Loser Takes It All

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two of the ugliest–if not the ugliest–single acts of violence in human history. I can think of no greater symbolic shameful event for any nation than that of being the only recipient of an atomic bomb attack. What a deathblow to the collective psyche! For Japan, a nation with a strong sense of honor and pride, this must have been unusually horrific.

Everyone is a loser in war, but the people who really understand it are those who actually lose or are defeated, overtaken. After all: “He who has been harmed by you, knows you.” (Blake) That’s one of the main themes in the classic ninja film, Samurai Spy. There are other good themes in that one, parallels to Cold War espionage, etc., but this is the meat of it. The film’s director, Masahiro Shinoda, makes a strong point: sometimes the person whom is most alive is actually the one who dies.

As he says in an interview, the victor can be the real loser sometimes. The victor is forced to live on without intimately perceiving the conflict. The victor, though blessed in good fortune, does not truly understand the price of war. And what is a war without knowing it intimately? I don’t mean the fighting itself, I mean the price of it, the toll it takes on the loser.

Grave loss and tragedy are not helpful to one’s well-being, but they can create a legacy. The A-bomb (along with going to the moon) is one of the single most memorable events of not only the 20th century, but human history (funny how though we often look back and only remember the best of times, memorable history is forged by humanity’s worst moments). Here is where the director’s point resonates. We can say that no one else but the Japanese understand the atomic bomb — just as no white person really feels the effects of black slavery, nor any man understand a woman. Oh sure, we can speculate, imagine and theorize. But the rest of us do not know it for ourselves.

For the moment, only one nation has experienced a nuclear blast upon its population. But… how many weapons have only been used once and then discarded? People are so irresponsible and selfish, it really makes you worry. World War I was the end of chivalry, but World War II brought mass civilian deaths and a lack of humanity unlike any previous war: it featured weaponry that proved we can actually destroy our entire planet. War has always been hideous, but modern weaponry has made war the combat equivalence of a lab sterilization. People are treated like bacteria.

I suppose in the aftermath of such carnage nothing is accomplished by a focus upon individual blame or faults of the participatory parties. This only exacerbates the damage done. And revenge doesn’t heal the hole left in your heart. Only time can fill that one in.

Nagasaki aftermath

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3 Responses to “Loser Takes It All”

  1. I’m also a fan of Japanese entertainment, and I think the frequent post-apocalyptic tone of many Japanese films is a reflection of the lingering sense of tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I think the real horror of modern warefare, which was brought home in WW-I and II, is the sheer inhumanity of it. The mechanization of warefare has made it not only an inhumane activity, but a thouroughly de-humanizing one. The ancient war stories somehow no longer apply when human beings become like bacteria in a petri dish. We can longer kid ourselves with stories of gallant knights and samurai: there’s nothing glamorous about being bacteria. War is hell, period.

    I have mixed feelings about Japan in World War II—my family is Korean and so this is a touchy subject for me. While the atom bombs were indeed tragic on a massive scale, I can’t help but think of the Japanese atrocities—“comfort women” taken from Korea, China, and other places who were raped up to 40 times a day, Unit 731 which engaged in live vivisection, used prisoners as mass target practice with flame throwers, deliberate exposure to diseases, and all manner of other atrocities. At least bacteria are alive; Japanese “scientists” refered to the victims of 731 as “logs”.

    On a slightly different note, I think the US fails to understand the sense of utter loss and humiliation that most other nations have experienced at some point in their history. Oh sure, we lost in Vietnam, but we’ve won everything else (or in the case of Iraq, made our goals so ambiguous it’s not really clear exactly what’s going on). America is a young country and it has tasted only the fruits of victory, not the ashes of a truly crushing defeat. Until this happens, I have a feeling its imperial misadventures will continue.

  2. Yeah, you’re right about those comfort women stories. I read a book on the subject by Yuki Tanaka. Pretty effing sick. I am not sure, but I feel like the government never acknowledged these things took place. I’ve also heard there’s a monument to Unit 731, though I cannot corroborate that evidence myself, so I hope it isn’t true. 731 is too upsetting for language to convey effectively.

    By no means could anyone excuse the war crimes of the Japanese (or any other nation), but the Atomic Bomb was insane. It was a spectacle that seemed to signify a new era of human existence, or ended the previous one. The most amazing thing is that there has not been another atom bomb ever put to use on a city. Maybe (hopefully) because everyone realizes how absolutely pointless and sick it is…

    But yeah, the USA is the one country that really didn’t learn anything from World War II. Europe, Asia and North Africa were radically altered by it, but the American populace and government was not reformed by the experience.

    The problem with wars is that, although someone wins and someone loses (and the crimes of the defeated are often emphasized the most, though in WWII’s case they probably were) everyone is guilty. And I think the imperial misadventures might not last so much longer.

  3. Oh I totally agree about the bomb, both in terms of symbolic value and psychological damage. It is absolutely sick. What’s even more sick is that there was really no need to drop the bomb—Japan had pretty much already lost, if negotiations had been made the whole thing could have been avoided. I think the real reason was to send a message to Russia, and unfortunately Japanese civilians (who had nothing to do with the war anyway) got caught in it. That to me is really the worst.

    Here’s to hoping the misadventures end soon.

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