A couple weeks since my last blog and here we are yet another horrific disaster in the Pacific. Whilst these events in Japan are tragic and scary, what is terrifying is the grotesque way the media here in the West are portraying this. We are glued to interviews and footage of victims which are nothing short of pornographic, mawkish car-crash fearmonging news of the like we have not seen since “9/11”. You can almost imagine the directors rubbing their hands with glee and thinking of the ratings as yet another tragic account is tearfully broadcast.
We finally starting to realise the full evils and danger of our energy problems, and the horror of our overreliance on Oil, and this awful event in Japan comes along and sadly our highly powerful media channels seize it as the raison d’etre to fire up the old “Nuke-o-phobia” (ie keep relying on oil) arguement once again.
Here is some perspective in the form of a message from my cousin who lives in Japan..
Please be assured that I am safe and well.
Whilst we remain on alert for more earthquakes and aftershocks, we are thought to be over the worst.
My friends and I have all been overwhelmed by the emails and calls and general well-wishes that have flooded our way since the earthquake struck Japan almost a exactly week ago. I know you’ve all seen the news. I know you’ve all seen the horrific images of the areas absolutely torn up along the coast. And I know you’ve seen the footage of just how devastating six minutes can be.
On the assumption that even small efforts are worthwhile, I send this email as more of an attempt to re-focus the international effort on the humanitarian crisis; the real catastrophe. Nuka-a-phobia has proved itself so contagious that it seems the population in the west is gripped by the wrong issue. Its an emotive concern, I get that. Why? Radiation; you can’t see it, or touch it, or smell it. Yet past incidents differ greatly from the current crisis, and Japan remains maybe the only country not in a state of frenzied panic.
Take it from me, I LIVE HERE. We are not running around screaming our heads off. Outside the exclusion zone, people are not packing their bags for immediate departure. Facemasks are in prevalence because it’s hay fever season, not because they offer magical protection from radiation leakages.
I implore the international community to take everything they read in the international press with a pinch of salt. Even what many of us usually perceive to be reputable media agencies have shown themselves to be speculative and scaremongering. Use your intelligence and common sense, and please, don’t add to sensation.
The so-called ‘exodus’ departing Tokyo seems to be led by foreigners who have support networks elsewhere, but many Tokyoites are choosing to stay put.
Let’s get some perspective.
A magnitude 9 earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, hit one of the most densely populated nations on the planet. The fact that the greater part of the country still remains intact after being severely rocked by the tremor is in itself a great testament to the infrastructure of this country. The Ring of Fire has destroyed many other cities on magnitudes that have shook Japan as mere aftershocks. With infrastructure like this, it’s no wonder nationals have trust in their country. Despite the government’s failures after the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, that trust exists for the government and more profoundly, in one another. The Good Samaritan has never been more true than in Japan.
The way I see people pulling together makes me fall in love with this place a little more day by day; the humility, the helpfulness, the compassion shown towards one’s neighbours. For those of us living here, the images are incredibly emotive. The towns swept away look just like places we live in; small communities built by families which pass their houses down through the generations, living modest, peaceful lives. If a nation can be this gelled together in the face of adversity, then there is a lesson to be learnt by all.
Stories have started to circulate about this goodwill. During rolling blackouts, road intersections become precarious. Individuals wait patently for long times and refrain from beeping their horns except to thank others for letting them through. Waiting for long periods of time at a bus stop, a man runs off to a convenience store to return with heat packs for his fellow passengers to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures. If small efforts can have an impact, these efforts are certainly doing a fantastic job at keeping the nation together.
Some 500km south of the main destruction, life in Kyoto ticks on as usual. (Kyoto remains one of the recommended areas for evacuees to go to.) My school kids graduated this week. People are in the supermarkets buying their normal groceries, not stockpiling. We’ve all said you wouldn’t even know anything had even happened apart from the odd rumble under our feet. It almost makes the situation more unbelievable and disconcerting, considering the scale of the devastation.
And whilst the nuclear concern is one which has been awarded the international spotlight, it is one which is distracting focus from the humanitarian efforts. Children are orphaned, hundreds of thousands have had their livelihoods destroyed. Thousands have died and scores of individuals are injured. As it currently stands, approximately 100,000 buildings have either been entirely taken out or are structurally damaged, rending nearly half a million homeless. The figures are so high that the numbers become incomprehensible.
I am invested in this country. It has been marvellous to me during my duration here, and I know those of you who have visited were surprisingly taken aback by fortitude and friendliness of those you encountered. Maybe you remember the kind woman who helped you when you looked lost in the subway. Or the train conductor who walked you two blocks from the train station to the wrong Mr. Donut , (ahem Gemma!) Maybe you recall the way you were politely shown to place your shoes upon entering a building, or the way a group of gregarious school kids approached you to practise their English whilst you were out sightseeing.
Like every great humanitarian disaster, the real essential needed right now is cash. Maybe you’ve already donated. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. But I’m asking for you all to focus your well-wishes on investing in the relief of those affected. Donate the money you’d spend on drinks at the end of your work week, or ask your colleagues to bring in their own coffee for the next week to donate the communal kitty to disaster relief. If you work in hospitality, maybe you could donate your tips from a shift, or if you’re feeling proactive, call the RedCross, ask for a donation tins to be sent out and station them in your offices or local pubs or workplaces, give one to your hairdresser and the guy who runs the corner shop. ( http://www.facebook.com/l/c45829Hg4oFaWQtHQU9w2_rvbNg/www.redcross.org.uk/Donate-Now/Make-a-single-donation/Japan-Tsunami-Appeal)
Hundreds of thousands of people here need you to step up. They need you to stop worrying needlessly on nuclear meltdowns and focus on the aftermath of a tragedy. Even if just one individual donates a tenner after reading this email then I will be happy.
So, please make your own small efforts. Stay informed with reliable, responsible media. Spread news, not scandal. Don’t forget your compassion once the (nuclear) hype dies down.
And last but not least, STEP UP FOR JAPAN.
Get those donations in 🙂
Many thanks you amazing people!!
Up next on the news! : ‘our’ non-humanitarian efforts to regain control of the middle east (and keep the oil supply going), will be “heroic” and the world will be “safer”.. Stay scared people! Keep that telly on! (etc..)