Why Asia?

We are Glenn and Carol Webb. We are retired academics, now living in Palm Desert, CA, in the place shown just above our picture. We have spent most of our lives studying Asia, with Kyoto, Japan as our port of call. This blog consists primarily of essays, written by me, Glenn Taylor Webb, with the input of my wife, Carol St. John Webb. I began writing most of these essays just before we retired. Some have been published, some not. Most were first presented as lectures.

Our lives were changed by what what we experienced living in two cultures. The different ways of thinking about almost everything in Japan (and Asia in general) made us examine some of our fundamental views of life. As a history professor I had to keep a certain distance between historical events and their effects. But at this stage in my life (I'm 75) I feel like sharing with friends the impact that Japan today has had on my family as well as myself. I'm still writing things down. So take a look and let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thoughts on Fascism


Now with the DNC in its second day and the RNC behind us, I realize I have been struggling not to use the word “fascism” to describe the structure of the Trump Train.  Mainly, I think, because I thought Donald Trump was too shallow to deserve the title of Republican nominee.  But then I saw true Republicans bowing to him, largely, I think, because of his huge audience of worshippers, fire-brand nationalists who to me seem hell-bent on dropping out of the world after building defenses against it. 

This morning (July 26, 2016) I ran across the word “fascism” in an unlikely place:  a review in the LA Times by its formidable music critic, Mark Swed, who was clearly impressed by last Sunday’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl of Puccini’s Tosca directed by our man, Gustavo Dudamel.  The Master Chorale, Children’s Chorus, full-throated soloists, and of course the LA Phil received glowing praise.  Even the sound system was just right.  It must have been spectacular and I wish I had been there.

But then, Swed’s phrase “the attraction of fascism” jumped out at me like a bullet shot out of the middle of the article.  Just on the face of it the phrase makes sense.  Mob rule is attractive!  People who feel fear and hatred of anything they can’t understand, the easy thing to do is circle the wagons. They kill the Indians but cannot see the nuclear holocaust up ahead. Their battle cries become ecstatic in a swell of human emotion that gives them comfort and a sense of purpose.  Ironically, Swed’s use of the phrase elevates to the highest level both Puccini’s opera and Dudamel’s masterful musicians, becoming in Swed’s mind somehow “a telling indictment of the attraction of fascism.”

Does that mean we use the crowd’s clamor against them?  I don’t know. Maybe our situation calls to mind Napoleon and his troops, Scarpia and the other villains, Mussolini, Hitler, ad infinitum.  (Please add your favorite.)  They are the ones who cause all the trouble until true love finally has the last word, even if it means stabbing evil and jumping off a wall.  Sorry for the melodrama, folks.  But life is an opera.  And Shakespeare had it right:   “Man is a giddy thing & much ado about nothing.”