A lesson from Empire of the Sun

Posted On: Friday - August 28th 2020 8:50PM MST
In Topics: 
  Student and other Snowflakes  History  Movies  Preppers and Prepping  The Future

Well back now, in Peak Stupidity's review of a Linda Ronstadt movie, it was noted that there'd be 2 1/2 movie reviews. That one, the movie being Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice to be exact, was the first full one. This is the 1/2 of a review, and we'll have another review of a movie about another 1970s rock musician coming soon.

I'm only writing this half a movie review because I think the beginning of this one, Empire of the Sun, is a good thing for a potential prepper to watch. I did watch the whole thing, mind you, as this movie was made, must have been made, before the PC era*. (I just looked- it was produced 33 years ago, in 1987.)

I'll get to the point of this post shortly, but since this is at least partly a movie review, in the usual Peak Stupidity un-Siskel/Ebert fashion. I'll just say TL/HTW (Too Long / Had To Watch), cause it was a fairly long flight. I had seen 157 as the movie time, thinking there was a colon in there, so, OK just under 2 hours. Oh, no, there was no colon - that's 157 minutes, as in 2 hours and 37 min! Whew. It's not a bad movie though. I like war movies, and this one involved war, in the fashion of Bridge on the River Kwai, one of my all-time favorites. (That one is 4 minutes longer, so what am I complaining about?)

While watching Empire of the Sun, I had thought the movie was just based on the general situation of actual events during the Japanese capture of the International Settlement** in Shanghai, China in December of 1941. I found out just now that the movie was based on an autobiographical book by J. G. Ballard. More power to him, as it was an amazing story. Most of the movie is the story of life in the Japanese prison camp outside of Shanghai, a place called Lunghua. There is a side story about the love of flying. The movie is suspenseful, I won't spoil the ending, and, yeah, it's an OK movie, just too long.

Now, to get to the point, the opening 30 minutes is something I think those worried about the future just the least little bit, other than single guys, who have a much better chance of making out OK, no matter what the troubles, should watch. The life of the British boy, Jamie Graham, is luxurious, like that of a posh English family, but just in Shanghai, China, instead of St. John's Wood, or whatever-the-hell, I'm just going by Rolling Stones songs here, so ... His Dad is a diplomat, they have a very nice house, almost a mansion, with Chinese servants, one dedicated just to the boy, and a driver. (Obviously, the driver had not learned all the tricks of the modern Chinese drivers, though - no incessant horn-honking, ignorance of all traffic devices, and all that.) Mrs. Graham lived a life of a high-style, with her life centered on arranging the boy's schooling and hobbies and around entertainment with the other British Shanghai settlement dwellers. In fact, they were on the way back from an overnight costume ball, when the real SHTF.

Mr. Graham, the diplomat, would have been the first to know that big trouble was coming to his family's beautiful and tidy life in that island in the middle of a huge conflict. Even this guy, much less the average Joe, wouldn't know exactly when the real trouble would start. If you were not sure that this Sino-Japanese war would pass through your area at all, you were not sure you'd have to ever leave your nice life there. You don't know when or if, so why not keep living your life, as it is? There's also an aspect of denial you may have, as, haven't they left this special British/American settlement alone in the past? Your kids have to keep learning, the wife's got a busy social schedule, and you've got that job that you are dedicated to.

All of a sudden though, the war came to the settlement, and the Shit Hit The Fan within a day. As the Grahams tried to return from the party to their house in the settlement, the Japanese war machine was rolling through. Chinese were scrambling, and there was just general mayhem in the streets, blocking the vehicular traffic. As the family tried to get through the crowd, they got separated (see the top image, in which the Dad is the guy with wearing the fedora on the right, and the Mom is on the left). Seeing that will cause the viewer great anxiety. Watch the movie for the rest.

With the troubles going on in America today, on a timeline that just seems to be accelerating, we've got to wonder if we are in the situation of that British family in early-1940s Shanghai. My neighborhood is a nice one. There are lots of older people, who I don't think can get the concept that things could get really bad in this country. We haven't even been on a wartime footing since the time in which that movie was set (+ 4 years), so 75 years ago, much less had a war going on here. (That'd be 155 years ago.) Nobody can picture it, but that doesn't mean it can't happen.

The prepper types will tell you that it's better to be 5 years early than a day late. It's some work, keeping up with stashes of goods, emergency equipment, bugout plans, etc. At times, one may feel that he is wasting his efforts. Then, all it takes is a look at the news, or a look at the financial picture of this country to reassure oneself that, yes, this is definitely a good idea. From the gun sales numbers as of late and family members' comments, I think the idea that this country could collapse into chaos is not so remote for people as in, well, 2019.

However, just as with the buying out of bottled water in the grocer stores within 2 days of a hurricane's expected arrival, most people will wait for the last minute to decide to be a prepper, which is NOT being a prepper. It's the lack of information of the "when" or even "if", and the difficult-to-grasp concept that it CAN happen here that, just like in the beginning of Empire of the Sun, will put people in trouble when the SHTF. I guess with the communications of all sorts we have now, it'd be harder for things to go down like in the movie, with your kid being lost to you. Who knows, though?

You've got to live your life, but you can be a prepper at the same time. Even a plan to bug out of your area can be in place as you live your life as normally as possible. It's time for us to make some contingency plans.

One more thing: Part of prepping too, is raising the children to be tougher than the way most have become, from the helicopter parenting and no-winners/no-losers coddling in school. One can see the results in the SJW college students, and it's not pretty. In Empire of the Sun the smart but spoiled boy Jamie grew tough from the time roaming around violent Shanghai and then spending those years in the Japanese prison camp. He turned out OK. It may not go so well for those raised as snowflakes today.

A different world may be coming. Be prepared, as the Scouts say.

* Because I was on an airplane flight, I could have, and already had, for a couple of others on another flight clicked it off any time any PC shit came up. I'm pretty quick about that.

** This was the British and American "concession" formed in a merger way back in 1863. The British had told the Qing dynasty that they wanted to do business in China, and that was that. It took a war, in which the British won, of course. Part of this area, with the old Victorian style houses and such, is called "The Bund" now, and one can visit via a tour on a double-decker bus - there are loads of them.

Monday - August 2nd 2021 8:24PM MST
PS: Doug, I meant to say, that what the work is about is keeping up with food supplies and other perishables. It's one thing to have the beans, rice maybe, canned this or that... If the SHTF in a few months, well, there wouldn't be much effort. If you want to keep prepped, you have to eat up the old (not bad, but just oldest) and store in the new. OK, that's not to bad if you have a lot of room. Not everyone does - that runs into the same problem - location, location, location.

Again, thanks for the thoughts!
Monday - August 2nd 2021 8:19PM MST
PS: Sorry for the one-day delay, Doug, in my reply here.

Thank you very much for the compliment on the site. I haven't been hiding - Google has been hiding me! No, OK, that' not fair - Peak Stupidity isn't even on any "TECH"'s or ADL's radar, much to our chagrin. We don't do any Search Engine Optimization.

This is not a prepper site, per se, but I am glad to have read our comment here. We actually have much of the STUFF you write about (almost all you mentioned, in fact). However, as you and I have written, you need community too.

The first thing my family has to do is get out of our current location. There's no getting around that one, as much as it's great for now. Just as in the movie, "now" won't last.

Last thing here: That movie is LOO-OOONG. I hope you don't mind that.
Sunday - August 1st 2021 9:55AM MST
PS An excellent article. I never saw this movie, but I'm going to acquire it and make sure as many friends and acquaintances see it as possible, to help scare the Jesus out of them about what can happen, and why they should join the 'preppers'. [I just found this blog ... it's first-class ... where have you been hiding?]

For years, I thought 'preppers' were people with boring lives who needed a bit of excitement -- and planning for the Zombie Apocalypese was their way of getting it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Because today is like yesterday and tomorrow will probably be like today, we tend to do linear projection into the future.

But even a slight acquaintance with human history shows that linear projection is always wrong. Mathematical catastrophe theory was oversold at the time, but it's the relevant discipline for thinking about the future.

How much does it cost in time and energy to 'prep'? The author says " It's some work, keeping up with stashes of goods, emergency equipment, bugout plans, etc." but really, you can do 90% of it in a couple of days, and for a couple of thousand dollars at most (assuming you haven't already bought your AR15, a half dozen magazines, and some ammo).

Get a few months' food and other necessities into the basement, make a note on your calendar to check the batteries every year, do eat-and-replace for the food that has a use-by date ... how hard is that? No matter what happens, you'll be way ahead of where you were.

Then try living for a couple of days without using electricity or gas or water from your tap. That will probably propel you to buy a second tranche of stuff, like a Coleman stove. And then you will be in a far far far better position to live through any social upheaval than your grasshopper neighbors.

But ... although individual/family prepping is just common sense, what we really need to do is to start organizing at neighborhood level. Two or three dozen people who have organized themselves into a neighborhood defense group will be a thousand times as strong as two or three dozen isolated individuals.

Specialization and the division of labor were critical to the advance of civilization -- and that applies to two dozen people defending their neighborhood from premature reparations seekers as well.

A good place to start is the Civil Defense Manual (2 volumes), which you can see at CivilDefenseManual.com -- it's not an official government thing but is written by people who earned their living on the shooting ranges where the targets shoot back and who know what they're talking about. I learned a lot from it -- for example, the importance of an alternative water supply, and of sanitation. Mundane but real.

Edmund Burke talked about the "little platoons" that made up society. We need to take heed of that phrase, literally.
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