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Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and…

Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women under Pressure (edição: 1975)

de Langdon Gilkey (Autor)

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This vivid diary of life in a Japanese internment camp during World War II examines the moral challenges encountered in conditions of confinement and deprivation.
Título:Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women under Pressure
Autores:Langdon Gilkey (Autor)
Informação:HarperOne (1975), Edition: Harper & Row PB ed., 272 pages
Coleções:Lista de desejos

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Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure de Langdon Gilkey


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This is the most provocative book I’ve read in my adult life.
It powerfully evokes a very civilized despair for the human social condition. It implies that the Western notion of the social contract to be a wistful, romantic notion. I think I said that in a nice way. Shantung Compound was a blunt, clarifying, transformative read for me.
In Gilkey’s words, “This book is about the life of a civilian internment camp in North China during the war against Japan . . . Because internment-camp life seems to reveal more clearly than does ordinary experience the anatomy of man’s common social and moral problems and the bases of human communal existence, this book finally has been written.”
Gilkey was a 24-year-old American teacher in a Chinese university when World War II commenced. He and about 2,000 others, mostly Europeans including academics, clergy and businessmen, were imprisoned for more than two years in relatively benign conditions in the Weihsien camp near Shantung. Their Japanese captors provided the bare minimum of food and coal, and told the inmates to run the camp inside the walls.
Shantung Compound is Gilkey’s account of the endlessly frustrated attempts, by various camp leaders and elected committees and a few charismatic individuals, to enforce a fair allocation of the smallish rooms and dorm beds, to get everyone to do a fair share of work, to prevent stealing, to settle social disputes, to provide for the exceptional needs of the elderly, the frail, the young kids, the nursing mothers….
The overwhelming truth is that, facing the prospective dangers and daily extremities of camp life, nearly all of the internees didn’t “rise to the occasion” to protect the weak and to cooperate rationally for their own good and the common good.
Instead, this is what nearly all of the internees—most of them white, educated, Western—tended to do most of the time: they conspicuously looked out for themselves and their families, declined to do more than a modicum of work, refused to give up some of their “equal” share of food and housing to needier fellow inmates, shied away from volunteer leadership, declined to share the contents of relief parcels sent by their “own” governments, stole food and supplies whenever possible, refused to punish the egregious wrongdoers among them, and rationalized most of their uncharitable, uncooperative and uncivil behavior in complex variations of religious and humanist moralities….
Mind you, this wasn’t humanity in a state of nature. No “. . . Nature, red in tooth and claw” stuff. The Japanese guards remained aloof from the prisoners’ largely autonomous camp administration, and permitted black market trading with villagers outside the camp. The internees lived in dismal but not life-threatening conditions. They lived peaceably, often manifesting their shortcomings in a nominally genteel way. In a perverted sense, they were in a protected environment, and really didn’t worry much about anything except surviving in a tolerably impoverished condition as part of a generally homogeneous group.
They could have lived an Enlightenment fantasy. They could have established a coherent community with orderly cooperation, consensual leadership and rational allocation of food, housing and civic niceties to appropriately satisfy the disparate needs of all.
But they didn’t.
Here endeth the lesson for today.
More on my blogs:
http://historybottomlines.blogspot.com/ ( )
  rsubber | Mar 23, 2014 |
An interesting book about whites interned in a camp in China during the China/Japanese war. Mostly about the author's thoughts on man and how he react's, etc. This was not a brutal compound and they had it fairly easy. An interesting read. ( )
  autumnesf | May 20, 2008 |
The author, a young American teacher in China, is caught up into a large group of foreign internees of the Japanese during WWII and placed in a camp for a period of 2 1/2 years. Foreigners of every imaginable walk in life are placed together in the increasing pressure cooker of hunger, hopelessness, boredom and fear. An excellent sociological reflection on what happens to people under extreme conditions. ( )
  seoulful | Dec 21, 2007 |
A great story of Christianity under extreme conditions in WW II. Also a great example (true story) of group dynamics at work in a large group, for those of you who enjoy group dynamics studies like I do. ( )
  smharder | Apr 8, 2007 |
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