mustela_nivalis: It is a least weasel. (Default)
[personal profile] mustela_nivalis
This is perhaps a touch overlong and only a first draft. With luck, it will be ready for peer review and hopefully publication in the historical journal from Ba Sing Se, The Great War. I will perhaps expound more on those cultures mentioned, although hopefully the revival movements will render such explanation unnecessary.

While the atrocities inflicted by the Fire Nation upon the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, and Air Nomads during the Great War (or, in the words of the Mānuṣulkā, ādhiḥmanyuyuddha), are well documented, very little concerning the maltreatment of their own citizens has been published. This is notable, considering the Fire Nation managed in the span of 100 years what even Chin the Conqueror could not: the homogenization of a diverse nation into a single culture. However, claiming that this was done purely through propaganda and increased centralization of education is naïve. Although records are scarce, it is fairly clear that major cultural elements of the Fire Nation, prominently including the Mānuṣulkā, the Âtar, and the Veyil, were systematically destroyed.

The most visible tools of this homogenization are the surviving reëducation facilities. Now in use as boarding schools, it becomes clear from graffiti and certain architectural features that these institutes were not originally intended for Fire Nation schoolchildren. Instead, some rooms seem oddly cell-like, and the windows clearly appear built for bars. Notably, many restrooms have locks more recent than the building design would suggest. However, the most damning evidence comes in the form of writing in Bhāṣā and Zabân present on beds. Basic translation reveals obscenities primarily aimed at guards or the Kan, as well as messages to family members. Of course, these facilities have other parts that seem more prosaic, suggesting that only more intractable candidates for reëducation were treated as prisoners, perhaps adolescents or adults.

Some survivors of the early war period have provided commentary on their childhoods. While they requested the transcripts not be made public, the information provided generally reads as though they were separated from their parents and raised in orphanages with large groups of children who spoke many languages at the beginning. However, use of “home talk” was quickly extinguished by the caretakers. Instead, use of Kanhu, now widely disseminated as a trade language throughout the world, was enforced in all situations. Classes were often taught with some number of local Kan students to whom many survivors recall being compared unfavorably. There are also reports that eating food with anything other than chopsticks was severely punished, as was worship of spirits. Once standard schooling finished, many of these children went on to become regular citizens of the Fire Nation, distinct from the Kan majority perhaps only in the color of their skin. However, various other coterminous programs reduced discrimination on the basis of skin color, citing it as a violation of national unity.

More disturbing is the evidence of what happened to these children’s parents. Due to research in records from Omashu, it becomes clear that western coast of the main island once had dense populations that were not of Kan origin, surprisingly close to the capital. This, in fact, explains certain linguistic anomalies present in Kanhu the phrase “agni kai” could originate from the Bhāṣā “agni kī,” meaning “of fire;” this mistranslation could arise if kī were mistaken for the Kanhu “kai”, a term for a friendly meeting. It also explains the distortion in meaning present in the phrase, as an agni kai, as the current Fire Lord knows, is truly unfriendly.

To return to the topic of war atrocities, the disappearances of these villages, often with names in Bhāṣā, Zabân, and, in the Northwest, Moḻi, indicates either the wholesale destruction or resettlement of these areas. Based on several trips there, it becomes rapidly clear that it was likely the former. Some towns indicated on maps from only a century ago are now new growth forests. Others have populations that are majority Kan, with minority populations of Veyil or Mānuṣulkā who speak and behave identically to their neighbors. From testimony gathered in the field from Veyil elders in one such village, Kan and others from the east came during their parents’ youths, along with Fire Nation officials who took some part of the population away (or killed them, the various accounts differ in this respect). Those left claim their ancestors saw duty to the nation as being of greater importance than that to their people. Some also note that this is historically “not a Veyil belief,” perhaps indicating a fundamental perceived incompatibility with Fire Nationals who don’t subscribe to Kan culture. Villages with Âtar minorities also exist, although they seem to have chosen to relocate with greater frequency. Some towns also have no existing native population. Further expeditions may be needed, but the author suspects that the rumored settlements on the Air Nomad islands may be worth confirming.

Of course, the final approach, less brutal than colonization and assault, was relocation. Shades are present in the youth reëducation centers. Nevertheless, many families in industrial cities are clearly victims of forced relocation. This was more common among the Âtar, suggesting some sort of differentiating factor in the choice to allow relocation. Suggestions concerning religious differences between these peoples make sense up until the point on realizes that there are relocated Mānuṣulkā and Veyil as well, just not as many. One comment commonly made is that the number of musicians and poets of Âtar descent Fire Lord Sozin kept was remarkably high, considering that public speech of any language save Kanhu was banned. This influence on the arts continues to be seen to this day, including the resurgent popularity of Zabân poetry among Fire Nation adolescents (often with pointed references to people as “aêsma” or fuel).

Relocation required keeping expression of culture other than the Kan out of one’s everyday actions. Religious practice by anyone choosing to do so was punished. However, it is clear that those choosing to relocate did not always cease practice of their religion, merely keeping it within the home. Further, language use by these families was monitored by their neighbors and even children. One Mānuṣulkā recalls her father describing his grandmother as a monster and counter-revolutionary who insisted on speaking Bhāṣā when not in public. She remarked that she regretted not knowing more Bhāṣā. These relocated, assimilated populations suffer from the loss of their culture as much as those who lost their lives. The Fire Nation, a state of many peoples, reduced itself to a nation-state, losing richness for a pointless war. Thankfully, Mānuṣulkā, Veyil and Âtar emigrants are returning, and the movement to revive Bhāṣā, Moḻi, and Zabân as minority languages continues. Perhaps the lesson of this is that the four great powers of our world encompass ever more people– Veyil, Mānuṣulkā, and Âtar firebenders exist, only giving more legitimacy to those the Fire Nation nearly lost.

Thanks to [personal profile] noldo for lending of a few resources and spot-checking on words. Linguistically, this thing is slightly lost and might exemplify why Sino-Japanese, Dravidian, and Indo-Iranian cultures should um probably not actually try to form a confused nation-state. Also, no, probably final, unless something is glaringly wrong with this.
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