This week I listened to the audiobook of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Nov. 2010). Wow. What a story.
One of the book’s motifs is that POWs craved dignity as much as they craved physical necessities like food and clothing:
Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler’s death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet. (p. 183, emphasis added)
What is “the only real foundation for human dignity and human rights”? Humans are created in the image of God.