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Human Reactions to Disasters and Repression Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2020


There have been distressing events across the world where different people have been tortured, abused and even murdered. There was the Nanking massacre where the Japanese country invaded the Chinese city of Nanking in 1937. The Japanese soldiers abused the rights of the Chinese people. There was mass killing of the men. There was also mass rape of the women and children who also ended up being murdered in horrendous death.

There are victims of the Hiroshima Bombs of World War 2. The American government released bombs in the cities where there were civilians. There were exposed to the nuclear energy which caused them to get different kinds of cancers. To this day there are people still dealing with the health repercussions. In South Africa, there was the implementation of high levels of apartheid where the Blacks were separated from the Caucasians when it came to education and employment opportunities. They also did not have access to similar recreational and health facilities. The Blacks lived in low socio-economic conditions while the Caucasians lived affluent lives.

There was the miscarriage of justice when it came to the administration of justice by the police and courts for the Black community. When the Blacks tried to demonstrate on the streets there were beaten and even killed by the police. There are also the Jewish mass murders and torture that occurred in the Nazi camps. In this paper I explore the similar human reactions of the victims, the victimizers and the governments to the disasters and repression that occurred in different parts of the world.


People generally react the same way to horrific events whether they are the victims or are related to the victims whether it is the Jewish holocaust or the Massacre at Nanking. A survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombs notes that the people refer to be quiet about the tragedy. They do not want to provide incentive or information that can be used by the Western world as material for the fight against Atomic Bombs and in other political struggles. The people do not want to be beggars, to display their misery so that they can get relief funding (Ōe, 19). There are many scholars, experts and writers who do not think that it is wise for the victims to remain silent, they prefer them to talk.

The victims however feel that those who expect such actions from them do not really understand them even if they spend the whole of August 6 in the country. Another survivor chooses not to be in the war against the Atomic bombs for other reasons. There is a magnification of the stories of the people who were exposed to the bombs and the tough life they have had after the event. There are no stories of the people who suffered by being exposed mildly to the bombs and recovered their health. There are no stories of the people who suffered in other ways and their life afterwards.

Silence is a similar reaction in many survivors of traumatic events in the world. The victims choose to keep quiet due to different reasons. After the survivors from the Nazi death camps arrived in their new home and country, Israel on overloaded ships, they choose to keep quiet out of the guilt and the shame that they felt (Buruma, 1999). They were never the same. The victims also were not appreciated in the new country of heroes. It was as if it was a stain that should have been removed. They therefore chose to keep quiet.

The French Jews in Western Europe also choose to keep quiet as they did not want to draw attention to themselves again. The Jews in Israel wanted to be content with the nationalistic movement in their new country. It was a similar situation after the Nanking massacre. The Japanese were content with being reintegrated as citizens that they were willing to keep quiet and cover the humiliation they had suffered with their silence. In China, the people who had survived the Nanking massacre had no opportunity to speak out. The worrying thing on their mind was the Maoist purges that were going on at that time if someone belonged to the wrong class or political background.

After the Cultural Revolution in China, there were public denouncements of the gang of four as they came to be known. The writers tried to get the people to talk but it was difficult. The victims found it too hard and painful to tell their stories. They were comfortable with the public denouncements but no more. Sharing their experiences with the public where the hurt had come from was hard (Hui, 48)

Zheng Yi, published a story called Maple in 1979 that forced the people to face the unpleasant facts or memories. It was about the fight between two armed guards. The story was a post-Mau narration that was therefore for many years before other stories were written (Liu, 5).

There are those survivors who were not quiet and somehow have found the courage and the strength to speak out. For the people whose ancestors have been affected by the disasters, there are various similar reactions to the events. They want their parents to speak out and encourage them to do.

For the victims, they simply want the world and the perpetrators to accept and know that certain atrocities were committed. When the time for the disaster passes, the people are left with memories. However, they are glad that it is a new day and those events no longer happen.

In South Africa, the apartheid had left the Africans weak and with feelings of despair. However when the country got its independence, there were moments of joy and even unbelief. As the people voted, they thought they were dreaming. They felt strengthened and ready for a new day.

Suicide and Depression

When the disasters occurred there are those victims who could not cope with living and they committed suicide. In the Hiroshima bomb events, the survivors who had been exposed to the bombs got cancer. Even in the years to come, there are those victims who later get cancer. A poet by the name Mr. Kikuya Haraguchi had committed suicide. He had been told by the doctors that it was probable he had myeloid leukaemia. It could have been to much to handle and he did not want to go through the painful treatments of chemotherapy and radiation which were not a guarantee that he would survive. He wanted to die on his own terms, with his dignity.

There are times the horror is too much and the victim caves in to depression and eventually suicide. It is the same scenario observed in South Africa. When it came to the demolitions of the different towns in South Africa, there are Africans who could not handle their homes being destroyed.

The South African government wanted to segregate the Blacks and the Whites. They

therefore removed certain people from their towns to other places. The Africans had also settled in areas where the Whites should have been living. It should have been a lily-white area. In the Sophia town area, a gardener had requested the government to allow him to demolish his house himself as he had used so much of his physical, emotional and financial resources to build the home. The government agreed. However the next day he was found hanging on a tree.

He could not take it anymore (Tutu, 77).

The injustice was too much for him. Bloke Msidane in his autobiography speaks of his experiences in apartheid, South Africa. He starts by saying that something in him died when his town, Sophia Town was destroyed (Msidane, 5). Whether it was physical or emotional, the victims were never the same again.

There are those victims who are shocked at the cruel and cold reaction of certain outsiders. There was a funeral service of a woman who had committed suicide. She was the wife of Tangichi Toge, a talented poet who had written poems on the Hiroshima tragedy. The wife feared cancer however that was not the why she had committed suicide. A few weeks before her death, someone had smeared paint on her husband’s poem, an act that completely broke her. The victims are usually very vulnerable and if anyone is to take advantage of their state, the individual would break down.

The attainment of Justice

When it comes to the attainment of justice after the disaster there are those who are angry that the perpetrators or their state does not admit what their countrymen did is wrong. This can

be seen in both the reaction to the Nanking Masaccre and the Apartheid. In the book the Rape of Nanking, the author highlighted the events that occurred in the Massacre with a view of proving that the Chinese were victims and the description of the events are not an exaggeration (Chang, 44).

It is however a biased view since not all the Japanese nationals are denying the role that the country played. The victims of every disaster and their children or grandchildren are usually searching for justice. It does not have to be the punitive justice but the admittance of the people that what happened was wrong. Any time the justice does not come through; the victims feel their needs have not been addressed. Their views are obstructed by the few who do not want to admit their mistakes.

For the author of the Nanking massacre, it has been contended that her writing was not all inclusive of the situation on the ground. She did not mention the Japanese people and the lawyers who were helping the Chinese victims file their cases. There also the liberal teachers in Japanese schools who are teaching the students of the role of Japan in the Massacre as the victimizer (Yoshida, 156)

Desmond Tutu shows a similar argument in his book, no future without forgivingness. There are those South Africans who felt that the perpetrators should not be given any amnesty however he contends that there is nothing wrong or immoral with giving someone amnesty. After all, amnesty is only given to those who accept responsibility for what they have done, who plead guilty to what they have done. In the case of Steve Biko, the police officers who killed him

were not given amnesty. They did not feel that they had done anything wrong. They were innocent in their eyes. They said that they had reacted in self-defence.

The amnesty can be granted only for individuals that show remorse. They are those victims who feel that the victimizers should be served with retributive justice which is punitive in nature otherwise nothing has been done. There are many victims who feel this way about what they have gone through. If the people who wronged them are not alive, they expect financial compensation from the government of these nationals. For financial compensation to be given the government has to accept the wrongs of its people. Desmond Tutu however speaks of restorative justice that does not have to be punitive in nature.

There is also the reaction of the victimizers towards the disasters that have happened. There is also the issue of silence among these people as they do not want the memories of these wars evoked. They want to move forward and concentrate on nation building. In Japan there arose liberal or progressive writers who after writing the United States atrocities in Vietnam, they began to write of the Japanese role in the Nanking Massacre.

There were writers who rose up to deny the extent of the massacres and the role of Japan. There were publications denying the events that had happened. In South Africa during the TRC hearings, there were two kinds of victimizers. Those that shared what they had done and admitted their wrong actions and sought for amnesty. There were also those that did not admit their wrongs.

In the event of any disaster, both the victims and the victimizers have to find a way to forge ahead. In the Rwanda Massacre, there were also hearings for the victims. There was also attention paid to the victimizers to hear what they had to say. The victims want to hear what the victimizers have to say. There is also a bigger picture in terms of the relations in the future between these two kinds of people. Desmond Tutu says it well in the title of his book, there can be no future without forgiveness. The Hutus have to still interact with the Tutsi, they are citizens of the same country.

There are Caucasians in South Africa who know no other home, South Africa is their home. They have to interact with the Blacks in the business, employment and recreational circles. Indeed there can be no future without forgiveness. Unless there is a lot of openness and acceptance on the Nanking Massacre, there will still be to some level terse relations between the Japanese and the Chinese yet they are neighbours and their lives get intertwined regularly. There should be no generalizations of the perpetrators however. Not all the White people in South Africa or the world at large approved of the Apartheid practices that were going on in South Africa.

There were Japanese nationals who were against the War and the capture of Nanking. Generalization causes anger and one to look at certain people with discrimination and bias.

The victims of disasters are usually encouraged to speak up to set the record straight of the events that happened. There have been many books published where the people give narrations of their experiences during the war or the disaster.

After the controversial publications in Japan, there was an upsurge in the publications of the Chinese victims by many authors. There are victims who speak up since they want healing or they have been encouraged to speak even though they do not see how it will bring healing. However there are those victims who speak up when they feel that the memory of their people is being attacked and even questioned. They speak up to show the different events that were happening at that time.

Personal narrations written as stories serve to show the intense emotion of the victims and the things that were going through their mind at that time. There are historians who come forward, interested in researching the events that occurred at that time.

On the Nanking massacre, there were historical documents and diaries that were discovered that helped the different authors carry out research and write on what happened at that time. The victims also want to educate the public or the outsiders of what happened and the emotions they went through. They want the public to understand where at times they are silent while at other times they are able to speak up. They want understanding and not to be incorporated in blanket statistics for a cause in the Western world. The individual stories assist the public to view the victims as individuals who have gone through so much.

In Desmond Tutu’s book there are also narrations from many South Africans on the impact that apartheid had on their life. There was the formation of the Truth and Justice Commission where the people came and narrated their stories on their experiences.

The sessions were quite intense as the people had many people watching them as they gave their experiences. In writing the stories and telling the stories get to release their feelings that are deep within them. It actually brings healing and gets rid of the shame and guilt they may be feeling. The people who listen to them, both the family and the friends are able to understand what they are going through and even offer great comfort and a listening ear. It is therefore important for the victims to break the silence and get healing and comfort.


Every time there is a tragedy where the human rights of a certain group of people are disregarded whether on the basis of their skin colour, ethnicity, military strength and their political affiliations, there are human reactions to the disasters or repression that are similar across the globe. As the victims struggle to deal with what is happening in their life, the rest of the world is interested in knowing and hearing what the victims went through. The victims react in various ways to the horrors they have experienced. They are those who are silent at first and then speak up later due to different motivations.

They are those who pursue justice either in the form of financial compensation, retributive or restorative justice. The perpetrators and the governments of the victimizers may agree to compensate the victims or they may contend with the description of the events that happened.

The actual victimizers may forgive forgiveness or amnesty. Some may refuse to agree to having committed any wrong. There are the writers and researchers who are interested in the events and go out of their way to look through historical documents and even get the stories from the victims to get the flow of events. There are activists who are interested in pursuing different causes against wars, nuclear investments and racism and they want to interact with the victims to get information and data for their human agenda. The victims do not feel that the people fighting for different causes are appreciating them. They feel like they are statistics.

The victims want to be appreciated as individuals and not just as data and information for the different human rights organizations and the different publishing houses and artists. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. They also want their memories to be respected and not to be contested or treated as if they are not a true description of the events that happened.

Works Cited

Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War 2. USA: Penguin Publishers. 1998. Print.

Binyan, Liu. “An unnatural Disaster”. The New York Review of Books, 40: 7(1993): 3-6. Print.

Buruma, Ian. “The Joys and Perils of Victimhood”. The New York Review of Books. 1999. Web.

Desmond Tutu. No future without Forgiveness. New York. Random House. 1999. Print.

Hui, Xu. “Nightmare- Notes from a mother’s hand” Stubborn Weeds: Popular and Controversial Literature after the Cultural Revolution. Ed. Perry Link.United States: Indiana University Press. 1983. 48-58. Print.

Msidane, Bloke. Blame me on History. South Africa: Ad Donker Publishers. 1963. Print.

Ōe Kenzaburo, Hiroshima Notes. New York: Grove Press. 1996. Print.

Yoshida, Takashi. “Re-Fighting the Nanjing Massacre: The Continuing Struggle Over Memory” Nanking 1937: Memory and Healing. Ed. Robert Sabella. New York: M.E Sharpe. 2002. 154-180. Print.

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