Christ, what a year we've had. Bloody Ramadan, Nice terror attack, Orlando shooting, Brexit, Trump, failed Turkish coup and Erdogan's purges, FARC referendum, Panama leaks, Korean shaman scandal, Brazilian presidential impeachment... That's not even mentioning all the other noteworthy events going on in Syria, Yemen, Baluchistan, and Philippines. Well, only one more month left in 2016 so let's just hope the year doesn't end in a literal bang from some surprise asteroid strike. In the meantime, I'm gonna try to wrap up my Some Thoughts on Books of 2016. This is Part 4 of 6.
Whew, Yakeppachi no Maria is done at last! Didn't think a 2-volume project would take so long, but you know how real life can be. Like I said before, and as Tezuka himself states in the translated afterword included at the end of v2, Yakeppachi no Maria's is Tezuka's "yakeppachi" at the rapidly changing manga world of the late 60s and 70s where the younger generations were eager to break taboos that the older generations had been confined to. With this context in mind, I think it's a neat little work that deserves to be translated even if the execution wasn't great (talk about a rushed ending!). For a legend like Tezuka, sometimes, the intent is as interesting as to read into as much as the actual works themselves, and Happyscans and I hope that reading this manga has given you a better idea into Tezuka and his career.
For part 3 of books I read in 2016, I want to start off by making a confession. I quite dislike historical what-ifs. It's not because I think these mind-exercises are of no value. In fact, I think they are valuable exercises. Rather, it's that a lot of historical what-ifs I see in internet discussions (not exactly a high bar of discourse, this blog included) are extremely sloppy exercises in logic that promote the idea of a singular cause for historical outcomes. Moreover, I find it very hard to believe that the so-called "pivotal moments" are really as "pivotal" as they're cracked up to be. Sure, the immediate aftermath will be different, but how different would things be a few centuries since the crossroads? Take Oda Nobunaga for example, since he's in a few anime series this season. "What if he died at the Battle of Okehazama? What if the Honnouji Incident never occurred?" The popular answer to the former is that Japan wouldn't have emerged as a unified nation while for the latter is that Japan would have been an innovative, outward-looking, modern nation much, much earlier. It's shit like this that triggers my historical autism. Why? Because it assumes that the process of unification can stem only from Oda's god-like figure, that a zeal for modernization can be ingrained by a single person on an entire nation regardless of external pressures, or that state policies can never change. I can get into a more detailed discussion on the process of unification/disintegration using Europe, China, Middle East as case studies to show why I don't think Oda is as critical as he's often claimed to be, but I don't want to get too off-topic now.
In any case, as much as I dislike historical what-ifs, I couldn't help but think of even crazier what-if scenarios of my own as I read some of these books. So I apologize beforehand for any simple assumptions or lapses in critical thinking in my opinions below. Like always, I try to write these posts half-jokingly, half-seriously.
For my follow up to books I've read in 2016 part 1, I'm going to focus on RELIGION of both the ancient and modern variety. As a citizen of the modern-West, I'm not alone if I were to confess that religion is boring. Sure, on surveys and polls, % of atheists is beaten by that of Christians, but there's a hell of lot of Christians who don't attend church regularly and even more who don't understand the principal theological beliefs that would set one sect apart from the other. My parents, too, were one of these "nominally" religious folks, and despite making me go to church and Buddhist temples in my childhood, they didn't care enough to prevent their son from becoming a dirty infidel in his teens. And because of the godless environment I grew up in, I'd gotten a foolish idea that religion doesn't really matter. "Who cares what papal primacy is? Who cares about the difference between Pure Land and Zen Buddhism? No, please not another school field trip to the Sikh temple with bad food!" While I'm exaggerating my ignorance here, there really does seem to be a tendency for a lot of us infidels to not understand how important religion is. When a religious person does something bad, we blame the individual, not the religion. We recognize that individuals get out of religion what they bring to it, but rarely vice versa, that religions have distinct perspectives to impart change upon the believer. In short, religion is a mere jacket, an external identity one can adopt with ease without fundamentally changing one's internal identity. Fundamental to my abandoning of such ideas was learning to read history as less the tales of great men and epoch-making moments, but more as the evolution of human society. All of a sudden, war matters, not because "ooh, shiny swords and armour" but because how it shaped human society. Economy matters, not because of some vague idea that more money = power, but how wealth is generated, accumulated, and distributed fundamentally altershuman society. And last but not least, religion also matters because duh, it also shapes human society. Call it my "road to Damascus" moment, if you'd be so kind to let this dirty infidel culturally appropriate a religious term.
Full T R I G G E R W A R N I N G S ahead to the religious and politically correct for the remainder of this post.