31 December 2005

Betel Chewing in Myanmar (and Elsewhere)

Betel nut is ubiquitous in Myanmar. Many people chew betel incessantly, despite half-hearted government attempts to curb the practice, or at least to stop the spitting associated with chewing. The streets are covered with big red blotches because, when locals finish chewing their quids, they hawk red gobs and streams of juice onto the roads and walkways, permanently staining the concrete.

The legendary British colonial chronicler of Burma, Sir James George Scott, also known as Shway Yoe, wrote, 'No one can speak Burmese well till he chews betel'. That's probably because ardent adherents have a quid stuck permanently in their cheek and this impediment affects their speech. It also affects their breath because it rots the teeth, turning them into gruesome reddish stumps, and it's best to stay downwind from chronic chewers so as to avoid a whiff of the rank 'betel breath', as it's called.

Thousands of one-man betel nut stalls are dotted throughout Yangon. Betel quid makers have a stack of small, green betel vine leaves, a pot of white, gloopy slaked-lime paste and an array of herbs and fillings, including cloves, aniseed, grated coconut, cinnamon, camphor, cardamom seeds, cumin and tobacco, plus small, broken pieces of the actual nut.

The ingredients are mixed on the leaf and a stick is scraped through the white gloop, which is liberally daubed over the leaf. The leaf is then carefully folded into a small packet or quid, and enclosed in a small cellophane pouch. Users place the betel nut quid in their mouth and slowly suck. The lime breaks down the ingredients quickly, leaving a pleasant but bitter spearmint-like taste in your mouth.

By the time the betel nut quid U Tun Htun has given me has totally dissolved in my mouth, with the hard nubs of nut softened into a mush, we have reached the outskirts of Yangon and it is time for me to do what all betel nut chewers do. When we stop at traffic lights I open the passenger door, lean out and expectorate a rancid red stream onto the road. Some Myanmar people in the car next to me are watching. They laugh and give me their version of a thumbs-up.
SOURCE: Land of a Thousand Eyes: The subtle pleasures of everyday life in Myanmar, by Peter Olszewski (Allen & Unwin, 2005), pp. 74-75

Well, I don't know much about Burma, but I do know a bit about chewing betel. It sounds like the Burmese chew (or suck) just the dried pulpy core of the areca nut, and not the fibrous husk. Chamorros on Guam do the same, but as far as I know they don't add spices, unless you count tobacco.

I first learned to chew in Yap, the betel chewing capital of the Pacific, where men, women, and children chew day and night, if supplies permit. Yapese prefer to chew young areca nuts, husk and all, wrapped in betel pepper leaf and sprinkled with dry slaked-lime powder. Baby bottles or babyfood jars are favorite lime containers these days, supplanting the small, hollow coconut or bamboo containers of old. If the nuts are small and plentiful, people will chew the whole thing, but people often bite the nut in two, then share half. Larger nuts might be quartered with a machete. In fact, the sharing of betel ingredients is a typical icebreaker in any kind of social interaction. People rarely have exactly equal supplies of nuts, leaves, and lime in the woven baskets everyone carries on Yap. (Brown paper bags often substitute when not in Yap.) The only additional flavoring Yapese sometimes use is tobacco. Dark, sticky twist tobacco is best, but some people will also bite off the end of a cigarette after popping the betel quid into their mouths. Yapese will often spit to clear the first, inadequately mixed juice from their mouths, but usually swallow after the juice gets redder and thicker. The betel mixture, especially with tobacco, is supposed to be a vermifuge of sorts, but chewing also helps to suppress hunger pangs. Betel makes your heart beat faster, and strong betel can make your head spin and your forehead sweat, but only for a short while.

Palauans chew a lot of betel, too, but they don't tend to swallow, so people often carry around an empty beer or soda can to spit into, especially if they're indoors. When I was in grad school at the University of Hawai‘i, you usually had to find a Palauan connection to supply your betelnut fixings, but nowadays in Hawai‘i little Korean convenience stores will often stock betel supplies in neighborhoods where a lot of Micronesians hang out.

But nowhere is betel more commercialized than in Taiwan. When we passed through Taiwan on the way back from Guangdong in 1988, my wife and I were pleased to find prepared quids available for sale from most small tobacconists. Chewing was common enough to prompt fastfood outlets like MacDonald's or KFC to post "No betel chewing" signs on their premises. But our impression at the time was that betel chewing was more common in rural areas and among older women. Well, that seems to have changed, thanks to the marketing efforts of scantily clad binlang xishi (檳榔西施). Taiwanese betel quids are sold ready to pop into one's mouth. The quid consists of a small split areca nut holding dab of lime paste and either a piece of betel pepper catkin inside or a wrap of pepper leaf outside.

UPDATE: Reader Lirelou's comment needs to be prevented from vanishing into Haloscan's black hole.
My first experience with betel nut was in Vietnam. With only a few days in country, I tagged along with a Vietnamese reconnaissance platoon and one US Sergeant for an ambush. Moving up into our position at about 02:00 in the morning, we were in turn ambushed. After much firing with no casualties, the VC withdrew. We followed after them and caught site of movement within a small nearby hamlet. The sergeant sent a squad up along the edge of the hamlet, and put an observation post on the river ford at the other side. A quick glassing with our starlight scope (early version of night vision goggles) led him to believe that our ambushers had sought shelter within the hamlet. At dawn we moved up, cordoned off the hamlet, and began our house to house search, just as the village path began to fill with people about their daily chores. As I approached a house with half a squad of Vietnamese, I looked down and saw a large splotch of red colored liquid with I took to be fresh blood. Motioning for the squad to stand fast, I excitedly called up the sergeant, reporting that I had found a blood trail. The Vietnamese troopers looked at me and grinned, which seemed a bit strange considering that there must be a badly wounded and presusmably armed VC nearby. As the sergeant approached, I excitedly pointed out my discovery. He laughed, and was about to explain my "blood trail" when a passing peasant woman let loose a long stream of liquid that splashed an identical red splotch on the pathway. The Vietnamese troopers now laughed hysterically, and quickly spread the news throughout the platoon. Needless to say, our search was fruitless, and over the next few months I would hear his congenial "Hey Lieutenant, seen any more blood trails?" whenever he judged that I was getting a bit too big for my britches. As a postscript, on a walk through the village two years ago I discovered that it was not only larger, but that the habit of betel nut chewing had disappeared.
My first impression from walking the paths of Yap in Micronesia was that I was on an island sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.

29 December 2005

Hoder on Admadinejad and Blogging in Iran

Persian blogfather Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder) was interviewed last week by Sueddeutsche Zeitung's youth e-zine, Jetzt.de, under the headline, Iranische Opposition ist im Netz. A translation is available on Hoder's English-language blog: Editor: Myself.

Vytautas Landsbergis on Putin's Pipeline Politics

David McDuff of A Step at a Time performs an invaluable service by unearthing (and often translating) less accessible publications about the former Soviet realm. On 17 December, he posted a Korea Herald op-ed by Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first president after the restoration of independence, and now a member of the European Parliament, who warns the EU about Putin's plans for a new oil pipeline under the Baltic Sea linking Russia directly to Germany.
Russia's strategic task is obvious: cutting off Ukraine's gas currently means cutting off much of Europe's gas as well, because some of its biggest gas pipelines pass through Ukraine. By circumventing Ukraine, Poland, and of course, the Baltic countries, the new pipeline promises greater leverage to the Kremlin as it seeks to reassert itself regionally. President Vladimir Putin and his administration of ex-KGB clones will no longer have to worry about Western Europe when deciding how hard to squeeze Russia's postcommunist neighbors.

Should Europe really be providing Putin with this new imperial weapon? Worse, might Russia turn this weapon on an energy-addicted EU? That a German ex-chancellor is going to lead the company that could provide Russia with a means to manipulate the EU economy is testimony to Europe's dangerous complacency in the face of Putin's neoimperialist ambitions....

The EU has signed numerous agreements with Russia including one for a "common space" for freedom and justice. The Kremlin is very good at feigning such idealism. Its control of Eastern Europe was always enforced on the basis of "friendship treaties," and the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 were "fraternal" missions.

But look how Putin abuses that "common" space: barbaric treatment of Chechens, the businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky imprisoned, foreign NGOs hounded, a co-leader of last year's Orange Revolution, Yuliya Tymoshenko, indicted by Russian military prosecutors on trumped-up charges. If Europeans are serious about their common space for human rights and freedoms, they must recognize that those values are not shared by the calculating placemen of Putin's Kremlin.

The same is true of viewing Russia as an ally in the fight against terrorism. Is it really conceivable that the homeland of the "Red Terror" with countless unpunished crimes from the Soviet era, and which bears traces of blood from Lithuania to the Caucasus, will provide reliable help in stopping Iran and North Korea from threatening the world? It seems more likely that the Kremlin's cold minds will merely exploit each crisis as an opportunity to increase their destructive power and influence.
Read the rest at A Step at a Time

28 December 2005

Linguistics & the Law of Unintended Consequences

In 2004, another University of Hawai‘i linguist with long experience of Micronesia, Kenneth L. Rehg, published a follow-up to Donald Topping's article on attempts by professional linguists to foster the vitality of smaller languages. His article, Linguistics, Literacy, and the Law of Unintended Consequences appeared in Oceanic Linguistics 43:498-518. Here's a taste of what he had to say.
At present, we have no predictive science of language vitality, and it is unlikely that we will ever have one, given the very large number of factors that impinge upon language survival. Topping was certainly correct, however, when he wrote (2003:527): "Our experience in Micronesia tells me that as long as the indigenous language gives the appearance of being robust, the alarm cries of linguists will go unheeded. It is only when the threat of cultural extinction becomes real that language and cultural retention becomes a serious matter of concern." Ironically (or perhaps not), it is a fact about Micronesia that the major proponents of English have for the most part been the Micronesians, and the champions of the local languages have for the most part been the foreign linguists and educators. There are, of course, many exceptions on both sides, the most noticeable among the Micronesians being those individuals who participated in the University of Hawai‘i programs described at the beginning of this paper. What is also telling, though, is the fact that most of the funding that has been utilized in support of the Micronesian languages has come from external sources in the form of grants from the United States government. All too often, when these funds dried up, so too did the indigenous language programs they supported.

Thus, while it is clear that the Micronesians have the capacity to sustain their own languages, it is not nearly so obvious that their leaders have the will to do so. Ultimately, of course, the survival of small languages everywhere is beyond the control of foreign linguists. As Topping (2003:527) wrote, "... the real saviors of the endangered languages will be the people who speak them, not the linguists who talk about them." But, if we are called upon to assist communities that care about the long-term well-being of their language, then we must carefully weigh our actions. In the case of Micronesia, some very good work was done on these languages, but the "Law of Unintended Consequences" also came into play. This is the law that reminds us that the actions of individuals--and especially agencies, institutions, and governments--invariably have effects that are not intended or anticipated. Thus, we set out to promote literacy in the Micronesian languages, but some of our efforts had just the opposite effect. Disputes over orthographies, unrealistic expectations concerning standards, an insufficient understanding of the literacy needs of these communities, and reliance on external funding all hindered progress toward that goal. Consequently, I have come to believe that if the linguistic community is serious about documenting and supporting the threatened languages of the world, we must move such endeavors into the mainstream of our discipline. What we need now, far more than good intentions, is excellent research that can serve as the foundation for excellent applications and excellent training. Further, given Topping's observation that only the people who speak threatened languages can save them, I believe that linguistics departments everywhere must strive to recruit, support, and train speakers of such languages--in particular, those who evidence a wholehearted commitment to conserving their linguistic heritage.
UPDATE: Beaupeep asks in the comments:
But doesn't that go back to the issue of unintended consequences? And isn't it fair to ask why it should be necessary for outsiders to encourage populations "who evidence a wholehearted commitment to their linguistic heritage" to preserve a language they already hold dear?

Or is this suggestion more about telling people what they *ought* to think and do?
Fair point. To me, it seems more about telling linguists what they ought to do than telling native speakers of threatened languages what they ought to do. But remember all those linguistically trained educators from Micronesia that opted for careers in politics rather than education that Topping mentioned (in the preceding blogpost)? Some years back, I also had the experience of meeting one of my wantoks (that is, speakers of the same language, in this case a very exclusive club of c. 300) from the rather educationally progressive village where I did fieldwork in New Guinea as he passed through Honolulu with his family--and a set of golf clubs--after completing an MLS degree in Illinois. He was already aiming for a career in politics, not library science.

27 December 2005

What Difference Did Linguists Make?

In 1994, University of Hawai‘i professor Donald M. Topping presented a paper at the Seventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics at a plenary session on endangered languages. It was the last session of the conference, held on a Saturday morning after some of the conference participants had already departed.

That presentation appeared posthumously in 2003 under the title Saviors of language: Who will be the real Messiah? in Oceanic Linguistics 42:522-527. Here's a bit of what he had to say.
Linguists concerned about the fate of endangered languages appear also to be endangered, at least in terms of numbers. At the Sixth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics [in Honolulu in 1990], fourteen papers were given at prime time, about mid-way through the meetings. Here at the Seventh [in Leiden in 1994], we three—the last of our species?—have been relegated to the tail end. This is perhaps befitting, for issues of language survival may not be any of our business. Nevertheless, let me recount the experiences of one aging linguist who, earlier in his career, was convinced that he could make a difference....

In the early 1970s a group of us at the University of Hawai‘i felt, perhaps arrogantly, that linguists had not only a role, but a responsibility to help preserve the languages of Micronesia. Emboldened with this messianic complex, and a substantial source of funding, we launched a major project to ensure their survival....

How well has it worked? Let’s review some of the results. With the published reference grammars and dictionaries the results have been mixed. Aside from the Chamorro and Palauan reference grammars, which are being used as text materials in Palau and Guam, the others have been largely ignored. Of the twelve published dictionaries, four have been reprinted (Chamorro, Palauan, Marshallese, and Ponapean). Again, with the possible exception of Palauan and Chamorro, where the dictionaries are used in the education programs, most of the sales have obviously been to expatriates and tourists, and not to the speakers of the languages.

What became of the Micronesian linguists, some of whom took M.A. degrees in linguistics? Sadly, the majority of them have gone into other fields, especially politics, and have all but abandoned language concerns. Of the few who remained in Education, only two (one Palauan and one Chamorro) have maintained an active role in developing vernacular language education.

Of the 1,300 or so Micronesian language texts developed during phase 2 of the materials development project, few are to be found outside of the University of Hawai‘i library. Even though thousands of volumes were shipped to Micronesia as they were produced, they have all but disappeared.

The vernacular education programs in Micronesian schools, according to a 1989 report published by the University of Guam, are either nonexistent or very weak. The gradual loss of text materials, career changes by the Micronesian linguists, and parental pressures to teach their children English have all contributed to this decline.

Surprisingly, a major obstacle to the success of the Micronesian linguistics project is one that was unanticipated, and may be fairly assigned to the linguists themselves. That is the problems presented by the “new” orthographies. Mr. Leo Pugram, Coordinator for Curriculum and Instruction in Yap, made the following statement, “When the new orthography was established, it was a time for problems, confusion, and hatred for the new orthography. This still exists today on Yap.”

Obviously, the linguists left their mark: the “new orthography.” The complaint articulated so bluntly by Mr. Pugram was echoed by nearly every other Micronesian educator who attended the Guam conference. Although the University of Hawai‘i linguists involved made every effort to involve the community of speakers in the choice of orthography for the dictionaries and reference grammars, they are the ones who were blamed for the controversies that surfaced after the books were published.

On the other hand, the linguists probably had an equally positive influence by raising the awareness of the language issue in the various Micronesian communities where indifference had prevailed for so long. People began to talk about their languages and their importance to cultural integrity, albeit in a controversial frame. The publications themselves—bilingual dictionaries and reference grammars in nicely bound volumes—served to elevate the status of the Micronesian languages in the eyes of their speakers.

Still, one must ask the question: did linguists or linguistics really make a difference for the future of the languages? Did our work have any impact in preventing, or slowing down the linguistic adulteration and erosion that is seen today in many parts of Micronesia?

Perhaps the best way to address that question is to look at three communities in the Pacific where language erosion had progressed almost to the point of no return, and where we are now witnessing a linguistic and cultural renaissance: Guam, New Zealand, and Hawai‘i. Was it the linguists with their bag of tools that triggered the positive action? Or were there other more critical factors?...

What are the forces driving this renaissance? In my view, it is the real threat of cultural extinction more than anything else that gives it life. In all three of the communities, the indigenous people, many of whom are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, are vastly outnumbered by “outsiders.” There is growing resentment of the majority culture. And there is strong leadership emerging among the indigenous people who are demanding legal redress. These are probably the strongest forces behind the observed language renaissance.

Where then, are the linguists? Have they played a role? Do they now? Each of the three languages in question was described and lexified by nonnative linguists during the 1950s and early sixties. At the time of their work these linguists issued the call of alarm about the precarious status of the languages. Their calls, however, appeared to fall on deaf ears, for there was little response. It took the coming of another generation of young people who were not afforded the opportunity to learn their heritage language at home before the threat of total language loss became real.

Ironically, when the cultural/ethnic renaissance began to emerge with force, the “pioneering” linguists were often vilified for profiting from their published works, misinterpreting the language, or concocting an unacceptable spelling system. Nevertheless, their works are still used extensively for the development of language programs and materials that are having such remarkable success today.

26 December 2005

Far Outliers Blogpost 1000

I started blogging almost exactly two years ago this week, and this constitutes my 1000th blogpost in that span of time. My Sitemeter stats show I'm closing in on a fair-to-middling 85,000 visits, and 125,000 page views, but I know that some people rely on syndication via Blogger's Atom/RSS feed, which bypasses Sitemeter. Still, these are far greater numbers than will have read all of my obscure linguistics articles and reviews within my lifetime (or perhaps even the current millennium).

In the past, I've assembled links to my own favorite blogposts before taking an extended break from the blog. This time, I'll post some of the apparent external favorites of search engines and specialty sites, judging impressionistically from my referral logs. The following hit parade is in chronological order, not in order of popularity. If I'm reminded of more, I'll add them to the list.
I'll take this opportunity to add a link to my policy statement on extract quotes from published books.

I'm not planning another hiatus until March, but I need to spend a little more time over the next several weeks on an old-fashioned publication project.

UPDATE: My thanks to The Argus, now Registan, for the first external link, and to The Marmot for both the second link, and the latest spike of traffic sent my way.

Chad and Sudan Now at War?

The BBC reported on 23 December that the government of Chad is now fed up with repeated cross-border attacks from the Darfur region of Sudan.
Chad says it is in "a state of war" with neighbour Sudan over the security crisis in the east of the country.

It accuses Sudan of being the "common enemy of the nation" after a Chadian rebel attack on a town last week.

In a statement, the government calls on Chadians to mobilise themselves against Sudanese aggression.

Relations between the two states have deteriorated since Chad accused Sudan of being behind Sunday's attack on Adre, which left about 100 people dead.

The strong language in the statement will alarm observers who have already warned that tensions along the Chad-Sudan border are nearing breaking point.
via Black Star Journal

As usual, the Head Heeb provides more context.

News Censorship in Myanmar

I discover censorship defines life at the Myanmar Times and depletes the buzz and excitement that's generally a feature of good newspaper offices where ground-breaking stories are regularly broken. Censorship at the Times is absolute and total, but the system itself is quite simple. All articles selected for possible publication are faxed to Military Intelligence and are either accepted in their totality, completely rejected, or partly censored, with words, paragraphs and sections removed. Such information is relayed to the editor, Goddard, usually by an officer named Wai Lin. Sometimes the Brigadier General himself rolls up his sleeves and pitches in, and if big issues, especially political issues, are discussed in an article, Wai Lin will pass the material to him for 'instruction and guidance'.

Inside page layouts and story placements are mostly left to the staff to determine, but the front-page layout is carefully scrutinised and stories approved for publication might not be approved for front-page publication, or the emphasis of such stories might be downplayed.

At times, there can be dialogue about decisions. I am told a story about breakdancing becoming a fad among trendy Yangon youth was axed by MI because they only want to promote traditional dancing. A query, asking if there was any way the story could be saved, resulted in a new ruling that it could be used if breakdancing were not defined as a dance but instead as an American fitness regime.

I discover that Myanmar has a mind-numbing myriad of rules regarding publications. New laws, new variations to new laws, and new amendments to old laws relentlessly emerge.

I don't even try to grapple with this complexity because I am told that ultimately only one law applies--the law of the day as detennined by the Brigadier General and his boys at Military Intelligence. If they say no it means no, and there is no burrowing through laws and statutes to find precedents or technicalities to present to lawyers. If the Brigadier General rules it out, it's out and anyone who publishes against his will could well be on the road to Insein prison--which, incidentally, is appropriately pronounced 'Insane' prison.

But the most stultifying aspect of the insidious, all-pervading censorship is that the paper is denied an entity or a voice. All aspects giving a Western paper its character, personality and identity--editorials, letters to the editor, causes and crusades, opinion and analysis--are no-go zones. The term 'political analysis' does not exist in the Myanmar Times lexicon.
SOURCE: Land of a Thousand Eyes: The subtle pleasures of everyday life in Myanmar, by Peter Olszewski (Allen & Unwin, 2005), pp. 28-29

Asiapundit has a few more uncensored news reports on Myanmar/Burma.

A Latvian Migrant Worker in Ireland

Irish Rainy Day blogger and professional journalist Eamonn Fitzgerald commends a Washington Post story on 28 November headlined East-to-West Migration Remaking Europe: "This is seriously good journalism and we've picked it as our Article-of-the-Year by our Newspaper-of-the-Year." Here's a small taste of what the article has to say.
"I have to leave Latvia," he says. "There are no possibilities here. We have nothing."

His last job was sandblasting the hulls of huge freighters in a Riga dry dock, enduring icy winds off the Baltic Sea for $50 a week. So at 39, never married, with nothing to lose, Neulans sits in the lonely dullness of the Aurora Hotel with a black nylon athletic bag at his feet. He has packed one pair of pants, a shirt, a pair of no-name sneakers, three packets of instant mashed potatoes and eight cans of processed meat.

It's late October. He has a $190 plane ticket for the next night on airBaltic's midnight flight from Riga to Dublin. It will be the first plane ride of his life, a simple three-hour hop but a journey that illustrates a historic flow of people that is changing the face of Europe.

Since Latvia and nine other countries joined the European Union in May 2004, almost 450,000 people, most of them from the poorest fringes of the formerly communist east, have legally migrated west to the job-rich economies of Ireland, Britain and Sweden. Germany, France and other longtime E.U. members have kept the doors closed for now but promise to open them in coming years to satisfy the bloc's principle that citizens of all member states share the right to move to any other.

Perhaps nowhere is this feeling stronger than in Ireland, a country of 4 million people with one of Europe's fastest-growing economies and memories of how the world took in destitute Irish migrants in generations past. About 150,000 new workers -- mostly Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians -- have registered with the Irish government in the past 18 months, statistics show, although officials say that some may have already been there.

Citizens of E.U. countries do not need Irish visas or work permits, and there are no restrictions on how long they can stay or what work they can do. They are generally eligible for government health care and other services. There is no special system for them to seek citizenship.

From Dublin to Donegal, it is now difficult to find a construction site, factory, hotel or pub where some of the workers are not speaking Polish, Russian, Latvian or Lithuanian. They are changing the country's ethnic character. Multi-language newspapers cater to the job-seekers. Banks have hired tellers who speak their languages. East European grocery stores sell meats and cheeses from home, and phone companies post flyers in Internet cafes listing cheap calls to Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn.

Immigration, of course, also brings social friction and occasional violence. In Ireland, as in other once-homogenous European societies, people are struggling to accommodate newcomers with different cultures, languages and religions, and make room in already strained welfare and school systems.

But many here see the movement of workers as pure opportunity, for themselves and for the immigrants.
'Tis indeed a story well told and well worth reading in full.

23 December 2005

Notifying the Next of Kin

Donald Sensing, a Methodist minister in Tennessee who used to be an artillery officer in the U.S. Army, remembers when he had the solemn duty of notifying the next of kin (NOK) after a soldier on his post died.
It was peacetime, the early 1980s – before cell phones or GPS to navigate. I was a first lieutenant assigned to Fort jackson, SC. My name reached the top of the installation-level duty roster just in time to be tabbed for NOK notification. I reported to the post’s casualty office for instructions. There I was assigned a government van and driver and given a written packet of information about the deceased soldier, the address of his NOK, a map and a government credit card.

My instructions were simple: “Memorize this paragraph. You are required to state it verbatim, without notes, to the next of kin. That’s all you have to do.” Unlike the Marines, the Army assigns different officers to notification duty and survivor-assistance duty. An assistance officer (actually a senior NCO) would be assigned to help the dead soldier’s parents with the funeral and settling his affairs; the soldier had not been married.

I got one final instruction before departing: “You must make the notification between 0600 and 2200. Use the credit card for any expenses related to this mission, including food and lodging if you need it. Don’t come back until you have made the notification.”

The dead soldier had been a member of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. He had died in an auto accident (fact was, he was DWI, but relating that fact was not my problem). The civilian casualty staffer at post HQ told me that tthe soldier’s father already knew his son was dead (via unofficial grapevine channel from his unit), but that it didn’t matter: the Army always sent an officer, in Class A uniform, to deliver the official word. Unlike Maj. Beck, I was alone; my driver was a driver, that’s all. I was also distinctly forbidden to call the NOK by phone, even to ask directions....

“Sir,” I said to him, “I am Lieutenant Sensing from Fort Jackson. I am told this is the home of Mr. ‘George Smith.’ If so, I would appreciate very much speaking with him.”

The man motioned for me to come in and said, “That’s me.” I stepped inside two steps, removing my saucer cap as I did. A young man in the room yelled at a boy to turn off the music, who quickly complied. I recall that there were a couple of women in the room, too.

“Mr. Smith,” I said very formally, “on behalf the secretary of the Army, I extend to you and your family my sympathy in the death of your son, Sergeant ‘Jim Smith.’” I don’t remember after so many years the paragraph I had memorized then. I know I said that another officer would contact them about making arrangements and settling their son’s affairs, and that he would be able to answer all their questions.

Uttering those words was 100 percent of my duties. I finished and Mr. “Smith” mumbled, “Thank you.” He offered his right hand. I shook it and said, “I really am very sorry for your loss, sir.” We dropped hands and briefly looked at one another face to face: he of a weatherbeaten black face, an uneducated farm laborer who had toiled in tobacco or bean fields all his life, who had worked dawn to dark to see his eldest son graduate from high school and become a soldier with a bright future. Then his son got killed one day on a rural road in North Carolina. And the next day I, a lily-white young officer, walked into his home from the night’s darkness. With no personal connection to his son, I stood in his sharecropper’s home purely by random chance of a duty roster to tell him that the secretary of the entire US Army mourned his young son’s death.
via Winds of Change

22 December 2005

Is Latin America Turning Protestant?

After four Catholic centuries, a new brand of Christianity is catching in the Mission District of San Francisco, in the San Joaquin Valley of California, wherever in the United States there are large populations of Hispanics, and throughout Latin America.

Latin America! The Catholic hemisphere, the last best wine the Church had counted on to see herself through the twenty-first century--Latin America is turning in its jar to Protestantism. At the beginning of this century, there were fewer than two hundred thousand Protestants in all of Latin America. Today there are more than fifty million Protestants. The rate of conversion leads some demographers to predict Latin America will be Protestant before the end of the next century. Not only Protestant but evangelical.

Evangelico: one who evangelizes; the Christian who preaches the gospel. I use the term loosely to convey a spirit abroad, rather than a church or group of churches. There are evangelical dimensions to all Christian denominations, but those I call evangelical would wish to distinguish themselves from mainline Protestantism, most certainly from Roman Catholicism. Catholics may yet be the most communal of Christians; evangelicals are the most protestant of Protestants.

Evangelicals are fundamentalists. They read scripture literally. Most evangelicals in Latin America are also Pentecostals. Pentecostalism is emotional Christianity, trusting most a condition of enrapturement by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism is rife with prophecy, charismata, healings, and the babble of sacred tongues. Evangelical spirituality hinges upon an unmediated experience of Jesus Christ.

Protestantism flourished in Europe in the eighteenth century. Protestantism taught Europe to imagine the self according to a new world of cities. Protestantism taught Europe that the central experience of faith was of the individual standing alone before God.

Protestantism increased fivefold in Latin America in the 1940s. Consider what may be a related statistic concerning Mexico during the 1940s. At the start of the decade, 70 percent of Mexico's population lived in villages of fewer than twenty-five hundred people. Since the 1940s, the population of Mexico has tripled; the countryside has not been able to sustain such life. Seventy percent of the population of Mexico now belongs to the city.
SOURCE: Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, by Richard Rodriguez (Penguin, 1992), pp. 175-177

UPDATE: Lirelou adds some intriguing personal historical perspective in the comments:
Protestantism was in fact part of the underlying reasons for the unrest in Chiapas, where the villages are Mayan. Those who converted to the protestant, usually evangelical, faiths found themselves excluded from their communities. Part of the reason for this exclusion was their refusal to contribute to village religious festivals, which in turn reduced the funds available, and undercut the power of local leaders. In revenge, protestant families were barred from using communal lands, and in some cases physically expelled. I met one pastor who claimed that his two sons had been murdered. Possibly, but I never personally verified that fact. He was also convinced that the catholic church was under the control of a secret order of Freemasons. Latin America may very well go protestant, but the day when other religions, even other versions of christianity, are widely accepted is still a long way off. But then, religious tolerance wasn't exactly an overnight process in Europe either.

21 December 2005

Coxinga: Pirate or King? Rebel or Loyalist?

It was the Manchus and the Dutch who called Coxinga a pirate, the English and the Spanish who called him a king. His Chinese countrymen called him both, depending on their mood. But he saw himself as neither; instead, he wanted to be known as a scholar and a patriot, unexpectedly plucked from a privileged upbringing and thrust into the forefront of a terrible war. A child prodigy from a wealthy trading family in seventeenth-century China, Coxinga became a nobleman at twenty-one, a resistance leader at twenty-two, and was a prince at thirty. The last loyal defender of the defeated Ming dynasty, he was the invincible sea lord who raided the coasts for ten years, before leading a massive army to strike at the heart of China itself. Still plotting to restore a pretender he had never seen, he was dead at thirty-nine, only to be canonised by his former enemies as a paragon of loyalty.

In a China that shunned contact with the outside world, Coxinga was a surprisingly cosmopolitan individual. His mother was Japanese, his bodyguards African and Indian, his chief envoy an Italian missionary. Among his 'Chinese' loyalist troops were German and French defectors. His enemies were similarly international, including Chinese relatives and rivals, the Dutch against whom he nursed a lifelong hatred, and the Manchus who invaded his country. Betrayed and deserted by many of his own friends and family, Coxinga's stubborn character was most similar to that of his most famous foe--the Swedish commander whom he defeated in his last battle.

Famous for his pathological insistence on justice and correctness, Coxinga was ever troubled by his shadowy origins. His father was an admiral and the richest man in China, but also a crook who had cheated, murdered and bribed his way to the top of south China's largest criminal organisation. Though Coxinga grew up in a palace, his family had clawed their way to their fortune, and had made many enemies in the process.

This, then, is the man that was known to European writers as that 'heathen idolater and devil-worshipper', the mutilator of his enemies and a heartless brute who could execute a Dutch priest and ravish the man's bereaved daughter on the same day. But Coxinga is also the loyalist lauded by the Chinese as the last son of a departed dynasty, who steadfastly refused to surrender to foreign invaders when millions of his countrymen submitted willingly. He was demonised in Europe, deified in China, and remains a contentious figure to this day.

This is his story. It is also the story of his father, Nicholas Iquan, and of his deals and double-crosses with the Europeans he despised. To the superstitious, it is also the story of the goddess of the sea, and how she granted fortune on the waters to one family for forty long years. Though it ends with saints and gods, it begins with smugglers and pirates.
SOURCE: Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty, by Jonathan Clements (Sutton, 2005), pp. 5-6

20 December 2005

How Koreans Chose Japanese Names

During the Japanese colonial period, Koreans were heavily penalized if they did not change their family names to Japanese, as Hildi Kang explains in her book Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945:
Of our fifty informants, only four families refused to change their names. All others complied, for without a Japanese name citizens could not enter schools, get jobs, or obtain ration cards. The government stopped issuing permits and postmen stopped delivering packages to those with Korean names. However, many Koreans built into their new names ingenious reflection of their Korean name, hometown, or a significant family attribute.
Here are some of the examples Kang compiled.

1. Retain all or part of the Chinese character, but use its native Japanese reading
  • Kim 金 – Keep ‘gold’ but use its Japanese pronunciation, as in 金國 Kanekuni ‘gold country’, 金澤 Kanezawa ‘gold pond’, 金城 Kaneshiro ‘gold castle’, 金田 Kaneda ‘gold paddy’
  • Ch’oe 崔 – Keep the ‘mountain’ radical on top, as in 山本 Yamamoto ‘mountain base’
  • Pak 朴 – Keep the ‘tree’ radical, as in 木戸 Kido ‘wood door’, 正木 Masaki ‘upright tree’
  • Yi 李 – Keep the ‘tree’ radical, as in 木元 Kimoto ‘tree base’
2. Create a Japanese-style name based on geographical origins
  • Pak 朴 – The Japanese name 大竹 Ōtake might reflect the family’s Korean hometown, Taebyŏn (大 Tae), and the bamboo grove (竹) in back of the old homestead.
  • Kang 康 – The Japanese name 信川 Nobukawa might reflect the ancestral seat of the Kang clan, pronounced Sinch’ŏn in Korean.
  • Kang 姜 – The Japanese name 大山 Ōyama might reflect the mountain of the ancestral seat of the Kang clan, pronounced Taesan in Korean.
3. Choose a Korean homonym with an alternate native Japanese name reading
  • Song 宋 – 宋 has no Japanese counterpart, but the Korean homonym 松 ‘pine’ is very common in Japanese names, as in 松本 Matsumoto ‘pine base’.
4. Choose a symbolic name
  • Kim 金 – The Japanese name 岩本 Iwamoto ‘rock base’ might reflect the Korean family’s faith.
SOURCE: Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang (Cornell U. Press, 2001), pp. 117-122

UPDATE: Asiapundit notes that just three surnames, Kim (= Gim), Lee (= Yi, Ri, Rhee, etc.), and Park (= Pak, Bak, etc.) account for 45% of family surnames in South Korea. Sun Bin compares the distribution of surnames in Korea with that in China, where the top three Han Chinese surnames (Li 李, Wang 王, Zhang 张) account for only 23% of the total, but the top fifteen account for 51% of the total. The surnames Chen 陈 and Huang 黄 are much overrepresented in Guangdong.

UPDATE 2: On the Rectification of Names

Japanese public (at least journalistic and diplomatic) practice has changed over the past decade or two with regard to rendering Sinographic names in Japanese. It used to be that Chinese characters in foreign names were just pronounced in their Sino-Japanese readings, so that Mao Zedong was Mou Takutou, and Chiang Kaishek (= Jiang Jieshi) was Shou Kaiseki.

But the practice now is to render such names into katakana approximations of their sound values in standard Chinese or Korean. I believe this change was driven partly by some activist Korean Residents in Japan who wanted to de-Japanize their names, but probably also by both the DPRK and ROK governments, which are both generally anti-hanja, pro-hangul (although the ROK Ministry of Education seems to have reversed its hanja-teaching policies many times during the past three decades). So now Korean Kims who Japanized their names to Kane-something can revert to Kimu, and Kim Ilsong can be rendered in katakana as Kimu IrusoN instead of in Sino-Japanese as Kin Nichisei.

Of course, katakana sound values impose a phonological straitjacket not much more elastic than the Sino-Japanese readings of Sinographic names, but at least the new practice treats Chinese and Korean names like those of other foreigners--and, more important, not like members of a special Japanese-dominated kanjisphere (or, alternatively, a China-dominated 汉字球 'hanzisphere').

In my recent visit to Japan I was struck by the similar treatment now accorded to the Japanese names of foreign citizens of Japanese ancestry, like Alberto Fujimori or Isamu Noguchi. They are written in katakana! The ideological reason may be recognition that Japanese emigrants need not remain Japanese, either in cultural practices or national loyalties. But there's also a practical reason: the many-to-many relationship between the pronunciation and writing of Japanese names, especially given names. The kanji for Fujimori and Noguchi can be guessed with very little chance of error, but many other surnames are not, and many, many given names have huge potential for error. That's what Japanese business people take special care to clear up when they exchange business cards. For instance, the common male name pronounced Hiroshi can be written in several dozen different ways. And each kanji can be read in so many different ways, especially in names, that Japanese formfill paperwork routinely asks for both written and pronounced (katakana/romaji) versions of each name. Place names can sometimes be just as bad as personal names in that regard.

One legacy of the Korean bitterness about and resistence to Japanese colonial renaming requirements still lingers in ESL classrooms today, where Korean students usually resist adopting English (or broadly Anglospheric) given names that might make life easier for their teachers. In sharp contrast, Chinese students often request English names, and Japanese students are often quite happy to answer to Anglicized nicknames (Mits, Kats, etc.), at least in my experience.

Language Hat's comment thread, as usual, has a wider-ranging discussion.

19 December 2005

Weird War, Weird Peace, Real Worries Across the Dniester

Over the weekend, I forgot to mention a blogpost by David McDuff of A Step at a Time about the weird war between post-Soviet Moldova and its breakaway province of Transdniestria. Kommersant ran the story on 12 December.
When Moldova and Transdniestria were fighting, it was a weird war. The local military called it Drunken. Officers of the combatants met every night to have a drink together. They went away in the morning and opened fire on each other. At night, they got together again to drink for those they had met with the previous night and who they had killed.

Now that Moldova and Transdniestria are no longer at war, this peace is weird too. A new generation has grown up in the self-proclaimed republic who are almost sure that they live in Russia. A lot of young Trasndniestrians go to [the Moldovan capital of] Chisinau to study, have a good time or do shopping even though they despise everything associated with the word “Moldova”. Transdniestrian state propaganda has taught every citizen that the Moldovan president Voronin is a bloody dictator eager to annex his country to Romania.

Vladimir Voronin comes from Transdniestria, by the way. His mother still lives in the breakaway republic. Transdniestrian President Igor Smirnov is a Russian citizen as well as most of Transdniestrian ministers, many of whom are appointed in Moscow....

Europeans went to ask Viktor Yushchenko after the Orange Revolution to close down the frontier with Transdniestria to crack down on the smuggling. But nothing happened. The whole of Transdniestria live on the smuggling, and at least half of Odessa Region get their bread on that. That’s why arms are still being smuggled in, through and later sold.

The Interpol states that the arms produced in Transdniestria later drift away for terrorist groups worldwide. A major part of them go straight to Chechnya. So, the West is actually accusing Russia (with some help of Ukraine) of supplying Chechen militants with arms and, and wants to hamper it. Russia, in its turn, condemns the West for striving to lock it in the circle of enemies. One thing is not clear: is it a renewal of the Cold War or the continuation of the Drunken War?

South Korean Missionaries and North Korean Defectors

The Marmot calls attention to a fascinating New York Times article on 19 December about tensions between South Korean missionaries and North Korean defectors.
To the North Korean defectors, some South Korean missionaries seem more concerned about brokering deals to smuggle them out of China and using them in Seoul as publicity tools against North Korea. To South Korean missionaries, who have risked their lives to evangelize in China, some North Korean defectors appear ungrateful. Although no precise figures exist, only a fifth to a third of North Korean defectors ultimately convert to Christianity, according to most South Korean missionaries interviewed.
More at the Marmot's Hole.

Paul 'Scrooge' Theroux on Aid to Africa

The New York Times on 15 December carried an op-ed on African aid by Hawai‘i's resident literary Scrooge, Paul Theroux.
It seems to have been Africa's fate to become a theater of empty talk and public gestures. But the impression that Africa is fatally troubled and can be saved only by outside help - not to mention celebrities and charity concerts - is a destructive and misleading conceit. Those of us who committed ourselves to being Peace Corps teachers in rural Malawi more than 40 years ago are dismayed by what we see on our return visits and by all the news that has been reported recently from that unlucky, drought-stricken country. But we are more appalled by most of the proposed solutions.

I am not speaking of humanitarian aid, disaster relief, AIDS education or affordable drugs. Nor am I speaking of small-scale, closely watched efforts like the Malawi Children's Village. I am speaking of the "more money" platform: the notion that what Africa needs is more prestige projects, volunteer labor and debt relief. We should know better by now. I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for - and this never happens. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful; it is also ignoring some obvious points.

If Malawi is worse educated, more plagued by illness and bad services, poorer than it was when I lived and worked there in the early 60's, it is not for lack of outside help or donor money. Malawi has been the beneficiary of many thousands of foreign teachers, doctors and nurses, and large amounts of financial aid, and yet it has declined from a country with promise to a failed state.

In the early and mid-1960's, we believed that Malawi would soon be self-sufficient in schoolteachers. And it would have been, except that rather than sending a limited wave of volunteers to train local instructors, for decades we kept on sending Peace Corps teachers. Malawians, who avoided teaching because the pay and status were low, came to depend on the American volunteers to teach in bush schools, while educated Malawians emigrated. When Malawi's university was established, more foreign teachers were welcomed, few of them replaced by Malawians, for political reasons. Medical educators also arrived from elsewhere. Malawi began graduating nurses, but the nurses were lured away to Britain and Australia and the United States, which meant more foreign nurses were needed in Malawi.

When Malawi's minister of education was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the education budget in 2000, and the Zambian president was charged with stealing from the treasury, and Nigeria squandered its oil wealth, what happened? The simplifiers of Africa's problems kept calling for debt relief and more aid. I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors. Donors enable embezzlement by turning a blind eye to bad governance, rigged elections and the deeper reasons these countries are failing.
Although I gave up on Theroux's travel writing after his bitchy, self-absorbed The Happy Isles of Oceania, I think he has a valid point here.

via Arts & Letters Daily

18 December 2005

Rodriguez on Hispanic and Asian Americans

When I was twelve years old, my father said he wished his children had Chinese friends--so polite, so serious are Chinese children in my father's estimation. The Spanish word he used was formal.

I didn't have any Chinese friends. My father did. Seventh and I Street was my father's Orient. My father made false teeth for several Chinese dentists downtown. When a Chinese family tried to move in a few blocks away from our house, I heard a friend's father boast that the neighbors had banded together to "keep out the Japs."...

With one breath people today speak of Hispanics and Asians--the new Americans. Between the two, Asians are the more admired--the model minority--more protestant than Protestants; so hardworking, self-driven; so bright. But the Asian remains more unsettling to American complacence, because the Asian is culturally more foreign.

Hispanics may be reluctant or pushy or light or dark, but Hispanics are recognizably European. They speak a European tongue. They worship or reject a European God. The shape of the meat they eat is identifiable. But the Asian?

Asians rounded the world for me. I was a Mexican teenager in America who had become an Irish Catholic. When I was growing up in the 1960s, I heard Americans describing their nation as simply bipartate: black and white. When black and white America argued, I felt I was overhearing some family quarrel that didn't include me. Korean and Chinese and Japanese faces in Sacramento rescued me from the simplicities of black and white America.

I was in high school when my uncle from India died, my Uncle Raj, the dentist. After Raj died, we went to a succession of Chinese dentists, the first Asian names I connected with recognizable faces; the first Asian hands....

No belief is more cherished by Americans, no belief is more typical of America, than the belief that one can choose to be free of American culture. One can pick and choose. Learn Spanish. Study Buddhism.... My Mexican father was never so American as when he wished his children might cultivate Chinese friends.
SOURCE: Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, by Richard Rodriguez (Penguin, 1992), pp. 160, 166, 171

Coffee, Tea, or Treason? My Lovelife as a CIA Spy

In the aftermath of September 11, I should have felt motivated to be a better case officer. But the actions, or lack thereof, of the CIA had caused me to lose faith altogether. The attacks in New York and Washington had sent everyone at Headquarters into a tailspin: to view 9-11 as anything but a massive intelligence failure, we all knew, was sheer denial. Everybody at the Agency was wondering where we had gone wrong, and what the hell we were supposed to do now.

I could no longer perceive the value of the "intel" we received from the likes of Jasna the dour Bosniak, or Ahmet and his network of pesky Albanians, or Dimé and Tony and their circle of chauvinistic [Macedonian] clowns. I argued to [my supervisor] Scott, and also in cables back to Headquarters, that these cases ought to be terminated; that in light of the events of September 11, we should cut loose our less productive agents--to include my own--and focus on developing a network of terrorist-related targets. But it seemed that my arguments--as well as, I was sure, those of other similarly concerned case officers--fell on a conspiracy of deaf ears back at Langley.

"It's a good experience for you," Scott said when I balked about traveling again to meet Jasna, who I knew would have nothing of import to say.

"But she's useless," I said. "And we pay her a ton of money--for what?!"

"Headquarters wants you to keep running the case." Scott frequently blamed management back home.

And so I would continue to run Jasna, I realized, and a number of other second- and third-rate assets, because someone at the CIA thought it was good for my career. Privately, I conjectured what anybody who had lost a loved one in a terrorist attack would think of these pointless exercises. I felt that now, in addition to shortchanging myself, I was failing everyone else. The CIA, on the other hand, viewed me as one of their most promising junior officers.

One day, I was walking through Skopje when I got caught in the imaginary cross fire of a dozen young boys armed with plastic guns and rifles. They were playing "Macedonians and Albanians" like American boys used to play Cowboys and Indians. The boys ambushed one another from behind parked cars with a kind of maniacal zeal, and I thought, I am someone who is caught in a game. A little boys' game that men continue to play as adults.

September 11 had upset the CIA, I realized, because it meant someone was not playing by the rules of the game. If ever there were a chilling indication that the Cold War was over, and that the traditional spy-versus-spy tactics were not going to work anymore, it should have been then.

But the CIA was, and still is, made up of men who are loath to give up playing their game.
SOURCE: Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy, by Lindsay Moran (Berkley Books, 2005), pp. 273-275

This is the second-crappiest* CIA memoir that I've read. Nearly 300 pages of narcissistic drivel and only one passage worth excerpting on this blog. The book it most reminded me of was one I read decades ago, Coffee, Tea, or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses.

Better subtitles for this CIA memoir would be: The Lousy Spook Dating Scene, How the Company Ruined My Lovelife, My Life as a CIA Narcissist, or My Life as a Jetsetting CIA Rockclimber. This was a national bestseller? Bah, humbug! What a waste.

Moran's book seems to have made a similar impression on Amazon reviewer Raja "Punjeeb".

*The crappiest CIA memoir I've read so far is Robert Baer's Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude (Three Rivers, 2004). Baer's book needs further disclosures after the title, something along the lines of "As spoken into Intercontinental hotel bar taperecorders across the Middle East" and "How to ruin your credibility even with readers not hostile to your thesis."

Amazon book reviewer Alejandro Contreras is pretty much on the mark about Baer, but still overrates him:
As one reads this book, one gets the impression that Baer became convinced of the Saudis' double game, and wrote this book without fully structuring his thoughts and without bullet-proofing rationally his arguments.

What we get, then, is a somehow salad mix of anecdotes from Baer's experience at the CIA and afterwards. These stories are almost randomly mixed with stories Baer heard and with some (possibly true and proved) historic facts.
Maybe I'll post a few examples if I can find the time and patience.

UPDATE: Yikes. Read Daniel Drezner's blogpost, entitled Worst Tradecraft Ever, about the CIA's unbelievable bungling in Italy.

17 December 2005

Selling Baseball to the Anglosphere, 1888

In 1888, an American baseball player and businessman set out to promote baseball across the Anglosphere.
The Spalding Tour was the event which brought baseball to Australia. It introduced the nation to the game that seemed forever destined to live in the shadow of cricket. It was big and brash, expensive and lavish - the Spalding Tour was all of the things that other nations expected of Americans. Albert Spalding (1850-1915) had been a successful baseball player during the formative years of the sport. By the time of his famous tour, he was a team owner, a baseball entrepreneur and a sporting goods businessman. According to the English-born baseball journalist, Henry Chadwick, the Spalding Tour of 1888 was the "great event in the modern history of athletic sports"

As a leading player and later, manager, Spalding was so convinced that the world would turn to baseball that he took the entire Boston team to England in 1874. He gained some support there for the sport, even a match at Lord's. This baseball tour also had the distinction of beating a top rated cricket team at cricket. The English were polite but reserved in their enthusiasm for the new American game.

This Spalding tour did not yield any profits but it did introduce the game overseas. Spalding remained committed to encourage future tours. He later reflected upon the England Tour of 1874 in his Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide of 1890. Here he noted that attempt to introduce baseball to England was a failure. Several years later, after the Spalding Tour had visited England in March 1889, this view was still accurate. Indeed, the British press made this dubious assessment of baseball:
"The pitcher seems to have it all his own way ... there is an extraordinary amount of "work" on the ball. The result is that the unfortunate batsman, be he ever so skilful, makes but a lame and feeble display ... the odds against him are so great that our English love of fair play is offended ... For this reason, baseball will never be popular in England."
Spalding always denied he was trying to displace cricket in Britain and Australia. He only wanted to make it "one of the kindred field sports of the country. The reader cannot help but think that Spalding was showing his true feelings when he noted: "Baseball is a sport for the masses, cricket for the leisure classes. Baseball takes 2-3 hours, cricket takes 2-3 days. Spalding also was concerned that, with the development of team sports, there seemed to be few sports in common between the major English speaking countries such as Canada, America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
SOURCE: Time and Game: The History of Australian Baseball, by Joe Clark (U. Nebraska Press, 2003), online edition, chapter 1

Penal Colony Self-government

Laurence Jarvik notes that "Felix Kulov, the current Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, a former Mayor of Bishkek and KGB officer, was sent to a Soviet-style penal colony by the country's former ruler, Askar Akayev." Here's a short excerpt on self-government in Kulov's penal colony from an interview with him on Ferghana.ru.
What is a penal colony? A territory fenced in, with watchtowers and soldiers on them, with people living inside that territory. It is absolutely deserted by night. Just two men somewhere on the tower, warrant officers on duty. They are unarmed, but have a radio to make their reports. A Soviet system, you know. A penal colony, not prison. In Western movies all cells open simultaneously, prisoners take their daily walk, and get herded back in later on. That's probably how things are done there, I do not know. It is different in our penal colonies. You get in, there is not one other prisoner around, you are on your own. Decades of the Soviet regime and this penitentiary system resulted in appearance of certain rules.

Say, a prisoner is not supposed to carry a knife openly. No fights are permitted. Whoever has to settle some issue in that manner, they have to go to the so called forbidden zone beyond the barbed wire. The survivor comes back. That's logical, or there will be endless fights. Sure, they occur too, but they always incur a punishment. A prisoner who got drunk should not show it because not everyone has access to booze. Prisoners do get drunk, but they are supposed to behave themselves. They'd have killed each other in no time at all otherwise. They are all "heroes" there, you know. Shortly speaking, it took many generations of prisoners literally decades to work out all these rules.

Some men become thieves by statute which elevates them to the highest status of the underworld hierarchy. It is they who see to it that these rules are observed and enforce them whenever necessary. Here is one of the rules. Whenever someone puts someone else on drugs, makes this someone else a needle-freak, then this man is in real trouble. He'll be beaten to the inch of his life, until he wishes he did not do it. Whenever it is done in that other life, beyond the barbed wire and fence, it's all right. In a penal colony it is forbidden.
The first principle of self-government in a penal colony is to govern yourself very carefully. LaurenceJarvikOnline posts a longer excerpt.

16 December 2005

Foreign Workers in Kobe Shipyards, 1944

We [young men drafted from Korea] worked on a huge military ship, camouflaging it from the American planes. When they took it off dry dock we finished the top and the inside. This work had to be done deep in the bottom of the ship. The workers banged away with rivets and machinery, making huge noises that reverberated inside the ship. Those workers went down in the morning and came out late at night. They never saw the sun. The black dust flew around in there and covered them with soot, so they were all black--their whole bodies, all black.

The officer on board ship chose me to be his deputy and ordered me to take refreshments to the other officers and guards. Because of that, I didn't suffer too badly. Part of my job was to deliver lunches to the Japanese guards. In their box lunch they had white rice and other tasty things, but even so, these bosses were so spoiled that they complained about the quality of their food. They yelled, "This is not fit for human consumption. Not even pigs would eat this!" They actually tossed it to me, and yelled, "Here, you eat this."

When they did that, I shared it with my friends because they were really starving. The rest I stashed away, dried it, hid it, so I could take it with me when I got ready to escape. I did this for several months.

Prisoners of war worked there also, mixed in with us. These prisoners were mostly British, captured in Singapore. You could tell they had been starved--they were just skin and bones. They looked so emaciated that even we, who were hungry, thought they looked starved. They were brought to the ship in shackles, then the shackles were taken off. They scrounged in the garbage cans for any scraps of food.

I felt so sorry for them that I shared cigarettes in secret. They said to me, thank you, thank you, so many times that I felt embarrassed for the little I could do. If I had been caught, of course, my own life would be in danger. Although we couldn't really communicate, whenever they saw me they smiled, laughed, and called out. There is no question that some things that one human being should never do to another had been done by those Japanese.
SOURCE: Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang (Cornell U. Press, 2001), p. 125

15 December 2005

Topsy-turvy Chaos of Liberation, Korea, 1945

Life for the Japanese changed overnight [after the liberation of Korea in 1945]. In our Chongju area, our people policed themselves, and treated the Japanese well. The Japanese went to live in shelters or schools, and went out during the day to find jobs. We ourselves hired a Japanese woman as our maid.

One man who had been the middle-school principal was reduced to living at the shelter and going out during the day to seek work. One day two boys saw him and they thought he looked familiar. When they got close and recognized their former principal, old habits took over. They automatically stopped and gave him their respectful bow, even though he now dressed as a rag picker. He returned their bow, and right there shed tears, to think that the boys still respected who he was, not what he had become.

As for me, one day, walking toward Toktal village to visit Grandmother, I noticed a Japanese family trudging dejectedly along the road in the opposite way, toward Chongju city. I gasped when I recognized the school principal and his family from Chonch'on where we had lived earlier. They had been our friends. I didn't know what to do. I hung my head and pretended I didn't see them. To this day I am ashamed that I couldn't even greet them.

In our north part of the country, when the Japanese packed up to leave, no one really knew how to rule in their place. People tried to police themselves and in some areas it worked better than others. Where we lived, in Chongju, it was calm and orderly. Much later I learned that terrible things happened in some places, especially in Hamgyong Province to the northeast near the Russian border. Anti-Japanese nationalists let out all their frustrations, and also the Korean communists, who had been biding their time, became militant. Cruel guerrilla attacks made everyone nervous. Nobody really knew who was in charge.
SOURCE: Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang (Cornell U. Press, 2001), pp. 143-144

Friends and Neighbors in Defeat, Korea, 1945

CHIN MYONGHUI, (f) b. 1932, housewife, South Hamgyong Province:
My father had lived in both Russia and Japan. When he returned to Korea, he got a job teaching in Wonsan, South Hamgyong Province, and became principal, which was very unusual for a Korean. Almost always, school principals were Japanese.

Because of Father's high position, we lived in a Japanese neighborhood and my best friends were Japanese. I did not know or use any Korean language at all, not speaking or reading or writing.

After liberation, the Koreans said my father was pro-Japanese, a running dog, because he was so high up. They almost lynched him. Then the Russian army came, and they wanted someone who could speak Russian to help them out. Father said no. So because of these two events, he fled to south Korea, leaving the rest of the family in the north. Later we made our own way to the south.

KIM P. [ANONYMOUS], (f) b. 1931, housewife:
When the war ended, everyone stopped using Japanese and started speaking Korean again. I was young, and I had never spoken Korean in my entire life. Since I didn't know a single word of Korean, I repeated the sixth grade just to learn to speak my own native language.

YU TOKHUI, (f) b. 1931, housewife, South Ch'ungch'ong Province:
I noticed that the Second World War upset the entire social order of our village. My uncle had many servants and they all knew their places, but when the war required the young men to be drafted into the Japanese army, every young man was taken, servants and yangban, all went together, and it blurred the hierarchy. Everybody's fate was the same, so they all became equal. Because of that, after the war, many of the servants moved out of Uncle's house and moved to other cities. The old order crumbled.

PAK SONGP'IL, (m) b. 1917, fisherman, South Kyongsang Province:
On August 15, I finished ferrying doctors out to the troop ship in the Pusan harbor, docked my boat, and went upstairs in the office building. I had no idea what had happened. I saw the Japanese workers in the office wailing, banging on the desks, banging the floor. I can see them today in my mind. These very ones who had been so sure they were invincible. The next thing they did was drink themselves into a stupor. They went crazy. It was the tragedy of a nation in defeat.
SOURCE: Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang (Cornell U. Press, 2001), pp. 145-146

14 December 2005

Sacred Texts and Talismans in the Digital Age

Michael Hyatt, a religious publisher with a blog, is convinced e-books are the wave of the future, just as soon as the right very, very booklike reading device comes along.

The blogpost compares iPod vs. hardware platforms for distributing music, but the extension of this model to the distribution of books doesn't seem quite parallel. Some of the comments to his post are pretty interesting, but I'd like to focus on the implications of sacred texts as talismans in the digital age.

Electronic editions seem best for periodicals and reference works, but not for novels, and not for bath or toilet reading. Religious publications seem to be expanding in both print and electronic media. A lot of people have bought Bible-concordance software packages in addition to the more talismanlike print edition. Concordance software is a powerful tool, especially for matching translations with originals, but it's harder to make the transition to treating a CD or an e-book as a sacred talisman.

Two problems for e-Bibles:

1. "Do you swear, on this electronic device, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

2. When I was a kid, Baptist Sunday schools classes sometimes used to have "sword drills"--competitions to unsheathe our Bible "swords" and find the page on which a particular book, chapter, and verse was located before anyone else did. I don't know how that would work if Bibles were handheld electronic devices. I suppose the competition could be to input the best combination of search terms to make the shortest possible list of search results to choose from.

12 December 2005

Saipan After World War II

On the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Saipan in 1944, former Peace Corps Volunteer P.F. Kluge spoke to a group of veterans and residents on the island. The text of his speech appears in the latest issue of The Contemporary Pacific (Project Muse subscription required). Here are a couple of excerpts.

Saipan in the 1960s
In launching a large Micronesia program, the Peace Corps had advertised, only half ironically, that it was going to paradise. The result was an ambitious, overextended, and controversial program involving hundreds of volunteers. We joked that if the same ratio of volunteers to locals prevailed in, say, India, there would be no young people left in the United States.

The Saipan we came to was no paradise, that was clear. Almost a quarter century had passed since the shooting had stopped, and yet the place was still shaped, defined, by the battle that had been fought here. Long after the combat stopped, long after the naval administration walked away from its camps and Quonsets and airfields, the island was ... well ... haunted. It was like a theater that had been abandoned by actors and by audience, a place still littered with costumes and props, ticket stubs and programs in the aisles. Have you ever, driving around America, gone past an old outdoor drive-in theater, the big screen still standing, weeds in the parking lot, long semicircular rows of those little parking-meter-like poles evenly spaced, and the ruins of a rickety, graffiti-marked projection booth in the middle of it all? That was what Saipan felt like.

It had a kind of sullen magic. Scarred, handsome, and in its way, beautiful. It invited exploring. It made you think. And it was all about the past; it was about some of you who gather here now. It was about you, this sighting out from the invasion beach at landing craft and tanks impaled on the reef. It was about you, when I went swimming off the rusting breakwaters and half-sunken barges at Charley Dock. It was about you, traveling in and off the islands, waiting at little Kobler Field for a DC-3. You were there, your spirit lingered at Isley Field, with overgrown bunkers and revetments, all the giant footsteps of another time. Saipan then was one of those rare, dear places where you could confront history without a ticket, a tape-recorded spiel, a forced march through a museum, and a sign warning you about all the things you weren't supposed to do. In the villages--­Garapan, Susupe, Chalan Kanoa--­it was about you, in the remnants and ruins of destroyed Japanese buildings, bullet-pocked walls and cisterns, overgrown gardens; about you as well in the scrap metal and lumber taken from the emptied internment camps, hammered into houses, and collected and rehammered after typhoons, when people came back from bunkers and old Japanese buildings where they had taken shelter during the storms. You were on the roads, in surplus jeeps the Saipanese had purchased at $1 each. You were in the roads themselves, those roads that, more than anything else, made Saipan special: it was the only Trust Territory island west of Majuro where you could spend more than a minute in third gear....
Saipan Today
Now, in an island vastly transformed since becoming part of America, there remains cause for celebration and concern. What I love, maybe more now than before, is the wild-card vitality, the buzz and hurly-burly, the characters who land­in some cases, wash up­here, searchers, dreamers, tax-dodgers, flimflam men, the hits just keep coming. What characters, what schemes, especially in the early years: an X-rated Doonesbury cartoon. This was let's-make-a-deal time, the coming of disco, duty-free karaoke, poker machines, etc, etc. A time in which opportunity shaded into opportunism. The world discovered Saipan; Saipan discovered the world. Things got complicated and still are. The Saipan tourist industry is at the mercy of ups and downs in Japan, the wanderlust of mainland Chinese, the health of airlines, the outbreak of SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], the risk of terrorism. The garment industry thrives in the shadow of regulations, soon to go into effect, that will permit Chinese garments made in China into the US market. Will Chinese need to come to Saipan to sew? In its moment of greatest strength, Saipan is singularly vulnerable to outside forces beyond its control. All this is another way of saying it has ceased in an important way to be an island at all. Forget your images of island life: Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Shakespeare's Tempest, Fantasy Island, Napoleon on St. Helena. Forget the familiar island adjectives: remote, isolated, lonely, insular, self-sufficient. They don't apply. Saipan's not an island anymore. It's all connected.

The island's main export may be irony. I saw the first Japanese tourists in the late sixties: decorous, dark-suited, camera-toting groups, middle-aged and older. I attended the opening of the first hotel, the Royal Taga. First and last, I thought. Was I wrong! Who could have guessed that a World War II battleground would turn into a Japanese Florida? Or that its transformation would mimic the 1944 campaign, first taking the invasion beaches, then heading north toward Marpi, duty-free shopping, souvenir and convenience stores and gaming emporia shooting galleries following along behind? And, among these nearly 500,000 visitors per year, there are fewer and fewer who come for the reasons that unite us today. They walk past pillboxes and monuments on their way to the beach. Was there a battle here? Well, that was then and this is now. A famous victory? Never mind: sunburn lotion is their armor. Against this tide of indifference and forgetting, the memories we share and renew may amount to more than history. They may offer guidance in times ahead.

Talk about garment industries, talk about hotels and realize that they have one thing in common: a reliance on outside capital and outside labor. The Saipanese are agents, middlemen­not bosses, and rarely employees. Where are the Saipanese? The most enthusiastic celebrants of the US Commonwealth--­and there is much to celebrate: hospitals, businesses, a likeable junior college--­turn quiet when I inquire. The Saipanese are outnumbered, nearly two-to-one, on their own island, that's for sure, outnumbered by those waves of foreign workers, garment makers, security guards, barbers and beauticians, hostesses and maids, farmers and hard-hats who have come to do the island's heavy lifting. There were around 11,000 people in the Northern Marianas in 1967, mostly local, and now there are 75,000, mostly alien. Be careful what you wish for. Saipanese are a minority on their own islands­--an elite minority, to be sure, and determined to stay that way, but a minority nonetheless. What, then, are they up to? What is their work, job, occupation, trade, calling? Their purpose or their passion? This is something that they may still be discovering. It's taking time. For the moment, most island citizens who work are employed by local and commonwealth government. That is cause for wonder. It will take a few trips to know whether the situation I've described can last: an entrenched government contending with outside money, transient workers. I will not predict the worst: the island has a way of dodging bullets, pulling through. It has some magic. But if I predicted happy endings, we'd have to define terms.
No island is an island anymore.

11 December 2005

China's Latest Uprising: Angry Villagers, Pirate Gangs, or Both?

Today's Tacoma News Tribune carries an earlier Washington Post report on the outbreak of violence in coastal Guangdong northeast of Hong Kong.
DONGZHOU, China – Paramilitary police and anti-riot units have opened fire with pistols and automatic rifles for the past two nights on rioting farmers and fishermen who have attacked them with gas bombs and explosive charges, according to residents of this small coastal village.

The sustained volleys of gunfire, unprecedented in a wave of peasant uprisings over the past two years in China, have killed between 10 and 20 villagers and injured more, residents said.... As far as is known, previous riots have all been put down with heavy use of truncheons and tear gas, but without firearms.

This time, according to a villager who heard and saw what happened, police responded to the launching of explosives by repeatedly firing “very rapid bursts of gunfire” over a period of several hours Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Some villagers reported seeing People’s Armed Police carrying AK-47 assault rifles, one of the Chinese military’s standard-issue weapons. There were no reports of violence Thursday night.

The villagers who rose up against land confiscations in Dongzhou, a community of 10,000 residents 14 miles southeast of Shanwei city, in Guangdong province near Hong Kong, also opened a new chapter – the use of the homemade bottle bombs and explosive charges that local fishermen normally use to stun fish.
Belmont Club has compiled a range of background information about economic projects in Shanwei City, as well as an intriguing story in the People's Daily on 29 January 2000 of the arrest and execution there of 13 pirates, including an Indonesian national.
The executions of Weng Siliang, Indonesian citizen Soni Wee and the other 11 who committed the crimes on China's territorial waters in the South China Sea were enforced in Shanwei City of Guangdong.

The gang started planning the robbery in August of 1998 with illegal purchase of guns and buying ships. On November 16, they intercepted the Cheung Son cargo ship from Hong Kong by masquerading as Chinese police.

They robbed the ship and killed all of the 23 seamen. Later they sold the contraband for 300,000 US dollars. They also stole a total of 970,00[0] yuan in cash.

Wen and Soni Wee also were involved in the pirating of two foreign ships, and Wee was found with 156 grams of narcotics when arrested, according to court hearings.
UPDATE, 18 December - Yesterday's Washington Post has a fascinating story about how Chinese bloggers are evading censors by discussing this event in the guise of a similar event in 1926.
HONG KONG, Dec. 16 -- At first glance, it looked like a spirited online discussion about an essay written nearly 80 years ago by modern China's greatest author. But then again, the exchange on a popular Chinese bulletin board site seemed a bit emotional, given the subject.

"In Memory of Ms. Liu Hezhen," which Lu Xun wrote in 1926 after warlord forces opened fire on protesters in Beijing and killed one of his students, is a classic of Chinese literature. But why did thousands of people read or post notes in an online forum devoted to the essay last week?

A close look suggests an answer that China's governing Communist Party might find disturbing: They were using Lu's essay about the 1926 massacre as a pretext to discuss a more current and politically sensitive event -- the Dec. 6 police shooting of rural protesters in the southern town of Dongzhou in Guangdong province.
via Crooked Timber

10 December 2005

Improvements in Religious Freedom in Indonesia

The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2005, introduces its section on improvements in religious freedom in Indonesia with the following summary.
NGOs in the country made some progress in improving respect for religious freedom, particularly in the conflict zones of Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas. NGOs worked closely with religious leaders and the local community to promote mutual respect and cooperation. Conflict resolution efforts in former conflict areas of Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas continued to progress during the period covered by this report. Religious leaders and their followers visited each other's religious holiday celebrations and often consulted with each other. Sporadic violence incidents in both areas during the period covered by this report failed to spark broader conflict as it had done in years past.

In December, 2004, a 2-day International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation, organized jointly with Muhammadiyah, was co-sponsored in Yogyakarta by the Government and the Government of Australia. The President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the dialogue with remarks that terrorism must be regarded as the enemy of all religions and that tolerance building was critical. Major faith leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor participated in the Dialogue.

In a national celebration of the Chinese New Year, the President stated that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, including Confucianism, and followers should not hesitate to practice their beliefs. The New Year, which took place in February 2005, was celebrated without incident.

Local police displayed significantly more willingness during the period covered by this report to indict security forces allegedly involved in religious violence. In January 2005, local police arrested a senior police officer for his alleged role in the December 2004 church bombings in Palu. Local police also became more active in making arrests of those allegedly involved in violent incidents. A day after the shooting of a Palu clergywoman in July 2004, the Police Chief held a closed door meeting with local religious leaders and promised that the police would guarantee security for both Christians and Muslims. Since that time, local police have protected local churches and other prayer houses during religious services.

Local courts also began, for the first time, to try some cases of those allegedly responsible for violence in Ambon. Beginning in July 2004, local courts began to prosecute a rash of cases, including 17 trials of predominantly Christian separatists in connection with the April 2004 violence.

The Government has taken more steps to prosecute perpetrators involved in Maluku and Sulawesi conflict. On August 28, 2004, 12 Muslim militants were sentenced for their involvement in the Morowali attack in Central Sulawesi in 2003.
The news is not all good, of course. The same report also contains much longer sections on the legal/policy framework and restrictions on religious freedom, plus shorter sections on abuses of religious freedom, forced religious conversion, and abuses by terrorist organizations.

08 December 2005

Japanese Kamikaze Pilots vs. Today's Human Bombs

Japan Focus recently posted a thought-provoking article by Yuki Tanaka entitled "Japan’s Kamikaze Pilots and Contemporary Suicide Bombers: War and Terror" (via Arts & Letters Daily):
It is widely believed that the major source of kamikaze suicide pilots was the Air Force Cadet Officer System in the Japanese Imperial Navy and Army Forces, which recruited university and college students on a voluntary basis. In fact, however, the majority of kamikaze pilots were young noncommissioned or petty officers, that is graduates of Navy and Army junior flight training schools.... Many assume that the majority of kamikaze pilots were former college students, because the letters-home, diaries and wills of these young men, who became kamikaze pilots through the Air Force Cadet Officer System, were compiled and published as books and pamphlets after the war.... Unfortunately similar personal records left behind by non-commissioned and petty officers are not publicly available. It is therefore necessary to rely on private records to gain a fuller understanding of the thoughts and ideas of these kamikaze pilots....

Kamikaze Pilots

In analyzing private records of the cadet officer kamikaze pilots, the following psychological themes emerged as bases for accepting or responding to a kamikaze attack mission.

1) Rationalizing one’s own death to defend one’s country and its people

In the final years, the cadets clearly understood that Japan would lose the war. Therefore, they had to rationalize their own deaths in order to believe that their sacrifice would not be a total waste. To this end, some convinced themselves that their determination to fight to the end would save the Japanese people (i.e. the Yamato race) and their country by forcing the Allied Forces to make concessions so as to end the war as quickly as possible to avoid further Allied casualties by kamikaze attack....

2) The belief that to die for the “country” was show filial piety to one’s own parents, particularly to one’s mother

Many wills and last letters convey apology to parents for the inability to return all the favors the kamikaze pilots had received and for causing their parents grief by their premature death. Yet, they also state that their death for the “noble cause” was one way to compensate for the misery caused their parents.... The majority of cadets viewed their unavoidable duty as defending their mothers no matter how corrupt the society and politics....

3) Strong solidarity with their flight-mates who shared their fate as Kamikaze pilots ...

Japanese planes were not equipped with radios, but it was common practice for the same flight formation team to be maintained through all stages from training to actual combat in order to create and sustain coordinated team actions.... In cases where pilots in the same team were separated on different missions, many complained bitterly to their commanders, claiming that they had pledged to die together....

4) A strong sense of responsibility and contempt for cowardice

Most of these top university students were sincere and had a strong sense of responsibility. They felt that if they themselves would not carry out the mission nobody else would follow suit. They also saw escape from their “duty,” for whatever reason, as an act of cowardice.... It seems that this mentality derived from university life, which had sheltered them from conventional ways of thinking.

5) A lack of an image of the enemy

One of the striking features of these youths’ ideas is that they convey no discernible image of their enemy.... Specifically, virtually no sense of “hatred of the enemy” can be found in their writings. Perhaps this was partly due to the fact that these cadets had never experienced actual combat. By contrast, the Allied navy soldiers who encountered kamikaze attacks usually regarded the kamikaze pilots with intense fear and hatred, calling them “crazy, cruel, and inhumane Japs”. In the case of these Japanese youths, a concrete mental concept of “the enemy” did not exist at all. Instead they were preoccupied by philosophical ideas such as how to find some spiritual value in their brief lives, how to spend their remaining time meaningfully, and how to philosophically justify their suicidal act....

Contemporary Suicide Bombers

In the absence of detailed information on the ideology and psychology of contemporary “terrorist suicide bombers,” it is not easy to compare the kamikaze mentality with that of terrorist bombers. One important difference stems from the fact that kamikaze attacks were implemented and legitimized by the military regime of a nation-state, while “terrorist suicide bombing” is generally planned and authorized by organizations outside a state structure. Certain preliminary comparisons are nevertheless still possible....

Anwar Ayam, the brother of a Palestinian suicide bomber, is said to have observed, “It will destroy their economy. It causes more casualties than any other type of operation. It will destroy their social life. They are scared and nervous, and it will force them to leave the country because they are afraid.” (emphasis added) ...

In this sense there is an important similarity between suicide bombing (including kamikaze attack) and the “strategic bombing.” Strategic bombing, i.e., the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, is justified as the most efficient method of destroying the morale of the enemy nation, and thus the most economical way to force surrender. In this concept too, concrete images of victims are absent in the minds of strategists and bombers. This similarity is not surprising. This is because the indiscriminate bombing of civilians conducted by military forces is nothing but state violence against civilians, that is, it is state terrorism. “Terrorist attacks” either by a group or by a state can only be executed when images of victims are abstracted and detached from the minds of attackers and strategists.

Another similarity between kamikaze attack and suicide bombing is the huge technological gap in military capability between suicide attackers and their enemies....

In my view, religious or ideological indoctrination is not the decisive factor in turning a young person into a suicide attacker. Rather religion and ideology are used to justify and formalize their cause of self-sacrifice and to rationalize the killing enemies, whether military or civilians. In so doing, they mirror the strategies of their oppressors who likewise, in practice, make no distinction between military and civilian targets. Ritualising killing makes it psychologically easier not only to annihilate enemies but also to terminate one’s own life.
I take exception to two points in the last paragraph.

Notice how the Japanese are presented as the victims, and those winning the war as their "oppressors"? Exactly when, during the half-century between 1895 and 1945 did Japan switch from being oppressor to victim? In 1895? In 1904? 1910? In 1931? 1937? 1939? In 1941? 1942? 1943? Yes, that's it, at precisely the moment when they began to lose they became the victims, despite the appalling number of casualties they continued to inflict on themselves and others by not conceding defeat.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have helped arouse real fears of their own destruction in the imperial clique who kept dithering while their subjects died by the thousands, but they also helped obliterate Japan's own imperial history and elevate in its place a powerful narrative of victimhood at the hands of other imperial powers.

The other point is that extremist ideological indoctrination has everything to do with willingness to slaughter civilians up close and personal, whether it's Imperial Japan, Tamil Eelam, or a New Caliphate. True believers who constantly preach hatred and resentment against external enemies--whether of race, class, gender, nation, religion, or secular ideology--should not be surprised when their followers disgrace their own cause by the way they treat their foes. Bombing civilians, whether "strategically" or suicidally, tends to make the survivors more angry and less susceptible to reasonable compromise. Like torture, it doesn't really have that great a track record of proven effectiveness.

UPDATE: About a year ago, we were having dinner with family friends from Sri Lanka who have now immigrated to the U.S. At one point, the father in the family expressed some bitterness about the U.S. President, but he reserved his Hitler analogy for the leader of Tamil Eelam.

Also, the 1939 Battle of Nomonhan was added to the date list, thanks to a commenter at White Peril.