Downfall (Film) and On Japan

Der Untergang (2004; English title Downfall, French title La Chute) is a German film depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1945. The movie was written by Bernd Eichinger and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. The film is based on the book by historian Joachim Fest about Hitler's final days, pieces of Albert Speer's memoirs, and the memories of Traudl Junge, secretary of Adolf Hitler; in addition, it loosely conveys events described in the memoirs of Siegfried Knappe

This film more than made up for the crap that was called X-Men: The Last Stand.  The movie traces Hitler's last days in his bunker in Berlin, Joseph Goebbels and his wife's fanaticism, and the emerging power vacuum that emerges as the Whermacht crumbles against the Soviets.  Most revealing was Hitler's decent into delusions and madness as he continues to receive bad news, his generals' reluctance to take any form of initiative without Hitler's consent, and it was implied that Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge was also in love with him.  The film didn't humanise Hitler but showed the flaws behind the madman and pointed out that he exerted influence because of support from his lieutanents and ordinary Germans.  

Japan.  What an interesting country: it was one of the first Asian nations to radically modernise during the turn of the century, develop innovative electronics and business models, and develop unique subcultures such as Otakus and lolicon.  Suffice to say, Japan like any other nation has had it share of the good, the bad and the very ugly.  To be frank, their current government was forcefully imposed upon them by the occupying Americans who later stopped their radical reforms in Occupied Japan when the Cold War flared up in Korea and their ruling LDP has connections with the WW2-era government/politicians that nearly ruined Japan.  The very ugly side of Japan is the proliferation of "Compensated Dating" or teen prostitution, rising right-wing nationalism and the Yasukuni Shrine, which has housed 14 class A War Criminals/Losers since 1978.  However, the positive things that have come out of post-war Japan are high-quality electronics, cars, food and even Anime.

It is safe to say that the Japanese people of today are completely different from the pre-war Japanese.  The Americans have done a half-decent job of rewiring Japan's culture before stopping short of completion thanks to the Korean War.  First, their language was reformed; in the past Japanese was written mainly using Kanji with katakana to write out native Japanese terms.  Some of this writing style can be seen in pre-war documents:

Compare the writing of the Consitution of the Japanese Empire versus the present American Constitution of Japan:

大日本帝國憲法 (Edict) Consitution of the Japanese Empire

朕祖宗ノ遺烈ヲ承ケ萬世一系ノ帝位ヲ踐ミ朕カ親愛スル所ノ臣民ハ即チ朕カ祖宗ノ惠撫慈養シタマヒシ所ノ臣民ナルヲ念ヒ其ノ康福ヲ増進シ其ノ懿徳良能 ヲ發達セシメムコトヲ願ヒ又其ノ翼贊ニ依リ與ニ倶ニ國家ノ進運ヲ扶持セムコトヲ望ミ乃チ明治十四年十月十二日ノ詔命ヲ履踐シ茲ニ大憲ヲ制定シ朕カ率由スル 所ヲ示シ朕カ後嗣及臣民及臣民ノ子孫タル者ヲシテ永遠ニ循行スル所ヲ知ラシム






日本國憲法 (Preamble) American Constitution of Japan

日本國民は、正當に選擧された國會における代表者を通じて行動し、われらとわれらの子孫のために、諸國民との協和による成果と、わが國全土にわたつ て自由のもたらす惠澤を確保し、政府の行爲によつて再び戰爭の慘禍が起ることのないやうにすることを決意し、ここに主權が國民に存することを宣言し、この 憲法を確定する。そもそも國政は、國民の嚴肅な信託によるものであつて、その權威は國民に由來し、その權力は國民の代表者がこれを行使し、その福利は國民 がこれを享受する。これは人類普遍の原理であり、この憲法は、かかる原理に基くものである。われらは、これに反する一切の憲法、法令及び詔勅を排除する。

日本國民は、恒久の平和を念願し、人間相互の關係を支配する崇高な理想を深く自覺するのであつて、平和を愛する諸國民の公正と信義に信賴して、われ らの安全と生存を保持しようと決意した。われらは、平和を維持し、專制と隷從、壓迫と偏狭を地上から永遠に除去しようと努めてゐる國際社會において、名譽 ある地位を占めたいと思ふ。われらは、全世界の國民が、ひとしく恐怖と缺乏から免かれ、平和のうちに生存する權利を有することを確認する。



Compare the two Constitutions from different eras, it appears that the Meiji-era Constitution was written in traditional Chinese and kana as opposed to the Consitution of Japan which was written with a mix simplified Kanji and hiragana.  It seems much easier for a native Chinese speaker to understand pre-war written Japanese compared to modern written Japanese.  All a native Chinese speaker would have to do is take into account the Subject-Object-Verb word order in Japanese and possibly learn native Japanese terms to properly read the predominantly Kanji texts.  

For example:

第一條 (pre-war Japanese)

第一條 (Translated into rough Chinese)

The same cannot be said for learning Japanese today as a result of language reforms that have simplified Kanji, restricted the number of Kanji and the usage of Katakana solely for loanwords and Hiragana for the bulk of written Japanese.   

Second, it would be unfair to claim that the Japanese government is the Japanese people just as it is unfair to claim that the Bush Administration represents Americans as a whole.  There are those who are stupid enough to consider individuals who are critical of the Japanese government to be against the Japanese people or harbour Anti-Japanese sentiment as a whole.  These people are simply idiots or fanatical Japanohiles/Otakus.  One can understand how frustrating it is for non-Americans to repeatedly explain to the American or foreign media that their attacks on the United States are directed at the Bush Administration and not on the people or culture as a whole.  It is unfortunate that Americans and Japanese believe they are being criticised when it is just their government and way of life because there are some who are aware of their history and agree with their critics to a certain extent.  In short, people who are critical of America or Japan love the people and parts of the culture but may have a deep-seated hatred at their government or culture that is considered harmful to their quality of life.  

Third the government does not reflect the Japanese people.  Many Japanese are aware of their history and realise that their governments are not blameless for the situation among its neighbours.  Additionally, post-war generations have been affected by the attempted rewiring of their culture brought on by American-imposed reforms.  Women are making efforts to assert their position with their guarantees of equal protection under the law, there is an influx of American English-based terms being incorporated into Japanese, and increasing cultural exchanges with other nations in the form of academic exchange students, trade, cultural exports (Anime, Sushi, Films, Music) and even tourism.  It is unforunate that the politicians from the LDP are still clinging on to WW2-era mentality with some MPs declaring the Rape of Nanking never happened, referring China as "Shina", harassing women, allowing for the discrimination of foreigners/minorities, and even drawing on an unpleasant past to build Japanese patriotism (visits to the Yasukuni Jinja).

In a nutshell, the Japanese government sucks and requires a belated regime change while the Japanese people should continue building bridges with the world regardless of what crap their government does. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s