The Rape of Nanking — Just another collateral damage

(Thoughts on the book The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang)

Nanking Massacre, otherwise known as the Rape of Nanking was carried out, over a period of six weeks, by the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Around three hundred to four hundred thousand Chinese people were killed in Nanking and nearly a hundred thousand women were gang raped by the Japanese soldiers. Unlike the holocaust and other Nazi atrocities, this event has not been given its due place in the history books. Neither Japan has apologized or paid any reparations to the victims nor any major Japanese leader was tried or punished for these crimes.

This is the summary of the book. It adds graphical details of the mass murders and rapes, interviews and accounts narrated by the survivors, soldiers and texts from the journals of people who were there in the Nanking during this period. The Nanking Massacre is a controversial subject and Japanese historians and authorities have refuted its scale and occurrence for decades and this book is an attempt to convince the people of the world about the reality and the scale of war crimes committed by the Japanese soldiers in Nanking. Also, it brings forth the heroic attempts of a few brave and compassionate foreigners who risked their lives to establish a safety zone and saved hundreds of thousands of Chinese people from the death and rape by the Japanese soldiers.

I’ve spent too much time of the internet to get shocked or even surprised by the sadistic and barbaric capabilities of humans. From pedophiles to serial killers, from corporate brainwashing to housing crisis, from drug cartels to political propaganda, I’ve come across so many forms of demented human nature that nothing amazes me anymore. I completely believe in the potential of the humans to stoop to any level to achieve their selfish and deranged purposes. The inhumane treatment of the Chinese people from the hands of Japanese is a form of ethnic cleansing or persecution which has existed ever since the dawn of mankind and it is still happening in the various part of the world. As a species humans thrive by the exploitation and domination of other humans.

Rather than being shocked by the description of the events, there were times, while reading this book, I was amused by the capability of the humans to collectively adopt to a belief system as a large group and then go on about killing and looting other humans without any second thought. Our ability to unite in the name of religion, race, ethnicity or nation to ravage other group of humans is fascinating. And so is our ability to accept this absolutely monstrous aspect as a normal human tendency. I think the author, Iris Chang, summed it perfectly,

“Some quirk in human nature allows even the most unspeakable acts of evil to become banal within minutes, provided that they occur far enough away to pose no personal threat”

Our laws are very strict against an individual if he or she commits an act of arson, theft, rape, or murder. But take the weapons and permission from the Government or the Emperor, cross the country border and they’re free to kill, burn and rape in the name of war. Interestingly, there are accords and laws defining the code of conduct for the militaries and Governments during the war time. That sounds great. But on a second thought, these are the rules about how men holding guns and weapons can take orders, from the leaders sitting in the comfortable offices and houses thousands of miles away from the war zones, to kill and destroy other men in foreign lands so that all of it stays dignified. Isn’t this beautiful? We understand our desire to kill fellow humans so much that we have created rules to manage it.

I wasn’t even mildly surprised by the graphical description of the killings and rapes occurred in the Nanking and I had no difficulty in believing that all of it happened, more of less. But I was surprised by learning that the author, Iris Chang, who thoroughly researched and wrote this best-selling and award winning book at the age of twenty nine went into depression and committed suicide just a few years later. She was thirty six years old when she died. And it’s ironic that I didn’t even bat an eye over the deaths of three hundred thousand Chinese, but felt a tinge of grief on learning the fate of the author. Stalin was right, “A Single Death is a Tragedy; a Million Deaths is a Statistic.”

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