manifested by a reluctance to conclude a free-trade agreement with the United States.
I'm not going to engage in a lengthy exegesis as I'm pressed for time, but if you're interested in modern Korean history and better understanding modern Korean society, I highly recommend reading this ZNet article detailing just how closely Park Chung-Hee modelled his regime on what he saw and experienced in Manchukuo (though Kim Il Sung also drew largely on the same inspiration). I think you can still see the lingering effects very clearly today, not least in the hysterical nationalism so common on the Korean peninsula, as well as the corporatist thinking which tends to think of international trade only in militaristic terms of "victory" and "defeat" for "Korea" as a unitary entity.
I know I said I'd have plenty more to say about Carter Eckert's book on Korea's economic history, and I have every intention of keeping my promise, but in the meantime I've happened upon a most interesting article which not only sheds additional light on one very important aspect of the Korean experience, but ties neatly into much of what Eckert has to say about just what happened to Korean agriculture during the period. From the very first paragraph, the article reinforces a theme which has often been repeated on my blog as well as this one, which is that Korea's actual recent history bears little resemblance to the nationalistic fiction preferred by the majority of Koreans.
In my post on Carter Eckert's book a few days ago, one of the absurd historical distortions I mentioned having observed coming from South Korea is that Koreans too were the victims of Japanese "genocide" [sic] in an analogous manner to the Jewish experience at the hands of Nazi Germany. Although I'd have liked to have provided a link when I wrote the original post, a good example of what I was getting at wasn't close to hand, but now, thanks to a link provided on this Marmot's Hole thread, readers of my blog can now see that I wasn't exaggerating: there really are mainstream Korean opinionators who are convinced of such outrageously delusional ideas.