In his closing remarks the other night, Cenk Uygur--the liberal host on MSNBC--went into a lengthy monologue on the idea that the Japanese people are "Heroes of Humanity". I watched and was amazed as he listed their many courageous and noble attributes in response to the tsunami/quake and nuclear disaster. Yes, there have been many stories that support this viewpoint. Yes, it has been a terrible blow for them, on so many levels. Yes, I feel their pain as they struggle to recover and to even find the bodies of almost 10,000 missing souls.
A person would have to have a heart of stone to not be touched by some of the anecdotes that are coming out of northern Japan. But, before I buy into Uygur's bestowal of the lofty title of 'Heroes of Humanity', I have to pause. These are citizens of the same country that wanted to build a highway over the Andes in order to loot the Amazon basin of its last tropical hardwood lumber, the same folks who paint 'RESEARCH' on the side of a multi-million dollar new factory ship designed to process whale meat harvested by a fleet of killer ships...one of which tried to kill members of the Sea Shepherd Society by running down their vessel.
The Japanese treated their prisoners of war so badly in WWII that almost one third of them died (while approximately 1% of those held by the Nazis died, for comparison). Japanese soldiers committed endless mayhem on the Chinese population--including the infamous Rape of Nanking, footage of which is almost impossible to see without feeling ill--and the Koreans, and the Filipinos were also the recipients of savage brutality at the hands of Japanese troops, slaughtered wholesale for no other reason than various Japanese commanders wanted it so. None of these crimes against humanity were ever apologized for after the war. To the Japanese, it was as if they never happened. Throughout history, Japan has demonstrated a tendency towards viciousness and brutality, on a level that has equals only among such figures as Ghengis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. One only needs to study Samurai Japan to see what a truly violent society was like. What we have in this country at present doesn't even begin to approach what life was like in Japan during those centuries. A peasant could have his head lopped-off by a passing Samurai for simply being perceived as not having bowed low enough to the ground.
Their complete disdain for the environment and all species with which they interact was made crystal clear in the recent award-winning documentary, 'The Cove'. If you have not seen this heart-rending film, do so, but with the caveat that it will leave you almost certainly enraged that any human beings could be so cruel and callous. Yes, it so happens that I--and a whole lot of other people--love dolphins beyond all reason. I have had enough personal experience of them to know that they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, that they are creatures who we may well one day realize are actually superior to humans in a variety of ways. At the very least, we should not regard them as swimming lumps of meat, there for the harvesting as we wish.
So, Cenk, let's back down on the wildly admiring rhetoric and pause to remember that most things have multiple aspects and that nothing occurs in a vacuum. What has happened in Japan is sad beyond measure, but it is also tinged with a feeling of reaping what one has sown. And, that is perhaps the biggest lesson that we can take away from this entire situation: what goes around really does come around.