Mar 6, 2007

[World Affairs] No Comfort (for the) Women

Flickr: kamoda - JMSDF Memorial Day 自衛隊記念日

The comments of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserting that there was no evidence of government-sanctioned coercion in the "recruitment" of comfort women, the term commonly adopted to identify those women from then Japanese-occupied terrirtories during WWII who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese, continue to make waves throughout the world. His statements we made in response to a US Congressional resolution and until today Japan refuses to apologize for those statements despite what the resolution demands.

While it's just another of those non-binding resolutions that seem be becoming all the rage these days in the US, that's not really the point, of course. The issue is who really gets the "final" say on how history is to be recorded. The views of Prime Minister Abe reflect those of a movement to revise textbooks to reflect a more "balanced" view of the war considering Japan's role in things. He's not alone in this belief, don't get me wrong. Every nation deals with their own set of revisionists who argue different perspectives on history and work to document these views as they see fit. It's mainly because he's such a public figure that his statements are making a larger impact.

I remember back in college I had to read a history book that argued that history must be somehow usable by the present group, thus promoting revisionsm as a way of "tweaking" the history books to serve a specific purpose. This may have some merit in the long run, but of course the thought is somewhat unsettling - history is changeable. While in theory one would think that history was meant to be set in stone, as it were, once the event was over but the fact that every person has a different perspective on things means that every person is bound to have his or her own view of the event in question, thus leading to multiple versions of history.

So is Prime Minister Abe really wrong in saying thie things he has? What moral ascendancy can we possibly claim over him when history is edited and changed everyday around the world. Should history simply be the view of the majority or should the opinions of some be valued over others? There are too many questions behind this issue, and expect all sides involved to fight for their beliefs to the bitter end, whatever it may be. I personally may not agree with his statements, but in the long run there may not be any real difference.

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Photo linked from kamoda's photostream.

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