Sunday, August 14, 2005

Suicidal Killers

Evan Thomas' new piece in Newsweek, "War Without Mercy," discusses the Pacific theater during WWII and focuses specifically on the suicidal tendencies of the Japanese soldiers and airmen. With regard to such tendencies, Thomas opines:
A willingness to die is nothing new in warfare. Men have given their lives and commanders have willingly sacrificed their men since they were fighting with stones and spears. But no nation has ever intentionally, methodically sacrificed its soldiers on the scale of Japan in World War II.
Right. And we tend to view the kamikaze pilot and human-torpedo, kaiten, as fanatical and inhumane for their suicidal/murderous deeds. From the objective, and quite peaceful, confines of my home office, I am inclined to agree with this characterization. My lunacy-alert meter starts to smoke when I consider the Japanese whacky reverence to the concept of self-sacrifice for the sake of the emperor. I cannot begin to understand the frame of mind of such men. Perhaps it is because I really like living. Or maybe I am just not that patriotic? Well, forgive me, but I would never consider taking a dive into the deck of a sea vessel for the silly purpose of keeping the territory of Puerto Rico under our thumb. I suppose that is what separates them from me, and particularly, my view sanity vs. insanity. Since I cannot identify with the desire to kill one's self for the cause maintaining the empire, I deem the course of action, completely idiotic.
So, I suppose the characterization of sanity vs. insanity or bravery vs. cowardice depends wholly upon on your specific perspective. My subjective inability to understand the motivations of the banzai soldiers, or an Islamic suicide-bomber for that matter, thoroughly taints my view of their respective grasps upon reality and corresponding intelligence quotients. Is that moral and psychological relativism? I guess it is. In all respects, 0ne man's terrorist is another man's patriot - no matter how you slice it. I mean, how else can you explain the inexplicable deification of Che Guevera and the like? We (or at least, I) view the goals of imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, socialist Cuba and the fundamentalist-Islamocrats as morally illegitimate and thus unworthy of human self-sacrifice. All the while, we speak endlessly of the selfless honor and bravery of US soldiers who make "the ultimate sacrifice" for our freedom and country. Is there really a difference? On some level, sacrificing yourself for something that you believe in is, in some sense, always irrational. We simply favor and praise some manifestations over others if we can identify with the underlying purpose.


Post a Comment

<< Home