Sunday, March 13, 2011

For Japan

It was my first thought to do my weekly feature "International Eats" today and showcase another American culinary standard and how it is interpreted in different parts of the world. We're going to skip that for today...

Minami Soma, Fukushima prefecture 3/12/2011
I just can't do it. I wasn't like this for neither the Haiti or Chilean quake, and I feel a measure of guilt for that. Even though the devastation was so much worse, and the human toll so much more staggering, I didn't feel then as I do now. Why? I've certainly had issues with the Japanese govt. and it's arrogant disrespect for the world's ecosystem. Issues to the point of activism in fact. As a member of the Rainforest Action Network in college, I once handcuffed myself to the front door of a Mitsubishi dealership in Orlando, Florida as part of a mass protest of their clear cutting of the Malaysian Rainforest. I have been an active and supporting member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society since 2007, and I see Japanese "research" whaling as genocide. No gray area there for me, genocide. The great whales are not "animals", they are "beings" just as self aware as you and I.

And yet, my heart is broken for people of Japan. And as they still race to assess the damage and prevent the worst case scenarios from happening at their nuclear sites, I feel as though I am helplessly watching a close friend fight for their life. It's like I got a late night phone call about a good friend involved in a hit and run, and I am too far away to get to the hospital. Why? What makes Japan so different in my heart than Haiti or Chile? Both of those places are in my own hemisphere, and my country has never been at war with either of them. Neither country are anywhere as rich as Japan, so the humanitarian crisis was even worse. How was I able to go about my day those two times and not now?

Original Japanese woodblock print of Admiral Perry (center) and his officers
It starts with my country's relationship with Japan that began with the visit from Commodore Perry in 1852. They were an isolated nation who lived in a virtual time capsule of medieval feudalism and only had limited trade with the Dutch at the time. Historians from both nations continue to argue the veracity of Perry's "friendly" motives in opening trade. But irregardless of motives, Japan then quickly became an industrial powerhouse through the raw determination and cleverness of it's people. They were catapulted from the Iron Age to the Gunpowder Age and then to the Industrial Age in the span of just a few decades. And with this swift progression came a lesson that humanity cannot afford to miss....

When a culture's technology advances faster than it's social progression, liberty tends to take a back seat to nationalism. Nationalism can best be described as patriotism's blind and drunk asshole cousin. When that sense of nationalism festers into a sense of entitlement or "manifest destiny", wars begin and humanity gets to see just how deep in the stupid we can sink. This was the case for Japan. They had been a warrior caste society for almost two thousand years, and had never lost a single war in their history as a nation. Now the sword and bow were replaced with repeating rifles and battleships, and the spirit of the Shoganate was still quite alive and well. The Russo-Japanese conflict, the invasion of Manchuria, and their subsequent attack on the United States are remembered as some of the most horrific events in modern history.

Could these events have been prevented if Japan was not forcibly yanked out of their isolationism? Who can tell? Second guessing what could have happened is pretty useless. But something happened to Japan that made them finally stop and pause. They lost their first war. And for the first time it it's history, the conflagration of war that they had so liberally inflicted upon their neighbors was visited upon them, on their own soil. That's when the natural brilliance of the Japanese people finally kicked in. And from 1945 on up to this very day, Japan has become a model for peaceful nations everywhere.

The Japanese commitment to the weird is one of their most endearing traits.
And this is the Japan my generation (Generation X) knows and loves. The clever and industrious society that never ceases to amaze the rest of the world with it's uniqueness. They have been one of the meccas for nerd culture since Godzilla let out his first roar as a symbol of the horrors of atomic devastation. They are the ultra modern, deeply pacifist, and yet still traditional people who deserve their front seat on the world stage. All of their ecological indiscretions aside, I love the Japanese people with all of my heart and I now weep for their beautiful cities and cry for the thousands of stories that have ended in the blink of an eye...

I end this post with a challenge to you, the reader. Get involved. Even if it's not financial, go to the various streaming news sites like wwiTV.com and just give them your eyes and moral support. The result we want with this is going to be a long term thing. It means that with every disaster and event that comes in the future, each of us will feel it as whole just a little bit more. And in the end, it will be our empathy that saves us as a race and a species....

Today, We Are ALL Japanese 

34 comments:

Kicking Rocks said...

I feel sorry for Japan too. I wish them a speedy recovery so they can go back to making cool stuff!

ed said...

japanese are handling it well, i mean i hear no news of looting in japan cause of the destruction

mac-and-me said...

i feel so bad for japan
such a tragedy

skinned sheep said...

hm if you think about it.. stuff there will be cheaper now..

and the women will be more desperate for a mate...

im evil... -_-..

Con Queso said...

I dunno how anyone could read and see the news and NOT have empathy towards what's going on there right now. There's STILL aftershocks going on right now! it's crazy...

G said...

Such shocking devastation...so sad...

Alphabeta said...

I really hope they can contain any further damage.

Autumnforest said...

Wonderful post. I have to admit that for a country so isolated and with so little resources, to be the biggest player in the technology-drive world is truly amazing. Obviously, their ability to maintain their culture and beliefs and to maintain their dignity and help one another and not loot and go crazy in and emergency, and their foresight to prepare people and buildings shows a culture we can all emulate. A country can be successful and not lose its soul. I hope we learn that. I suspect that even with the world community helping them, the Japanese will do like after WWII, and build themselves back quickly and with great vigor. The only stupidity I see is having nuclear plants in a very geologically active area. Hey, California, ya hear that???

Justin said...

This is the first time I felt this much remorse for what's happening... Thank you for opening my eyes and I hope that nobody reading this thinks I'm some heartless asshole for not feeling bad for them. I, naturally, as a human being, only feel pain when it is inflicted directly upon me...physically. I'm not emotionally hurt in almost the same manner. I don't know anyone in Japan. And I don't personally know anyone who is Japanese whose family lives in Japan, therefore, I'm not affected by it. Today, however, I care about something and someone other than myself.

This post changed my mind and I thank you for that. I also apologize for being so heartless.

Chris said...

My prayers go out to Japan

mmmpieohyeah said...

soon they will have to schedule blackouts, some say this will go on for maybe a year. This may be perhaps the biggest crisis since ww2, at least for them...

Barney said...

My uncle was in japan during this disaster still haven't heard from him. My prayers go out to Japan

Robert Fünf said...

I hope they have a speedy recovery.

Something Concupiscible said...

It's sad really. They have my support.

Venus said...

I´m praying for our japanese brothers and sisters. wonderful post!

Tasos said...

I was so shocked when I first heard about it. It's good to hear that a lot of celebrities are donating millions to help recover the damages. Like Lady Gaga, she donated 16M, very generous of her.

Astronomy Pirate said...

I'm hoping Japan pulls through this. It has potential to send them from 1st world to 3rd world. And lets face it, Haiti was already crap, the earthquake didn't help, but they were already doing pretty bad.

Alex DeLarge said...

as a big fan of Japanese cinema and culture, this hurts

The Angry Lurker said...

Japan is lucky that it has the potential to get through this and had already got the infrastructure in place to deal with this but its different when it really happens. Japan will get through this soon.

Bob lehcror said...

I love anime!!!! Thank you Japan!!!

Spike said...

I hope they can resolve their problems fast.. I am prety sad..

Patti D. said...

Great post, I also feel like I should help somehow.

Merlyy said...

I'm so scared the reactor is doing anything extraordinary. Even here in Europe it's hard to accept that situation.

Banacek said...

As a former Zen monk, I feel a strong connection to Japan. I've been glued to the news for the last few days. I know they'll get through this...

Alphabeta said...

I'm withya buddy. Feel sad and shocked by the whole thing.

GADAFINY said...

i feel so bad for them bro

Kim Anders said...

hope things get better

Meghan Moran said...

Wonderfully stated. Here's to hoping they don't face any further tragedies due to the nuclear reactors.

Malkavian said...

Japan is a country that is always prepared for practically anything, and things it was not prepared for just take bit longer to take care of, other countries should learn more of japans culture and eating habits i agree.

Patwa said...

my anime ;(

MxC said...

im' with them!
i'll pray for those people who lost someone!

http://www.daily-life-of-mxc.blogspot.com/

Daniel Andrade said...

my feelings are with them =/

Gloria said...

Im so sorry by Japan, is really terrible, hope all will better soon!!! gloria

Leila said...

I feel like the Japanese are too extreme when it comes to their cultural atmosphere. Although they were rightly humbled after WW2, I feel like they readily abandoned much of their traditions (other than social decorum) by the end of the 20th century and into the 21st. Instead, what took place was post-humanism and an epoch for technology. If they somehow retained part of their pre-Meiji era shinto reverence, they would not have maligned countless of ecosystems. They would've shown respect for the nature they so willingly exploited.

Nonetheless, the courage the Japanese have shown in aiding their fellow countrymen and resilience in trying to maintain the level of disaster is inspiring if not venerable. My violin teacher is Japanese, and when I asked her how her family was doing, she said her family is all safe and sound, and they're making the best out of the situation.