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Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II - John W. Dower Winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Winner of the National Book Award. John W. Dower is a named history professor @MIT, Japanologist, Japanophile. Won a slew of slightly less prestigious awards; wrote a Yoshida Shigeru biography. (Yoshida was from an old samurai family; had American contacts before the war, and after the defeat, was installed by the Allied Command as 'rehabilitated' and anti-Communist.)

Embracing Defeat is very tightly, elegantly written. explains culture of "decadence/defeat = kyodatsu" (exhaustion) that set in after war, and reception of defeated culture through adaptation to culturally and values foreign occupier. black markets, reception of returning soldiers, street life and censorship (difference between 'free speech' promulgated, but not to coy criticism of occupying authorities, communism still out); un-deification of Emperor; modern Japan born. the title is slightly subversive--it implies the Japanese wanted defeat, which is probably a bit strong. it's fairly clear a Japanese victory would have resulted in loss of Hawaii and some of the Alaskan islands, even possibly the Panama Canal zone (depending on how big the American defeat was).

as with many people and books, the greatest strength is the possible weakness. Dower proclaims the relationship between Japan and the US is "almost sensual." is this characterisation confirmable? is this scientifically valid or falsifiable? how can a relationship between two countries rather than two individuals be "almost sensual?" and if the US military base presence on Japanese soil is sensual, then who should be paying for what and why can't anyone achieve release?

however, if you prepared to accept the Japanese-American relationship as sensual, then you may conclude a writer whose has a distinct personality or strong view of the world is precisely the best person to appreciate Japan. to that degree, MacArthur, whose star falls lower and lower among historians, was ideal for everyone, USA, Japan, Asiatics, whoever, as "one distinct personality" to rule Japan. he had definite ideas, and then when he was gone, he was definitely gone.

that is the first point about Embracing Defeat. second is:

very good coverage of trial; Pal and the Filipino judge added at last minute to prevent appearance of "victor's justice"; ironically at this time, Republic of China justice was about to be overthrown

chapter of contents:
1. Shattered Lives
2. Gifts from heaven
3. Kyodatsu = Exhaustion
4. Cultures of Defeat
5. Bridges of Language

6. Neocolonial Rev
7. Embracing Rev
8. Making Revolution

9. Imperial Democracy
10. Descending Partway from Heaven
11. Evading Responsibility
12. GHQ writes Constitution
13. Japanizing the American draft
14. Policing new taboos

15. Victor's Justice
16. What do you tell the dead?
17. Engineering Growth

okay now on to Goodreads itself. it has actually been more than four months since I've joined, and the website has definitely increased my reading, as well as focused it. being a East Asia traveler and contract worker, I don't have the luxury of good free libraries to acquire books, I actually have to be pretty careful about the investment, since five good books at $20 each would be a bundle. separately, I've grown to appreciate some of the culture and personalities surrounding this now Amazon-owned website. it's a book like this, however, that shows some of the more interesting people have to be sought out.

the main reviewer on this is not highly social, or highly ranked by GR user lists. but she reads a good mix of social history and non-fiction, and keeps her reviews open without adding lots of contacts on the website. so sometimes there's gold out there--just gotta search it out.

#2 reviewer on the book is a US State Department veteran who has quite a few words to say about nation building... a Western cowboy eccentric, Earle himself is exactly like the kind of foreigner you find in some deep country bar in Japan, somehow completely of the place and out of it at the same time. Earle's own take on Iraq was apparently half-accidental; after a lifetime in the foreign service, he was reactivated to nation build and then apparently everyone who's worked with him is like, okay, Rob, you're right, but what are we going to do about it? a pure think-tank bureaucrat, so to speak.

and then the list goes on.... an israeli military buff who five-stars every military history book he's read (hundreds)... a black American write-a-holic and part-time japanophile whose books all earn the comment "didn't she already say this?" (bwahahah).... various other rogues and gentlemen comprising a true gallery of the expat types you meet in Japan.

so there we go: you can twenty minutes in Japan just reading the reviews on this thing, eventually discovering every crank and loony inhabiting the country (dispersed with all the normals, of course). so, a classic example of how the world is microcosmed in Japan itself, an insular island country.

since this is a fairly obscure book and likely few people will read this review, I guess it's safe to say that after learning East Asian languages and participating in various foreign cultures as an apparent native, the only real value to come out of this experience is a total and relentless hatred of foreigners. the first thing ching wong fook comes up to your face and with saliva drooling out of his mouth attempts to close his "shanghai mba university -approved contract and mutual profit deal" with you, okay, it's funny, it's a cultural experience. now the second time, you're starting to notice that he's speaking a very sing-song language chow bao fook ming took ring look fuk meng.

the third time you're ready to hide his body in a convenient dumpster.

Japan teaches you these things. teaches you insularity.

look at this gang of weirdoes and quacks who have read this book. an afro-american artist who has the misfortune to be born into a highly extroverted and verbal society and hence her works are constant repetitions of the same point. a state department eccentric whose theories are repeatedly rubbished by his colleagues. all the Japan "experts" who have come out of the woodwork. one japanese girl. there's no point to theory. they hate you! trust me! when I was speaking fluent Japanese to them with a good accent, they didn't even bother to ask my nationality. they just went on and on about how much they despise and hate foreigners. this goes for koreans too. pure blood, hermit kingdom koreans want nothing but to keep their ivory-clear bloodline absolutely free from foreign influence. the north korean, the japanese, the south korean: all the same.

the chinese, i am happy to report, are not racist. they don't care about mixed blood. they have chinese with 80% white appearance; they have chinese with about 30% black appearance. there's an entire province of india they're claiming is chinese (it's indians who look vaguely mongolian). no, the flaw of the chinese is the language itself.

ching look fook ming teng wang reng.

this is me: sarcastic expression on my face.

do they stop?

do they ever consider i'm not one of them?

no. response is always

feng feng took ming bao bao le

even the ones who spoke english were just offended by my superior attitude and disdain. but no matter what I did, there's 1.4 billion of them and only one of me. christ what a nightmare.

that is my japan-china-korea experience. after years of language study, i can now pass for native in any of the three countries. and I hate them all!! bwahahaahahah


anyways.... although I'm tempted to rewrite my post-war europe review (a/k/a "staying alive"), I figure why not, today is Monday 7 May 2013, and I have about 96 hours before I can confirm overseas visas and whatnot. a czech guy once explained freelancer life to me "110 hours of hurry the hell up and then 3 weeks of absolute silence." if you're a salaried individual, if you're an hourly worker, there are social situations that mold themselves around your life (happy hour; weekend specials). when you freelance, when you work when work becomes available, you find yourself oftentimes free for weeks at a time, and then when a social relationship is taking off, suddenly the contracts flow in.

/complaints of the expat life

to seriously address the fundamental thesis of the work, that like, Japan's "embrace" of its defeated semi-colonized situation is itself a symbiotic and mutually-beneficial affair, well, yes, there is something to this point, in that if we polled modern japan and asked, do you want a u.s. pullout, the sentiment would be no. similarly, americans do not want out of Japan. maybe korea. maybe iraq/afghanistan, but japan--no, japan is a fun assignment, a place to recuperate, an exotic foreign locale where the women are available. there's no domestic american sentiment to pull out.

that said, whether the relationship is mutually beneficial or desired as an absolute and not as a negative is a far more esoteric and subtle question. on some level, the Japanese would like just the rest of the world to go away. but then, American sometimes feel like that. so there, are plenty of issues to discuss here, and not quite as much contact as readers about the other may think. one is going to go through one's whole life and interact only rarely with the other side of the american-japanese relationship.