Mishima, Murakami, the Dalai Lama and CIA: genius, banality and the closet
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Haruki Murakami is clearly popular and sales of his new book, 1Q84, will hit the roof because of huge demand. It is therefore abundantly clear that Murakami is a writer who appeals to millions of people throughout the world. However, one of the most iconic food chains in America is equally popular for different reasons but in a sense you do have a connection.
The connection is banality but an enjoyment all the same and both the American iconic food chain and Murakami are in huge demand but sometimes it is difficult to understand why they stand out against other options.
In truth, this world is complex and often contradictory beyond reasoning. After all, the Dalai Lama is a man of peace but was sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency of America (CIA). This certainly doesn’t fit the imagination but the $1.7 million dollars a year in the 1960s and early 1970s certainly helped to boost his profile.
However, in the world of reality and unreality, then the Dalai Lama being sponsored by the CIA does make sense. After all, the United States spends vast sums of money on redeveloping Afghanistan and propping up the Karzai regime and many soldiers have died for “freedom” and fighting for their country. However, all apostates from Islam to Christianity face the death penalty in Afghanistan and clearly the Dalai Lama would have difficulty in building a Buddhist temple.
This may appear to be getting away from the point but actually it is meant to be getting nearer. Therefore, while the appeal of Murakami continues to grow and nobody can doubt this based on sales, it still doesn’t hide the banality of Murakami compared with Yukio Mishima.
It is not only the placid nature of Murakami’s writing when compared with Mishima but also the richness, passion and mystery of Mishima which pales the other author into oblivion. Yes, it is factual that intellect means little if people ignore and if the individual can’t connect but Murakami certainly can connect despite his lack of creativity.
It must be remembered that Leon Trotsky was an intellect unlike Joseph Stalin but we all know that an ice pick awaited Trotsky while Stalin manipulated power control mechanisms. Therefore, just like many great artists who lived in poverty and died in debt or with little money to their name (their art today costs untold sums of money), intellect and genius didn’t spare Trotsky and countless artists who struggled to survive.
Therefore, reality and unreality is very difficult to define with so much chaos. However, the passion of Mishima is rare even if this passion turned against “the self” and ultimately led to his brutal death which he desired.
In Mishima’s novel, Runaway Horses, he writes on page 236 that “Isao’s young lips had yet touched no other lips, and he brushed them delicately against the petals of this withered lily with all the exquisite sensitivity that they possessed.”
“Here is the source of my purity, the warrant for my purity,” he told himself. “I am certain that it is here. When the time comes for me to turn my sword against myself, lilies will surely rise from the morning dew and open their petals to the rising sun. Their scent will purify the stench of my blood. So be it! How can I have any more doubts?”
This passion is what made Mishima special and the fact that he had high intellect is secondary because without this creative spark then his novels would still be of high quality, just like Murakami, but they wouldn’t stand out or hit a raw nerve.
Also, while Mishima is tainted by “progressive liberals” for being too nationalistic it is ironic that many of the same “progressive liberals” will revere the Dalai Lama. However, Mishima had no CIA closet or links with an organization which sometimes went to extremes via covert and bloody operations.
Michael Backman in The Age commented that “The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US 1.7 million a year from the CIA.”
“The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama’s public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.”
“The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA’s payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US 15,000 a month ($US 180,000 a year).”
“The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby internationally.”
Therefore, whatever the failings of Mishima and his nationalist leanings which are reviled by “progressive liberals,” at least you see and feel the “real” Mishima unlike the closet of the Dalai Lama.
In literary terms Murakami is “progressive” and unlike Mishima he doesn’t veer to the right-wing mindset. However, the image of Murakami suits the style that he writes and unlike the “CIA closet” of the Dalai Lama, you don’t have any bombshells within his books and this is what is so disappointing.
Yes, books by Murakami appeal to vast numbers of people and clearly he thinks deeply about his writing. However, I fail to see a spark or “a bigger picture” but maybe Murakami is correct on this point because it could be that all “bigger pictures” are illusions.
It may well be that 1Q84 by Murakami is very special but given past novels, I hesitate to believe that he can break free and reach a new height. Therefore, while it is difficult to put Mishima’s book down it is equally difficult to believe that a fresh book by Murakami will be unique based on past novels.
In an earlier article I wrote about Mishima I state that “The book Sun and Steel relates to Mishima throwing away his earlier novel, Confessions of a Mask.” Now Mishima was building up to be a man of strength and the Nietzsche “ubermensch” was born within the ego and spirit of Mishima.”
Further down in the same article I comment that “The boy from Tokyo was enigmatic and had a raw passion and sadly the passion of Mishima is missing today and maybe this is where his genius belongs.”
“In Mishima, you can imagine the energy of the past and where the individual is visionary; therefore, the failings in his life, like the failings of all people; must be brushed aside because to ignore Mishima’s writing is to ignore a potent force within the literary energy of Japan.”
“Mishima, unlike the majority of writers, transcended the nation he belonged to because his writing hits a raw nerve within the “inner soul” and he will continue to be read by millions of people all over the world.”
Of course individuals are different and the energy of Mishima and the self-destructive nature of his thinking is rare, to say the least. Therefore, while Murakami connects with millions of people all over the world, which is amazing by itself, it mainly applies to a mindset based on commonality and un-uniqueness.
Mishima, however, can be felt in the fervor of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the communist take-over in China, the disillusioned in all societies who see a crumbling indigenous culture being swept away by globalization and a growing monoculture.
The first aspect, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the communist take-over in China, was based on self-made illusions and both events unleashed suffering, brutality, and mass persecution, especially in the early stages.
However, the second aspect, fearing the destructive nature of globalization, a growing monoculture, societies disconnecting with past history and culture, is more understandable, irrespective if people disagree.
It is easy to visualize, even if incorrectly, cosmopolitans and “progressive liberals” championing a writer from a different culture. After all, what could be more hip and internationalist?
Yet with Mishima, you feel “the shadow” and “the marginalized” and his books can appeal to people on many different grounds. Not only this, Mishima’s writing style is on a different wavelength when compared to Murakami.
Turning back to the Dalai Lama and taking money from the CIA and relating this to this article, then unlike the reality and unreality of life, the action by the Dalai Lama was all too real. The unreality about the Dalai Lama is the myth behind the hidden agenda.
Mishima equals complexity, intrigue, creativity, and chaos. However, Murakami represents normality, safety, and predictability but he is a writer who appeals because he delves deeply into the reality of the characters he writes about. The Dalai Lama represents “unreality” because the picture is clearly not the real image which is being provided. Despite this, it could be argued that his realistic approach serves the Tibetans well because CIA funding enabled the Tibetan cause to become known but it shatters the “peace myth” about the Dalai Lama.
It could be that the over-hype about Murakami is correct and that I am mistaken and maybe I am just an ignorant individual? However, the passion and spark of Mishima was potent, irrespective if people welcomed or liked his thinking. Therefore, the unreality of the Dalai Lama’s image which based his CIA funding on reality is the best way to sum up the popularity of Murakami – that is, I fail to see what makes him stand out unlike the genius of Mishima.
http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/behind-dalai-lamas-holy-/2007/05/22/1179601410290.html Dalai Lama and CIA cloak
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRXFyOh6yzQ&feature=related Video of Dalai Lama and CIA
http://www.vill.yamanakako.yamanashi.jp/osusume.php – Yukio Mishima Cyber Museum
http://dennismichaeliannuzz.tripod.com/index.HTML – Tribute to Yukio Mishima
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mishima.htm – Yukio Mishima
http://www.murakami.ch/main_4.html Haruki Murakam i