The Ainu in Hokkadio, Japan
The article on the Ainu as featured in October 2019 issue of BBC History makes the interesting parallels with the history of the Anglo-Saxon and the Celts in Great Britain. The Wajin, or more widely known as Yamato people elsewhere in the Far East, are the major ethnic group of the Japanese archipelago, many of whom are the descendants of the ancient Silla (57 BC – 935 AD), a kingdom located in a southern part of the Korean Peninsula. (The Anglo-Saxon). The Ainu whose wherefrom and wherefores are still a mystery primarily inhabited in Hokkaido (The Celts or the Welsh).
However, it must be known that the Yamato were not hell bent on obliterating the Ainu culture but in effort to unite the divided provinces by Shoguns under the newly established monarchy of Tenno, which was in fact modeled after Papacy of the West during the Meiji Restoration. And it wasn’t that the Japanese mercilessly persecuted the Ainu under the reign of terror. Rather, they tried to indoctrinate the Ainu modern way of life, which in many ways improved their primitive quality of living by conforming to the reformed policy in favor of their betterment.
True that the Ainu were often subject to discrimination by their unique ethnicity, just as the Welsh and the Irish experienced it from the English, but part of their diminutiveness of presence resulted from the juggernaut of the modernization that necessitated the swing of things.
Josephine Baker was surely more than just a pretty dancer who thrived on her exotic charms and wild popularity from her adoring admirers; she had the guts to talk back to the authority that ignored her presence, the voice to speak out against injustice, the pride of who she was and the will to fulfill her meaning of life despite her hardships. And she did all of this with a graceful choreography of decencies and humanity in style.
Reading of the intriguingly informative article about this strong-willed, headstrong woman has confirmed me in the universal credo that no matter where you came from, with the best of what you possess and the will to meaning by actualizing your valuable attributions, you can rise above biological and social planes deemed to stunt your growth into what you want to be. In fact, Baker’s resilient spirit against social discrimination and personal hardships epitomizes what Nietzsche advised to the suffering humanity:” That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In this sense, the figure of Baker transcends a statue of civil right activist that some people like to erect for pontificating about their political ideology and becomes a universal model of humanity as she herself practiced during her lifetime. For it was not that she loved the socially disfranchised people of her kind, but that she loved mankind more.
Baker’s life was exciting, and the elements so wonderfully mixed in her that parliament of humankind might applaud her to the very echo and proclaim to the world “This was a woman!” For all her acts of courage and fortitude gracefully surrounding her person, those thousand decencies she exemplified as a citizen of the world flew from all her words and actions, really.
108 years ago from today, an Italian handyman named Vincenzo Peruggia stayed a night at Louvre with Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in his arms and walked away the next morning with a trunk where the famous da Vinci’s woman was hidden. The workers coming to work at the museum early in the morning saw him but didn’t cast a shred of doubt that the unassuming handy man would keep the painting at his house for the next 2 years.
What’s more, the museum had not noticed the missing of Mona Lisa until a visitor inquired after its whereabout. Mona Lisa was surely a beauty with a mysteriously enticing smile, but no one seemed to fancy her to a heart’s content; she was just one of da Vinci’s paintings worth displaying as a panoply of his ingenuity.
Back in the humbling dwelling of Peruggia – the handyman who in his heart was a patriotic guardian of the Italian cultural treasures-, the kidnapped Mona Lisa began to cohabitate with him by perchance for 2 good years until her Italian abductor finally decided to return to his homeland with her. In his mind, Peruggia might have thought it just to return Mona Lisa to her birthplace as he was taking her to a local museum. On the contrary, it was not a wreath of olive for his patriotism that was bestowed on him but a pair of metal handcuffs that was going to be presented to him for smuggling. To pour salt in the punctured wound of his heart, Peruggia had to serve a brief spell in prison.
What happened to Mona Lisa thereafter was a proverbial tale of an ordeal-turned-fortune; upon returning to the Louvre, Mona Lisa became so famous with the antics that she was the celebrity of the museum, let alone the most known painting of her creator all over the world. Shakespeare was right because Peruggia’s abduction of the painting was a tide that brought her timeless fortune.
My letter to the editor of BBC History Revealed regarding “The Wild West” was printed in the September issue of the magazine – again! Today was the first day of the new issue which was downloaded on my Kindle Fire during my one-hour lunchtime at my regular Starbucks store. I have since ordered a hard copy of the magazine for a keepsake. It feels great to see my own writing published in an established periodical. Robert Waldo Emerson said: “Thinking is the function, living is the functionary.” Likewise, I want to actualize my thoughts from a deep cave of silence.
The following is my letter published in the September issue of BBC History Revealed.
The article about the Wild West in this month’s issue was particularly interesting, since I am a recent immigrant from the East to the West: the restive nature, the swashbuckling gunslingers, the outrageous outlaws and the ruthless vigilantes were all embroidered on the popular Hollywood-generated image of the West that became something of a factoid to people living outside the West.
Even though the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that no more western frontiers were left to conquer, I believe that the culture and ambiance of the West remains here in California. As someone who lived many years in New Jersey and the New York City before moving to Camarillo, the most distinctive characteristic of California is its unsullied beauty of nature in replacement of the skyscraper jungle as I see every day on the commuter’s railways.
Surely, there’s no more John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, or Paul Newman with Robert Redford walking in the streets. Yet, the spirit of eternal youthfulness is still nuanced by a combination of its beautiful rusticity of nature and a diversity of people interacting with the special aura surrounding the land. For this reason, the West has not lost its charm with its continuous saga of immigrants in search of better future and the timeless beauty of nature.”
History is a nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel, packed with actions, emotions, and characters, in the discovery of the universal human traits; it is both considered as parts of Humanities and Social Sciences in modern academia with the beauty of literature and the authority of science. That is why history is the most potent basis of political tool for manufacturing ideology in the form of a myth. Nazism was the proverbial example of the myth as an effective propaganda that called for the unity of the Germans. But the building of myth is not confined in the Germans; it’s an in-vogue political trend across the Seven Seas, which shoehorns ambitious political ideology into a suitably fashionable story of national pride and beguiling ethnocentrism.
Historian Michael Wood’s article “Dangerous Histories” in this month’s BBC History is the most apposite to such current revisionist view on history. In the article, his example of India, where the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement imbibes the populace with the mythical Hindu past that was claimed to be distorted by medieval Muslim conquests and British colonialism, bespeaks a danger of rewriting an untruthful history without objective facts, tempered by blind jingoism and askew ethnocentrism. In fact, such revisionist rewriting of history contributes to a powerful social cohesion of the populace in times of national crisis. It’s really a case of mass mind-control by means of myth, the imagined history tinged with false patriotism and insular outlook on the world.
History is a collective narrative of a people who have been together through thick and thin, warts and all, sharing the same culture in the same place for centuries. Thus, it shapes the sense of identity of the people among others. However, if history serves to berating peoples of other nations to claim its own cultural superiority over them and therefore rightful subjugation of their cultures, then history as the factual subject in the academia loses its force of truth and becomes no more than a propagandist manifesto of jingoism. Let history be history, not a legend. Maybe it is high time we invoked the spirit of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who put forward factual and empirical elements in historical narratives.