Random NotesRight now I am not satisfied with blogging. In fact, I am not sure I want to keep doing it. I am not attracting/addressing an audience interested in continental European history. I may closed down in a few weeks and concentrating on my dissertation.
The least I can do is point out some good reading, like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the World Sixty Years Later. The article examines memory in Japan as it relates to World War Two and the atomic bomb. The disappearance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from public history seems to go hand in hand with the idea that Japan's war was not aggressive imperialism, but anti-Westernization.
Takahashi explains that Hiroshima was once a popular destination for school trips, but in recent years the education ministry had been putting pressure on the teachers’ unions to discontinue peace education and to promote nationalism instead. The Hiroshima prefectural Board of Education is especially strict, he said, because the city of Hiroshima is such a hotbed of political activity. When teachers in the Hiroshima schools protested the imposition of singing the national anthem in school by lip-synching, the government sent representatives to monitor the volume at which the anthem was sung.
And it’s not just in Hiroshima. The education ministry has been promoting nationalism across Japan by starting to enforce patriotic indoctrination in the schools. In Tokyo, for example, the Metropolitan Board of Education—made up partly of elected representatives and partly of members appointed by the conservative Tokyo governor (and former novelist) Shintaro Ishihara—has the sole power to decide which texts meet national standards. The 1994 Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, who has been writing about this issue recently, said he believes that the board does not actually read the textbooks but instead works from a handbook which quantifies the patriotism-promoting tendencies of a text according to the numbers of times it mentions certain issues, such as the island of Takeshima, which the Japanese government contends belongs to Japan, but which the Korean government believes is Korean (and calls Dokto); or the number of times the words “Japanese traditions” appear. There is also a volunteer committee, composed entirely of well-known editors and critics—all right-wing extremists—formed specifically to write and promote a nationalistic textbook. Teachers have been resisting the use of such revisionist texts, but we heard in Hiroshima about retaliations—punitive postings to locations where a long commute would be required, for example—against teachers who resisted the directives of their local boards. The curriculum now not only omits mention of Japanese aggression in Asia but gives very little attention to the atomic bombings.
While a disagree that the memory of the atomic bomb should naturally lead to pacifism and anti-proliferation, I found myself thinking about the positive role that anti-war discourses can play -- and should play -- in debates on public policy.
Anthony Gottlieb's review of Tony Judt's new book highlights the sense of possibility and fear that followed World War Two. Judt's evaluation of post-war Europe -- that it was able to crawl out of the shadow of American supremacy -- may irk some historians. He does, however, address an ongoing problem of post-war historiography: that European nations realigned themselves to the realities of the Cold War. Indeed, real history was made beneath the conflict between superpowers. Moreover, the Marshall Plan -- that paradigm of nation-(re)building -- was more important psychologically than economically.
I also want to make a quick note of Eric Hobsbawm's article on Jewish emancipation.
The White Sox, by the way, made quick work of the Angels, with or without the controversy.