San Oku En Jiken

50 years ago this morning, four bank employees in Japan were transporting almost 300 million yen designated as bonuses for Toshiba workers. As they passed Fuchu Prison, a police motorcycle drew alongside, signalling them to pull over. After they complied, the young uniformed officer provided dramatic news that their branch manager’s house had been blown up and that information indicated that their vehicle could also be a target. This rang true; after all, their manager had received several threatening letters in recent weeks.

Understandably panicked, the courier quartet disembarked and retreated to what they presumed was a safe distance, while the cop crawled beneath the car to inspect it for any evidence of foul play. Within apparently a few seconds, smoke began to billow forth, and suddenly the officer rolled out, yelling a warning of imminent explosion. Following his desperate gesticulations, the bank employees speedily fled to the prison walls…

…whereupon the ‘police officer’ calmly got into their car and drove away.

*****

The thief had used a simple warning flare to simulate the smoke and flames, and left 120 other pieces of evidence at the scene of the crime including the ‘police’ motorcycle – itself just a regular motorbike painted white. However, these were common, everyday items, scattered deliberately to confuse the authorities.

Despite the largest investigation in Japanese history, involving 170,000 policemen attempting to narrow down a list of suspects 110,000 names long, the perpetrator was never brought to justice. One suspect, a 19 year old son of a police officer, committed suicide mere days after the crime. A friend of his, 18 at the time of the robbery, was arrested in 1975 and could not account for the large amount of money then in his possession, but the authorities were frustrated in their attempts to find any proof that he had obtained the cash by illegal means.

Since 1988, the various statutes of limitations have elapsed, meaning that the culprit could come forward without fear of prosecution should he so wish. He has not so wished.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

 

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Ticking Underwater Time Bomb

In 1946 a Polish ship, the Kielce, sank off the coast of Folkestone while transporting a relatively insubstantial amount of incendiary ordnance. Intent on preventing detonation of this cargo, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency began work on an operation to neutralise the threat. For whatever reason, during the preliminary stage of these efforts in 1967, the Kielce did indeed explode.

The explosion measured 4.5 on the Richter scale and left a crater 20 feet deep in the seafloor. Although panic and chaos initially swept through Folkestone itself, the incident mercifully caused no harm or loss of life to the population. The Kielce was, after all, at least 5 kilometres off the coast, and at a depth of 15 fathoms.

2 years before the Kielce foundered in the English Channel, an American Liberty ship called the Richard Montgomery ran aground in the Thames Estuary. She now lies just 8 fathoms down, with her 3 masts just visible above the waves. Contained in her flooded holds are munitions equivalent to almost 1,500 tonnes of TNT.

Every independent survey of the wreck has concluded that even the slightest shifting of the tides could trigger a blast. Should just one of the fuses attached to the 2,600 fused-fragmentation devices aboard become wet, it could cause a copper azide reaction. In 1970, the BBC estimated that the resultant explosion would create a 1,000 feet-wide column of water & debris reaching nearly 10,000 feet into the air, a tidal wave 16 feet high, the shattering of every window in the nearby coastal town of Sheerness, and damage to countless buildings.

The SS Richard Montgomery lies just over 2 kilometres from the shoreline.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…⚓

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In a State of Constant Multiplication

“Once the asset-leveraging is in place, there are a number of lucrative options for the opportunistic transitory sponsor acquisitions trader to pursue. The first and most obvious low-risk/medium-return is what is known in brokerage parlance as a ‘glasscock reshuffle’; all liabilities are offloaded to smaller debt holdings at nominal margins, while every available source of liquidity is centralised in one assisted revenue stream with maximal investment. However, for most stock-jockeys this is an underutilizing direct-strategic process, with the all-but-guaranteed inflated earnings offset by the relatively sacrificing low pace of profit. A more judicious share plan, favoured by most moderately experienced frugal fund assessors, is to immediately boost rates in a sufficiently synergic route so as to force what’s called a ‘death or deluge’ play; the resultant chaos in the share price and highly energised market activity will almost certainly cause a stratospheric return for the skilled intriguer. However, this unsurprisingly a high-risk/high-return caper, and while it can end with a huge windfall it can, for the less savvy and serene credit localisation manager, crunch the company value in a colossal collapse of unstoppable proportions.

Now things get complicated. Stop me if it gets too technical…”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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The Last Son of Heaven

After almost 35 years away, Henry returned to the Forbidden City on the 9th of December 1959. He moved in with his sister, and got a job as a street-sweeper. As was characteristic of his forgetfulness, he somehow managed to get lost on his first day. Seeking help, this seemingly-ordinary urban worker doubtless dumbfounded passers-by when he told them the following;

“I’m Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. I’m staying with relatives and can’t find my way home.”

Despite this declaration, Henry was an incredibly modest and humble man. He insisted on being the last person to board a bus, which frequently led to his being late for work. At restaurants he would tell the waiting staff, “You should not be serving me – I should be serving you.”

However, the fact remained that this selfless individual had been brought up to be waited upon, hand and foot. Every need had been catered for, every whim had been seen to, every task performed…by others. Thus, he never quite learned to function completely on his own; doors would be left open, toilets unflushed, taps left running… As one friend put it, “He had a genius for creating an instant, disorderly mess around him”.

Before his came back to Beijing, Henry had spent 9 years in Chinese prison. Prior to that, he had been held at Stalin’s pleasure after being captured by the Red Army in the Autumn of 1945. When the Soviets handed him over to the People’s Republic, he had fully expected to be executed for his role in the Second World War.

Initially deposed by a coup in the mid-Twenties, Henry secretly contacted the Japanese in 1931 promising to provide assistance should they restore him to the throne. They promptly installed him as their puppet ruler of Manchukuo, and this traitorous monarch signed whatever his new masters placed in front of him. In a chilling echo of Hitler’s ideas for ‘Lebensraum’, Japan used the province to ease their overpopulation problem; in 1935 they announced the plan to relocate 5 million farmers from the mainland, evicting the indigenous residents. Those who resisted eviction? The Kwantung Army used them for bayonet practice.

For much of World War Two, Henry was confined to his Palace and kept completely ignorant of global events. Right up until 1944, he believed that Japan was winning in the Pacific and was shocked – and delighted – to discover that the Allies were in the ascendancy. When he was sure that nobody could be listening, he would sit at his piano and play a quick one-finger version of The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Nonetheless, in theory he was ‘supreme commander’, bearing ultimate responsibility for the brutal treatment meted out by the Japanese to his supposed subjects. His moods during this time became erratic, swinging wildly from hours spent staring blankly to the sadistic beating of his servants. The awareness that he was an object of loathing and levity drove him almost insane. One day he found that a member of his staff had scrawled in chalk, ‘Haven’t the Japanese humiliated you enough?

Following the end of the war, and his transfer into Chinese custody, Henry was taken to the facilities of the infamous Unit 731 – the Japanese Army’s chemical and biological warfare department. He was horrified to discover that all their gruesome experiments, all their agonizing tortures, all their appalling atrocities…were carried out in his name.

In 1960, Henry met the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The Premier told him,

“You weren’t responsible for becoming Emperor at the age of three, or the 1917 attempted restoration coup…but you were fully to blame for what happened later. You knew perfectly well what you were doing when you took refuge in the Legation Quarter, when you traveled under Japanese protection to Tianjin, and when you agreed to become Manchukuo Chief Executive.” 

In Europe, and across the rest of the world after different conflicts throughout history, leaders who had performed similar roles were executed; the Italians shot Mussolini, the French executed Laval, the British hanged ‘Lord Haw-Haw’… Yet the ideology of Communism explains why the Chinese released the man who had collaborated with their Japanese occupiers – their former Emperor had simply been performing his role in the system.

During his time in prison, Henry was put through Marxist-Leninist-Maoist remodeling. Much of this involved attending discussion groups where prisoners would discuss their lives before incarceration. He would also be confronted with ordinary citizens who had suffered under his ‘Empire of Manchukuo’, including individuals who had fought bravely with the Communist resistance – this was to show him both the reality of what his regime had wrought as well as the fact that submission was not the only response. As the warden would say when Henry protested that there was nothing he could have done, “Why did ordinary people resist while an emperor did nothing?”

By the mid-Fifties Henry was overwhelmed with guilt to the point of suicide. On one trip to the countryside he met a farmer’s wife who had almost starved to death while working as a slave in one of the region’s factories. When he begged for forgiveness she waved him away and said, “It’s over now, let’s not talk about it”, which made him burst into tears. On another occasion, he met a woman who, despite witnessing the mass execution of her entire village at the hands of the Kwantung Army, declared that she did not hate the Japanese because she retained her faith in humanity. This moved Henry, and gradually his faith in Communism began to grow.

From 1963 onward Henry gave regular press conferences at which he would praise life in the People’s Republic of China. Foreign Correspondents would often seek him out, eager to meet this ‘Last Emperor of China’. His family and friends all remarked on how much he had changed from the selfish royal they had known in his youth. He clearly cared for people, and became known for his kindness during this period; once, with classic clumsiness, he knocked down a woman with his bicycle, and so he subsequently brought her flowers every day until she was discharged from hospital.

Henry, aka Puyi, aka Puyi Xiansheng, aka Yaozhi, aka Haoran, aka Xun Di, aka Fei Di, aka the Last Emperor of China, died of complications arising from kidney cancer and heart disease on the 17th of October 1967 at the age of 61.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…⋆ 

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Emily Davison Knew Her Place

She was born in south-east London 146 years ago today. Her father was 49, her mother 23. Emily Wilding Davison grew up to be a bright student, earning a 1st in English from Oxford University – or, at least, she would have, were she able to actually graduate. At that august academy in the 1890’s, degrees were closed to women.

Davison joined the Women’s Social & Political Union in 1906 and quickly became a model activist, in just a few short years leaving her teaching job to focus full time on the organisation. Sylvia Pankhurst, no shrinking violet herself, was moved to describe Emily as, “one of the most daring and reckless of the militants”. Her first arrest was in March 1909, when a demonstration aimed at the Prime Minister ended with violence; Emily Davison was sentenced to a month in gaol for, “assaulting the police in the execution of their duty”.

The stint in prison did not deter her one iota. In July of that year, she and her fellow suffragists stormed into a public meeting from which women had been barred, held by David Lloyd George. For this ‘obstruction’ she was sentenced to 2 months in chokey. So her first spells of incarceration were for having a pop at the two men who would hold the highest office in the land during the forthcoming ‘War to End all Wars’ – pretty impressive, whatever way you look at it.

Emily went on hunger strike at Holloway Prison, thus being released after serving just 5 days. This was a forerunner of the ‘cat and mouse’ policy that would see official introduction in 1913; in response to a hunger striker the suffragist would be set free only to be subsequently picked up by the authorities once well-fed and healthy again. Sure enough, in September she was arrested for throwing stones at another men-only political meeting. In October, another arrest. 2 weeks after that, more stone-throwing brought about another penal sentence; hard labour.

When she went on hunger strike this time, the government tactics had changed. The brutal practice of force-feeding was carried out, and Davison would call the experience one which, “will haunt me with all its horror all my life”. To avoid a repeat, she barricaded herself into her cell using the bed and stool, and the guards responded by turning a fire hose on her for a quarter of an hour. Emily would sue, and win, for this inhumane treatment.

In April 1910 she broke into the House of Commons by hiding in a heating system, only being discovered by an officer when she went in search of water. That month she became a paid employee of the WSPU and began writing for its newspaper, Votes for Women. Incensed by police aggression against the Suffragists on what would become known as ‘Black Friday’, Emily responded by smashing the windows of parliament’s Crown Office. Once more she was sent to prison, once more she went on hunger strike, once more she was force-fed, once more she was released early.

At the end of 1911 she started setting fire to letterboxes. Davison was arrested for arson at the houses of parliament and admitted to burning 2 additional postboxes. For this she received 6 months in Holloway Prison, during which she again was subjected to what she described as “barbaric” force-feeding. In June 1912 she and her fellow imprisoned Suffragists barricaded themselves inside their cells and went on hunger strike. Once the authorities had wrested the demonstrators from their improvised fortifications, the strikers were again force-fed.

Davison now decided on what she called a, “desperate protest…made to put a stop to the hideous torture”; she jumped from one of the prison’s interior balconies, cracking 2 vertebrae and almost fracturing her skull in the process. Despite her injuries, she was still force-fed shortly afterwards.

In November 1912 Emily Davison was arrested a final time, for horse-whipping a Baptist minister while under the mistaken impression that her target was Lloyd George. In jail she engaged in a 7th – and last – hunger strike, and was forcibly fed for the 49th time. By this stage, she had become completely ostracised within the WSPU; they took a dim view of her spontaneity and initiative, considering her behaviour persistently erratic.

At Epsom racecourse in 1913, she would make her final – most memorable – demonstration. On the 4th of June, while bearing the Suffragist colours of purple, white & green, Emily Davision hurled herself under the hooves of the horse owned by King George V. This ‘propaganda of the deed’ was captured by no less than 3 news cameras – an extreme rarity with newsreels still in their infancy. The footage horrified the world.

Emily never regained consciousness after the collision, and would die 4 days later. Hatemail directed at her was sent to the hospital while she struggled to cling on to life. The contemporary news media were, of course, incredibly unsympathetic: The Daily Express called her ‘malignant’. The Daily Telegraph aired their ‘fierce resentment with the miserable woman’. The Pall Mall Gazette labeled her death ‘grotesque and meaningless’.

10 days after the race, Davison’s body was transported from Epsom to London. 5,000 women formed a procession, along with hundreds of men, to accompany her journey. 50,000 people lined the route. Then her coffin was taken by train to Northumberland, where she would be interred at St. Mary’s Church in Morpeth. Emily’s gravestone bears the slogan, ‘Deeds Not Words’.

5 years later, women attained the vote in Great Britain.

In her essay The Price of Liberty, Emily Davison writes;

“To lay down life for friends, that is glorious, selfless, inspiring! But to re-enact the tragedy of Calvary for generations yet unborn, that is the last consummate sacrifice of the Militant”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♀

#RememberEmily

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Eat Your Heart Out, Sophocles

“The most terrible thing is that the possibility didn’t even register until I found out his mother’s maiden name. Even then, it seemed a coincidence….but who really believes in them any more? Up till then he’d looked like the cute kid next door – makes me queasy now – and I just figured, you know, ‘Who cares if he’s close on three decades my junior? Ain’t no law against it!’ Maybe there shoulda been.”

She had been 27 when he was born – though she knew nothing about it. At that time she was roughly half-way through her PhD in Gender Studies and had lost contact with her only daughter. The survivor of a statutory date rape at the age of 12, nine months later she had given birth, via Cesarean, to a perfectly healthy baby girl. Arriving on Christmas Day, the infant was thus appropriately named Noelle.

“When he first moved in, I went to welcome him with a plate of cookies, an’ his smile… It just shone right through me; I felt more warmth than at any time since my darlin’ Noelle was born. Then, when he introduced himself as Nick, well… My heart jumped over the moon. If this wasn’t a case of fate, or destiny, or the good Lord himself telling me somethin’…”

Against the mother’s express wishes and violent protests – which may have done her case more harm than good – Noelle’s grandparents agreed to put the child up for adoption. To spare the public embarrassment of all concerned. They were never forgiven for this action. As soon as she turned 18, the mother applied for – and received – emancipation. Immediately, she moved to the part of the country farthest from the people who had betrayed her.

“I gave birth to Noelle on Christmas Day. She gave birth to Nick exactly fourteen years afterwards…to the day. To the day! He’d been taken into Child Protection at 5 years old. It wasn’t Noelle’s fault! She never had proper parents of her own, or siblings, and she was a teenager – how could she be expected to care for a child?! She didn’t know that it was wrong to hit!”

Noelle had been abused by her foster family too, so the cycle of violence was predictable, if not inevitable. All parties became unrecognisable to one another. The son changed his name by deed poll to avoid all contact with his mother…who in turn had little or no means of regaining a relationship with her own estranged parent. All made efforts to get on with their lives, to recover from their ordeals, to escape their pasts. The hands of fate regarded such efforts with disdain.

“Imagine; me pushing 50, him on the cusp of 23. It didn’t take long for us to… Oh God, I can’t say it, can’t even bear to think it! He’d come over to help with all the festive greetings I wanted to send out. Season’s greetings, you know the kind.  He’d seen the small pile of cards and envelopes – it’d only been an excuse to have him over, ya see – and his grin… ‘Holiday backlog, huh?’ I’d laughed, gibbering nervously already. ‘You know it – presents, cards, all the trash that’s expected!’ Rolling my eyes, affecting a cynicism I didn’t feel.”

The warmth of mutual attraction overpowering any Grinch’s humbug. It is unsettling, disturbing, even disgusting to consider the possible existence of a hormonal connection drawing them together. A confusing magnetism out of their control and, crucially, beyond their understanding. The rush of chemical and biological pied pipery, leading them a merry dance to their doom. Their eyes meet, a spark flashes, smiles widen. The die is cast.

Do you really want to know what follows?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☠

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Eyes on the Prize

This is what she wants most in the world. Or, at least, what she needs most in the world.

Equality. To be treated with dignity and respect, and to be able to treat others the same way without weakening her own position. The opportunity to share in the creation and enjoyment of everything life has to offer. A fair chance at happiness, free from the iniquities and injustices that stalk all who desperately yearn for freedom.

For decades, centuries even, her foremothers had demonstrated and agitated for this cause…and what did it get them? Ridicule. Belittlement. Scorn. At best, mere lip service. At worst? Rape culture. Low pay. Few jobs. Objectification. Sexualisation. Forced labour – in every sense. Body shaming. Restriction after restriction after restriction….

Constitutional feminism had achieved nothing of note. Not to her, at any rate. That is why she stands, rifle in hand, alongside her sisters-in-arms. That is why they eagerly await the orders to strike. That is why they will seize what is theirs, by any means necessary. Revolutionary feminism will win the day.

The Age of Man is at an end.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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