After a short holiday in Sydney to visit my family, I drove back to Melbourne with sadness. This is not because of anyone
or anything except me.
Given the current war in which Australia is now involved, and the sluggish public opinion on the pro-war rhetoric concerning
Iran, I asked myself what I am going to do? Am I going to condemn the US Government, or Australian Government? Or should I
criticize the US citizens or/and Australian citizens? Or should I blame both of them? Is that the right thing to do? Yes,
perhaps, although I know that Government is, after all, a product of its people. But is criticism effective to stop the atrocities
being committed? I do not know.
I look at myself, and I admit that I, myself, failed miserably in my self-imposed duty of passing my war-experience on
to my nieces and nephews. There is something wrong with the people who lived through and experienced war, like me. I could
pass on many things to my neighbors, and to my next generation, but not war. Their pro-war argument is possible because many
of us, who lived through war, continue to support war, and even participate in the next war. Thus, according to them, there
must be something positive; something righteous about going to war, and the "enemy" must be a devil, "sub-human."
I told my nieces and nephews that war is evil, and I explained to them that war does not bring any good thing, but brings
destruction to not only property, and lives, but also most crucially destroys our humanity.
I told them during the war I watched TV and listened to radio news focusing on "our loss, our destruction" by the enemy.
This nurtured my hatred, and the news that focused on our "enemy’s loss and destruction" not only soothed my anger,
it also filled my collective pride and vented my aggression. I kept this "process" within myself in silence with satisfaction
at first. People around me seemed to be like me, we exchanged our agreement with a sparking glance and a smile. Over time,
I started to laugh out with joy at the positive news with images of enemy corpses; and I banged the door or kicked any thing
around me with anger when I listened to our casualties. Then I went around the neighborhood to relay the story with full mixed
agitation of joy and hatred. I asked my relatives how stupid I was?
They listened with respect, but did not understand. They said that was alright, it was war, and it should be so. I was angry,
frustrated with myself. I am incompetent.
How can I now explain to them that what I swallowed through official news as "reality" was a process of dehumanization?
This process was to dehumanize the "enemy." It demonized the enemy to a lowest, ugliest figure of devil that must be destroyed
at all cost. Because they were no longer human, they could not and should not be treated as equal to us. Thus we, the good
ones, had an exceptional right to use any way to make them suffer before we destroy them.
How can I explain to my next generation that I myself was dehumanized in the first place by that very process in order not
only to see other human beings as demons, but also to hate and be ready to murder other human beings (not only combatants
but also women and children) with joy, and with pride? Worst of all, which we thought we did as a favor to our human kind?
Please help me my friends, who lived through war, who experienced war around the world. Please tell me the way in which
I can pass on this horrible experience to others. Please also tell me, explain to me why many of us still, as my friend observes,
keep "quiet and cower."
Please tell me, explain to me why many of you, who experienced war, still even support and participate in war.
I ask for your help because I have now recovered from dehumanization, and I refuse to be re-dehumanized again. That is
not good enough. I want to pass this experience to people, to my nieces and my nephews. I tried, but I have failed. Please
Edited by Robert Klassen.
January 25, 2006
NguyenKhaPhamThanhChuong [send him mail] fled Vietnam with the boat people in 1983 and has lived in Australia since then. He returned to Vietnam in 1997, but was
expelled for anti-government activities. See his website.
Copyright © 2006 NguyenKhaPhamThanhChuong