The Mad Monarchist is fearless!  A while back, I thought I was really offending established pieties by saying that the attention given to “the rape of Nanking” is largely driven by Chinese immigrants wanting to move their way up the victimology hierarchy.  Now MM has brought together evidence that the official casualty estimates for the massacre have been grossly exaggerated.  He attributes it to the communists wanting to deflect attention to their own horrific cruelties.

The Dalai Lama’s final betrayal

With a fit of PC, the Lalai Lama is retiring and taking down the theocracy with him:

“It has nothing to do with resignation, or health reasons, only with insight,” he said in a recent interview with SPIEGEL in the French city of Toulouse, where he was giving lectures on Buddhism, before traveling to Germany this week as the guest of the Hessian state government in the western city of Wiesbaden. “I have taken a close look at all forms of government. A democratic parliament with an elected prime minister is the only modern and functioning one. Monarchy: yesterday. Theocracy: from the day before yesterday. I believe in the separation of church and state. But what sort of a hypocrite would I be if I didn’t draw any conclusions from this realization?”

For centuries, the Dalai Lama was, in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Tibetans, both the secular and spiritual leader of his people. The current holder of the office already introduced democratic structures while in exile, but they were reforms from the top down, and he always had the last word. Now he has resigned from his secular duties, including his right to dismiss ministers and shape the course of negotiations with Beijing. He also intends to significantly reduce his spiritual duties and address the search for a successor — “male or female,” as he says….

The curtain has fallen. A theocracy is coming to an end, and it is doing so peacefully and without bloodshed. A god is going into retirement.

So the one person charged with preserving the Tibetan constitution has decided to shelf it, chucking his country’s entire political (not to mention spiritual) tradition and turning his country into yet one more copy of England.  Does he imagine that the theocratic monarchy was his private property?  What else would give him the right to abolish it?

The Spiegel writer then goes on to remind us what an odious religion Buddhism is:

Buddhism has become the fashionable religion, from Los Angeles to London, just as the monk Padmasambhava predicted more than 1,200 years ago: “When the iron bird flies, when horses run on wheels, the king will come to the land of the red man.” The Germans are particularly enamored of Tibetan Buddhism, with their dozens of Tibetan centers and tens of thousands of Dalai Lama disciples, who see the Asian faith as the most appealing world religion, and one that generally does not look down on people of other faiths. It preaches peacefulness instead of inquisition, persuasion through meditation instead of missionary evangelism and the hope of attaining Nirvana instead of the threat of jihad, and it treats guilt and sin as concepts from a different, more punishing religious tradition and man as the sole creator of his own fate. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Yes, I just can’t imagine what might go wrong with abolishing people’s sense of guilt for evil actions.  (H.T. Alte)

The delicate art of forgetting

I enjoyed Ted Mcallister’s essay on Front Porch Republic “Iris Chang and the Delicate Art of Remembering“, and the following really clarified things for me:

With regard to the harm that bad history was doing to Japan, Chang offered a simple but compelling question.  Is Germany better for having confronted the Holocaust?  Of course we can ask the same question (as she did) of other nations who have a dark episode in their past, but the contrast with Germany is powerful because of the parallels and the differences.  If we believe that Germany is better today because they learned to remember well then we have to assume that Japan has been harmed by its refusal to confront its own past.

Now I know why something’s been rubbing me the wrong way about Chang.  To me it’s obvious that Germany is immeasurably worse for its obsessive, pathological “confronting” of the Holocaust.  Why in the world would we imagine that people are made better by dwelling on the sins of their ancestors?  Patriotism and filial piety are eroded, to be replaced with a pharisaic pride in one’s own presumed moral superiority.  Germans would certainly be better as people and as a people if they saw their heritage as a glorious thing to live up to.  So let’s face it:  Chang’s project is going to wreck Japanese culture, not improve it.

Not that I think The Rape of Nanking was written as some act of Chinese vengeance.  I think the dynamic behind the celebration of this book lies closer to home.  Iris Chang–who was Chinese-American, not Chinese–” became a celebrity, especially for the Chinese-American community”.  Note that’s the Chinese-American community.  As the article notes “the Chinese government largely ignored the massacre for decades”.  Why would the massacre at Nanking be so much more interesting to Chinese-Americans than to Chinese?  In America, the status of minority groups is determined by victimology.  The Jews play their Holocaust card.  The blacks have their history of slavery.  The hispanics are poor.  What have the Asians got?  And the Chinese are even lower placed than the Japanese.  The Japanese, after all, have that whole WWII internment and Hiroshima thing going for them.  Chinese-Americans have such low status, they might as well be white.  So it’s not surprising that they should react with such enthusiasm to a book that shows that they, too, are victims.  What we have here are ethnic groups jockeying for positions on the American minority pecking order, with The Rape of Nanking put into service as a bid for the Chinese to displace the Japanese.

A final point I can’t resist making:  why, when we talk about “remembering the past”, do we always mean remembering the crimes of the past?  Don’t we have any duty to remember the accomplishments of our ancestors, from which we still benefit?  Why imagine that we learn more from studying murderers than studying artists or missionaries?  Why is a nation defined by its worst atrocity rather than its cultural edifice?  There’s something perverse in what we have decided is worth remembering.

Confucianism and the Enlightenment

Via Western Confucian, I’ve run across this address by Professor Tu Weiming transcribed at Andrew Cusack’s web page, “Towards a Confucian Modernity”, which I fear will be part of a process better called “Towards a Confucian surrender to the Enlightenment”.  Weiming contests the assumption that all civilizations must follow the Western path to modernity.  He says that the European Enlightenment ignored important values like community, family, authority, and ritual.  These are certainly important values, but it’s not true to say that the Enlightenment ignored them:  it was positively hostile to them.  Nor was this a side issue of the Enlightenment–it was its whole point.  The entire focus of the Enlightenment was on the destruction of the Catholic Church and the communal bonds, sacramental sense, and social/sexual mores the Church had fostered.  Nor did it plan to replace these with Confucian mores, as Weiming naively assumes from the positive attention some philosophes gave to China.  The Encyclopedists admired one thing about China, and one only:  that it was not Christian.  So Weiming’s program, to join universal Enlightenment values “liberty, rights consciousness, due process of law, instrumental rationality, privacy, and individualism” with universal Confucian values “sympathy, distributive justice, duty consciousness, ritual, public spiritedness, and group orientation” is pure self-contradiction.  What the Enlightenment meant by “liberty” was the absence of “duty consciousness”, by “individuality” it meant the absence of “group orientation”, by “instrumental rationality” it meant the absence of “ritual”.  So Weiming’s defense of these Confucian values–and it is a good defense–form not an argument for supplementing the Enlightenment, but for rejecting it as pernicious and false.

That is the true Confucian position, but Weiming explicitly rejects it:

An urgent task for the community of like-minded persons, deeply concerned about ecological issues and the disintegration of communities at all levels, is to ensure that we actively participate in a spiritual venture to rethink the Enlightenment heritage. In other words, this is not simply the problem of Western philosophers; this is the problem of anyone who is concerned about our global situation. The paradox is that we cannot afford to uncritically accept its inner logic in light of the unintended negative consequences it has engendered for the community as a whole, nor can we reject its relevance with all of the fruitful ambiguities it entails for our intellectual self-definition, present or even future. There’s no easy way out. We do not have an either/or choice.

The possibility of a radically different ethic or a new value system separate from and independent of the Enlightenment mentality is neither realistic nor even authentic. It may even appear to be either cynical or hypocritical. We need to explore the spiritual resources that may help us to broaden the scope of the enlightenment project, deepen its moral sensitivity, and, if necessary, creatively transform its genetic constraints or historical constraints in order to fully realize its potential as a world view for the human community as a whole. And, of course, the key to the success of this spiritual joint venture is to recognize the conspicuous absence of the idea of community, let alone the global community, in the Enlightenment project. Of course, the idea of fraternity, as many of you know, the fundamental equivalent of community in the three cardinal virtues of the French Revolution, has received scant attention in modern Western economic, political, and social thought. This is a major task for most of us.

I certainly wouldn’t want to “reject the relevance” of the Enlightenment.  It is the source of all the modern world’s evils, and that’s why I spend so much energy denouncing it.  Weiming, however, says that we must not embrace a “radically different ethic”.  Why not?  Because that would be “neither realistic nor even authentic”.  I’m not sure what the hell that’s supposed to mean.  It’s perfectly realistic to embrace a non/anti-Enlightenment ethic; the Christian ethic is still sitting around waiting for anyone willing to pick it up.  Why would embracing this ethic be “inauthentic”?  I would think it would be more authentic to follow an ethic I actually believe than accommodating myself to one I know to be false and evil.  No, instead we must start with an intellectual movement whose central focus is the radical rejection of religion and community, and we must inject it with religion and community.  This seems like an awfully roundabout way of returning to some very basic human goods.  I certainly don’t like the idea of starting from the Jacobin understanding of “fraternity”, which was as bloodthirsty an idol as the other two members of the French Revolution’s Satanic Trinity.

One can’t combine everything.  Sometimes we must choose.  The philosophes knew this.  If we’re going to follow them in anything, it should be in that.