Welcome to 2012, or 5772 in the Jewish calendar. A New Year signifies a new page in our lives, an opportunity for a fresh beginning. So, what did you wish for?
I wished for an exciting new job that will benefit from my imaginative futuristic ideas, creative and mentoring methods for the betterment of humanity. No, I am not sarcastic. Having tasted sweet and bitter “delights” of life has enabled me to distill a meaningful essence focusing my most recent strives and aspirations.
I deem that every people, whether fulfilled bluntly oppressed or subtly manipulated by own rulers, or puppet masters, or pacified by the covertly preselected candidates to “democratically elect” from, sooner or later will awake. As history has proven repeatedly, it is then that they rise, rebel, demand a role in the way their lives and futures are being shaped. We have seen such awakening in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and, to a tiny extend, on Wall Street. Many such revolts are hastily taken advantage of by those who shrewdly manipulate such prospects to clench control for their own benefits or, worse yet, those interests that are vigilantly hidden behind them.
If countries, judged by many as undeveloped, are nonetheless capable of higher ideals, struggle for true freedom, than why we, who deem ourselves as the most advanced, the leaders of the “free world”, avoid to look the truth in the eye and admit to ourselves that we are lost in a desert of consumerism, disposability and materialistic excess, blown every which way by the gusts of shortsighted greed?
Now, back to the puppeteers. To attain their goals, they will resort to any means open or swiftly contrived to suite their agenda, taking advantage of weaknesses of their own populace, or economy, or politics, nationalism, fears, hate, bigotry, religion, disunity, ignorance, or limited exposure of their populace, anything goes.
Why is that, I ask? I deem that while humanity, of which I am a part of, is capable of truly great ideas and ideologies, we have not yet evolved to the point where we are idealistic enough to implement these great visions. Too much greed, egotism and hunger for power vibrates in our veins, still.
How do I connect this to Japan? When embarking on this journey, soon after the 3/11 tragedy, my expectation of what I will find was unalike to what I discovered. I anticipated a society shaken up, fuming at the government and corporations that, so adeptly, misled and manipulated them.
Now, having observed Japanese society, the way it was taught to control their emotional and physical demeanor, I am un-startled by their adamantly unshaken, orderly, ongoing trust in authorities. It leads to a polite, restrained, reverently subdued reaction to what ensued due the corporate negligence, and a secretive, cunning cover up that continues to define what is being done to them. Such calm, though nothing altered their and their children’s lives, is echoed in the oddest of ways. Order, respect, graciousness, consideration and care continue to rule.
Little concern is vested into how the radiation, bound to continue for decades, will impact their lives of those of future generations. Japanese, above all others, felt first hand the effect of radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Subsequently, for generations, they suffered its beastly effects. So, have they forgotten already.
But then, reflecting back on our 9/11 tragedy, while shattering to the families of those directly impacted, for the rest of our society its impact seems oddly short lasting. While both countries’ governments shrewdly exploited the respective 9/11 and 3/11, both populace have settled down fast. Stating this reflection, I am not out to insult anyone. This realization hurts me, for it reflects on me as a member of humanity and the global community.
I recall returning to NYC, a year after the 9/11. With trepidation, I went down to pay my silent respect to the former World Trade center, or rather its symbolism. To me, who grew up in Eastern Europe after the II World War, which dwindled my family by 90%, such events have forever infused my being. And I have not even suffered this tragedy first hand, the way my parents and grandparents did.
Thus, upon arrival at the World Trade reminiscence, I found myself stunned, not just by the magnitude of the crater, but by the gargantuan bites the explosion tore out of the surrounding buildings. It looked as though a giant bit these soaring and proud structures. Then I gazed down. What I saw made my blood freeze and boil. The fence round the crater was swamped by Midwestern tourists, excitingly jumping up and down as friends took photos memorizing the fact that they were here, they saw it, and back home, they will be able to impress others, there.
Are these people insensitive, vain or shallow, I asked myself? Has pain become an emotion to be avoided at all costs? Did they not grasp the calamity of what happened here? Have we elapsed so soon? The 9/11 could had acted as a wake up call to our pragmatic, materialistic, self-centered, greedy civilization. The 9/11 was our chance to sober up and realize the deeper values of life. Has it? Tell me.
I just returned from Peru, a former kingdom of the once mighty Inca, now extinct. Again, I chose to visit WTC. I saw the expected tourists taking photos as they did years back. Peddlers, of all races, still sold all kinds of memorabilia and trinkets allied to the 9/11 calamity. Capitalism and entrepreneurship is well, I reflected. Then I continued my walk to the very park where the Wall Street protestors have been gathering over the last months. Park is still cordoned off and, on this day, the number of policemen surpassed protesters. The park, now a symbol of its own, stood empty, forbidden to public for whom it was intended.
What happened to democracy in the country that poses itself as the leader of the “free world”, lectures others on a need for freedom of speech and expression? What hypocrisy, what hutzpah, what arrogance, what…? No wander we are, once again, perceived by the world as big, loud, arrogant bullies, that we are.
Similarly, the anticipated impact of what happened on 3/11 in Fukushima has not really shown yet, not to my eyes. Following such a calamity, I was expecting a reaction of dramatic intensity, further infuriated by the ways populace has been misled by the government and corporate ownership of the reactors.
I am told that Japanese government does not hold power equal those elsewhere. Corporations define their reality, and pull the social, political, economic, industrial and governmental strings. But is this different from everywhere else, including the one country which rest of the world looks towards and aspires to be like?
Judging by the insistent consumerism, I question the sensitivity, care, emotional depth of that segment of the society that is not directly, immediately, impacted by what happened. Maybe such cognizance is still to come? Maybe it will hit once the truth about the levels of radiation people remain exposed to, the way it will affect their kids, comes out? I hope I am wrong. But based on the Chernobyl, it may take a few years for proofs to surface, despite the governmental cover up.
Both Russian and Japanese governments, and many others, have done their best to dose, control or belittle various factual truths. But truths always surface. From within or outside, Japan will see the light. Being that we share the same rotary planet, radiation effects, sooner or later, will impact us all. Strangely, we, and the rest of the world, are not raising hell about it, not demanding action.
A professor of an art University near the Fukushima’s epicenter generously shared this photo with me, for this I thank him.
Seeing Japanese people, it clockwork efficiency, respect towards each other, it is normal to see diverse fund raising benefits. This is also reflected in the Japanese society’s readiness to decrease electric utilization.
Then, a few months into my stay, I myself experienced an incident that shuttered my sense of comfort and respect towards great kindness and consideration I had so full heartedly grown to associate Japanese society and its gentle people with.
It was a lovely day. I was out for a jog along a crystal clear, perfectly manicured river.
Under one of the bridges linking both shores, I saw a man on the ground. His body was in the way of the pedestrians walking or bikers speeding by. His body seemed oddly awkward. I stopped to look. He was bleeding from his mouth, ears, nose and eyes. He was shivering from seizures. Visibly, he needed an urgent medical help. Yet people passing by disregarded these unmistakable signs. I had no cell or spoke Japanese. Not able to help directly, I stopped one passersby, pointing at the man and mimicking a need to call a hospital. What I got back was a waiving hand, indicative of refusal. I run to another man, only to encounter the same rejection. The same happened with the next three individuals. One of them even took out his cell but his colleague stopped him. I was amazed! Still, this was no time to reflect, so I run to yet another man. Grasping my request, he quickly proceeded towards the bridge under which the unconscious man lay.
Relieved, I proceeded with my run, striving to grasp what just happened. On the way back, I found medics and police gathered over the man. I was trilled to see my persistence pay off. Haunted by such lack of concern, I felt my appreciation of amazing kindliness and concern blown to shreds. I sought some explanation from people at a university, but none was clear. People were surprised by this incident, could not believe my words. Three months later, I still am troubled.
A short time later, I was flabbergasted more so. Listening to international news I heard a commentary relating life of the Fukushima people. Half a year after the 3/11 earthquakes and tsunami, many were still homeless, prevented from returning to their radioactive homes, seemingly marginalized by their society. How can it be, in this specific society? It disputes the skillfully tailored picture Japanese government strives hard to project to the world. The reality speaks contrary to the slogans and propaganda. Could the two incidents reflect a troubling commonality? Could they indicate a dark side of this olden culture? If so, are these signs of a spreading virus, now infecting Japan as well?
Recalling the way our US government dragged its feet ensuing hurricane Katrina, I reflected on such ominous parallels between such radically contrary societies. Maybe they are indicative of humankind at large, instead of nationality? If so, how do I, as a father of two young girls embarking on their lives within a humanity that is becoming more aggressive, indifferent, materialistic, greedy, competitive and insensitive, feel about it? What is more important, what can I do about it?