Home > China, Media, Pax Americana, Politics, Social Trends, Yumm-Rika > Kilroy Was Here: National Shame Syndrome Hits China

Kilroy Was Here: National Shame Syndrome Hits China


While American graffiti has become a cult symbol – a subject of books, films, media coverage, one graffiti by a Chinese tourist has become a national shame.

Will Chinese copy the US - and paint graffiti across the world?  |  Cartoon by Stephens on Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 6:16am in South China Morning Post

Will Chinese copy the US – and paint graffiti across the world? | Cartoon by Stephens on Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 6:16am in South China Morning Post

During and after WWII, American soldiers were parts of invading armies that warred in more than 50 countries. With the British and Russians, Americans were victorious in WWII.

Colonialism to Neo-Colonialism

After WWII, American armies waged long and expensive wars against Asians in South East Asia to impose US hegemony over former French, Dutch and British colonies.

Using a Communist bogeyman, propped by Eisenhower’s Domino Theory, American forces killed more than 50 lakh Asians (5 million) in Cambodia, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. After the Asian Wars and the collapse of the Soviet Union, American attention has turned to the Islamic world.

Self Goal? More than international media, it were the Chinese who declared this graffiti as a 'national' shame.  |  Harry Harrison on May 27, 2013 in South China Morning Post

Self Goal? More than international media, it were the Chinese who declared this graffiti as a ‘national’ shame. | Harry Harrison on May 27, 2013 in South China Morning Post

American Chopsuey

These American soldiers made their presence felt in countries they invaded and in those countries where American bases were set up – temporarily (like in India) or permanently (like in Japan).

In India, an early impact was ice-cream. India’s Kwality (now Kwality Walls) ice-creams started by catering to the American military forces stationed in India during WWII. Coca-Cola became a global brand, accompanying American armies across the world.

More damaging than either Coca-Cola or ice-cream, was the explosion in prostitution in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, with the arrival of American soldiers – as a well-oiled machine.

As if this was not enough, these soldiers, to leave their indelible mark, left graffiti behind. One graffiti, that became a marker of this boorish American behaviour was the text and image of Kilroy Was Here.

American graffiti left behind at national monuments, historical sites - and on the bellies of pregnant women. Does the phallic overtones of this graffiti reveal the shallowness?

American graffiti left behind at national monuments, historical sites – and on the bellies of pregnant women. Does the phallic overtones of this graffiti reveal the shallowness?

Graffiti itself goes back to ancient times. Graffiti is found in the ruins of Pompeii, on the walls of ancient Jerusalem, in ancient Egypt. Kilroy follows a long tradition, but was far more famous and all-present than any of them.

Kilroy was here” emerged during World War II, appearing at truck stops, city restaurants, and in military boardrooms. However, the first appearances seem to have been on military docks and ships in late 1939.

“The mischievous face and the phrase became a national joke,” according to author Charles Panati. In theory, he was a soldier, probably American, who travelled all over the world scrawling his immortal phrase. Clearly, the graffiti were scrawled by thousands of different soldiers, not a single one named Kilroy.

During the Forties, Kilroy was everywhere. Panati comments, “The outrageousness of the graffit was not so much what it said, but where it turned up.” He cites the torch of the Statue of Liberty, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, huts in Polynesia, and a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York. There were contests in the Air Force to beat Kilroy to isolated and uninhabited places around the globe.

The appearance wasn’t always of GI origin, although it was largely tied to the military services. More than once newspapers reported on pregnant women wheeled into the delivery room, with the hospital staff finding “Kilroy was here” written across their stomachs. Panati says, “The most daring appearance occurred during the meeting of the Big Three in Potsdam, Germany, in July 1945. Truman, Attlee, and Stalin had exclusive use of an opulent marble bathroom, off limits to everyone else. On the second day of the summit, an excited Stalin emerged from the bathroom sputtering something in Russian to one of his aides. A translator overheard Stalin demand, ‘Who is Kilroy?'”

SDSTAFF Mac suggests Panati is a better storyteller than a scholar, though.

via The Straight Dope: What’s the origin of “Kilroy was here”?.

Low Self Image

China is whipping itself into a frenzy.

A graffiti by a Chinese teenager, discovered by another Chinese at the Egypt’s Luxor site, was taken up with a frenzy by ‘shamed’ Chinese. While American Graffiti has become a cult symbol – a subject of books, films, media coverage, one graffiti by a Chinese tourist has become a national shame.

Much like India scored a self-goal by making itself look like a country of rapists, when in fact, it has one of the lowest rape ratios in the world.

Does international media need anything more than these self-goals by the Chinese and Indians?

SHANGHAI—Parents of a Chinese junior high school student apologized on May 25 after their son’s name and graffiti were discovered defacing a wall of the ruins of the sacred Luxor Temple in Egypt, which ignited a storm of criticism on the Internet.

“My son understands that he did a bad thing,” his weeping mother was quoted by the Xian Dai Kuai Bao, a newspaper in Jiangsu province in coastal China, as saying.

“I am asking everyone to generously forgive my son (so that) this incident will not adversely affect his future,” his father was also quoted as saying.

The graffiti, written along with the student’s name in Chinese, reads, “I came here for sightseeing.”

Another Chinese tourist, who discovered the graffiti, wrote in Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, on the night of May 24, “I tried to erase this shame by rubbing it off, but my effort was in vain.” He also posted a photo of the graffiti.

Immediately after that, one poster after another criticized the graffiti on the Internet. One comment read, “I am ashamed of the graffiti as a Chinese.” Other posters also disclosed the student’s birthday and year of birth, and revealed that he is a junior high school student in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

Parents of the student called the Xian Dai Kuai Bao on the afternoon of May 25 and met with its reporters. via Chinese student’s graffiti on Luxor Temple ignites Internet criticism – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.


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