The wall that divides Berlin is hard to visualize, because it defies comparison. Other things in the city are easy enough to imagine, because they can be Iikened to something familiar—the Kurfürstendamm to Fifth Avenue, Potsdamer Platz (in an earlier period) to Times Square, the Spree River to the East River, and so on. But there has been never been anything quite like die Mauer—or, as Mayor Willy Brandt has called it, die Schandmauer (the wall of shame). Its purpose alone would make it unique. Countries have built walls to keep their enemies out; die Mauer is probably the only wall ever built to keep a people in. Continue reading →
Otoya Yamaguchi (22 February 1943 – 2 November 1960)
On October 12, 1960, the 17year old Otoya Yamaguchi assassinated Inejiro Asanuma, head of the Japan Socialist Party, during a televised political debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives. While Asanuma spoke from the lectern at Tokyo’s Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi rushed onstage and pierced Asanuma twice with a 33cm yoroi-dōshi (a traditional samurai sword) through his ribs and abdomen. Asanuma died before he reach the hospital.
Otoya Yamaguchi hung in his cell, while being held in a juvenile detention facility, some days later, on November 2.
Bobby Sands once wrote: “Of course I can be murdered. But I remain what I am, a political POW, and no one, not even the British, can change that.”
In 1981 the Iranian government officially changed the name of Winston Churchill Street where the British Embassy is based to Bobby Sands Street. According to one press agency at the time, “the British nationals employed at the embassy don’t want to be located in a street named after a man whose organisation brought terror to the UK.”
The response of the British was to seal the entrance to their embassy on Bobby Sands Street and knock through the wall into Ferdowsi Avenue, which is now their new address.
If a war proves unsuccessful one asks who was to ‘blame’ for the war; if it ends in victory one praises the instigator. Guilt is always sought whenever there is failure; for failure brings with it a depression of spirits against which the sole remedy is instinctively applied: a new excitation of the feeling of power – and this is to be discovered in the condemnation of the ‘guilty’. This guilty person is not to be thought of as a scapegoat for the guilt of others: he is a sacrifice to the weak, humiliated and depressed, who want to demonstrate on something that they still have some strength left. To condemn oneself can also be a means of restoring the feeling of strength after a defeat. – On the other hand, the glorification of the instigator is often the equally blind result of another drive which wants its sacrifice – and this time the sacrifice smells sweet and inviting to the sacrificial beast itself – :for when the feeling of power in a people or a society is surfeited by a great and glittering success and a weariness with victory sets in, one relinquishes some of one’s pride; the feeling of devotion rises up and seeks an object. – Whether we are praised or blamed, what we usually constitute is opportunities, and arbitrarily seized opportunities, for our neighbours to discharge the drive to praise or blame which has become distended in them: in both cases we do them a favour for which we deserve no credit and they display no gratitude.