After a short
holiday in Sydney to visit my family, I drove back to Melbourne
with sadness. This is not because of anyone or anything except me.
the current war in which Australia is now involved, and the sluggish
public opinion on the pro-war rhetoric concerning Iran, I asked
myself what I am going to do? Am I going to condemn the US Government,
or Australian Government? Or should I criticize the US citizens
or/and Australian citizens? Or should I blame both of them? Is that
the right thing to do? Yes, perhaps, although I know that Government
is, after all, a product of its people. But is criticism effective
to stop the atrocities being committed? I do not know.
I look at myself,
and I admit that I, myself, failed miserably in my self-imposed
duty of passing my war-experience on to my nieces and nephews. There
is something wrong with the people who lived through and experienced
war, like me. I could pass on many things to my neighbors, and to
my next generation, but not war. Their pro-war argument is possible
because many of us, who lived through war, continue to support war,
and even participate in the next war. Thus, according to them, there
must be something positive; something righteous about going to war,
and the "enemy" must be a devil, "sub-human."
I told my nieces
and nephews that war is evil, and I explained to them that war does
not bring any good thing, but brings destruction to not only property,
and lives, but also most crucially destroys our humanity.
I told them
during the war I watched TV and listened to radio news focusing
on "our loss, our destruction" by the enemy. This nurtured
my hatred, and the news that focused on our "enemy's loss and
destruction" not only soothed my anger, it also filled my collective
pride and vented my aggression. I kept this "process"
within myself in silence with satisfaction at first. People around
me seemed to be like me, we exchanged our agreement with a sparking
glance and a smile. Over time, I started to laugh out with joy at
the positive news with images of enemy corpses; and I banged the
door or kicked any thing around me with anger when I listened to
our casualties. Then I went around the neighborhood to relay the
story with full mixed agitation of joy and hatred. I asked my relatives
how stupid I was?
listened with respect, but did not understand. They said that was
alright, it was war, and it should be so. I was angry, frustrated
with myself. I am incompetent.
How can I now
explain to them that what I swallowed through official news as "reality"
was a process of dehumanization?
was to dehumanize the "enemy." It demonized the enemy
to a lowest, ugliest figure of devil that must be destroyed at all
cost. Because they were no longer human, they could not and should
not be treated as equal to us. Thus we, the good ones, had an exceptional
right to use any way to make them suffer before we destroy them.
can I explain to my next generation that I myself was dehumanized
in the first place by that very process in order not only to see
other human beings as demons, but also to hate and be ready to murder
other human beings (not only combatants but also women and children)
with joy, and with pride? Worst of all, which we thought we did
as a favor to our human kind?
me my friends, who lived through war, who experienced war around
the world. Please tell me the way in which I can pass on this horrible
experience to others. Please also tell me, explain to me why many
of us still, as my friend observes, keep "quiet and cower."
me, explain to me why many of you, who experienced war, still even
support and participate in war.
I ask for your
help because I have now recovered from dehumanization, and I refuse
to be re-dehumanized again. That is not good enough. I want to pass
this experience to people, to my nieces and my nephews. I tried,
but I have failed. Please help me.
by Robert Klassen.
him mail] fled Vietnam with the boat people in 1983 and has
lived in Australia since then. He returned to Vietnam in 1997, but
was expelled for anti-government activities. See his