The Rape Of Nanking

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by orthogonal, Feb 12, 2002.

  1. orthogonal Registered Senior Member

    I occasionally force myself to walk down aisles of the library that I would otherwise seldom visit. It's a mostly futile effort to prevent my reading from becoming too inbred. Last week while doing just this, I found myself in the history stacks. One of the books I pulled from the shelf was titled, The Rape Of Nanking. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed some photographs towards the middle of the book. I looked at perhaps half a dozen of these photos before I put the book back on the shelf and found a place to sit.

    Is it odd that our culture finds humor in situations where strong men swoon? Well, I didn't faint but it was some hours later until I'd completely recovered from my nausea attack. I know enough, indeed too much, about the horrors of Stalin, Hitler, Poi Pot, and so on, and so forth. Yet viewing that fifty year old photo of a young woman tied to a chair left me feeling both ashamed and weak. In another photo, a live Chinese boy is propped on a stake so that a Japanese soldier may better learn the fine art of bayoneting. My last look before I put the book away was of a man kneeling moments before his beheading as Japanese soldiers stand smiling in the background.

    Why were the Japanese smiling? Even if they viewed the Chinese as nothing more than animals I wouldn't think the Japanese would normally smile as they view an animal being butchered. Were they smiling at the thought of victory? This was not a war, the entire Japanese excursion was best described by the book's title; it was a rape rather than a fight. I believe these soldiers were smiling to hide their own fears; fear for their own life, and fear for what they were doing to both themselves and to the Chinese. Tears would have been seen as either a sign of weakness or a sympathy for the enemy. Smiles and laughter occasionally belie our preference for tears.

    I wonder about the soldier who tied that poor girl to the chair. Did he live through the war? If he later married would fate have been so cruel as to grant him a daughter? When he kissed his daughter's cheek or cradled her to sleep some evenings, what might he have been thinking? Would he be moved to smile?

    Morality is purely a social concept. A man alone on an island has no more need to study morality than he has a need for Tango lessons. Though he may have it mind to be an utterly evil bastard, what is the worst he can do; split his firewood more aggressively? Similarly, the universe might be filled with extra-terrestrial life, but as of yet there has been no pressing need to consider moral questions between humans and aliens. Man is driven into social contact for the same reasons as is the chimpanzee; both to cooperate and compete. The generally accepted code of social conduct represents man's fragile agreement to reduce the anarchy resulting from pure power struggles. Those who respect this agreement may describe themselves as civilized men. Those who disregard this agreement may describe themselves as shaven apes.

    We understand that men are capable of both wonders and horrors, though we understand it less when the same man displays both extremes. The Japanese soldiers that raped and murdered their way through Manchuria were doubtless capable of sending home loving letters to their mothers. We are ape-men. The ape is an amoral creature. Man is a product of culture. David Barash imagines the ape-man, that is the ape and the man, "... as two people chained together; one barely able to hobble and the other a world class sprinter."

    The world is roughly half as we find it and half as we make it. When we treat other men with respect there is no need to wait for a heavenly reward; the reward is instantly given to all of us. When men behave savagely towards each other they just as quickly create a credible imitation of hell for all of us. We live in no greater a paradise than the worst of us allows, or the best of us demands.

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  3. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

    The Rape of Okinawa

    We understand that men are capable of both wonders and horrors, though we understand it less when the same man displays both extremes. The Japanese soldiers that raped and murdered their way through Manchuria were doubtless capable of sending home loving letters to their mothers.

    So were the American soldiers that raped and murdered their way through the island of Okinawa during the second world war. There is a cliff on the island that is now a shrine. It is where the young Okinawa women jumped to their deaths instead of giving themselves to the soldiers.

    It is interesting to note that the raping of young Okinawa women by American soldiers continues today.

    "The military representatives were non-responsive to our requests. No concrete decisions were made during the meeting, and I expect nothing to change." In a pessimistic tone, another participant stated, "There is no quick remedy for stopping military crime. It will take a very long time to educate them."
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  5. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

    orthogonal, (Q) ...

    Aw shucks. What's there to get all that upset about?

    Don't you-all realize that boys will be boys no matter
    what uniform they're wearing?

    You really don't expect them to be saints, do you?

    Take care

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  7. mato Registered Member

    I find a problem in your statement, modern man is capable of nothing but horror and the most rudamentary of social interaction from which he/she thinks they can find fulfillment and joy only to be disappointed. The ape is a noble animal capable of none of the actions man is in it's natural state only corrupting when man interferes. Why spousal abuse was unknown to the orangatangs until a well meaning human introduced the idea of sharing food, which is alien to them, and a life long union in a human type situation... Of course it is going to immitate it's captives and become violent. However the natural ape is nothing of the sort, only defending itself when threatened and not attacking at the slightest incalling... 'Civilized' man is the problem, through his self imposed imprisonment he becomes inraged and corrupted by his own compound nature within the unnatural four walls and a ceiling that he spends his days and nights. 'Civilized' man came up with the ways of tourture, the rules to war and the weapons of mass destruction not the ape.

    I am proud to say that I am a Great Ape! I stand tall with my brothers on the evolutionary path and hope that others realize that this is what they are, not divine creations in the form of an imaginary god, or warriors for a futile cause or such nonesense as to cause the horrors of which you speak. We are no better than the apes, infact modern 'civilized' man is below even the bugs that inhabbit their fur! And is doomed to a fate of futile conflict over nothing... Silly creatures.
  8. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

    Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

    Wow. Where do I go with THAT statement.
    Perhaps I should just recommend a book to you:
    Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence.
    Might I also recommend:
    Peacemaking Among Primates

    --- Edit: forgot my "Peace." moniker ---
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2002
  9. mato Registered Member

    B.S. (Bad Science) the lot of it. First of all It doesnt mention the modern destruction of the Great Ape social order, through man's killing of our brothers. Second it fails to touch on the fact that the most violent of the Apes are those that were raised outside of their own social system and hence the first. Third it refuses to consider the idea that man's violence and horribly un humanitarian behavior could be emulated by the Apes they sought to study. Fourth all attempts to study them are inherantly flaud as it requires an alien presence.

    The Great Apes have all the impulses towards violent behavior that we do but when they are in their natural state and not molested by man they control themselves better than any modern human could ever. Humans in their natural state control themselves far better than modern humans could ever. It is the 'civilized' man that is the uncontrolled violent 'monster' that is mentioned in the excert from the book. The natural state of man is one of peace, the natural state of the Great Apes is one of peace, if they are left to on their own.

    Why is this, the community in which a Great Ape is raised forms it's moral and ethical guidelines for living in and wiht other Great Apes, when these are followed there is no need for violent behavior and violent behavior is suppressed at a young age with most of the Great Apes and thus there is little violence once the Great Ape has reached adult hood (except for contests of strength and intellegence to determine the social order...) and the cycle of none violence is initiated. (Hey if violence is a cycle than peace is too.) Just look at any republican 'family first' or 'christian family values' to see the propoganda, look beyond that into the studies to see the truth (sorry I havent the stomach to search through propoganda today so no links...)
  10. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

    I was considering taking this conversation further when I recalled the very first thread you initiated in this forum, and your subsequent posts as that thread developed. For someone so eager to distance yourself from the “evils” of civilized man, you are quick to espouse the revolutionary futures that would be made possible by his efforts. How, exactly, does this fit in with your “mato/ape” brotherhood?

    Perhaps you should read the books I mentioned before dismissing them as “bad science.” One actually supports you, to a degree. Taking the time to review the majority of your posts, I see them as the ramblings of an individual that has not formed any true opinions in relation to what they are trying to express, and the result is merely a “mish-mash” of very generic phrases.

  11. esp Registered Senior Member

    Re: orthogonal, (Q) ...


    You are completely correct.
    There is no vindication for it, but it is likely a constant throughout all of our war like nations.
    Interesting way of putting it: Boys will be Boys.
  12. orthogonal Registered Senior Member


    I didn't mean to imply that the Japanese were singularly evil. I am far more interested in the ethical behavior of humans in general than I am in the slight moral peculiarities inherent to a single culture.

    In his book Embracing Defeat, John Dower writes that the American occupation forces in Japan came to view Japanese women as part of the spoils of war. Dower chronicles the rise of the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), an agency created by the Japanese government in the effort to save the general female population from abuse at the hands of the Americans. The government recruited innocent women from schools, farms, and factories by appealing to their sense of duty and sacrifice to their country. Thousands of dispirited and destitute women answered the call. In some cases, these women committed suicide after their first day of "work". Though the RAA was little more than a system of officially sanctioned rape camps, in general the concept appears to have worked. The incidence of forcible rape committed by Americans was considerably lower than was initially feared by the authorities. It simply was not worth the effort to commit a rape when a woman at that time could be obtained for one half the cost of a package of Japanese cigarettes. In one period it was reported that nearly 80% of the American occupation forces had contracted some form of venereal disease. In other words, it appears to have been a rare American that did not make use of these women. I note that these particular Americans came from what Tom Brokow has described as, "The Greatest Generation".

    I've yet to understand how a man may be simultaneously a hero and a scoundrel. In the chapter of Dower's book that describes the rise of the black market following the war, he writes, "The Japanese writer Sakagchi Ango observed that Japanese men who only months earlier had been willing to die for their country, 'to fall with the purity and beauty of the cherry blossom', were now mercilessly gouging their compatriots." The same observation may be made of the American occupation forces. They had risked their lives for the greater good of people they would never meet, yet they would abuse an innocent individual woman who had been already beaten to her knees. It's very strange indeed.

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2002
  13. Adam §Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥ Registered Senior Member

    Morality is a social concept? Well, "social" is a biological concept. We have two sets of ethics/morals. Those created in us through our evolution, and those we make up for the hell of it.

    Our ancestors lived in groups to survive. To maintain those groups, certain behaviours were obviously acceptable or not. Certain behaviours developed around mating, raising offspring, et cetera. And now we have Las Vegas weddings and such.

    The other type of ethics and such are crazy things like binding the feet of women so they remain small, or going to church on sunday. Made up stuff that has nothing to do with our development.
  14. orthogonal Registered Senior Member

    Hey Adam,

    Well stated!

    Moral considerations arise when at least two men interact. Yet even Robinson Crusoe had a mother and father. No man is an island. I owe my birth and continued wellbeing to a vast network of humans, most of which are complete strangers to me. Who grew the banana I ate this morning for breakfast? What are the names of the men that at this moment are working to improve medical technology from which I shall one day benefit? It makes no sense to consider a man outside his social context. We are individuals, but each of us is also a cell in the overall organism of humanity. The health of the organism is reflected by the health of the individual cells. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, "What's good for the bee is good for the hive".

    I abide by the Kant's categorical imperative; "Act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." In other words, act as though your individual action would become a universal law.

    The Lieutenant may tell me that it's permissible to rape and bayonet the innocent villagers, but the categorical imperative tells me otherwise! With Godel's incompleteness theorem in mind, it should be theoretically possible to find a situation where the categorical imperative breaks down. In the words of Gregory Chaitin, "if one has ten pounds of axioms and a twenty-pound theorem, then that theorem cannot be derived from those axioms". However, I've yet to meet a practical situation where the categorical imperative has failed to provide me with the best direction.

    Also, I agree that not everything men do has been hardwired into us for survival. Otherwise, why would we listen to music?

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2002
  15. orthogonal Registered Senior Member


    I respectfully disagree with your concept of the "noble savage".

    Since men, rather than monkeys produced the hydrogen bomb for example, you might conclude that monkeys are more socially benign than are men. This argument confuses ethics with technical ability. An especially evil man might construct and detonate a nuclear weapon. What is the worst thing that a wicked snail could do? Likewise, consider the violence produced in NYC by mid-eastern terrorists at the controls of commercial jet aircraft. Compare this with the maximum violence that could be produced from the same men brandishing scimitars while riding down 5th Avenue on camelback. Whether we are speaking about medicine or machine guns; technology only provides us with the tools that amplify our power to achieve our desired ends. Male chimps routinely fight for mating rights. They form alliances to unseat a dominant male, but will just as quickly turn on their allies if they see an opportunity. Suppose I were to give a revolver to a chimpanzee. If the chimp could figure out how to use it, would you expect that for moral reasons he wouldn't use it on his rivals?

    In his book, The Origins Of Virtue, Matthew Ridley reports that male chimpanzees occasionally form a group and set off together as if on a mission. Their mission is to find and murder an isolated male chimp from a nearby band. Once the murder is complete, they run home as fast as their little legs can carry them.

    You wrote that apes are morally superior to men:
    Men rape, murder, and conspire to harm others.
    Apes rape, murder, and conspire to harm others.
    Apes are thus not morally superior to men.

    My contention was that man in his "natural" or savage state is no more moral than an ape. Both monkeys and humans form temporary social contracts that provide a mutual benefit. However, among earth's inhabitants, man appears to be unique in his ability to generalize the concept of mutual benefit into the abstract ideas of virtue and duty…

    Hmm….I should have stopped while I was ahead. I see a flaw in my last paragraph. A worker ant or bee devotes its life to selflessly providing only for the good of the community. It will easily give up its life at any time to protect the community as a whole from danger. While a man might be able to think abstractly about selfless virtue, an ant appears to live a life of perfect virtue! If virtue sets a man apart from savages, then other than the occasional Mother Theresa, we humans might on average appear to be far inferior to the ants!

    The only way I see around this conclusion is if I consider an individual ant to be merely a cell of the entire colony. The colony itself thought of as the "unit organism" is capable of very selfish and aggressive acts towards other colonies. An analogy might be that the cells in my body devote their lives to selflessly providing for my welfare as a whole. They will easily give up their lives to protect the unit organism from danger, yet the unit organism (i.e me) is capable of selfish and aggressive behavior towards other unit organisms.

    I've written in an earlier post that I believe individual humans might be considered to be the individual cells that collectively make up the entire human super-organism. My argument in this earlier post was that each human, ideally guided by Kant's categorical imperative acts for the good of the whole. Am I in effect asking us to live with the same selfless devotion and single-mindedness towards the greater good, that is characterized by both Mother Theresa and the ants acting as individuals? (I don't mean to belittle Mother Theresa by comparing her to an ant, I'm just using her as an analogy.)

    See what I get for thinking? I "knew" more going into this post than I do in leaving it! In any case, it looks as though I need to "take counsel of my pillow".

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2002
  16. Adam §Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥ Registered Senior Member

    It is not a flawed method of experiment to be near the apes in question. Those apes live with interruption and inrtusion every day in the wild. It is part of their natural state to be affected by other species. Lions, zebra, crocodiles, gerbils, cranes, flies, all sorts. And humans, who have lived in places where various other primates dwell for millions of years.

    Many types of primate regularly practice infanticide en masse. In wild groups of many species, when a new male becomes alpha it goes around killing the young and vulnerable offspring of the previous alpha. This is to increase the chances of its own genetic code surviving. Less competition for food and such. The females allow it to happen because, in an attempt to secure the contintuance of their own genetic material, they would rather lose one child and have several mroe through the new alpha than risk injury and an end to having kids by resisting. Again we see how biology shapes societies. If you are talking in terms of biology, that behaviour is "morally" superior to allowing those children to live. However, since we seem to have beaten down all our threats from natural selection, and we have the luxury of philosophy, many of us simply say "life is precious" and leave it at that. Biology also says life is precious, and uses social/biological mechanics such as I mentioned to ensure the fittest life survives. Many of us simply assume that our philosophy grants us superior insight (superior to billions of years of tried and true evolution) and that we should apply the "life is precious" thing to ALL life. Maybe we should. I suspect so. The difference is that biology prefers to ensure the absoltue survival of LIFE through any possible threat by ensuring the survival of the fittest above all others, to give Life itself the greatest chance of survival.

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