The Beast Within

Yesterday on the History Channel on TV
I watched a documentary about the truth
concerning The Bridge On the River Kwai.
Far from the Hollywoodized, movie fiction
where the English spirit triumphed over
the brutality of their Japanese captors
resulting in decent treatment for the prisoners,
in reality the Japanese guards sadistically brutalized
and murdered their British and Australian prisoners.
These captives suffered unrelenting inhuman treatment –
starvation, beatings, no medical treatment, torture –
while being forced to work building the railroad
twenty hours a day during monsoon rains.
They became walking skeletons who perished
by the thousands…by the thousands…to disease,
to minor skin abrasions that from lack of medicines
became open skin ulcers exposing the bone and requiring
amputation of the limb, and to their guards, their guards --
those tormenting demons of death and despair.
Their inhuman behavior in treatment of captured soldiers
under their care shall forever be the shame of Japan!

What was it about the Japanese that allowed them to act
so abominably? Were they simply a barbaric culture?
Did Orientals truly somehow value human life less?
But wait! During this same period of history, the Germans
were murdering millions upon millions of Jews, Gypsies,
mentally handicapped, and other, to their depraved minds,
“undesirables”. How was this possible? How could those
guards individually conduct themselves so despicably?
How could a whole nation stand by and watch it happen?
Alas, such inhuman cruelty abounds throughout history.
But these are modern times. Civilized Man is supposedly
no longer a ruthless barbarian.

All races, all nations appear fully capable of such brutality
toward fellow human beings…once they have gained total
domination over them. America has not remained exempt!
Our Native Americans were massacred, with whole tribes
exterminated. Africans were enslaved for centuries, then
oppressed for another one hundred years. One might say
these times are passed; today is 2004, and Man is surely
civilized, now above any such behavior. Yet, modernized,
civilized Man in Iraq is today mistreating prisoners,
stripping them naked, beating them, to dehumanize them,
while the terrorists decapitate captives with a dull knife.
The eyes of the beast begin to glow…

The scary truth is that, while Mankind may wear a mask
of humanity, deep within him lurks a beast, a beast brutal
and ruthless, capable of unspeakable acts of evil against
his powerless prey. It takes but the right conditions of hatred
and control to unleash the beast from behind the thin veneer
of modern civility. Beware! Be on guard…
for this beast waits within us all.

Harry Edward Gilleland      06.29.04    printer friendly