Apart from very general view that all wars are mostly caused by economical motives, ideology clashes, resource conflicts, etc., this poem tells me about the lack of love as the source of evil in this world. Mitsuharu Kaneko also known as a hardcore antiwar poet, was sticking to his principles all the while at risk for prosecution as an unpatriotic during wartime. On February 1915, he managed to get disqualified by purposely catching pneumonia in order to escape the draft. He began his journeys since then, and published a number of his representative work such as Koganemushi (Japanese Beetle), Malay and Dutch East Indies Travelogue, Songs of a Devil’s Child, etc.. The song of loneliness was written three months before the end of war in 5th May 1945, and published three years later(1948) in the poetry book Rakkasan(parachute).
THE SONG OF LONELINESS
A state is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Finally these guardian deities of the lonely spirit brought the war. You are not to blame. I, of course, am not to blame. Everything is the doing of loneliness.
The poem prefaced with a verse cited from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” conjures up unconditional obedience of people under the absolute authority, so called “patriotism”. Apparently, it’s a bit too abstract to draw the connection between the loneliness and the war, but is anyway stated as the cause which brings the war.
Loneliness made them carry guns, even made them, with the bait of loneliness, shrug off their mothers and wives and leave toward where the flags flapped. Trinket makers, cleaners, clerks, students, all turning into folk shaken with the wind.
“The bait of loneliness” can be interpreted as an incentive to the war for those who own lonely spirit eases the fear of the isolation from society, and the war could have been something for them to rely on. From its point of view, it might say this is how it led to the climate of public opinion and how the war was given priority over the loved ones.
Every and each one, no distinction among them. All taught to die was best.
Petty, timid, good-natured people, their thoughts darkened in the name of the Emperor, went off like brats, delighted, hubbubbing. But on the home front, we’re nervous, fearful of an arrow with white feathers, forcing ourselves to push aside skepticism and anxiety, we try to spend just this one day, we’re all doomed anyway, drunk on the sake given out.
During wartime in Japan, becoming a soldier was an honorable opportunity to work for the emperor, and to die for him. Those innocent young folks were brainwashed by imperialism, and cheerfully gone to the war fronts but completely freaked out after all.
Egoism, and the shallowness of love.
Bearing it in silence, women wait for rations, linking themselves like beggars. People’s expressions growing sadder day by day, the fate of the folk of an all-out nation,
I had not seen, since my birth, a loneliness so immediate, so profound. But I no longer care. To me, such loneliness doesn’t mean anything now.
I am still not sure if my interpretation about what it means by “egoism and love” is proper. In my opinion, however, the triumph of ego over love will eventually enslave ourselves by itself, and will lose freedom in our spirituality in the end. Love is freedom but was deemed as public nuisance to get annoyed by a huge national egoism being swallowed by people when the war goes on.
The loneliness that I, I now truly feel lonely about is that I can’t feel, around me, any desire, not even of a single person, holding his ground in the opposite direction of this degradation, trying to find the very roots of loneliness as he walks with the world. That’s it. That’s the only thing.
What he laments the mindset of Japanese is probably about excessive self-preservation attributable to the group-consciousness peculiar to Japan leading to the atmosphere to follow directive without question. Thus, people had gone along with a unifying force of the imperial Japan just like a troop of ants. Conversely, it recalls the famous quote by Dalai Lama – “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” That is to say the war under whatever pretense it made as is derived from the national egoism goes so far as to deny the existence of humanity.