Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Yukio Mishima

I've read only one of this short stories--about a pair of lovers committing seppuku, as I recall. Very powerful voice. Intense.

Bushido is at the center of Mishima's error, I believe. Captain Tameichi Hara is very critical of the philosophy in his memoir Japanese Destroyer Captain.  One such passage can be viewed HERE.

What can we make of Yukio Mishima? Off the top of my head, I want to compare him to Bruce Lee. Both can be seen as representing similar difficulties shared by bright and talented--and very ambitious--Asian men in the post-WWII period. There is all this tremendous history and culture behind them, and yet the historical situation is such that their cultures (and they) have been humiliated. Both are keenly aware of the issue, and both are engaged in creating reasoned and workable responses. Possibly because of the nature of the philosophy he was building from, Lee produced the more successful response. But Lee's experience of Hong Kong and America was also to his advantage. Lee looked to the future, to an inclusive philosophy where everyone had a seat at the table. Lee was about understanding, about truth, about acknowledging "what works best," about living, about the "veracity" of the moment and spontaneously living in that moment. I would note, too, that conservative Chinese elements in San Francisco did not like Lee teaching their "secrets" to the westerners, and I think it had to do with a pretty bad beating Lee took... It's in that biographical film about Lee that his wife had a hand in making. Lee's Chinese identification was philosophical--he didn't have it on his back, but under his belt. Mishima's Japanese identification was too backward-looking, too closely bound up in the "political mechanics" of that identification. And he missed out on an opportunity of expressing what was best in that culture by succumbing to what was worst.

Mishima projects a deep sensitivity in the video. Or is it his charisma? His death was evidently a tragedy: in one view a grotesque exercise in egoism, in another a misjudged response to the failure of a misjudged political cause. He was not a mere fanatic, however, or so it would seem.

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