Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time Not Wasted

People may have wondered why spend so much time thinking about what pop culture says about international relations.  They have have pondered whether dedicating entire class sessions to Harry Potter and the International Relations of Ethnic Conflict might be misguided. 

I can now officially and completely say to such un-named people: feh!  Feh, I say! 

Why? Because the Sino-Japanese dispute is now an exercise in Harry Potter-one-ups-man*-ship!

The only winner in all of this?  J.K. Rowling, of course.  What is so very striking about this, besides justifying my time spent reading/watching/writing about HP (can I get a retroactive tax deduction for the visit to Harry Potter world in Orlando?), is that this tangent in the dispute demonstrates the globalization of Harry Potter.  I mean, we knew that, but to have diplomatic representatives resort to HP name-calling?  Amazing, especially since the languages involved are pretty distant from English.

Anyhow, the time is now to deploy our HP expertise to understand this conflict.  One could go to an edited volume on this, or one could just rely on those who have blogged endlessly about Harry Potter.  That would be me (ok, others, too). 

What is my take on this? Well, the Chinese envoy referred to the Yasukuni shrine as "a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul," which is a pretty apt application of HP-ness.  That the militarism in Japan's past is not dead and a piece of it might just be kept alive in this shrine for eventual use in re-animating Japan's Voldemort--its aggression towards its neighbors.  Of course, this would seem like a pretty obvious place to put a horcrux, making it easy to confront and destroy, but still the application is on target.

What about the Japanese response?  Not so much.
There are two paths open to China. One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side.
Um, not so good. Sure, Voldemort engaged in arms races and raised tensions but his initial efforts were far more secretive.  Lots of folks engage in arms races but that does not make them Voldemort (the security dilemma is sufficient to explain that).  Besides, the war between the Order of the Phoenix and the agents of the Dark Lord was behind the scenes and not apparent either to Muggles or wizards & witches. Indeed, the clumsy aggression of the past few years of Chinese foreign policy appear to be more that of a Voldemort pretender ... such as a Lucius Malfoy. 

One last application: if the argument between the two countries is really over islands that have no apparent value, I guess I would have to wonder if Azkaban or its Asian equivalent might not be real target of this rivalry?
*  One-ups-person-ship sounds strange.  So excuse my gendered language, although it makes sense if this conflict between China and Japan is really about comparing penis sizes but that is an analogy for another day.

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