June 23, 2018, 10:40 am
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March of memory

IT is the year 2022 in New York City. Roth: I haven’t eaten like this in years. Thorn: I never ate like this.

Roth: And now you know what you’ve been missing. There was a world once. You punk. 

Thorn: Yes. So you keep telling me.

Roth: I was there. I can prove it.

Thorn: I know. I know. When you were young. People were better.

Roth: Oh. Nuts. People were always rotten. But the world was beautiful.” [Dialogue from the 1973 film Soylent Green]

Is memory a human mind displaced in space and time? [Holly Norman, “‘The Future Is A Return To The Past’: Space, Time and Memory in The Time Machine and The Island Of Doctor Moreau”] A mind that leaves the present to return to a bygone moment because it generates a nice feeling. “For members of the allegedly ‘greatest’ generation one’s date of birth could make a considerable difference when it came to service in World War II. Sixteen when Pearl harbor was attacked, I turned 18 early in 1943. To escape summons by the army, I enlisted in the navy and got myself assigned to the V-12 officer-training program. Happily the navy, as months passed, was not taking casualties at worst-case projections, and I remained in Harvard’s V-12 unit for two winters, taking regular college courses. Training, so-called, turned out to be a matter of once-a-week close-order drill exercises.” [Warner Berthoff, “Memories Of Okinawa,” Sewanee Review, Volume 121, Number 1, Winter 2013, pp. 144-150]

But what if the yesteryears were a nightmare? “Eight months after V-J Day, Life magazine ran a story, ‘Home to Chichi Jima,’ telling of the war-crimes trial of two Japanese officers charged with executing American fliers shot down over the Bonin Islands and ‘even more revolting, of practicing cannibalism on them.’ I read the piece as a Yale freshman, not long out of the Navy. It brought back memories of the worst hours I spent during the war.” [George Bush with Victor Gold. Looking Forward. An Autobiography. New York: Bantam, July 1988, p. 32]

“The savage beatings on the rail embankments, the withholding of life-saving drugs, the starvation rations withheld (no work, no eat) opened the door of death to thousands. Each of these deaths should be described as deliberate murder.” [Les Atkinson. My Side of the Kwai. Reminiscences of an Australian prisoner of war of the Japanese. Australia: Kangaroo Press, 2001, p. 126]

“The Japanese strategic objectives (later determined by captured war records) were complete hegemony in Asia and unchallenged supremacy in the western Pacific. This involved the immediate conquest and subjugation of the Philippines and the capture of the immense natural resources of the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya.” [Douglas MacArthur. Reminiscences. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964, p. 111]

“We declared furthermore that the danger of a fascist victory in Germany – a danger for the world revolution and above all for the Soviet Union – was more real and more imminent than the danger of Japanese intervention.” [Leon Trotsky, “Hitler and the Red Army,” Originally written in Turkey, March 21, 1933]

World War II, bad vibes, ya? So what should we remember? The world of 1898 and its anniversaries? “In 1998 the Philippines observed the centenary of the proclamation of Philippine independence from Spain on 12 June 1898…I was one of the five million or so ecstatic Filipinos jamming the Rizal Park.” [Leslie E. Bauzon, A Conceptual Framework for the Study of Philippine History and for Filipino Nation Building,” Area Studies Tsukuba 24:153-164, 2005]

“Spain’s conquest of the Maranao was perhaps near in sight, but the announcement of Commodore Dewey’s victory over the Spanish navy at Manila Bay in 1898 (then, an event in the Spanish-American War) averted the Spanish success. In that year, the Spanish high command ordered the abandonment of Lake Lanao, preparatory to the shipment of Spanish forces to Zamboanga and ultimately, to Spain.” [Mamitua Saber, “Maranao Resistance To Foreign Invasions,” PSR 27 (1979), pp. 273-282]

“The Dictatorial Government decided that the proclamation of Independence should take place on the 12th June, the ceremony in connection therewith to be held in the town of Kawit. With this object in view I sent a Commission to inform the Admiral (Dewey) of the arrangement and invite him to be present on the occasion of the formal proclamation of Independence, a ceremony which was solemnly and impressively conducted. The Admiral sent his Secretary to excuse him from taking part in the proceedings, stating the day fixed for the ceremony was mail day.” [Don Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy. True Version of the Philippine Revolution. Tarlak, September 23, 1899]

Too far back? How about the martial law period? “The turbulent history of the country to this day is a reminder that the inheritors of the mantle of leadership have not been succeeding either in plotting a successful course for the country. History has its day of reckoning.” [Gerardo P. Sicat, The Economic Legacy of Marcos, Discussion Paper No. 2011-11, November 2011]

“The peso and the presidency, in more ways than one, are correlative terms in this democracy of ours. Both reflect the health or sickness of the nation; both affect the lives of millions of people.” [Renato Constantino, “The Devaluation of Mr. Marcos,” Manila Chronicle, December 5, 1970]

“I noticed in the morning news summary before I left Washington that the President of the Philippines, Mr. Marcos, is reviewing the Philippine relationship with the United States. I think these potential developments to some extent tend to validate the so-called domino theory, and if we have one country after another, allies of the United States, losing faith in our word, losing faith in our agreements with them, yes, I think the first one to go could vitally affect the national security of the United States.” [Gerald R. Ford: “The President’s News Conference,” March 17, 1975; The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/]

The year 1898 was also the year when the Egyptian mummy known as the Younger Lady (Nefertiti?) was found in tomb KV35. Who knew? Who remembers? Do you care?
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