The Nanking Massacre

Japan began to embark on its own imperialistic endeavors in Asia. First, Japan took over the southern part of the Korean Peninsula during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). In 1905, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and gained control of Manchuria. Defeating a European nation empowered Japan to renegotiate its trade treaties with the United States and Europe as equals. Japan took over southern Manchuria, legitimized its control of Korea, and absorbed the southern half of Sakhalin Island. By 1910, Japan had colonized the entire Korean Peninsula.

During World War I, Japan joined the Allied Powers and sent ships to fight Germany. In 1914, while the European powers were embroiled in conflicts at home, Japan became an industrial power. In 1931, the Mukden Incident ceded Manchuria to Japan. In 1937, Japan invaded China during the second Sino-Japanese War. By 1940 it had consolidated its control of Vietnam. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to draw the United States into World War II. By 1942, Japan controlled the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines.

Several of these events remain controversial. Many Japanese historians believe Japan was responding to U.S. and European hostility during this period. Meanwhile, Chinese, European, and American historians accused the Japanese Imperial Army of massacring 50,000 to 300,000 civilizations and raping 20,000 women during the Nanking Massacre, also called the Rape of Nanking. Many Japanese historians deny this massacre occurred or believe the number of casualties has been exaggerated.

Read this article to examine arguments for and against the validity of the Nanking Massacre.

Dishonesty of Honest People

As Matsui Iwane says in Black Sun IV, killing the Chinese is absurd but logical. But, how is it logical? We may find the answers in behavioural psychology theory. According to Dan Ariely, there are two types of dishonesty. One is the type of dishonesty that is conducted by people who know that what they are doing is dishonest while they are doing it, such as running a red light, stealing, and trespassing on other people's property. When about to break the law, these people will calculate the risks of being caught and the potential punishment, and weight them up against the benefits. If the result is worth the risk based on cost-benefit calculation, they will carry out the criminal conduct; otherwise, they will stop if the risk and the punishment are greater than they can handle. In short, law and punishment are external restraints that keep human instincts, desires, and impulses from deviating from social norms. The second type of dishonesty is conducted by people who think they are honest and do not know they are doing something dishonest. They either convince themselves that a dishonest thing they have done is honest or not that dishonest, or they sincerely believe that something dishonest they have done is actually honest. As Mazar, Amir and Ariely say:

We hypothesize that for certain types of actions and magnitudes of dishonesty, people can categorize their actions into more compatible terms and find rationalizations for their actions. As a consequence, people can cheat while avoiding any negative self-signals that might affect their self-concept and thus avoid negatively updating their self-concept altogether.

Everyone has a moral standard. Things within this limit are undoubtedly considered to be honest. For example, waiting at a red light in the middle of the night when there is no traffic. However, not everything is within the limit. Sometimes our moral standard will be challenged. When this happens, in order not to damage our perception of ourselves as "honest" we will stretch our standard and make it malleable. For example, the self-perception required to take some money from your friend's wallet to buy a pencil is completely different from the self-perception required to take a pencil from your friend's pencil box. Equally there are many possible explanations for the malleability of our moral standard when applied to the scenario "my friend took a pencil from me once; this is what friends do". A moral code, moral standard, or self-perception is an internal examiner that checks if our behaviours are out of range. Ideally, our self-perception can regulate our behaviours every time since no one wants to be labelled as dishonest by others or by themselves. However, the same psychological mechanism also manipulates us to lie to ourselves because most people want to believe they are honest even they have done something dishonest. In other words, self-perception maintenance mechanism is meant to make us feel good about ourselves. Once our self-awareness of dishonesty gets lost and our self-perception maintenance mechanism takes control, it may induce self-deception, as Mazar and Ariely point out:

Other researchers have shown how people can be led to believe false or biased "facts" about their own past (see research on memory distortion and suppression of unwanted memories; e.g., Anderson; Loftus 25; Schachter and Dodson), and they can convince themselves of certain motivations for their behaviour, thus hiding their true intentions. Therefore, self-deception can be successful even in the most extreme cases: For example, doctors who participated in genocide in Nazi Germany managed to convince themselves of the rectitude of their actions.

Memory is flexible and docile. We may change the facts in our memories to hide our true intentions or justify our behaviours to persuade ourselves and others that we are good people. Sometimes you know you are lying when you are lying, but, sometimes, you are not even aware you are lying if you truly believe that you are doing something benevolent. Dan Ariely talks about an experiment to test if people will lie about the number on dice they toss in order to win the money. In an interview about Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, a company claiming it had created a machine that could test for every possible disease with a single drop of blood. Dan Ariely mentions that the polygraph can only detect your lies when you know you are lying. If, however, you sincerely believe that what you are saying is a truth, the lie detector cannot point you out.

In another version of the experiment, we do the same thing, but people pick a charity. And all the money that they're going to make today goes to that charity. Right? For a good cause. What do you think happened, people cheat more or less? People cheat more.

And the lie detector stops working. Why? Because what does the lie detector detect? The lie detector detects a tension. I want more money, but I think it's wrong. I want more money, but I think it's wrong, but if it's not wrong, why would you worry?

If it's for a good cause, you can still think of yourself as a good person, and that's how things start, and then it becomes a slippery slope.

In Black Sun IV, Matsui Iwane truly believes that Pan-Asianism is the only approach: for the Empire of Japan to become the leader of Asia, and for China to become a modern country through a painful, Japanese-led transformation. Therefore, for the sake of helping China transform, Matsui Iwane will sanction all the necessary means even though they are evil. It is not that Matsui Iwane does not know the atrocities done by Japanese soldiers are evil. It is that he believes that if evil deeds are done for good purposes, they should no longer be considered evil. Judging if an action is evil or not is determined by the nature of the action and what the action can achieve. The only difference between Iwane and the officers Nakajima Kesago and Tani Hisao is that Iwane pretends to believe Japanese soldiers' behaviours are indecent. Kyogo and Hisao, however, never try to hide their true intention of fulfilling the Emperor's idea through killing. They are examples of why people who do dishonest/evil things can still think they are honest/good people.