How Do I Love Thee: Abstracting

Abstracting is the process of reducing something to its most basic and elemental part. When I consider my topic of observing, analyzing, and evaluating the perspectives within current events, I know this cognitive skill of distilling stories to their essence is critical to discern meaning and significance. I believe there are several themes that show up again and again in current events and that each story can be broken down into simple concepts.

One of the big stories in current events news right now is China’s unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone that stretches into areas controlled by South Korea and Japan. There is now an overlap of these countries’ air defense identification zones which includes some disputed islands. Immediately upon China’s announcement, many governments, including Japan, South Korea, and the USA, said they were not pleased with this announcement and that it would be raise tensions. All three of those countries have tested China’s resolve on enforcement by flying military planes through the area. China has responded and continues to ramp up their policing of the area. You can read more about the story from the perspective of Japan, China, USA, and UK.

I think this issue and many stories like it can be distilled to a single word: FEAR. First of all, the media plays upon the emotions of the populace to solicit viewers. This is part of the reason that the media tend to report on mostly bad news. Both Japanese and Chinese governments rally their citizens in nationalist fervor with these gestures. The world watches in fear of what might happen if this row escalates into military conflict. The ancient sage Yoda once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Living in China for six years, I have seen the anti-Japanese hatred that is often kindled in schools and in the media. For instance, in 2012, 70 of the 200 primetime dramas on the major TV networks were about the Sino-Japanese War, which are decidedly anti-Japanese.

Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together – what do you get? The sum of their fears.

—Winston Churchill
The first medium I chose to represent fear is this quote from Winston Churchill, which is one of the two epigraphs preceding Tom Clancy’s book The Sum of All Fears. The book is set during the Cold War, in which a nuclear holocaust between the US and the USSR is narrowly averted due to the heroics of Jack Ryan. The relationship between Japan and China today reminds me of the Cold War with similar levels of mistrust and animosity between the two countries.
The second medium I chose is a piece of graphic art depicting the situation between Japan and China. If there is one common feeling among all the parties in this picture it is fear. I considered using a picture of a mushroom cloud, but I don’t think many people are worried about a major military conflict between Japan and China, or even China and the USA. The main fear reflected in much of the analysis I have read is that of economic consequence. The United States’ top two trading partners are China and Japan. China is a major trading partner with South Korea as well, and overall is the world’s leading exporter of goods. If this conflict disrupts world trade, it could seriously damage the world economy. That fear of upsetting the economic status quo could be the biggest fear of all. I too fear what might happen if this sabre rattling escalates.

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