“Sticking to Our Guns” by Charles Simic | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Simic sums up the sad state of our current situation nicely: “The coverage of our elections has a fairy tale feel to it. Our national press pretends that they are dealing with men and women of principle, offering carefully thought-out solutions to our nation’s problems, rather than groveling servants of billionaires who finance their campaigns; and that the voters these candidates try to persuade in the primaries are well-informed and well-meaning Americans and not people who by and large get their information from Fox TV and hate radio.”

Source: Sticking to Our Guns by Charles Simic | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Textbook Wars, cont.: “South Korea’s Textbook Whitewash” – The New York Times

Sadly, the South Korean government will now mandate the use of their specially created textbook. “Issued by the government, the new books will rewrite history to bolster the president’s conservative cause.”

Beyond the implications for the education of South Korea’s students, this move has geopolitical implications. As Se-Woong Koo points out: “In geopolitical terms, the Park administration is undermining efforts to confront Japan over its crimes in the wartime era, especially the issue of comfort women. If South Korea can promote its own incomplete history among children, why should Japan not be able to do the same and obscure its dark past?”

This is an unfortunate trend seen across the globe!

Source: South Korea’s Textbook Whitewash – The New York Times

“Ottomans saved Hungarian PM Orban’s Ancestors; now he says Islam never part of Europe” | History News Network

“Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban not only continued to defend his anti-immigrant bigotry but went on to say that Islam has never been part of Europe. Mr. Orban not only is increasing the misery of largely Muslim refugees, but now he has erased 1300 years of European culture and politics, committing a sort of cliocide or mass killing of history.” Juan Cole explains why Orban is wrong: History News Network | Ottomans saved Hungarian PM Orban’s Ancestors; now he says Islam never part of Europe

“Japan May Cut Unesco Funds Following Nanjing Massacre Listing” – Japan Real Time – WSJ

“Japan said it may cut its financial contribution to an agency of the United Nations after the organization added documents on the Nanjing Massacre to its International Memory of the World Register last week.” The nationalist government in Japan proclaims that it wants to restore honor to the Japanese people, but its actions (denial of WWII war crimes, etc.) have served only to bring dishonor to the Japanese people. The honorable thing to do would be to own up to their past crimes and work to ensure that their nation never goes down that path again.

Source: Japan May Cut Unesco Funds Following Nanjing Massacre Listing – Japan Real Time – WSJ

Chinese honor guard members march at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Jiangsu in December 2014. Associated Press

“Get Used to It Europe: Homogenous States Are a Thing of the Past” | History News Network

Lawrence Davidson prompts European nations to accept the fact that homogeneous states are no longer realistic (if they ever were!). Therefore, “from every angle, ethical as well as historical, the way to approach the present refugee crisis is to allow, in a controlled but adequately responsive way, the inflow of those now running from the ravages of invasion and civil war. In so doing we should accept the demise of the homogeneous state. Whether it is Germany, France, Hungary, Israel or Burma, the concept is historically untenable and neither raises nor even maintains our civilizational standards. Rather it grinds them down into the dust of an inhumane xenophobia.”
I agree with Davidson that ideal vision of the nation-state of the past is a fantasy and that all European nations (I would add the U.S. as well) need to step up and help these refugees. However, it’s not enough just to accept the idea that nation-states must be multi-cultural. France, for example, has been a diverse society for some time now, but that hasn’t solved the problem of creating a harmonious society. The first difficulty will be to redefine what it means to be a member of a nation. Any definition that limits inclusion to those who have the right heritage (French ancestry, for example) or religion must be abandoned in favor a more inclusive definition (all citizens are members of the nation). This will not be easy, but diversity is a reality and it can be a benefit.
What’s the alternative? Any attempt to maintain uniformity within a nation can only come at great cost.  What Jefferson claimed in reference to religious uniformity is equally applicable when it comes to attempts to maintain uniformity more broadly: “is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum [moral censor] over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.”

History News Network | Get Used to It Europe: Homogenous States Are a Thing of the Past

“Social sciences and humanities faculties to close in Japan after ministerial decree” | Times Higher Education

“Seventeen universities are to close liberal arts and social science courses.” The nationalist Japanese government has achieved what many conservatives in the U.S. would like to achieve.

This does not bode well for the future!

Source: | Times Higher Education

Abusing History: “Japan’s way of remembering World War II still infuriates its neighbours” The Conversation

In light of the earlier discussion on war crimes and apologies, here’s more on the consequences of Japan’s failure to apologize for (or recognize) its WWII war crimes: Japan’s way of remembering World War II still infuriates its neighbours.

“While Germany has managed to build holocaust education into its curriculum and is now at the centre of the European project, Abe and his predecessors have never acknowledged that relations with Korea and China would be greatly improved if there were a push for education and discussion about this terrible history. As things stand, no matter how the militaristic and nationalistic Abe handles the memory of the war in this anniversary year, Japan’s relations with its former adversaries are set to keep festering.”

epa04354254 Japanese people wearing imperial navy costumes raise a rising sun flag as they visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to mourn for victims of World War Two in front of a torii gate at the shrine, Japan, 15 August 2014, marking the 69th anniversary of the end of World War Two. More than 2.5 million Japanese soldiers who died in the service are enshrined at Yasukuni, including convicted war criminals from World War II. EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

” Japanese people wearing imperial navy costumes raise a rising sun flag as they visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to mourn for victims of World War Two in front of a torii gate at the shrine, Japan, 15 August 2014, marking the 69th anniversary of the end of World War Two. More than 2.5 million Japanese soldiers who died in the service are enshrined at Yasukuni, including convicted war criminals from World War II.” EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

“India and Israel Start to See Enemies Within” – Bloomberg View

Nationalism has been on the rise lately. I’ve written previously about the new nationalism in Russia and Japan, but the rise of nationalism in India and Israel may even be more concerning. Pankaj Mishra describes the current situation in these two countries: “There are eerie similarities between the Hindu thugs who assault Muslim males marrying Hindu women and followers of the far-right Israeli group Lehava (Flame), who try to break up weddings between Muslims and Jews…The new ruling classes seem obsessed with moral and patriotic education, reverence for national symbols and icons (mostly right-wing), and the uniqueness of national culture and history.” These leaders were brought to power by tapping into the resentment and discontent of their respective populations. This “politics of resentment,” as Mishra calls it, is powerful, and astute politicians know how to exploit it. As human beings we seem to have an affinity for nationalism. It gives us an identity, a purpose, a community, a compelling narrative, and a scapegoat for our woes. Unfortunately, it more often than not devolves into violence and oppression. How many times do we have to go down this road? Will we ever learn?

“It would be nice to hope that India and Israel’s emboldened hotheads are different, and will lead their countries to stability, prosperity and peace through their special mix of right-wing economics and the politics of ressentiment. It is already clear, however, that they find more thrilling the prospect of perpetual warfare with their perceived enemies, especially the ones within.” I’m afraid that Mishra is right.

Read Mishra’s important reporting on the situation in India and Israel: India and Israel Start to See Enemies Within – Bloomberg View.

"Playing with fire? Photographer: NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images"

“Playing with fire? Photographer: NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images”

“Russia must not be allowed to rewrite Srebrenica’s history” | Natalie Nougayrede | The Guardian

We all want to belong. We all want to think that we are good. We all want to be proud of our heritage, community, and history. We all want to have purpose and meaning in our lives. These are all genuine human desires that are by themselves positive sentiments, but they ultimately leave us vulnerable to manipulation by ambitious political leaders. Because nationalism fulfills all of these desires it has been the ideal political weapon for leaders like Slobodan Milosević, who unleashed the forces of Serbian nationalism as a way to rise to power. But more than fulfilling Milosević’s political ambitions it also released the forces of hatred that tore apart the former Yugoslavia of which the massacre of Srebrenica was a part of. Nationalism rests on an “us versus them” narrative that is more myth than actual history. All past nationals sins must be swept under the rug as a way to make the nation worthy of glory. If it just engendered pride in one’s past, nationalism would not be such a destructive force. Unfortunately, the end result is usually arrogance and hatred.

Natalie Nougayrede’s article at The Guardian reminds us that Putin is playing with the same fire for his own political purposes. This is not to say that Putin is planning to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing, but that his use of nationalism will, and already has, bring great suffering to many. Putin’s veto of the UN resolution is only a small part of his overall power play, but as Nougrayrede reminds us, it is still significant if we value peace and justice. “Some will argue that Russia’s latest veto should be seen as just another snub to the west. But the rewriting of the history of the Bosnian war and the unravelling of the mechanisms that the west tried to put in place to prevent more violence are something that Europeans would do well not to minimise. If only because of those unarmed 8,000 men and boys who were killed just because of who they were: Bosnian and Muslim.”

Russia must not be allowed to rewrite Srebrenica’s history | Natalie Nougayrede | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Srebrenica mourning