Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Refugees of Modern Technologies

While Tokyo dwellers attempt to show their support for tsunami victims by buying vegetables grown in Fukushima that have been scanned with Geiger counters held by the steady hand of officials, refugees continue to suffer in evacuation centers in Iwate and elsewhere in extremely tight quarters, often with no running water. It has been six weeks since the tsunami and victims still don't have basic necessities.

Being a victim in Japan has historically been rough. Those who experienced the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were discriminated against and so were their children. Radiation sickness was thought to be hereditary or even contagious, so many victims and their progeny have kept their experience under wraps. Those disfigured by mercury poisoning in Minamata were told by government-employed scientists that it was the result of incest and poverty. It could not be but genetic or self-inflicted. Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's tome Makioka Sisters, described the plight of one of four sisters whose tuberculosis kept her from finding a marriage partner as the disease was incorrectly believed to be hereditary.

This handful of examples shows how refugees of modern technologies and diseases in Japan face the brunt force of a patrilineal system that tends to be callous toward its victims.

Refugees of the tsunami, its victims, are still struggling to live that elusive "normal day." 166 refugees in three centers in Rikuzen Takada on April 17,18,19 (down from approximately 356 people previously in these three centers) discuss what makes everyday living impossible.

1. There is enough food, but there are toilets that don’t have running water. Taking baths is difficult. There are no refrigerators or freezers, so food cannot be stored.

2. We are anxious about where we will go. We are told that we will be evicted in mid-May but we have no idea where we will go. Temporary housing for us is a big concern.

3. We can’t bathe and our cars were ruined so we can’t go anywhere. We can’t do laundry.

4. Primary health problems include nausea, lack of appetite, gastritis, coughing, insomnia, headaches, hay fever.

5. Small children can’t get a balanced diet necessary for a growing child.

6. The stress of communal living is high. Families live in hallways; multiple families live in one small room.

7. We want to work but there are no jobs.

8. There is not appropriate food for the elderly (they would like miso soup).

9. Paraplegics or those who are disabled have trouble getting up and down.

10. We would like spring and summer pants.

Volunteers need:

-Help with large scale debris removal

-Help with handing out donated food

-Help with dealing with stress experienced by refugees and staff who have also experienced the disaster. This would need to be an ongoing long-term help.

-Some way of helping with stress by providing alternative activities for refugees, outlets for dealing with stress.

---Information provided by Takashi Matsuda, chaplain, currently volunteering at various refugee centers in Iwate