The new me tries to keep my head out of the news. The old me likes to get involved head first. Sometimes the new me and the old me are in conflict.
And sometimes the old me wins.
Such is the case right now. I really believe that the best way to change the world is to be a better person; to see the world as good; to believe in people; to be loving, generous and compassionate; and to encourage others to be the same.
But sometimes you have to do more:
Sometimes, you need to speak out.
I heard something this weekend that made me really feel like I needed to DO something.
But this is all I can do. So this is what I will do. I will write it here.
This weekend I heard a disturbing story. It was a tragic story. It was a moving story, and it was a story that made me angry.
It was also a story that brought back to the surface two years of anger that I have tried to ignore.
The new me wants to see the good. But the reality is, there is no good to be seen in how the government of Japan has turned its back on its own people.
It all started on March 11, 2011.
Japan has faced many tragedies. It is a country prone to earthquakes and typhoons, floods and landslides. It’s even faced nuclear bombs. And it has always emerged stronger and better than before.
….But not this time…
More than two years after the earthquake and tsunami, Japan still tells itself the same stories of strength and pride….
But the truth is dark.
The Japanese media spent the entire first year selling the people of Japan rhetoric garbage. “We are Japan! We are Japanese!!” But the government did little or nothing to stop radiation from spewing from the reactors. The media did nothing to report it. As far as I can tell, it is still spewing. “But don’t worry!” The government explained through the media. “The food is safe! Help the people of Fukushima by eating the safe food!”
And by and large the Japanese people complied. But not all. Some pressed for more accountability.
Or at least for more information. Like, what exactly is the gov’t calling safe? A few even asked for measurements to be taken to confirm the radiation levels were safe. “Oh…come on! Support Japan! It’s no worse than smoking a cigarette!” Came the answer..and that’s an actual quote from a government official on the news!! And right after that, they quietly raised the legal radiation levels.
And so, by and large, the people of Japan allowed their children to “smoke”. And eat the fish,which the media repeatedly reported was safe. Come on! It’s in the ocean, the world’s largest dissipater…” The media reported.
Whispers from someone who knows someone who knows a scientist who is measuring radiation in fish, said that the radiation is so high that the gov’t has to keep it under wraps or there would be mass hysteria. I get that. I watch 24. But the opposite to preventing mass hysteria is to ENCOURAGE consumption? ??? And not ONLY encourage consumption, but push it!
“Help the people of Fukushima by buying their food!” The media goes on about how the people of Japan need to help their own. The media subtly indicates that it is unpatriotic not to buy the food from this area. People buy the contaminated food. They WANT to help their fellow citizens. They want to believe their food is safe. No one questions why the government isn’t subsidizing these people, rather than forcing them to try to sell contaminated food and manipulating the public into buying it.
But eventually, people hear the whispers and many demand more information. So, the government makes a very public gesture of measuring rice. “Because rice is important.” And people buy into this. “Yes of course it is!” my students tell me. Outside of class, I ask why other food is not equally important. “Because rice is our staple!” they explain, mirroring what they heard on the news. I give in to some, but to the like-minded, I ask why ALL food is not important. And the government tests some rice. The radiation is undeniably too high to eat. That was near the end of year one. The tested rice is “still in storage”, begging the question, “WHY?” Why is it still in storage? Why isn’t it destroyed? And why are people still farming and living on contaminated land?
But we go on, forgetting like people do. We got lost in the newer news and in our daily lives.
Until we hear more whispers…
These little rumours and whispers are always enough to invoke anger, but it’s the actual, unavoidable facts that are even worse.
I won’t go on and on about all the ways the government misdirected, self-protected, and outright lied in that first year…
I won’t even go on and on about how little was actually done.
What I want to talk about is how little has been done…to date.
But first, I must tell you about YEAR 2.
Year two, the government of Japan came up with a new plan. It had to do something. More and more people were beginning to question their actions. So, they came up with a plan. The plan was deflection, diversion.
Suddenly, two old land disputes with two different countries became huge news. One dispute involved a Korean island, which Japan took hold of during World War 2. The other, an age old dispute with China about the ownership of an island in the middle of the ocean. Relations between Korea and Japan become tense. China and Japan became so enraged that people feared war. Hatred was intense. Relations have always been delicate between these countries, but now there is full on hatred.
(I must point out that the above paragraph is not a fact. It is my own supposition and opinion. While it is true that two age old land disputes came up coincidentally at the same time, leading to widespread hatred and effectively putting a stop to any questions about Fukushima, I cannot pretend to say with certainty that the government planned that. It could just be a coincidence that people focused all of their attention on first Korea and then China, forgetting all about Fukushima.
What I can say is that it worked.
No one was thinking about Fukushima. Everyone was basking in hatred and racism against China.
Sucked in by newer news, we all went back to living our lives, effectively forgetting about the air we breathe, the food we eat..
… and how little has been done to help the people whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed.
But every once in awhile a whisper of news from someone who knows someone or a documentary , or something on YouTube, will let slip a new piece of the story; A nasty reminder that for some, it’s not over.
For me, the first of such incidents involved a documentary that appeared on Japanese TV, and captured the attention of the media.
Here is One man’s story:
Naoto Matsumura currently lives in the evacuation zone of Fukushima. According to the news, he is the only one. His story shows how the government has turned its back on the people and the animals of Fukushima. His story shows his anger at how the animals are dying and at how little has been done to clean up Fukushima. You can hear more about his story here.
The CNN coverage makes it sound like he made a choice to be there. He didn’t. He tried to evacuate, but was turned away, first by family who thought he may somehow be contagious, and then by shelters. So, while it may be his choice to live there now, it was NOT his choice to stay in the beginning.
Here is a quote from the Japanese Newspaper , “Japan Today, ” entitled “Fukushima town’s sole resident speaks out in documentary”:
“…He then recounts the reason for continuing to live in the hazard zone, commenting: ”I originally fled south, after the fourth reactor at Daichi exploded. Hoping to stay at my father’s house, I was bitterly disappointed after being turned away due to fears of radioactive contamination.”
As a final alternative, Matsumura turned to the closest evacuation center, but was denied entry due to the overwhelming number of citizens seeking refuge. He reached the point where finding a safe place to stay had become all too bothersome, and besides, Matsumura felt responsible for the livestock and pets waiting for him back home. With this, he once again returned to his hometown.……”
I can’t imagine a family as cold as his, but that is only half the point. Shelters that were set up for people like him, turned him away! I understand that they were full. What I don’t understand is why no one helped him find another shelter. It was the responsibility of the government of Japan to make sure there were ample shelters to provide every evacuated resident a safe place to go!
I believe Japan failed this man, but it doesn’t stop there!!
Once he returned, he had to go to YouTube in order to get money for food for himself and the animals he decided to protect!
Once again, the government failed him.
Donations poor in: Donations from Japanese people. Donations from people from all over the world. Donations from governments all over the world.
But where is that money going??