Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hiroshima, 1945 and 2013.

Sixty-eight years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

Sixty-seven years ago, "The New Yorker," dedicated the entire editorial space of its August 31st issue to John Hersey's grand essay on the bombing.

I first read Hersey's book as a ninth grader.

I couldn't stand school but I loved the school library and would barricade myself therein and find a book and read it cover to cover. I did that one day with Hersey's "Hiroshima."

I'd be exaggerating to say it altered my life. But it did have an impact on me.

The clarity of the writing, the vividness of the images, the power of the tragedy and pain.

There's a lot of blather that continues to spew like the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. There are people in high-places who declare things like "storytelling is dead." Ignoring the seminal human need--a need that has existed as long as humans have roamed this not-so-green-earth.

I don't buy it.

I am a believer that brands deliver order in crowded marketplaces and the best brands articulate a story and a definition of who they are, what they do, why they do it and why what they do is important.

Too many brands--indeed, entire categories of brands--fail to do so. They act as if their brand is all about a $129 fare or a $49-monthly deal or everyday low prices.

They stand for nothing. But compensate for their nothingness by spending hundreds of millions of dollars or even, in the case of telcos or automobile companies, billions.

In any event, here's John Hersey's opening paragraph from "Hiroshima."


AT exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, 
on August 6th, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment 
when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, 
Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel depart- 
ment at the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at 
her place in the plant office and was turning her head 
to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same 
moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down 
cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of 
his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven 
deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo 
Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window 
of her kitchen watching a neighbour tearing down his 
house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defence 
fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German 
priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear 
on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-storey 
mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der 
Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the 
surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross 
Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors 
with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his 
hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tammoto, 
pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at 
the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western 
suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of 
things he* had evacuated from town in fear of the 
massive B29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima 
to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the 
atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. 
They still wonder why they lived when so 
many others died. Each of them counts many small 
items of chance or volition -a step taken in time, a 
decision to go indoors, catching one street-car instead 
of the next that spared him. And now each knows 
that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw 
more death than he ever thought he would see. At the 
time none of them knew anything. 


Anonymous said...

Its the art vs code battle. The geeks worship HTML, Javascript, content management systems and overlook the fact that a compelling narrative is what we respond to as humans not merely zeroes and ones.

In our rush to recreate Minority Report in 2013( I DO LOVE P.K. DICK THOUGH) many fail to recognize that what makes us human is the glue that holds it all together.


Philip said...

That is masterful writing. It will never go out of style.

dave trott said...

You're so right George. I just had to go on Amazon and buy it.

Anonymous said...

I bought it yesterday, too. Thanks for sharing!