Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sunday afternoon essay: Musings on War, Poetry and Life

Timesonline (4 Jun 05): The kamikaze pilot who chose life before empire. Picture of 81 year-old Shigeyoshi san in the foreground; a salvaged Zero Fighter in the back. I'm particularly moved by the caption:
Shigeyoshi Hamazono survived two missions as a kamikaze pilot... The pilots, he said, were said to have saluted the Emperor before death, but they probably cried for their mothers instead.

I saw Shigeyoshi san on TV once. He cried as he recalled that episode in his life.

Once, on a plane, I conversed with a New Zealander about people and life in general. At one point, we talked about history and wars, where I commented that so long there was Man, there would always be wars. Because human memories are short.

History lessons, public education -- they all help to remind but I think our propensity to forget exceeds our comprehension of true suffering.

Time is a great desensitiser (this is neither good nor bad thing -- it just is).

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Black flower in the sky: Poems of a Korean bridegroom in Hiroshima
[Check for item in NLB catalogue]
See also: Thunder gods: The kamikaze pilots tell their story


Museums, libraries and National Archives might slow down the "knowledge deterioration" but then these are not exactly the favourite hangouts for the masses, generally speaking. Such institutions also get destroyed in wars.

Even if museums and libraries are popular hangouts, there's still the fact that reading about history is different from hearing about it from people like Shigeyoshi san. I can see him cry. But how much can I appreciate why?

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Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen: Selected poems
[Check for item in NLB Catalogue]


Here's a thought: Suppose Virtual Reality develops to a point like what they had in The Matrix(where Neo downloaded Kung-fu techniques and became an expert in seconds). I would imagine history lessons being "taught" this way. Experiential Learning brought to a higher plane. We might even experience the horrors first-hand. Scary thought, but then it's a price to pay for peace I think.
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The Matrix (Warner Home Video, c2001)
[Check for item in NLB catalogue]


Humans turn war into something beautiful. It becomes romanticised.

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Poems of Love and War/ A. K. Ramanujan
[See also: Poets of the Tamil anthologies: Ancient poems of love and war]


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The Iliad of Homer/ Homer [Check for item in NLB Catalogue]

Here's a poem I wrote in May last year. It's not anti-war. More of a thought-experiment on what a young soldier might think in the midst of battle:
Soldier's Lament
-----------------
Why did they lie to me so?

For God and Country
I was told

But when shrapnel's a-flying
And boys are a-dying

God is on vacation

The only land that matters
Is the sodden earth
In which they bury me

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Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
See also: The poems of Wilfred Owen]


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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon
See also: Siegfried Sassoon: A study of the war poetry

Many years ago while holidaying in an overseas resort, I was asked by the resort owner, "If Singapore goes to war, would the people fight?". I said, "Yes" without hesitation.

I was 19.

I'll be in my mid-30s in a few years time. My answer would still be 'Yes'. It might not be what I really want, deep in my heart. But I'd do it anyway.

Because I, like the rest of us, am only human.
As a military pilot, there was no way to say no. I was grateful for my training, and the responsibility given to me, and my Zero fighter. This was my duty. That night all I thought about was my mission.” ~ Shigeyoshi Hamazono
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How we remember and why we forget/ Rebecca Rupp
[Check for item in NLB catalogue]


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Great poets of World War I: Poetry from the great war
[Check for item in NLB catalogue]


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Poets of World War II
[Check for item in NLB catalogue]


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Air combat paintings: Masterworks collection
[Check for item in NLB Catalogue]


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Aftershock: Poems and Prose from the Vietnam War
See also: War story: Vietnam war poems

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[Check for item in NLB Catalogue]

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