Sunday, December 25, 2005

A culture wars interlude (volley 2)

[I added the following in reply to SOV2, not the least because he is guilty of abusing, ever so subtly, a commonplace that Buddhism is either a) more lax and less "puritanical" than bad ol' Catholicism or b) less implicated in violence or c) both. Certainly, the Faith has blood on its hands and ankles; that is its own hard issue. My point here is to wrest from SOV2 an annoyingly maladroit line of rhetoric.]

Your mantra about benevolent, halcyon Buddhism is naïve and a non sequitur, so please drop it. To keep things simple, have you ever heard of the Rape of Nanking and/or the playgrounds of sadism that it left behind in Pingshan (Unit 731 and Unit Ei 1644)? The pinnacle of a Buddhist empire fomented war in China and the Pacific for at least twenty years. Dwell on that. Sure, it was a violation of Buddhist principles – but it shows how weak your “argument” is, since Christian brutality is just as much an oxymoron. At the very least, the Buddhist rape of China puts the lie to your Crayola history: Cro-Magnon Medieval Savages vs. SOV2, Tom Watts and the Buddha, with Hearts. Or perhaps you should consider the Sri Lankan Buddhist monks battling (literally) Tamils in our own day. Or perhaps you should consider the idea that not all cruelty manifests as formal inquisitions and witch hunts. Neglect, oppression, injustice, malfeasance, etc. can and do manifest in a variety of ways in Buddhist contexts. (Why oh why is the sex slave trade most active in Asia?) As a metaphor of aphorisms, to the truism that reincarnation entails kindness to animals, who are ontologically equivalent to humans, the plain retort is that such onto-egalitarianism rapidly devolves into the Buddhist truth that humans are, by the hard laws of karma, no better than animals.

I don’t mean any of this as a rigorous argument; I simply implore you to drop the rubber mallet of “benevolent Asia / evil West” and add some solid historical realism to your rubber arsenal. The truth is, your beef with Christian savagery amounts to saying you prefer Buddhism because it is not guilty of the SAME sins as Christians.

[SOV2 then replied he does not reify Asian goodness or Wetsern badness, but merely encourages the latter region to learn from the former's obviously less militaristic heritage. Good! Unfortunately, though, SOV2 slides too easily into washing the hands of Buddhist Japan, by insisting Japanese are falling over themselves to apologize for past crimes. I replied with a series of links to the contrary. To wit, Japan still makes formal efforts to deny the horrors of Nanking, and signs are still that Japan has little faced up to the wide range of its dark side.

The links:

denial 1

denial 2

lone voice

full story 1

full story 2

full story 3

full story 4 ]

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