Frostbite and Fleas
In mid-May a photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe posing in the cockpit of a T-4 training jet sparked widespread outrage in South Korea and China. Why? The concern came with the number clearly marked on the side of the plane: 731.
Most people in the West place no particular significance in this number, but for many living in Asian countries subjected to Japanese invasion and occupation before and during the Second World War this number recalls only one thing. Memories of the abject evil that was the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army, better known by its less Orwellian moniker -- Unit 731, still haunt the present.
This facility, located just outside the Manchurian city of Harbin, was a covert research centre run by the Imperial Japanese Army for the development of biological and chemical weapons. Unit 731 was headed by the monstrous Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii -- a man who almost makes Josef Mengele look like Dr. Feelgood.
A History Channel documentary, Unit 731 -- Nightmare in Manchuria, chronicles a number of the experiments/atrocities authorized and conducted by General Ishii and crew. These include bombing Chinese villages with plague ridden fleas, performing live vivisections on prisoners who had been intentionally infected with various diseases, exposing the skin of live prisoners to extreme cold in order to study the effects of frostbite, and on and on.
To this day, nobody is certain how many thousands of people were tortured and killed either in Unit 731 or as victims of its "field experiments."
Despite this particularly dark episode of the WW2 era being not widely known in the West, in Northeast Asia it is as notorious as the Nazi death camps. This makes it all the more surprising that Prime Minister Abe would pose for a photo op sitting in the cockpit of fighter jet 731. A Korean politician likened this action to "German Chancellor [Angela] Merkel riding an aircraft with the Nazi swastika." But it is really worse than this. To be truly comparable Merkel's hypothetical jet would have to be branded "The Auschwitz."
So what the hell was Abe thinking? An official spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Defense dismissed the whole incident as being purely coincidental. "There was no particular meaning in the number of the training airplane the prime minister was in on Sunday. Other than that there is nothing we can say." A coincidence? Could this be true?
This is where Abe's action becomes a singularly fascinating case study for the purposes of this blog.
If this is only a meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity, then it indicates a definite dark side to a phenomenon which many consider to be wholly and intrinsically benign. This particular synchronicity, if it is such a thing, has had the effect of ratcheting up tensions in a region already beset with territorial disputes, most notably the Senkaku Islands. Assuming, as many do, that the phenomenon of synchronicity contains a conscious component then why would it choose to further fan the flames of mutual mistrust?
If, on the other hand, elements within the Japanese government intentionally sat Abe in training jet 731 in order to provoke its neighbours then this is a clear example of a high level conspiracy involving the use of symbolism. And, if this has occurred here, there is a good chance that similar manipulations of symbols happen all of the time.
Certain people interested in synchronicity tend to dismiss or ignore both such possibilities. Synchronicity is viewed as being largely auspicious and what other researchers take to be symbolic or esoteric conspiracies are explained away as synchronicities. There are no conspiracies. There are only the mysterious, interconnected workings of the universe. And the universe is good.
A third possibility exists -- the incident is a purely random, fully unconscious coincidence. Like the Ministry spokesperson said, there is no particular meaning in this action. This possibility is also unpalatable for many. If there is no real significance in the plane's number, and any "meaning" found in it is only a projection, could it also be the case that all "synchronicities" are really only coincidences? To admit this is to begin to accept that life is essentially random and meaningless.
None of these three are especially hopeful. Of the three, though, perhaps the best case can be made for intentional manipulation. The Japanese government is consciously using 731 in order to provoke its neighbours. Two other recent incidents appear to confirm this.
Prime Minister Abe, the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi who was -- like Shiro Ishii -- an unconvicted probable war criminal, is an arch conservative whose chief desire is to jettison Japan's "pacifist" constitution, crafted by General MacArthur after the war. Abe's main target within the constitution is Article 9, the clause which limits Japan's military to self-defense.
To alter this clause, though -- which would startle and completely piss off its neighbours, Abe's government first needs to revise Article 96. This clause requires that any change to the constitution needs to be supported by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament as well as the majority of votes in a public referendum. In other words, constitutional change is designed to be very difficult. Abe must somehow revise Article 96 (how?) if he wants to push through the meatier reforms he truly craves.
This is why alarm bells also rang across the region when Abe was given and put on a number 96 baseball jersey during a recent game in front of 46,000 fans and the media. Again, he denied any real significance in this action.
A further provocation came from Toru Hashimoto, the right-wing mayor of Osaka, who also in May caused intense dismay when he claimed that the so-called "comfort women" -- thousands of sex slaves abducted from across Asia to service occupying Japanese troops during the war -- were "necessary." Hashimoto is not a member of Abe's government, but the two share the same hard right-wing objectives. Once again, though, the government conveniently distanced themselves from Hashimoto's outrageous remarks.
It definitely seems that Japan is trying to provoke and it is using the most heinous symbols possible to do so. Abe, though, goes even further. The whole basis of his much-flaunted economic policy -- "Abenomics" -- is based on gradually inflating the Japanese money supply. Japan hopes to make its exports more attractive than its competitors -- a classic "beggar thy neighbour" move.
There are real indications, though, that this will not work. Japanese government bonds do not appear as the safe investments they once were. This whole process could easily fly out of control and the country be drowned in its massive debt. It has been suggested that the government is well aware that this policy might fail, and that one of the big reasons that Abe wants to change the constitution is to enable the government to suspend civil rights in the event of economic and social unrest.
Abe's government, as with the current governments of North and South Korea and China, is firmly militarist and authoritarian. Tokyo, while acting innocent, is using potent symbols like 731 and the "comfort women" in order to incite an eventual response from its equally xenophobic neighbours.
It is well-known that the region is sensitive to the meaningful occurrence of certain symbolism. The recent success of Finnegans Wake in China is a partial indication of this. One such "coincidence" on June 4th of last year caused a major stir within the global Chinese community. From the New York Times:
HONG KONG — Maybe it was just a coincidence, but when the Shanghai Stock Exchange fell 64.89 points on Monday — uncannily echoing the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy students on June 4, 1989, exactly 23 years earlier — the Chinese blogosphere went into a tizzy.
Not only did the blogosphere erupt, but the Chinese government hastily acted to censor all reports of this on the web. China is "a nation where numerology is taken very seriously," and Abe's government would definitely be aware of this.
If the Tiananmen/Stock Exchange wink, though, was an unplanned synchronicity, and it is hard to imagine that it was anything more or less than this, then is it in the realm of possibility that fighter jet 731 was also a sync? Yet if we accept this then what, apart from fanning the embers of possible conflict, would be the point of it? If synchronicity is a means of the universe to attempt to highlight a part of itself then why deal out the gruesome number 731? The Shanghai Stock Exchange numbers are a small blow against tyrannical repression, but what is 731 saying?
It could be that synchronicity itself is at times a dark phenomenon. In this case, if we accept that it is a sync and not a conspiracy, it appears to "want" international tensions to rise. Is there any other way to interpret this? To consider this fully we must extend the story forward in time and well beyond Asia.
The real tragedy of Unit 731 is that Shiro Ishii and many of the other officials directly responsible for the atrocities committed did not face justice. Instead, they cut deals. The US government was extremely interested in the results that Ishii had accumulated. Information is power and Unit 731 had inhumanly yet scientifically gathered information, the affects of chemical and biological agents on live human specimens for example, that was difficult to attain in any other way. The US sacrificed justice for dark knowledge.
It may be, however, that the US went much further than this. Operation Paperclip, the recruitment of Nazi scientists by the US after the war, is by now commonly known. It is likely, though, that Japanese scientists, including or perhaps especially those from Unit 731, were likewise brought to the US to continue their experiments.
The Stench of Truth blog points out that very near Aurora, Colorado, the site of last year's Dark Knight shooting, was the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a US chemical weapons facility which hosted Japanese scientists with ties to Unit 731. Such arrangements are not likely to have been exceptional.
If this all sounds familiar then maybe it is because similar themes were presented in a two-part episode of The X-Files in 1995. These episodes were titled "Nisei," Japanese for "second generation" -- children born to immigrants outside of Japan, and "731," obviously referring to Unit 731. In the Secret Sun, blogger Christopher Knowles has briefly outlined the plots of these episodes and placed them within the context of the greater X-Files mythology.
Without getting into the details of these episodes (they can be watched online here and here) it is sufficient to say that they involve the idea that Japanese scientists, directly brought to the US from Unit 731, have for two generations continued their sinister biological and chemical experiments on live prisoners.
This would be shocking enough, but the dark weirdness only begins here. Agent Scully discovers that she has likely been abducted -- in classic alien fashion involving an operating table, bright lights and implanted devices -- by the same group of Japanese scientists, and that this nasty bunch has continued to infect captured individuals with horrific diseases up to the present day.
Agent Mulder, though, concludes that this US Unit 731 has the ultimate aim of creating human-alien hybrids. The chief scientist of the facility uses the names Dr. Takio Ishimaru and Shiro Zama, which are easily combined to form Shiro Ishii.
The story is fiction, one hopes, but it raises very profound questions. Have wartime covert facilities and programs like Unit 731 continued on, widening their scope and deepening their depravity, up to the present? To what extent can the purported alien abduction phenomenon, including inter-species mating and breeding, be traced back to these secret government programs? And, perhaps most crucially, is there or is there not a truly alien presence involved?
Away and Beyond
Almost exact parallels to the abduction phenomenon are found within various cultures throughout history. Recently I have been reading Writings on Irish Folklore, Legend and Myth by poet W. B. Yeats. Throughout this book, largely exploring Irish peasant folklore on fairy encounters, are numerous passages that read like something out of the research of John Mack. The following is from Yeats's essay "Away" from 1902:
There is, I think, no countryside in Ireland where they will not tell you, if you can conquer their mistrust, of some man or woman or child who was lately or still is in the power of the gentry, or“the others”, or “the fairies”, or the “sidhe”, or the “forgetful people”, as they call the dead and the lesser gods of ancient times. These men and women and children are said to be“away”, and for the most part go about their work in a dream, or lie all day in bed, awakening after the fall of night to a strange and hurried life.
Yeats notes in the same essay, and throughout his work on the subject, that the experience of being taken "away" by the fairies is largely ambiguous. Depending on the case there is a range of responses to the experience from wholly negative to entirely positive. This also jibes with the accounts of abduction "experiencers." Yeats writes:
Sometimes one hears of people "away" doing the work of the others and getting harm of it, or no good of it, but more often one hears of good crops or of physical strength or of cleverness or of supernatural knowledge being given and of no evil being given with it except the evil of being in a dream, or being laid up in bed or the like, which happens more or less to all who are "away".
Obviously 1902, and following an age-old tradition in Ireland, is long before most people considered the reality of flying saucers and/or space aliens. This doesn't mean that the "fairies" were not from outer space, but certain aspects of these stories are clearly different. The fairies are said to usually come from the earth, not from the sky, and are traditional, not hyper-technological.
It has been argued convincingly, however, by people like Jacques Vallée and John Keel, and more recently by Graham Hancock and Patrick Harpur, that the same phenomenon is better described as being "extra-dimensional" (although even this seems inadequate). It is shape-shifting, morally ambiguous, and it takes on the guise and expectations of the human culture it encounters. The UFO is, accordingly, scientific, technological and global.
Every grove, glade and dell on the face of this planet may have been mapped and surveyed, but in space the imagination can still freely soar.
And it is the imagination which is key here. Yeats discovers in his interviews with Irish peasants that the fairies are everywhere. They are found in the landscape, in animals and plants, in food, in objects, in books and in the word itself. The latter brings us very close to the experiences of Terence McKenna and Philip K. Dick. Information itself is the "Other."
Words, numbers, symbols, images are expressions of our own imagination, both individual and collective. The alien or fairy intelligences may not be able to be entirely reduced to living, autonomous figments of our imagination, but clearly they also have this aspect. Yeats often emphasizes that the fairies are able to grant humans spiritual insights but that they seem to require our physical vitality. A very similar thread is found in abduction accounts. In both narratives, it appears, spirit desires to wed with matter.
Synchronicity, also bridging mind and matter, is obviously one area where these "beings" attempt to make contact. And this brings us back to Unit 731. Shiro Ishii and the commanders of this centre may not have been space aliens, but they were indisputably inhuman. One wonders if there were "sinister forces" that directed and inspired men like Shiro Ishii and Josef Mengele, dark spirits that make their homes in places like the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Auschwitz and Unit 731. Was it these forces who also positioned Abe into the cockpit of jet 731?
The question of synchronicity or conspiracy begins to become muddled at this point. Conspiracies are built on synchronicity just as synchronicities stem from conspiracy. There is a conspiracy of synchronicity. And synchronicity is living information, is the aliens, is the fairies, is our imagination made manifest in a reality of dream. The Irish country folk believed that the fairies could be very good or very evil. The "gentry" were also adept at concealing their true alignment altogether, of tricking and deceiving. Is the imagination any different?
As I was working on this post I realized that my next-door neighbour's motor scooter, which is always parked right outside my door, has 731 as its license plate number! Maybe it is all just coincidence.