Sketch by Jack Chalker

Preface

Prisoner Under The Rising Sun

Preface

by Stephen P. Evans

 

There is a part of me that always convinces me that I should never give up, however rough life is, and that I should battle through adversity .It has been something that has been there since I was twelve years old: when jealous school-fellows would torment me for being musical; when ignorance caused them all, with the exception of two friends (who remain close friends to this day), to unite forces and hound me unmercifully. Their vehemence of attack both in and out of school to the exclusion of all rationale and philanthropy founded a resolve in me and helped formulate my personal belief that society can so easily become "sick" and that it is the strength of individual thought that matters. Persecution of the "different" is inherent in society - it was there, I guess, when we became cave-dwellers, it is blatant in the bible, it is flagrant throughout history, it is shameless in some of the laws of the land, and it is conspicuous in politics. It was there in my school days, and during my life I have witnessed many occasions where a person, a creed, an opinion, or a race has been hounded to destruction. This "sickness" acts like anti-bodies do in our immune system, healers in essence but blindly attaching themselves to anything different that they find, and then smothering and ultimately extinguishing their prey, whether the prey be ( and I speak poetically) virus or vaccination. Furthermore, the "common herd" often thinks that it is behaving justly (through religious or social reasons), although in reality the common will is inflicting agony on others for having freedom of thought. This trait in society is as ubiquitous now as it ever has been.

But why did I understand this when I was only twelve years old? Until quite recently I simply put it down to self-protection. Of course, there is verisimilitude in that, it is human nature to protect oneself, but it is not human nature to understand others' motives for attack, as that facet of personality is acquired from learning, understanding and wisdom. I was not wise at twelve years old (who is?) and would not consider myself a person of wisdom now - I have merely gained experience that helps me through life. So, from where did this intangible fortitude come?

I recently put my house on the market: As is probably usual in cases where a move is imminent, I started sorting through old papers and belongings with a view to boxing them up for the removal. I found my late parent's personal correspondence and papers - something that I have seen before, but this time I studied them: they speak volumes about their hardships and tenderness towards one another; they speak volumes about the struggles of the individual, family, and factions during the Second World War; they speak volumes about hope for the world of the future; and they speak volumes of devotional love. I read my father's memoirs of captivity under the Japanese and I read a letter from King George. The first letter that I read was from my mother to my father when she learnt officially that he had survived the endurance of captivity "under the rising sun". The answer to my question was there on paper and to summarize: my parents shaped me without instruction or uttering words of wisdom. It was their demeanour from enduring such hardships. It is interesting to note that "Prisoners under the Rising Sun" is not a tale of torture, but of hardship and survival. Torture was to him simply an obstacle to overcome. The mode of my learning from them is intangible, but the fact that I learnt is tangible. To discuss "abstract" learning would detract from the following memoirs which speak for themselves. Therefore, I will leave this subject by saying that my parents, now deceased, live on in me and my gratitude to them is immeasurable.

But what did the King write in September 1945? The same thing that he wrote to all ex-prisoners of war - a poignant and essential tribute, and an expression of gratitude on behalf of the nation. A sentiment that only comes at such a time, a coherence of society that only shines at such a time, but something, that I think, of which we should try to gain sight once more. And what did my mother write to her husband in August 1945? Heart-felt words from one who had never given up hope even though she had not had any confirmation of his survival for three and a half years.

Much has been learnt and achieved worldwide because of the 1939-45 war. Having progressed so far, surely society can take the ultimate step - expulsion of bigotry and elevation of love and tolerance? This social problem, I think, is particularly acute in Great Britain. It is with these notions in mind, that I have chosen to commence by reflecting on the words of my mother and the King. These two papers are, in fact, the last in the series chronologically, but serve well here as a modus operandi to link the sentiments of this preface with the body of my father's texts.

July 1995

 

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