I just moved to Atlanta, which means that I have transported a stupid amount of books. From this experience, I have gathered that I really want to pare down the number of books that I own. That said, most of the books I own come from moments where I either went a.) This is amazing. b.) Cool! or c.) Holy shit, this looks like something absolutely fucking out of this world.
“You’ll Die In Singapore!” is one of the (c) books. It is a book, written by Charles McCormac, about being interned by Japanese soldiers after Singapore was invaded during the Second World War. The writer was stationed in Singapore because he was a part of the British RAF, so the book itself is chock full of casual racism of the period–I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have seen the word “Japanese” while “Jap” is in every third sentence or so.
In any case, I am reading the book so that I can get rid of it. There is some really interesting bits going on with the history of the encounters that McCormac lived through–often he presents the reader with a situation and simply states that he never learned why it occurred. This is in strict contrast with the memoir’s that are currently produced, where interviews and historical research are used to “plug in the gaps.” None of that here, though.
Anyway, comics: When the Japanese are bombing Singapore before their invasion arrives in full force, pamphlets are dropped to tell the civilians to surrender. McCormac highlights one of these instances:
There were also leaflets in graphic form; some depicted a grossly far European planter lolling in the shade with beer bottles stacked beside him, while his Tamil workers toiled in the burning sun; while others showed a sun-tanned British soldier grilling a beef-steak while evacuated Indian soldiers sweated behind him at work.
These comics, communicating through images rather than through language, capture the zeitgeist of the colonized Singapore better than the rest of McCormac’s pre-Japanese invasion writing. As soon as the invasion occurs, he explains that the Indian army groups immediately switched over to the Japanese side. Additionally, he tells us that a group of the Indian soldiers beat a man to death on the side of the road as McCormac’s group of POWs entered their camp.
The images captured a pain and frustration across language, across the symbolic, which we see borne out in the violent relationships that were produced out of the invasion.
Nothing super smart to say here, just pointing out that comics are important. Comic Art Propaganda is smart on this.