December 11, 2005

The Veneer of Civilization

I grew up hearing stories of the Japanese aggression in China during WWII. I have this incredible emotional attachment to WWII (not as bad as 1989 though). Part of it is because I feel like it's such a recent past--I am only the second generation after WWII, and my grandmother was the one that had her schooling disrupted and had to flee. Somehow in the back of my mind I always had this image of the Nanking Massacre that just won't leave me. I am sure I learned it in high school, as part of our Chinese history course, but it wasn't just history. It always felt like some strange mpeg file that would replay and replay, the horrors of which haunt me all the time.

Well part of it was because the Japanese Government hasn't formed a policy on what to do with this "recent" but not-really-so-recent-anymore-past. Actually they might have already formed a policy of not confronting this past. They have offered "compensation" sans admission of guilt. But many of the so-called survivors of the atrocities have already passed away, and really I think that a formal apology to all of Asia would be much more adequate than setting up some privately-funded compensation scheme that does not implicate government responsibility.

I am writing this paper on sexual violence against women, to begin with Japan's comfort women system in WWII. I explained how the international tribunals treated issues of sexual violence. Then I argued that there should be a self standing provision for sexual violence in the Rome Statute. I wanted to go as far as saying that only women should benefit from such self-standing provision (men are also sexually assaulted at war, but call me a reverse sexist, I don't really care too much if men get raped, and I explained that in very nice language in the paper). This paper alone is turning me into a budding radical feminist and I am not kidding.

It is a kind of topic that keeps me excited although in a strangely sadistic way. I mean, I get to sit in front of my little Dell laptop, bitch about every single injustice against women in wars waged by men (although now there are active women perpetrators, which is something new), and then all that I can do is to lament thousands of years of wars and sufferings, and be happy that at least I don't have to go through such trauma.

Funny how the reality of human rights scholarship draws on a constant tension between compassion and sadism for the individual writing about it. Just reading those facts alone is a peek at reality through the torturer's eyes. Sometimes I wonder if, beyond being glad that I am not a victim of these crimes, I somehow also connect to the viciousness by the sheer remoteness of being a human being myself.

Looking back upon the millennia of history, it appears clear that no race or culture has a monopoly on wartime cruelty. The veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin—one that can be easily stripped away, especially by the stresses of war.

Iris Chang, 1968-2004
The Rape of Nanking

Posted by sinogeek at 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005


我要写. 写中国历史的痛.

下个星期三要交一篇文章, 关于中美台关系. 我在看历史, 看国际法, 看台湾文化, 看美国. 读着读着, 层层迭迭的复杂感觉, 交替的无奈--是痛, 就是心痛.

因为我看到中国历史的伤痕, 一寸寸的满布在中国人的思想, 社会, 政府, 外交政策. 简单一句, 就是伤痕累累.

中国人有很重的历史感. 在北京待过一年, 跟年纪比较大的人交谈, 感受他们对国家的种种期望, 因为过去有太多的重担. 人活在一个现代社会, 却背在一百多年的挫折.

住在北大的外学生楼(勺园), 跟全世界不同国家的人交往, 也真的感受到美国人跟其他国家的人对历史观点的不同. 我们在讨论美国的时候, 很多人都说美国人的文化历史感低劣. 没有历史. 没有世界观.

美国有历史, 是不同的历史. 一个普通的美国人可能不会意识到世界和国家历史能深深的切入一个人的自我观. 在一般的情况下, 他会跟别人说:我是美国人. 很简单的自我介绍. 人家可能不羡慕他, 但他自己都会隐约的感受到一种淡淡的骄傲.


中国历史的悠久, 代表了长流不息的高低起落. 随着一个朝代的风光, 就是另一个朝代的没落. 换了皇帝, 有了希望. 皇帝的子孙弄垮了国家, 战争又来. 做平民的知道这是中国历史的循环, 一代又一代的活在无奈中.

中国的近代历史也是一个又一个的挫折, 无尽头的失望. 每一次一位国家领导人做了一个错误的决定, 就连累到千千万万人的生计. 一串串的错误就成为千千万万人生存的弱点. 现在中国开始富起来了, 终于有第一个中国太空人走到地球以外的世界, 可是回到现在, 中国人看对岸台湾同胞要坚决决裂, 还依赖美国老兄的熊臂, 每天在告诉大陆种种的不是. 国民党统治台湾初期跟大陆共产党的残忍不相百仲, 有了民主以后就跟世界说我们是独立的, 有自己的政治体系. 然后全世界都觉得中国大陆的政策荒谬, 告诉中国, 国际法是支持台湾独立的.

我没有任何好的观点,理由,逻辑,证据,理论来支持中台合一. 二十一世纪的世界是要有国际法来权衡国家之间的冲突. 可是中国人就是中国人. 我们活在我们一百多年的历史包袱当中. 要强大,就要拥有所有的资源地域, 要有所有中国人的支持和信念. 台湾要独立, 就要靠美国, 这样把亚洲的整个策略性的平衡都破坏了. 香港人, 台湾人, 大陆人, 我们不都是从中国来的么?

中国历史, 是伤痕历史.

Posted by sinogeek at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)