Friday, March 18, 2011

Workers Under the Moon

While Tokyo dwellers go about their business in a seemingly defiant act of soldiering through daily routines, a few hundred miles away thousands continue to wait for assistance. While the Tokyo power company is hell-bent on getting trains running with no planned stops in the Tokyo metropolis and succeeded in doing so just today, global and local groups are trying to figure out how to get packs of food and energy to those in the tsunami and quake areas who are hungry and cold. There are complaints from some Japanese that the world is attentive only to the fate of the nuclear reactors. Perhaps this is not surprising because the fate of this particular nuclear plant will indeed have a global impact, both on the health of the planet and on the future of nuclear power. We are in this together.

The prime minister speaks of the life-threatening position in which reactor workers have placed themselves, not to mention the fire-fighting forces at the site out there from 12:30 am this morning, for twenty minutes, pouring yet more water on the roof of Reactor 3. They are called the “Hyper-rescue unit.” They are doubtlessly doing their jobs well and with great injury to self. But, contrary from much of the western reportage from Time Magazine (“How Japan Copes with Tragedy: A Lesson in the Art of Endurance”) the NYT, and elsewhere, this is not about “being taught as a youth the importance of the collective” (NYT, March). My colleague is right to say that it cheapens their situation and their efforts to frame their selflessness in the ways that the NYT has when it publishes phrases like the “Japanese are raised to believe that individuals sacrifice for the good of the group” (NYT, March 15). I would add that it makes those workers sound like robots. And it is ignores the real anger that is out there in the evacuation zone. And it aestheticizes the suffering.

Now the moon has added another level of danger to the situation. The coastlines are about to experience extremely high tides, the depths and times of which are continuously reported on the national NHK station. Fishermen and others who work the coasts are asked to “be especially careful during the hours preceding and following the high tides.” CNN reports that we in the US will have the largest full moon in twenty years. With the ground literally lower than it was before the quake and tsunami, an unusually high tide is the last thing that the coast needs. But the trains roll on.

We’re all in this together.