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Hippeis Happenings

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Nihil humanum mihi alienum est

It is fairly trite to announce to people, in the wake of the collapse of a garment building in Bangladesh, that we all live in the same neighborhood — that what happens in Bangladesh is part of our lives. So trite, in fact, that some people wish to ignore it.

Let’s put this in perspective. First, right now—if you buy clothes made at Joe Fresh or Walmart — you are wearing something made by a man, woman, or child who died — horribly — and to no point — so that you could have cheap clothing. And so that someone else could make a tidy profit on their poverty and desperate need for wages. And every pundit in the world is saying the same. The thing that annoys me is that so many people can understand the overseas roots of — say — terrorism. We can at least guess at the desperate anger of Afghans or Chechins — even when we disagree utterly. I think it is ironic that we have earned the cultural ire of part of the Islamic world when, in many ways, the West genuinely sought to help — while in Bangladesh and China, we have, in fact, directly oppressed the population with rapacious economic policies. We are, in fact, responsible.

And while we visit the issues of current policies on future history, I’d like to remind my readers that the ruler of North Korea may be loathsome, but he is not merely posturing. He sits in a capital that was once won from the Japanese in battle; his country was occupied by Japan for many years, both recently (1930s) and in the 16th century. Both he and his Chinese masters (then, and now) fear the aggression of Japan — and Japan’s allies. All of North Korea’s actions have to be seen through the lens of history. That doesn’t make the policies less barbaric — merely more comprehensible. History matters because it allows us to understand why other people do what they do. Perhaps in Bangladesh, someone is reading about the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the working poor in Britain. To try and understand.