[Editor: This article by Mary Gilmore was published in The Clipper (Hobart, Tas.), 16 April 1904.]
Christian Russ and pagan Jap.
As mentioned in your Free Speech column last week one of the most singular things in connection with this war is the attitude of Christian to Christian, and the question naturally arises what is the value of Christianity to-day? Is Christianity played out? Has it ceased to be a factor in the estimate men make of peoples and nations?
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It is quite noticeable that the church-going public is in sympathy with heathen Japan and bitterly opposed to Christian Russia, while the opposite is to be remarked in regard to the non-church goer. Why? It is a curious condition of affairs and presents a still more curious problem in ethics, viz: Does Christianity mean anything, or nothing? The attitude of the churchman gives the negative, for, given two nations of whom he knows practically nothing, he sides with the Pagan and goes against the Christian. Strange, isn’t it?
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Yet it is not so strange considered apart from the question of Christianity and taken in connection with that of race, racial-purity and the ideal. Russia, with something like 86,666,000 Christians and 4,766,000 Protestants, is a mixture of many races, white and yellow, and is the pariah of Europe in consequence. Japan, on the other hand, with her 50,000,000 Pagans and handful of Christians is one race and one only. In this she is the aristocrat of heathendom, and the wonder of the civilized world.
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As to the morality of the two nations: Russia has no national conscience. She is the mixture of too many peoples; and the morality of one locality is not that of another except in as far as Christian influence has toned down and shaped savage impulse. We all know the saying “scratch a Russ and find a Tartar,” and in spite of Christianity the savagery of the yellow skin breaks through on the slightest occasion. Its jealousy of the higher type is shown in its persecution of the non-yellow Jew. Fortunately for history in general and the Russ in particular he has no admixture of the black. But the yellow taint is bad enough. The Japanese, on the other hand is noted for the purity of his race, his gentleness of conduct, his faculty for lying and his sexual immorality.
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His purity of race, even though it be a brown one, gives patriotism. Patriotism gives ideality, and ideality the desire to excel. In this lies the secret of the sudden Europeanising of Japan during the last fifty years, and equally, the more recent mandate of the Queen that all ladies of the court should shed their Parisian costumes and return to the ancient dress of Japan.
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Purity of race finds its strength in that the unit is the type. And the nation, being the multiplication of one by its combined millions, gathers impetus by the mere weight of its own numbers as it moves forward to the consummation of any one idea, be it bad or good. The Japanese patriotism is her great good, her morality is that of the Pagan — is Pagan.
A noted writer on Japan, being once asked why, in his books, he did not deal with the Japan as she appeared in his conversation, replied “The things that are the daily habits of the people are such that one dare not write, or, supposing one did write, there is no publishing house would issue the book. While one deals with the cherry-blossom and the chrysanthemum, with the sunshine and the peak of Usijama, in short, with the pretty and the picturesque side of life, it is allright. But leave these out and deal with the real life of the people of Japan, and one would have to go out of England to be published.”
As a matter of fact the relations between the sexes are as open as those of the beasts of the field. There is nothing hidden.
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The whole end and aim of the Japanese women is to be pleasing to man. The woman who is not, is promptly sold, generally into a house of ill-fame or to the Ainos (savages who inhabit the islands adjacent to Japan, a fishing people, they are tributory to the Japanese, who are said to be trying to civilize them by selling Japanese women to them!) Indeed it is a law of the country that a man may, if he chooses to make a living that way, sell his daughters to houses of ill-fame for any term of years. He lives on the profits. When the term is up, the girls return home without slur on their character or hindrance to marriage.
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The mother of a Jap. girl begins early to teach her daughter certain arts, and when she marries, the universal wedding present from the mother is a “picture-book” of a kind that need not be further distinguished.
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As to the effect in Australia of intercourse with Japan: I remember that shortly after their return from a trip to Japan the wife and daughters of a wealthy Sydney man were, quietly sent to the Leper Lazarette. They, it was said, had everything that wealth could give them, all that money could buy, but they could not be again made clean. There no was no cure, there was no liberty, even their very name was given up and another assumed in order to avoid disgrace to the family. There their flesh dropped off them bit by bit, there they rotted in a solitude more horrible than anything of which words can tell. Perhaps they are dead. Who knows? The Lazarette and the grave keep their secrets and none may ask them. Perhaps one is dead and one is living — “Is the veiled woman of the Leper Station,” whose face is never seen, who goes about chatting with this one and that one, known to the sightless by her voice and to those who yet see by the linen shroud across the face still living. Who knows? That is one result of intercourse with Japan. Another relates to the birth-rate in fashionable circles. The Japanese family is always small.
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People in Queensland, returning to other colonies to visit friends all speak of the nuisance the Jap men were to the white men in their persistent attempts to get them to buy their women. “They would not work” was the verdict, “they lived on the women,” and everyone will remember the importation of Japanese women into W.A., one lot of seventy-five being bid for by the miners almost before being landed. The women were the export trade of Japan!
Yet these are the people Christians are hoping will bring slaughter and ruin and death upon other Christians! How many? 72,990,000 Greek Catholics, 8,910,000 Roman Catholics, and 4,766,000 Protestants. Strange! isn’t it?
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I have just remembered in regard to the Russian, that in a cable re the Kishinef massacres it was said that a certain number convicted of murdering the Jews were ordered to maintain the families of the murdered men, as a part of their punishment, and the following is a clipping from the ’Frisco Star: “All large factories outside the towns in Russia have to provide free hospitals, baths, schools, and libraries for their people, and any employer who mistreats his men can be fined. The working hours for women and children are limited. All wages have to be paid in cash, and there are no such things as store orders and factory stores.”
The Clipper (Hobart, Tas.), 16 April 1904, p. 3
[Editor: Changed “many races white and yellow” to “many races, white and yellow” (comma); “slighest” to “slightest”; “cheery-blossom” to “cherry-blossom”; “women who is not” to “woman who is not”; “they are tributory to the Japanese?” to “they are tributory to the Japanese,” (comma); “They it was said” to “They, it was said” (comma).]