Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

6 No More Hiroshimas and Sharp Weapons

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

6 No More Hiroshimas and Sharp Weapons

Article excerpt

I

Introduction

IT IS CHARACTERISTIC of humankind that collective memory tends to go hand in hand with collective consciousness and conscience altogether. This is always the case with world-rocking events or manmade catastrophes in particular. What happened after the Hiroshima A-bombing during World War II, for example, stays with us consciously all along but with no easy conscience owing to the massive destruction, not merely of civil buildings and lives, but of human affinity in its entirety. A poetical reflection after Hiroshima exposes a most sympathetic reaction to the A-bombing itself, and reveals what havoc this deadliest mode of warfare as such brought forth to humanity. In so doing, it is conducive to further discussion about the cause of war, the launch of military operations, and the use of excessive forces, and so on.

Considered from the perspective of Taoist philosophy, war by nature remains more or less the same from the past to the present. By whatever names it is waged, it is equally dangerous and detrimental in the sense that the majority of innocent civilians are the first victims to suffer from brutal violence and slaughter. Moreover, years of famine are sure to arise after a war, apart from disorder and disease and many other difficulties and hardships. Hence Laozi, an early Taoist thinker, advocates an anti-war attitude even though he knows the art of warfare inside out. Along this line of thought, he encourages people to prevent the use of military forces except for when there is no other choice for the sake of self-defense or self-preservation. Even so, he warns the strong army not to take any risk by means of savage operations. Otherwise, it is doomed to perish in the end. Regarding the function of what used to be called in antiquity "sharp weapons" (liqi), that could be metaphorically identified with "excessive force" at present, Laozi takes them as evil instruments, and advises that those who possess them should not display them at all. A display of sharp weapons will stir up such problems as an arms race, potential conflicts, and even bloody wars. All this seems to bear ongoing relevance to the current situation over the troubled world where we live.

II

A Poetical Reflection After Hiroshima

TODAY, MOST OF THE OVERSEAS visitors to Hiroshima would be strikingly impressed with the city lights and green trees around there. In front of the actual scene, they might still feel amazed because they could hardly imagine how it was possible to get almost everything rehabilitated in that region after the A-bombing of August 6, 1945. As recorded in the history of war, Hiroshima fell victim to the first atomic bomb used in warfare, dropped from an American army plane. Sixty percent of the town was obliterated and a majority of the city's population of some 350,000 were killed or injured; some 95 percent of the people within a quarter of a mile of the explosion were killed outright; and within a radius of a mile, 50 percent of those exposed to radiation eventually died in agony. The miserable aftermath could never be too highly estimated if the psychological effect and environmental pollution in the long run were taken into account. Thereafter, a collective memory of the catastrophe haunts all humans alike, and meanwhile a constant reflection on it gives rise to humanistic responses and ethical views, among others.

Reviewing the tragedy of the A-bombing in the Hiroshima War Museum, James Kirkup cries out emotionally in his poem "No More Hiroshimas" upon his visit in the early 1960s. At the beginning of the poem, the persona therein seems to have suppressed his feelings while looking around with curiosity at the dramatic contrast between "racks and towers of neon" and "shanties awash with rainbows," and so on. But when he walks up to the river running through the downtown area, his tone becomes more serious and solemn. For the river is the witness not merely to the A-bombing on the spot, but also to the crowds of people who died of the burning and boiling heat in it right after the explosion. …

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