An American wartime propaganda video has one Japanese citizen reflecting on his nation’s societal structure today.

Japanese Twitter user @Mac20783017 is a history buff who tweets dozens of political opinions, observations, and historical artifacts on a daily basis. His Twitter profile description is a testament to the importance of the past in understanding the future, featuring the single quote “Those who close their eyes to the past will be blind to the future.”

In line with this philosophy, @Mac20783017 recently posted some screenshots from a World War II propaganda film that he discovered online. While propaganda took all different forms on both sides of the war, including an animated film of fake Mickey Mouse attacking Japan and photos of geisha pinching their noses at Winston Churchill, the particular video in question is a U.S. War Department-sponsored film called Know Your Enemy: Japan. Directed by Frank Capra and released on August 9, 1945, the film was intended to prepare U.S. soldiers for combat in the Pacific theater, but due to its release just three days after the bombing of Hiroshima and on the day of the bombing of Nagasaki, its mission went ultimately unfulfilled as Japan surrendered only six days later. A full-length version can now be found on YouTube and below:

As a Japanese citizen, @Mac20783017 is the exact opposite of the intended American audience of the film. Nonetheless, it appears that he realized something while watching it that struck a chord with him despite the 70 years of time that have elapsed since its creation. He posted nine selected stills from the video, which include Japanese subtitles, along with an observation regarding the difference between society in wartime Japan versus Japanese society today. Find the selected screenshots along with the corresponding English voice-over segments below (note: some Japanese subtitles are not word-for-word translations of the spoken English, but they do convey the same ideas).

“These are from an American propaganda video but we can see that nothing has changed.

Regarding the hierarchical social structure of wartime Japan:

1. “In spite of westernization, everyone in Japan still rules over his inferior, and in turn bows down to his superiors, just like they did in the middle ages.”

2. “Even today, there isn’t any moral right or wrong in Japan.”

3. [Continued] “Merely, are you or are you not obedient to your superiors?”

Regarding work and wages in wartime Japan:

4. “Individual welfare still doesn’t count. Discomfort is supposed to be a divine virtue.”

5. “He works a 72-hour-week of starvation wages and frequently dies of tuberculosis at the age of 40.”

6. “Why do Japan’s millions accept their fate in dumb, regimented silence?”

Regarding the education system of wartime Japan:

7. “The object [of education] is to mass-produce students who all think alike.”

8. “Their minds absorb the official lessons like a sponge absorbs water. And like a squeezed sponge, they give back the same water.”

9. “That is the vicious system of political and religious regimentation that hammers, kneads, and molds the whole population until it becomes an obedient mass, with but a single mind.”

Interestingly, when his tweets began to take off on the Japanese Internet, other Japanese net user reactions were overwhelmingly in agreement that Japanese society hasn’t really changed all that much since then:

“Yup, I definitely get the feeling that Japan hasn’t changed.”
“This nails the essence of Japan so much that I can’t even laugh.”
“It’s not that not a single thing has changed but that many parts that haven’t changed still exist.”
“Working 70 hours per week for low wages is actually crueler in today’s world.”
“What’s changed is that people no longer work, catch tuberculosis, and die at 40, but that they continue working up until they die.”
“At least chocolate is different now.”

In hindsight, it’s strange to see how certain quotes pulled from a video produced by a historical enemy-turned-friend could be so resonant with an unintended audience well over half a century after the fact.

Source: Twitter/@Mac20783017 via My Game News Flash
Featured image: YouTube/Maustrum Productions
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