October 12, 2023

#ThrowbackThursday – 12 October

It’s Throwback Thursday time again, folks! Today, we’re looking at three events that went down in history on 12 October, including the first appearance of an iconic nursery rhyme, a debate gone wrong and the birth of the world’s six billionth inhabitant.

Take a look:

1609 – The Tale of The Three Blind Mice

“Three Blind Mice” is one the most well-known nursery rhymes that we learn as children. You know, the one where three blind mice get their tails chopped off by a farmer’s wife after they chased her down.

Well, it was 414 years ago when “Three Blind Mice” was first published: Thomas Ravenscroft was an English musician and editor who published a book called “Deuteromelia or The Second Part of Musicks Melodie”. In it, the nursery rhyme starring the blind mice first appeared, albeit with slightly different lyrics (and with different spelling, such as it was in those days):

“Three Blinde Mice / Three Blinde Mice / Dame Iulian, Dame Iulian / The Miller and his merry olde Wife / Shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.”

So, instead of a farmer’s wife, we have a miller’s wife, although she sounds no less familiar with a knife! Thankfully, the original lyrics don’t mention any tails being cut.

Nevertheless, some say that this nursery rhyme contains darker connotations: Mary I, Queen of England from 1553-58, was notorious for her deadly persecution of Protestants while trying to restore Catholicism in her queendom. The farmer or miller’s wife is said to represent Mary I, while the three mice represent Protestant bishops or civilians who were “blind” to the Catholic faith and were punished as a result. Of course, Ravenscroft was born long after Mary I’s reign and death, although it’s not a long shot to say that she could have served as inspiration for the rhyme.

Still, it certainly gives one something to think about when one recites the rhyme, don’t you think?

1960 – Put to Sword

In an event that shocked thousands of viewers at home, Japanese politician Inejiro Asanuma was assassinated live on television by a 17-year-old boy with a samurai sword.

At the time of his death, Asanuma was the leader of Japan’s Socialist Party. He was a polarising figure who supported the ideals of socialism and hoped to implement these in post-war Japan in the same vein as the People’s Republic of China. The 61-year-old was also a harsh critic of the close alliance between Japan and the United States of America, regarding the latter country as Japan’s enemy.

On 12 October 1960, Asanuma participated in a live televised debate against Suehiro Nishio of the Democratic Socialist Party at the Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo; at least 2 500 spectators were in attendance, while thousands more watched the debate at home. However, the debate took a turn for the worse – specifically, deadly.

Rushing onto the stage during the debate was Otoya Yamaguchi, a 17-year-old youth who was a member of the ultra-nationalist Great Japan Patriotic Society. He fiercely opposed communism – a stark contrast to Asanuma – but he also deplored westernisation. His right-wing ideals lay in returning Japan to its former traditional and cultural glory. Hence, when Yamaguchi attacked Asanuma, he did so with a “wakizashi”, a short sword favoured by the samurai of old.

Before the eyes of the shocked spectators and viewers at home, Yamaguchi stabbed Asanuma once in the ribs, although conflicting reports state that he did so twice. Before he could turn the sword on himself, Yamaguchi was tackled, subdued and soon detained. Asanuma died that day from his wound.

While imprisoned on trial, Yamaguchi committed suicide: he hung himself in his prison cell on 2 November 1960, using the bedsheets as a makeshift rope.

Like Asanuma before him, Yamaguchi became a polarising figure in his own right after his death. Many regard him as a hero and martyr, while others deem him as somebody who could have disrupted democracy and would have become a bigger threat had he lived (to say nothing of the copycat assassinations that took place in later and most recent years).

1999 – One in Six Billion

Merely 24 years ago, the world welcomed its sixth billionth citizen.

Two minutes after midnight on 12 October at a hospital in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Adnan Nevic was born to Fatima and Jasminko Nevic to much fanfare, simply because he was earmarked by the United Nations (UN) as the six billionth person to ever inhabit Earth.

Little Adnan was barely two-days-old when he was photographed being held by then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan (whose last name is said to have inspired Adnan’s).

Aside from the title of “Baby Six Million” and a $140 monthly stipend, Adnan’s status has done little to change the fortunes of his family, who live in the poverty-stricken Bosnian city of Visoko. By 2011, Fatima was unemployed while Jasminko was suffering from cancer. Adnan, then 12-years-old, was smart and maintained a near-perfect academic record.

But when his birthday rolls around, the Nevic family’s spirits are lifted, if only temporarily.

“That day is special, the atmosphere makes it feel like he’s really the six billionth inhabitant,” Fatima said in a 2011 interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “And when we explain our situation, everyone is horrified. But only on that day, because the day after his birthday, our lives continue in the same old way.”

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