many months I have been a wanderer in the Far East hastening from the
cliff girt pine-bejewelled coasts of Japan to the luxuriant Philippines to
the coconut groves of the South Sea Islands to the volcanoes and rubber
forests of Java, to the glittering golden temples of Siam, to French
Indo China with its ruins of the past glory hidden in tiger infested
jungles and to the bandit harassed interior of old China.
has left the deepest impression upon me during this journey of thousands
of miles through many countries?
than by the beauties of the present and by the glories of the past, I have
been moved by fear of the future through out the Far East, which once was
the home of peace and philosophy of resignation and of contemplation, a
new religion is tearing into shreds the tranquility of yesterday, and is
crashing with the roar of drums into the calm of the priests of yore.
new religion is the WORSHIP of the SOLDIER. In each new land I have seen rising the sceptre of militarism.
In Japan I tramped though gorges where the trees clung like
grim death to the rocks, where water falls spattered down into the depths,
and where the paths were littered with the bizarre stone gods of old.
Then with a breath taking suddenness Mount Fuji rose white-capped
to complete a scene of peace. Crash! In the
midst of this idyll I had to leap for my life to the side of the road, for
hurtling madly round the corner came a line of Japanese military tanks,
painted in brown and green, with determined ruthless head peeping out, as
their engines of death shattered the poetry of the countryside.
It was a symbol of the war machine breaking into the Asia of the
artist and the dreamer.
I returned to Tokyo I saw how the soldiers dominated national life how the
civilians in the Government had little to say before the military men, how
the War Office scorned the Foreign Office and how the young officers set
them selves up as a Spartan example to the youth of the country and taught
that Japan had a mission to save the world. I went to see the Navy Minister, Admiral Osumi “Will not the
financial situation be a barrier to the building up of a great Navy?”
sailed past the British rocky heights of Hong Kong, where battleships lay,
a defense of British interests in South China. There was excitement on the day on which I arrived, for young and
old British citizens merchants and clerks, teachers and lawyers were
donning uniforms for all night manoeuvres.
the Philippines came in sight I little expected to find among the
Filipinos any trace of the WORSHIP of the SOLDIERS. I was disillusioned for no sooner had I entered the Office of one
of Manila’s leading politicians than he told me: “We must build up a
Filipino Army, an independent army of our own, to defend our shores and to
provide a training for our youth. We
must build up a Filipino Navy. We
must have an air force, for no nation is a real independent nation without
an air force.”
journey continued towards the South, across the Equator, past Borneo to
the Celebes and there, to Java. In
the smiling islands I thought that such savage preparation as that of
modern warfare would be distant, but I was mistaken. In the first port where I landed, Soerabaya, bombing seaplanes
darted out towards the open sea. “We
are building up our air force,” the Dutch Colonists declared. “We have bought fourteen Douglas planes for the Amsterdam to
Batavia civil air route, but we believe that military considerations
entered into the purchase of those aeroplanes.” In Borneo the Dutch are increasing the fortifications of the
leading oil ports, Balikpapan and Tarakan.
the centre of Java lies a magnificent temple built in pyramid shape over a
thousand years ago, called Borobudur, where thousands of carved images
seem to smile down upon the foibles of mankind. “Here at last” I contemplated, as I travelled past rice fields
and rubber trees, past tapioca plants and sugar cane, “I shall be able
to breathe in the peace of the East. Alas! Almost within the shadows of
the grey piles of massive stone, I heard the tramp, tramp of marching men,
or rather a shuffling thud, for their feet were naked, disturbing
symbolically the silence of the temple.
A car drove me out into the country and fifteen miles away from
the City, a giant Indian Sikh soldier examined carefully my pass and let
me through the barrier in the entanglement of barbed wire. I was in the great new naval base on which Great Britain is
spending many millions of pounds and which she is completing at great
speed. Thousands of coolies
were at work excavating, shovelling, carrying earth and stone in that
tremendous scheme of converting a formerly malaria-stricken swamp into
Britain’s outpost in the Far East. I looked down-almost dizzy at the dry dock, a masterpiece of naval
construction, which will hold the largest battleships afloat and saw at
the gate the granite blocks, which are smoothed to a measurement of 1/4000
of an inch! Great Britain is
not being left behind in the military and naval race in the Far East.
dirty little tramp steamer chugged its way with myself as its only
passenger to the Kingdom of Siam, which, so the Siamese claim, is the only
true independent Buddhist nation in the world. No one had greater scorn for the soldier and the fighter than the
great Buddha, who lived four hundred years before Christ, and who taught
that all life and all desire were evil. Surely in Siam, a country without enemies, with Great Britain on
one side and France on the other, I should find a country where there was
no worship of the soldier!
the contrary, however, I found when I reached its capitol, Bangkok, that
the revolution had led to a military dictatorship and that the Army was
the real master of Siam, I went to see the Prime Minister, who is at the
same time the Foreign Minister and the Commander in Chief of all the
Siamese forces. He was clad
in the green uniform of a Siamese General and he received me in a room
decorated with ancient and new weapons used in Siamese warfare. “I am a soldier?" he declared bluntly and proudly.
went out to a large field beneath the ramparts of the Royal Palace.
Workmen were busy erecting wooden towers and cloth scenes, which I saw
were scenes of battle. My American companion pointed to the field and
said: “That is a revolutionary change in the Siamese. Formerly no one would have dared to touch that ground, for it was
sacred, being the burial ground, but today it is being made ready for a
great military display.” The
Siamese Buddhists beneath that soil would indeed turn in their graves if
they knew that the consecrated field was being used for the worship of the
soldier, and that a few days later Siamese military aeroplanes would
encircle overhead and drop imitation bombs upon their resting place.
have been sent to the schools of Siam to demonstrate to the children the
use of machine guns and sometimes terrifying the village youngsters who,
never having seen a machine gun in their lives, are scared by the din of
the war engines.
do you lay such stress on the soldier?" I asked the Minister of
Education: “We believe in
military drill and military training for the youth of Siam, because they
give discipline and. build character,” he declared. Through French Indo-China I travelled and there again I saw the
worship of the soldier and the lauding of the French Army
last I came to China, where soldiers have been regarded as the scum of
society and where the scholar has been the cynosure of all eyes. For days I traversed the country into the interior, through a
district where Communist troops had marched time and time again and where
bandits had their lairs. This
was real China and here, I thought, as I questioned a class of Schoolboys,
I would find the old despising of the soldier. They were one and all, fiery militants.
“I want to go to a military school and learn how to handle
machine guns and tanks,” declared Wong, a youth of eighteen. “China must become a nation with a great army,” shouted Chen.
“We must have military institutes throughout the land,” proclaimed Chiang, a meek boy with glasses. “In the next year,” was the opinion of big-shouldered Wu, “We
must have a great military machine to be able to conquer Soviet Russia
to the Pacifism of the China of yesterdays, I reflected as I left the
school and passed a brigade of clumsy young men in brown uniforms, doing
their compulsory military training.
went to see Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang, who is, after Chiang Kai-shek, the
most powerful man in China. “We
want military training to build up the character of Chinese youths!” he
declared to me.
walked through a part of Kwangtung Province and there in one town I saw
sentries guarding each temple. When
I tried to enter to see the images, they barred my way with their
bayonets. The temples, I
learned, had become the dwelling place of the soldiers.
of the troops are at one time bandits and at other times soldiers. Last week many folks in Changsha were startled to see a bandit
chief from the South of Hunan arrive in Changsha the capitol, and pay a
visit to the Governor. Next day, however, it was announced that the arch
robber had been made a Colonel and that his three hundred thieves had been
converted into soldiers in the Governor’s Army.
is typical of old China. The
passion of respectable youth for militarism and for military aeroplanes
is, on the other hand, revolutionary. It reveals an Asia which is bubbling over with change and which is
casting aside old beliefs for a new and dangerous creed, the WORSHIP of