"The imperial household...quickly [revealed] a genius for grasping the American's love of aristocratic pomp and pageantry. Invitations were regularly extended to high occupation officials to the court's genteel pastimes. Geisha parties became bonding places for the middling elites, but the upper-class activities to which high-ranking members of the occupation forces were invited were refined to a fault: firefly catching, cherry-blossom viewing on the palace grounds, bamboo-sprout hunts, traditional sword-fighting exhibitions at the palace, even an occasional wild boar hunt [...] While the media in the United States were chuckling and enthusing over the 'Americanization' of Japan, the Japanese were quietly and skillfully Japanizing the Americans."
Thursday, 7 December 2017
War as a Globalising Force
Google "war and globalisation" and you get billions of hits on the subject of whether globalisation causes war. You don't get many the other way around: the operationalising of globalisation through war. There is surely a book waiting to be written on this topic if it isn't out there already (and I would be surprised if it isn't).
By coincidence I am currently re-reading John Dower's Embracing Defeat at bed time and listening to Part II of Dan Carlin's "Kings of Kings" on my commutes, and both of them touch on this topic in fascinating ways. From Embracing Defeat (on the relationship between the Japanese Imperial House and the American occupying forces):
The occupation, as Dower portrays it, may have been all manner of different things, but among them it was a globalising movement of quite unique power: over the course of the seven-year occupation more was done to Americanize Japanese culture than could have been done by a century of trade alone, and at the same time American elites became acculturated to Japan in a way they may never have really done otherwise. (Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the lionization of Japanese business practices in the 60s-80s and the current obsession with Japanese pop culture around the world may have derived some of their potency from the fact that the most important global elite of all - American military and political leaders - were seduced so effectively by the emperor and his cronies in the late 1940s?)
Dan Carlin's description of the military campaigns of the Persian Empire are much more colourful, exotic and direct, and had me delving into Herodotus's Histories today over my lunch break. The Achaemenids ruled a territory so vast that they were able to conscript troops from lands ranging from sub-Saharan Africa to Afghanistan. Herodotus describes Persian armies of the era as comprising detachments of Sudanese warriors with their entire bodies painted half-white and half-red, "Black Ethiopians" from India who are thought by modern historians to have been Dravidians from the South of the sub-continent, tribesmen from the islands of the Red Sea, Colchians (from modern day Georgia) with wooden helmets, Chorasmians from the shores of the Aral Sea, and so on and so on almost endlessly - a veritable who's who of Eurasian geography. These peoples may have been loosely connected previously by trading networks spanning the continents, but what possibly could have been as expedient as war in bringing together representatives of all these disparate races, cultures and societies?
Think of the fantasy world equivalents. What different scattered exotic peoples might orcish empires bring together in unison? What might drow military campaigns do to shake up the cultural makeup of the Underdark? What random bands of mercenaries, deserters and routed wanderers from vastly distant places across the globe might be passing through the campaign map in the aftermath of a war? And how might a meeting with such people spark the imaginations of the PCs to get out there and do some travelling?