Berger's Essay

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Gun Joong Kim
International Writing Workshop I
Mr. Weber
Final Draft

Society imbues preconceived notion of the world into people’s perspectives and pushes them to look at the world only in the viewpoints that it is in favor of. Though they get to know other sources to approach the world in different spectrums, they are adjusted to their predetermined thoughts and show indifferent attitude toward a set of other unfamiliar ideas. John Berger, in his essay “Hiroshima”, echoes the idea that people “look beyond (with indifference) that which is before the eyes” due to society’s deliberate manipulation (321). American society wants to hide its evil action of dropping the atomic bomb in Hiroshima so that it creates the reality in which people all consider that “those events of 6 August 1945” are “justifiable” (315, 321). Upon this idea, Berger brings out the idea of “reinsert[ing] those events of 6 August 1945 back into living consciousness” (315). He asserts that we need to look at “the other reality” in which we need to accept that “evil”, the atrocious action done by America upon Hiroshima, is not “justifiable” (321). In the beginning of the essay, Berger uses a rhetorical question: “At how many meetings during the first nuclear disarmament movement had I and others not recalled the meaning of that bomb?” (315) To him, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima meant one of the stimuli to the “first nuclear disarmament movement” (315). Among the news about the bomb, the only facts that mattered to him were that the world observed the power of the bomb and that the bomb definitely had significance in the nuclear disarmament movement. Nothing else. At first. Then, at the end of the essay, Berger defines the action done by America as “terrorism” (319). Looking at the horrors illustrated by the “drawings and paintings” in the book Unforgettable Fire, he acknowledges that the atrocious deed conducted by America is “evil” and “terrorism” as its “targets”, the Japanese, are “unselected and innocent” (320). This abrupt shift in his viewpoint upon America’s action baffled me. After knowing “the other reality” in which Japan went through sorrowful and dreadful history, I couldn’t just accept the truth that Japan was also the victim. As a Korean delved in preconceived thoughts about Japan, I could only look at the truth that Japan conquered Korea for three decades and made thousands of Koreans to shed tears. I “look[ed] beyond (with indifference) that which is before [my] eyes” – Berger’s essay (321). Berger was one of those who “look beyond (with indifference) that which is before the eyes” (315). Even he was “in the army in Belfast”, hearing about so many “news of the bomb”, and yet he didn’t feel urgent to look at the “book”. He thought that he “already knew about what [he] would find within it”: “the bomb dropped on Hiroshima” (315). Then, the readers notice a sudden shift in his reaction to the “book” as he tells them the title of the “book” which he doesn’t mention in the beginning. He went through images depicted inside the “book” called Unforgettable Fire after reading his friend’s article which introduced “destruction … caused by nuclear weapons” and the “possibilities” of “the socialist revolution in the United States” (316). Indeed, the article led him to look at “those events of 6 August 1945” as a problem of the United States rather than just an action done by it (315). He realized that America could suffer from the likely chaos that Japan had to go through due to the atomic bomb. He got to know that the action done by America was not a trivial matter that he could “look beyond (with indifference”) but “what is before [his] eyes” that he needed to look seriously at (315). The readers, feeling confused at the abrupt shift in his attitude at first, come to understand the complex nature of people’ way of perceiving. The Japanese, considering “those events” as huge problem upon them, draw the images depicting the aftermath....
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