Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Quote: Adaptations of Racism and the Pacific War’s aftermath – “War Without Mercy”

“As the war years themselves changed over into an era of peace between Japan and the Allied powers, the shrill racial rhetoric of the early 1940s revealed itself to be surprisingly adaptable. . . . . . . . 

 “Idioms that formerly had denoted the unbridgeable gape between oneself and the enemy proved capable of serving he goals of accommodation as well.  To the victors, the simian became a pet, the child a pupil, the madman a patient.  In Japan, purity was now identified with peaceful rather than martial pursuits, and with the pure of corrupt militaristic and feudalistic influences rather than decadent Western bourgeois values as had been the case during the war.  Victory confirmed he Allies’ assumptions of superiority, while the ideology of “proper place” enabled he Japanese to adjust to  being a good loser.

To a conspicuous degree, the racial and racist ways of thinking which had contributed so much to the ferociousness of the war were sublimated and transformed after August 1945. The merciless struggle for control of Asia and the Pacific gave way, in a remarkably short time, to an occupation in which mercy was indeed displayed by the conquerors, and generosity and good will characterized many of the actions of victor and vanquished alike.  That vicious racial stereotypes were transformed, however, does not mean that they were dispelled.”

— From John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, New York, 1986.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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