June 3, 2020

Kikuchiyo's Outrage


KIKUCHIYO (Laughing bitterly)

Well, what do you think farmers are? Saints?

They are the most cunning and untrustworthy animals on Earth.

If you ask them for rice, they'll say they have none. But they have.

They have everything. Look in the rafters, dig in the ground. You'll find it. Rice in jars. Salt. Beans. Saké.

Look in the mountains, hidden farms everywhere. And yet they pretend to be oppressed.

They are full of lies.

When they smell a battle, they make themselves bamboo spears. And then they hunt. But they hunt the wounded and the defeated.

Farmers are miserly, craven...

...mean, stupid... murderous!

You make me laugh so hard I'm crying!

But then... who made animals out of them?


You did - you samurai! All of you damned samurai!

And each time you fight you burn villages, you destroy the fields, you take away the food, you rape the women and enslave the men. And you kill them when they resist.

You hear me - you damned samurai?!
KIKUCHIYO suddenly sinks to his knees, bending his head. He begins to sob uncontrollably. Medium shot of the five samurai sitting facing camera, with KIKUCHIYO in the foreground, his head bowed and his shoulders shaking with sobs. A pause, then KAMBEI unfolds his arms and looks down at the palms of his hands.

This is how I have felt for the past few months. First the virus and now, Helter Skelter.

This is the scene when Kikuchiyo calls bullshit on the hypocrisy of the farmers and samurai. Son of peasants, a self-made warrior in world where the classes are unstrung, he knows both sides of the story, village farmers versus bandits. He is at one with each and both, he knows their nobility and failings, their strengths and weakness.

The village needed to fight fire with fire, but they loathed becoming the monster in order to fight monsters. Ultimately, the village needed people who can match the bandits' violence at their own martial plane, so they decided reluctantly to subcontract Ronin. Since they can't ultimately countenance a culture whose value system is so counter to their own, they felt forced to reject their saviors once the job is done.

I relate to Kikuchiyo because like him, I could be considered a halfbreed. While there are no races but the human race, I am half Malaysian Filipino and half Caucasian American Yanqui. Less than a minority, I'm off the radar. I grew up both in the world of the military as a child of a soldier/airman and came of age within a five year stint as a sailor in the Seventh Fleet; and I grew as an artist: 12 years as an architect in training and coming up on 30 years and counting as a practicing visual artist. I've lived all over the world but I've also put down deep roots in LA, NYC and Catalunya Spain. I know both worlds wherever they are. I love them. I know them all intimately. I know their shortcomings. I know just what kind of wretched they can be. I know them in their glory. I criticize them and defend them from each other.

Civil war sickens me.

From this POV, the villagers are avatars for civilization, too refined as we are in this emergent 21st century to incorporate the coexistence of the warrior mindset required from time to time to defend and ensure its' survival. Kurosawa's cautionary tale in 1954 has been prefigured many times in world literature as far back as the Iliad, a tale as rueful as it was enthralled about war. The rage of Achilles. War is ugly? Absolutely, but let's quote Trotsky: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Disavow the complexity and the operation of aggression carries on under a simplistic cover. We become pawns in our own game. Disengage and the powerless are sent into its' maw, war gets exported to subcontractors willing or unwillingly. Our hands, yet stained despite our hollow disavowal.

Is it possible for society to incorporate the ronin worldview? This requires an acknowledgement of the abyss that is never far away. We need to disperse the illusion of paradisiacal security despite our inclination to resist the truth, recognizing that civilization can never be indestructible. Admittedly, dreams are stubborn. They either dissipate or they are broken. Alert readers of this blog will see this argument in my previous discussions about the impact of the end of the Cold War and Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" thesis. Despite the confusion about its' interpretation both by the author and his audience, the abiding theme -that we have arrived at the doorstep of utopia with the apparent triumph of the (NWO) Liberal world order- has been exploded several times since its publication, the so called "War on Terror" being the most conspicuous example. The parallel I see in Seven Samurai is a fancied tragicomedy where the villagers endeavor to deny the existence of bandits, their need of the ronin for salvation... or as a better idealization-cum-realization, that they would attempt to grasp, harmonize and incorporate their own inescapable "ronin-within".

Kikuchiyo's rage is in parallel with mine in present time against a germophobia both real and ideological, an irrational fear of metastasizing Others without end. No where is there undertaken the project of educating the public about the realities of immune health and the need for individuals to take on the responsibility and risk of living life boldly on their own and not surrender this authority to the state. Western healthcare only has half the equation, how to mechanically repair broken bodies, encouraging the growth and health of organic systems is yet alien to us. I despair of the destruction we are now wrecking in the microbial world that our immune systems are in constant need of communion with. And what of ideological phobias? The understanding that the banishment of racism requires the widespread view that racism can only be diminished when we accept that there exists in reality only a singular, whole human race and we are all one, rendering racists as the twisted outliers they really are. All portraits are self portraits. We all have logs of our own manufacture in our own eyes. We can't permit the pyromaniacs among us to disingenuously 'fight fire with fire". Succumb to blind emotion and you get led by the nose. Convulsive virtue signaling won't placate the ever-so-thirsty guillotine, as the latter stages of the French Revolution teaches us. The madness of individuals is not isolated from the madness of entire societies and the schizophrenia spreading world wide can only be countered by a civilizational cognitive therapy.

It was Kambei who unfolded his arms and looked into his hands. It was a samurai, not a villager who self reflected. If there is hope, a silver lining, then we villagers might might find the samurai within and be able to ruminate on this. We could have an opportunity to reflect on our own denial and culpability as the tide of derangement recedes in coming months.

What a slender, slender reed!

Posted by Dennis at June 3, 2020 5:25 PM

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