Ownership and fairness

Ownership.

I suppose ownership has always been an issue; not only over products, but places and people as well. I find it somewhat disturbing, however, that some people are trying to regain some of their former posessions regarding those that were lost during the Holocaust.

The latest I’ve read on this is the Boston Globe’s story on how a woman is demanding that the MFA “give back” its Kokoschka’s “Two Nudes” painting, which she claims was sold to the MFA under unfair circumstances. [Picture at left taken last week]

I totally sympathize with her in that she wants back something that she involuntarily had to give up because of the Nazis, but then how far back should we go to claim what is rightfully ours or not?

I am thinking in particular of Korea, and how Japan stole so many things when it colonized Korea for thirty some years in the early 1900s. Not only did it steal products (such as historical artifacts), it also stole people and tried to damage the culture, by forbidding Koreans to speak Korean or use their Korean names.

People remember the Nazis as being mean, and a lot of effort has been made to ease the pain of those involved in the Holocaust; at least, the Germans acknowledge that certain bad things have been done in the past.

Japan, however, still denies a lot of things it has done; its history textbooks deliberately teach wrong facts, and it has done nothing to compensate either emotionally or financially in all the wrongdoings it has done. And I’m not talking about stealing goods or other tangible things. I’m talking about using humans in scientific projects and snatching young females to “comfort” their soldiers.

These “comfort women” as they are called are getting old (many have already died) and they hold a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Korea every Wednesday (they’ve been doing so for several years now). They want the Japanese government to officially acknowledge and apologize for the past and it has not happened yet. They’re not asking for huge money or a shrine in their honor. Is it so hard to apologize?

Maybe they are taking the wrong approach. Maybe what they need is a good lawyer to file a class action suit or whatever on the Japanese government. At least from what has been seen regarding compensation and property returns, it seems like legal disputes were the best way in getting things back. Would things be different if other people (or countries) cared? If a bully takes away a toy from another kid, adults tell him to give the toy back and apologize- unless the adult really doesn’t care about the morality of the bullying kind.

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