Judge the individuals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 1995, 12:00am

I REFER to Joyce Wong's 'Japanese must make sincere apology' (South China Morning Post, September 1). While I don't speak for all individuals, I refuse to accept her sentiment that the 'majority of young people in Asia still feel animosity towards the Japanese'.

The atrocities of war, and in this instance those of the Japanese in World War II, were horrific and terrible acts. But like Ms Wong, I am a young person (age 23) painfully aware that we are a different generation with different fears, beliefs and dreams. We have come a long way from the days of racism, sexism and inequality, Or so I thought.

I am Chinese, but have lived in Japan for more than six years. I for one, am not still 'haunted by the past'. At least not enough to let bigotry get in the way of meeting different people.

I don't pre-judge people by what they have done in the past nor for what their progenitors have done. Does a convicted felon continue to make retribution to society after he is released? No, he has 'done his time'. So why then does Ms Wong presume that all Japanese are detested for something their ancestors did? I'm not denying that what happened was indeed terrible nor am I trying to make excuses. But, I am attempting to assess people for what they are as individuals, not for what their governments do.

I've been to Europe and I have yet to specifically see this so-called acceptance (or unacceptance for that matter) of Germans by 'young Europeans'. Rather, it is a whole-hearted acceptance of all cultures and people. Try backpacking across Europe and you'll see what I mean. There are of course those that still perpetuate hate. But on the whole, most of us (young people that is) have become more tolerant and accepting of the melting pot that is our world.

The Japanese 50 years ago did not apologise for the war, so to offer an apology generations later seems rather moot. We have forged a bridge of understanding that as people now, we are willing to work together for the benefit of all. My family was just as affected by the Japanese aggression as many others were. But I don't blame the Japanese people of today for what their forefathers did. War - regardless of which side won or lost, regardless of who started it first - is still appalling.

But to propagate ignorance, prejudice and intolerance is no less barbaric and archaic, and I for one must apologise. I apologise for all the bloodshed that wars cause. I apologise for my ancestors inventing gun powder. I apologise to all the animals for the cruelty of man. I apologise for using too much hair spray and destroying the ozone layer. And, I apologise to the Japanese for Ms Wong's prejudice. Perhaps in time, we will learn that history will be written by what we do today, not by what was done in the past.