Reflections on Pacifism

Yesterday, I was reminded how much I despise war.  I don’t want to hate anything on this great earth, but, warfare is nonsensical and I utterly detest it.  It only makes sense to those who stand to make a profit.

While visiting the famous Bridge over the River Kwai and the World War II & JEATH Museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand yesterday, I couldn’t help but think: Today, with all the access to information and the knowledge that we have of the past, how do we tolerate new wars?

A month ago I learned about a horrific history, and now again, I’ve found out more than I had known about another atrocity caused by power-warped politicians.

In the US, when we think of World War II, we think of Hiroshima, the Nazis,  Normandy, Poland and Pearl Harbor.  We don’t typically think of Thailand.  This made my visit to the morbid war memorial an educational one.

Maybe you’ve read the book or seen the movie.  I haven’t.  Perhaps because today Kanchanaburi is a laid-back tourist haven, you’ve been here.  This is my first time.  It’s been an eye opener.

Back in 1942, after the Japanese invaded Burma from Thailand.  They needed a way to get supplies and troops there; so, they decided to build a railway from Thailand to Burma.  They needed workers and set deadlines.

The Japanese military forced Indonesian and Malaysian slaves, and POWs from the allied forces, to construct the railway.

The conditions were beyond brutal. The men had no more than a loincloth to wear.  Their food rations sometimes didn’t exceed more than a small amount of rice and salt per day.  Men were forced to drink rain and river water which was plentiful during monsoon season.

To make matters worse, many were worked to death.  Perhaps 100,000 SE Asian lackeys and thousands of enemy prisoners from Great Britain, including India, Australia, Holland, the US, Canada and New Zealand died from exhaustion, malnutrition, starvation, and disease.  It’s difficult to get accurate numbers on the amount of people who perished.  The amount is estimated to be around one-third of all the laborers.

While taking the above photo, I thought:  We don’t see a lot of media coverage about the wars that are going on today.  They’re somehow accepted by society. What kind of unimaginable living hell are the soldiers and civilians going through at this moment?  And for what?  All war does is cause massive current and post pain to everyone involved.  Is there any reason beyond power and greed?  Why don’t we ever learn?  What sense does it make for the human race to do battle against one another?

As I continue to drift, I’ll surely be reminded of my pacifism yet again.

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A ticket for the World War II & JEATH War Museum costs 40 Baht or $1.29. 

The museum is open from  8:30 am to 6:00 pm.  I recommend going early while the temps are cool. 

The bridge is next to the museum and can be visited anytime during daylight.  Sunrise and sunset are nice times to go.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pru on November 29, 2011 at 13:56

    I’m sorry that I’m only getting to read some of these posts now, as things have been so crazy the past few months. I really loved this one – it’s so interesting, and well written. I have to admit to not knowing much about Thailand or its history.

    Humans seem to lack an ability to truly comprehend not only each others’ but our own true natures. Perhaps if we live long enough to evolve to use the remaining 90% of our brain that we aren’t currently using, there will be a better chance for peace for our descendents down the road.


    • PRU: Thanks! I want to be optimistic too. Although this is tough as from what I understand war is more often than not profitable for the ones who somehow manage to spawn it…


  2. AL: Under extremely seldom circumstances is war necessary. I concede. if invasion is needed to try and thwart a genocide then maybe it’s morally feasible, as in your exemplary examples.

    Genocide is sick. The clever leaders that spawn it are power-sick mass serial killers who act as great cancers to the human existence.

    The Khmer Rouge genocide lasted for four years before Pol Pot was deposed by the neighboring Vietnamese army. If you believe in the concept of evil, Pot was the quintessential example.

    What’s caused the Arab spring shows you that government can be a euphemism for mafia.


  3. Posted by Al on October 6, 2011 at 12:38

    I agree that war is folly. However, sometimes it is the only moral choice, regardless of what the real reasons may be that push leaders to engage in it. Such is the case of ethnic cleansing, or genocide, be it the oft-cited case of the Nazis, or more recently in Bosnia -you cannot idly stand by while fellow humans are systematically murdered if you have the means to do something-. In such a case, I believe the only moral choice is to try and stop it, even if it means war. I felt ashamed as a human being, that in the case of the Rwandan genocide, no serious effort by the international community was made to stop it, I guess there was no profit in it.

    I believe that it is also right for the people to take up arms against a leader or regime that denies them basic human rights, such as freedom or the right to self-determination, as is the case of the Arab Spring, now blossoming throught the middle east.

    None of this changes the fact that war is nothing but humanity at its worst.


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