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The empires strike back

By Amrita Chugh
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 1, 1999

Hitler, Hiroshima and Nagasaki still send a chill down our spines. Fifty years down the line, Japan and Germany have revealed the return of the terror. In their own ways, these countries are trying to recover from feelings of insecurity and, most of all, the loss of once being superpowers.

Imagine shifting the University of Arizona from Tucson to a big city, say, Los Angeles. And imagine shifting all the papers, library books, construction materials around the Student Union, computers, students and faculty members to L.A., and you will have some idea what it is like to move the capital of Germany from Bonn to Berlin.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently shifted his government back to Berlin for the first time since Hitler's regime in 1945. All this relocation will finally cost the government only a cool $10 billion. Why would someone move a capital, just because it is a small, sleepy town, to an old, imperial center, Berlin - much like other major cities - where ghettos, unemployment and crime mark the streets?

Is it solely for political interests, as Schroeder had promised during the campaign last year? Would it come as a shock to see Germany change capitals after every election? I guess that's one way you "go places." Changing capitals is not a joke. For this, Schroeder would have to uproot some deeply entrenched power bases in his party, as well as his coalition powers, the Greens.

Germany's government has not been able to solve problems on a number of urgently needed structural reforms such as bringing down tax rates, dealing with labor markets, unemployment and the crime rate. Reason? It has been busy shifting its capital and spending cartloads of money. This money could have been spent on more useful things which will help pull the country back into its position of superpower.

In Berlin, the government is housed in the Reichstag, which was once the center of the evil deeds of Hitler and his ministers...a very uncomfortable feeling for most of the people. The finance ministry will coordinate economic policies in the same place where Hermann Goring planned the bombings and Claus Van Stauffenberg was executed for failed mutiny.

By this move of Germany, the whole world has been awakened. This alertness of the world was even earlier aroused by the reunification. The country will be closely watched and judged on how it controls its skin heads and the neo-Nazis and how it tackles its economic problems.

Half the world away, another country is awakening from a feeling of insecurity. The world needs no introduction to Japan's nationalism and this is again on the rise. On the streets of Tokyo, buses are painted with the flag, school children are made to sing the national anthem which honors the emperor, people with white bands on their heads are yelling slogans like "Return our northern territory back" and "Russians, get out of Japan."

Japan often experiences outbreaks of such nationalistic fervor, but what is scary about this particular outbreak is that it is not receiving any resistance from the pacifists. The liberals have also been strangely quiet. The ruling coalition of Japan has also absorbed and promoted some issues which seems to be in favor of the right-wingers.

The young Japanese are seen wearing Army Khakis and boots as a fashion statement. Do they even understand the meaning of war?

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