Monday, August 5, 2013

The Diaoyutai/Senkuka Islands Conflict and a Way to Peace, Part 2 of 2

     In part 1 of this article, I said elliptically, “Peaceful solutions to the Diaoyutais/Senkukas controversy and other lingering controversies from Japan’s militarist past are impossible without the support of the great Japanese people.  Before any such peace movement can gain critical mass, however, the matter must be deemed important to the world at large.  That would require, as I said earlier, raising the diplomatic stakes to a new level.  It would require capturing the imagination of the world in a way that would gain the peace movement international support and demands for a peaceful settlement.”
     In part 2 of this article, I suggest a strategy for capturing the world’s imagination to the degree that the people in Japan, Taiwan, and throughout the world should demand an international settlement.  First, let me point out some of the shortcomings of earlier attempts to bring the issue to the world’s attention.
     Over the past decade or so, activists have openly challenged the Japanese government’s claim to the disputed archipelago. They have been content merely to land on the main island and plant a flag claiming the island in the name of their respective countries.  The Japanese government has always met force with force, and the activists have always been foiled. 
     Every attempt was a tempest in a teapot, little worthy of anyone’s attention.  As a consequence, not one of the activists’ attempts ever drew the attention of more than a few people within this immediate vicinity.  It was nothing more than local news that the locals soon forgot, or as Shakespeare wrote, “…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
     What activists need is a narrative that transcends narrow self interest—one that resonates across national and cultural boundaries in a highly visible and positive way.  The event would have to fit a narrative that is familiar, popular, and pre-existing.
     Let me give some examples of what I mean by resonant narratives.
     Of all the stories told of World War I hero Alvin York, one of the most memorable concerns his marksmanship in a turkey shoot.  Two shots hit the bull’s-eye dead center, the second entering the hole made by the first.  The tellers of that story probably told and retold it because it resembled stories that were already well known and popular.  Davy Crockett and Robin Hood had performed similar feats.
     The David-and-Goliath narrative is popularly retold.  How many times have you heard of conflicts described as David-and-Goliath struggles?  The comparison is made and catches on because it resonates.
     Similarly, people are thrilled by narratives of brains over brute force.  Odysseus, the Swamp Fox, and the Gray Ghost come to mind.  People are also inspired by “feel good” stories in which idealism triumphs over (especially if it wins over) cynicism and opportunism.  People are also fascinated by quest stories.
     Here’s what I envision:
     Instead of resorting to a full frontal assault, about a half dozen people from different backgrounds and persuasions can secretly slip onto the island.  (What about the Japanese Coast Guard, you wonder?  Well, a guard can cover only the ground beneath his feet.)  Instead of trying to plant the flag of one of the national claimants on the main island, they can claim the islands in the name of the rightful owner of the archipelago: the Creator Himself.  Nothing is really ours; everything is on loan from our Creator. 
     Activists can do this in a strikingly visible, memorable, and environmentally friendly manner.  Nothing would be polluted or defaced, and nothing brought to the island would remain on the island.  It would also be done in a way that is startling to all who see it or know of it—and in a way that few could imagine or think is possible.  It would also be something that no one should be able to undo without incurring international scorn.
     Who would those intrepid souls be?  They should number at least five but no more than eight.  They should be as varied as the legendary Eight Immortals. 
     There are two reasons I believe they should be this varied.  First, their combined talents would be needed to make the project a success. 
     Then there’s the question of resonance.  A more disparate crew would increase the chances of each newspaper reader identifying with at least one of the volunteers.  They should include young, middle aged, and older; male and female; professionals and trade, prosperous and poor.  It should include someone of each Taiwanese ethnic group (Hoklo, Hakka, “mainlander,” and aborigine) and probably others.
     There should be no government policymakers involved.  Nor should the Alliance for the Defense of the Diaoyutais be involved; I’m fully convinced that the ADD is a government front group, though I won’t say for which government.
     Here are some areas of important skills:
1.      A naturalist, biologist, chemist, or all three
2.      Someone who is skillful at all aspects of sailing a small boat (No sailboat will be needed—only the skills are desired.)
3.      A sea woman (that is, a woman who lives along the coast and makes her living from the sea)
4.      A fisherman
5.      A cameraman or video journalist
6.      A farmer (no, not for planting—just for harvesting)
7.      A craftsman (for example, someone who can weave palm fronds, make braids, or transform fibrous plants into rope.)
8.      Three or more people with effective communication skills in one or more of these languages: English, Chinese, Japanese
9.      A medical person.
10. A person with skills as an outdoorsman.
11. A computer geek.
     That’s more than eight, but some people can claim skills in more than one of those areas.  Volunteers should be prepared to live off the land for a few days.  Behind the scenes, someone would have to have the money to finance the enterprise.  From what I’ve read in the papers, boat captains have been pretty mercenary, charging more for activists than for tourists. 
     I’ll be happy to advise those whom I trust.  I expect I must be content to be the penman of this peaceful revolution (or as some activists like to spell it, r3VOLution.)
     Taiwan is not my country, but it is my home.  The Japanese are my neighbors across the creek.  They’re good neighbors to Taiwan, and not simply because of good fences.  We’re having a difference of opinion; but if we hunker down and jaw it out, I’m sure we can see things eye to eye.  Apart from government, the people of all three countries, in their private capacities, are perfectly capable of answering to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” 
     The politicians are another matter altogether.  If the politicians won’t see the light, citizens of all three countries may have to hold their feet to the fire and help them to feel the heat.

     The key to peace, then, is in the hands of the good people of Taiwan, Japan, and—to whatever degree they can speak for themselves—China.  The people of those three nations can be reasonable enough and open hearted enough to make an end run around narrow-minded politicians and do what is best for all of us and most pleasing to heaven.  In the end, each of us must stand before a just God and answer for our stewardship over His creation and to whatever degree we have loved our neighbors.

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