This is a good time to write about a nation’s resilience in the face of calamity. I am referring to the stoic discipline with which the Japanese bore hardship and the death of 15,000 people in March 2011 following a nine-magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever known to have hit Japan. I can remember the TV coverage as if it were yesterday. Very young and very old Japanese formed a long orderly line for disaster supplies. There was no looting whatsoever as there had been in Los Angeles or in Mexico City, no weeping on camera so that the world would send more funds, just plucky resolve (gaman in Japanese) and ganbaru (to endure with pride).
As anyone who is familiar with Japan knows, tenacity is highly celebrated both as an individual and a collective trait. The recent outrages in Paris, and the collective dignity of the millions who marched following the murder of innocents, brought back memories of Japanese stoicism, a national trait that has served the country well, especially after the disastrous end of world war two.
Just about the time the earthquake hit Japan, my friend Peter Livanos gave me a gift that is probably the one I treasure most of all my possessions, a samurai sword of rare value and provenance, one that embodies the samurai’s code of bushido, and one of the most outstanding examples of Japan’s highly skilled craftsmanship. The workmanship and quality of Peter’s gift far surpasses that of western Damascus and Toledo blades. His latest gift to me, for my last birthday, was an Imperial Japanese Navy admiral’s flag, finished by hand, and as rare as the sword, as there were apparently only 32 officers who reached the rank of admiral between 1897 and 1945. I keep both gifts in one room, along with any medals I may have won throughout my life — in sport, alas, not in war.
Peter Livanos is a very generous man whose father was a friend of mine and whose mother I’ve known since childhood. (Although rich from both sides, he is a self-made man. That really is rare, and certainly not a trait found in my family.) He and I had a good laugh during dinner about the hachimaki of a kamikaze pilot he had included with his gift. This is the cloth with the rising sun symbol that pilots wore and karate fighters still do to this day. ‘How did this survive him?’ I asked Peter. It did look very worn. ‘How do you know he flew?’ he answered.
Peter has a variety of friends, none of whom is what you might call a socialite, i.e., someone who does absolutely nothing other than go to parties and say dumb things. He reads history non-stop, sails with his wife and four children in faraway places, flies in his G550 on work-related trips, and competes in rallies in his classic cars, a collection of which he keeps in Switzerland. If most billionaires were like him, the world would be a far better place, and I don’t mean the winter resort he and I keep as a base.
At about the time Peter Livanos gave me the samurai sword, and unbeknownst to me, an American friend gave a party in London to raise awareness of the plight of a rare piece of shit of a man, Julian Assange. I went to the party thinking it was to celebrate the host’s birthday. It turned out to be a horror, full of people with dandruff, ugly skin and uglier faces, who were very concerned with civil liberties being eroded while alerting jihadists to our electronic eavesdropping. Now it doesn’t take a coruscating intelligence to figure out that we can’t have both total freedom of information and safety from militant Islam. Ever since I can remember, saying anything against these bearded zealots had know-nothings screaming racism, and we all know the result. It’s much too late to rid our society off these scummy types, but it’s not too late to take extreme measures against them, especially those who finance them. Step forward, the Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis.
After the battle of Banu Qurayza in 627, the Prophet Mohammed — in whose name so much innocent blood has been spilled — executed hundreds of prisoners. When he besieged Ta’if in 630 the lives of women and children were put at risk. Going back that far doesn’t whitewash us either, but I write as a European and a Christian, and to hell with diversity and political correctness— and to hell with those who permit maniacs to march in our streets demanding the beheading of all those insulting Islam.