Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"Shogun Japan and LOST Island"

Soon I am going on vacation for a few days, and I am going to do like Memphish and get some reading time in. Recently I starting re-watching the 1980s TV mini-series "Shogun", and I also found an online PDF of a book called "Learning From Shogun". The book is a very thorough annotation of Clavell's inspiration for his Shogun story. I can't wait to start it, as I'm a total 'Japan-o-phile'.

Thinking about the isolation of the island of Japan before it was noticed by the Western trade world reminded me of the LOST island. Up to now I have had a hard time comprehending the isolation factor of the island in respect to why those residing on it (like Ben and the "Originals", not the recruits like Juliet) would want the island to remain isolated. It's curious to witness the behavior of the indigenous Others who willingly live separated and hidden from the world. It's also shocking to see the way the isolationists respond to the castaways as aggressive intruders, irrespective of the fact that they got dumped there involuntarily via a plane crash. The story of the shipwrecked captain in Shogun illustrates what that is like also.

To the Losties, the inhabitants of LOST island are a bizarre society similar to how Japan must have looked to Occidental explorers when they first arrived. I've always wondered in awe about how Japan's isolation from the known Western world allowed it to grow into an almost alien culture. Granted, it's roots are from the same Oriental tree as China, and there are similarities. But pre-modern Japan was like a mystical world -- a plant cutting that grew on its own away from almost any cross-pollination influences. This is what makes Japan so interesting to me, its like a lone patch of culture that evolved into its own universe.

That's how the LOST island Others appear to the viewers and the castaways as well. The Post-Purgers evolved into a peculiar (I say dystopian) society, under various influences that we don't know much about yet. They don't seem to think with the same logic, or follow the same rules of conduct, as the world that we live in at all. They have their own ideas of what is right and wrong, or good and bad, just like in Japan before it was touched by The West. We have been given hints that there are very good reasons why the island must remain isolated and protected, but it is still too soon to comprehend. In the same way that Captain Blackthorn was shocked by how barbarian the Japanese culture seemed to his moral code, we can't fathom why Ben goes around hurting and deceiving people to further his mysterious cause that he apparently feels is bigger and more important than the smaller lives that he ruins in the wake of his determination. I can't wait to see how TPTB are going to explain all this to us. And to see if any of the Losties become sympathetic to the Others and make a life for themselves on the island like Blackthorn did in Shogun.

2 comments:

memphish said...

Capcom, I like the paralells you draw between the non-Flight 815 Island inhabitants and an isolated Japan. But isolation as an explanation for the Others strange behavior breaks down pretty quick for me given that other than Richard Alpert, I'm pretty sure the rest of the Others grew up in what would consider "our" society, or the "society" of the 815ers.

Isolation does lead to a breakdown of social mores pretty quickly as Lord of the Flies demonstrates. So obviously, the Others have had to create a social structure in order to prevent that descent into chaos and they've done it in a way that combines both Eastern and Western ways. One thing about Ben strikes me and that's his obvious reliance on books and book learning. I think a lot of what we've seen with the Others society is reflective of theoretical ideals as opposed to the messiness of real governance.

I can't understand how the Tail Section 815ers were so quickly and completely integrated into this system though. They stand in contrast to the explorers in Shogun who take a long time to learn and appreciate these strange ways despite Cindy's repeated statements that it's complicated. Apparently, it's not so complicated that these people have done nothing to try to integrate the rest of the 815 survivors into this larger group.

capcom said...

Right, Cindy.....hmmmm, maybe they took her to Room 23? If she's not Dharma already, that is.

You're right about Ben and his books. It kind of reminds me of that original Star Trek episode where the planet somehow got a hold of Mein Kompf, or something like that, and formed their society around that. Since Ben grew up away from society at large, for the most part, it looks as if he reads a lot of philosophy and socio-political books on how to form a successful society. Wouldn't be surprised if he also had a copy of Hitler's book for reference, hopefully for an example of what not to do.

Blackthorn and crew's problem could be said to be mainly the fact that they were outnumbered. With the Others vs. Losties, it's almost even numbers once the Fusies and Tailies merged on the beach, so the Others didn't have the advantage that the Japanese did in Shogun. And I guess that we could say that the Others society was already beginning to break down, if we can believe Juliet's signs to Jack in the Hydra tank.

Good thoughts Memphish! :-)