Friday, December 30, 2011

reflections on 2011: anything can happen

Michael: You can be a butterfly!
Jane: Or just stay larva!
-Mary Poppins (theatrical musical)

I googled "anything can happen," and found this song Any Thing Can Happen as one of theatrical musical Mary Poppins songs. I've never seen this theatrical version. I wondered if this song was in the Disney classic film, and looked up Wikipedia--it wasn't, even it wasn't among the deleted songs. So, it was not Disney's conspiracy not to give the audience a sense that an alternative world or something like that was possible (the theatrical version was also made by Disney, anyway). There are many differences between the theatrical version and the film. The theatrical version was made 40 years later than the film had been made.

And then, I revisited the film in order to refresh my memory (I used to like classic musicals). If my memory is correct, in an early episode of Neil Gaiman's THE SANDMAN, Death suddenly bursts out, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" and then tells her brother Morpheus that she likes Mary Poppins even though the story is "not for everyone." It is interesting that she called it "not for everyone." I don't know why she says so. Does she feel it too moralistic?

The film Mary Poppins depicts a fantasized Edwardian London--chimneys, smog, a countryside, hunting, a horse race, a tea party, cops, British gentlemen, Cockney tongue, discipline, social classes, bankers, political activists, colonialism, politeness... all of them melt into an fairly tale and thus are "Disneyfied." "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" may refer to a polite way British gentlemen put things into words. "Link your elbows, step in time! Link your elbows, step in time! Never need a reason, never need a rhyme. Link your elbows, step in time..." reminds me of this year's "festive" popular uprisings (the chimney sweeps are eventually dispersed by the Admiral Boom who appears to live in his Victorian dream)--I'm not writing obituaries or post-mortems to those popular movements. They're still going on.

It started with Tunisia, and then Egypt... I felt that anything could happen. I was simply moved by that people there lost fear and collectively transformed themselves. That time I was also watching some YouTube clips of Michael Hardt's lecture at European Graduate School. He proposes a secular version of "love" as a political concept ("love" has been a political concept in theological domains). According to him, many think that it takes some kind of collective transformation of people in order for them to govern themselves, otherwise we are trapped in a dichotomy between spontaneity and dictatorship (in other words, "anarchism" or "communism"). He proposes that reviving love as a political concept can be useful to think about how a collective transformation can be possible because love is incalculable, transformative, and that it requires learning. He continues to say that what makes love as a political concept impossible is dividing love into eros and agape (stoicism represses creativity) and convictions such as that love can be applied to only your proximity and that love is something that only happens to us (so Hardt tells that you can make it happen). The latter conviction is interesting for me because love causes fear and that is why we at least pretend that love is something that just happens to us. You cannot manipulate it. If you want to manipulate it you need a third person...someone like Dolly Levi.

Actually what this year gave me was this sense that "anything can happen"--even if you don't try to let it. Things are what just happen to you--the impact is massive, even though the sound of it is something quite passive. After 3.11 in Japan there was little time for collective mourning...but there was a collective gasp, followed by doubt, and then anger--"You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!" (By the way, I searched if there is a parody video of the famous ending scene of Planet of the Apes that replaces the Statue of Liberty with the crippled Fukushima reactors, but I couldn't find the one). My blog went political.

Blogosphere, translations, and films
Like many Japanese people, I knew little about nuclear power plants, though I could remember some public debates over the issue in the 1980s. It was like that when the Cold War ended the debates ended. My thoughts about the nuclear issue and the global emancipatory movements--which is entitled Fill Up the Square, Square the Circle is published by through europe and project east 306. It was written before Occupy Wall Street started, but at this moment I have few things to add to it. For east 306 I provided some translations revolving around the nuclear issue, such as the ex-engineer Norio Hirai's I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is and photo-journalist Kenji Higuchi's lecture. I actually need a native English speaker's assistance in order to make my writing publishable (I know I'm blogging in rather clumsy English). For this I thank Adrienne Hurley and Jayda Fogel. I'm planning to write some more essays.

I hadn't paid much attention to the contemporary Japanese protest culture until Julia Leser and Clarissa Seidel, who were researching the Japanese protest culture after 3.11 for their documentary film entitled RADIOACTIVISTS: PROTEST IN JAPAN SINCE FUKUSHIMA contacted me. I volunteered to provide transcripts and translations. Here's the trailer.

Radioactivists: Official Trailer from ginger blonde on Vimeo.

They introduced me to Keisuke Narita, who runs an anarchist infoshop called Irregular Rhythm Asylum in Tokyo. He and Adrienne Hurley organized screenings of Franklin Lopez's END:CIV. I helped part of Japanese translation of the END:CIV website. I knew Franklin Lopez as a journalist who provided footage for Democracy Now!. Lopez's submedia tv channel called stimulator is amusing, hilarious, and serious.

Media watching
We've observed many media blackouts in many countries. My main news outlet has long been AlJazeera English. I don't consider this news outlet particularly left-wing, why I like this is that they cover Asia, Africa, and Latin America with their brave correspondents. When it comes to reporting about Japan, actually AlJazeera first introduces the governments' official view, and then its correspondent such as D.Parvaz reports about the other views. I also check Democracy Now!. I usually check these, and then go on to check the others such as, the BBC, the Guardian, and the PBS. The BBC correspondent Paul Mason is insightful. Ignore right (FOX, Sankei, etc). That's waste of time.

Books
The bank manager Mr Banks dislikes anarchy, chaos, and moral-disintegration, but in our real world those who go wild are those financial institutions (there is a certain sense of nostalgia when watching Mary Poppins or Hello Dolly! depicting bankers and business owners as very disciplined people, contrary to the contemporary images). I think that Mary Poppins's message is that "capitalism is a bitter pill to take, but a spoonful of sugar, be it equal voting rights or a welfare state, helps medicine go down." David Graeber's DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS introduces you to an alternative way of seeing money. It is interesting to compare this book with, for example, the PBS's educational program The Ascent of Money--this program tells a dominant narrative about history of money.

Music
The UK-based netlabel called Electronic Musik published my modest album Diderot's Clock Man.

It was fun to exchange audio materials with SoundCloud friends such as Wilhelm Matthies and Chris Lynn and then process the materials. Chris Lynn has his own blog called Framing sounds. I have to upgrade my SoundCloud page in order to add more tracks.

If you are a designer or translator, you may know that there's such a thing as corporate culture and that you have to deal with it in order to make a living. I'm also doing it, but it's not so worth talking about.

My other references (at random)
Disquiet, I cite, infinite thought, JFissures, L'ÉTRANGER, RADIO PANIK 105.4FM, BRUSSELS, Lenin's Tomb, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, Occupied London-from the Greek Streets, Penny Red, Stephanie McMillan, Verso, Interactivist Info Exchange

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"a cold shutdown condition"-an irrelevant use of the term

I believe that many people in Japan feel strange that the officials call it "a cold shutdown condition" even when the things (fuel rods) that heat up the pressure vessels in those crippled reactors are already gone (melted away). The temperature inside the reactors may be reduced to a certain degree, but they are stable as long as water still continues to cool down the vessels--so things have changed little for months. They are only "stable" in this sense. Declaring "a cold shutdown condition" is indeed performative one. The term itself has no content like the broken pressure vessels. The officials wanted to declare something anyway and they did it on Friday. Moreover, the problem whether the reactors can be stabilized is one thing--the problem whether the people can go home is another. But the officials and the media conflate those problems.

The biggest problem for me on Friday was, however, that the world media including the BBC, AlJazeera, etc., repeated the official announcement verbatim. AlJazeera aired a nuclear scientist praising the way the Japanese officials handle the disaster. And I only feel how strong the nuclear industry is.

reflection on 2011: the funniest music i encountered

This made me laugh out loud this year.

The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Beethoven's Sonata Op. 90/2 - Suicidal Thoughts [pianist/prod: Dan Kreiger] by Dan Kreiger aka For Jerz

I actually love Op.90-2 very much and often play it though.

Monday, December 12, 2011

markets and capitalism are different things

Wherever I go, I visit local markets. By saying "markets" I mean this kind:

10 years ago, I spent much time in Zagreb. There I learned how to make Turkish coffee (well, it can be called differently, depending on where you are...Lebanese people may call it Lebanese coffee...I mean the coffee that you can read your fortune after drinking) and roasting capsicum (paprika). Dolac market in the footage above is great, but the other places in Zagreb are also wonderful. I stayed in Nova Cesta ("New Street"?), I liked the market near there. One day I found my landlady bringing a bucketful of capsicum from the market into the kitchen and then that she put all of them into the oven. Later on, after I left Zagreb, I once complained about the price of capsicum in other cities such as Frankfurt am Main or Brussels, talking with my Bulgarian friend. He agreed, saying that in his country also buying veggies was like stealing from farms.

I've heard that it is not so good news for the local cheese farmers in Croatia that Croatia will participate in the EU in 2013.

By the way, the footage below shows John Cage in 1985 visiting Dolac market.

In his DEPT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS (Melville House Publishing, 2011), David Graeber in the chapter which explains how the Chinese authorities traditionally promoted markets and regulated merchants simultaneously, argues that the Chinese elites were "pro-market but anti-capitalist," and then concludes that such policies led that "For most of its history, China maintained the highest standard of living in the world.(p. 260)" He explains that capitalism has to do nothing with "free market," but requires certain monopoly over markets to the contrary and that is why capitalism needs political power and military forces. Here I quote him:

This despite the fact that Confucian orthodoxy was overtly hostile to merchants and even the profit motive itself. Commercial profit was seen as legitimate only as compensation for the labor that merchants expended in transporting goods from one place to another, but never as fruits of speculation. What this meant in practice was that they were pro-markets but anti-capitalist.

Again, this seems bizarre, since we're used to assuming that capitalism and markets are the same thing, but, as the great French historian Fernand Braudel pointed out, in many ways they could equally well be conceived as opposites. While markets are ways of exchanging goods through the medium of money--historically, ways for those with a surplus of grain to acquire candles and vice versa (in economic shorthand, C-M-C', for commodity-money-other commodity)--capitalism is first and foremost the art of using money to get more money (M-C-M'). Normally, the easiest way to do this is by establishing some kind of formal or de facto monopoly. For this reason, capitalists, whether merchant princes, financiers, or industrialists, invariably try to ally themselves with political authorities to limit the freedom of the market, so as to make it easier for them to do so. From this perspective, China was for most of its history the ultimate anti-capitalist market state. (p. 260)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

it's happening in France

Al Jazeera English reports about French anti-nuclear activists.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

univ allows police to pepper-spray their own students

According to Nathan Brown, the assistant professor at UC Davis, those students on Friday were rallying against police brutality that occurred on Tuesday at UC Berkeley campus. The footage below show what happened on Tuesday.

Read Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi by Nathan Brown.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Helvetica, debt, n+1, and so on...

On the one hand, things are moving so fast-I can't respond to all the news I receive (well, no one asks me to do so in the first place). On the other hand, things don't appear to have changed so much-banks are doing their businesses as usual, austerity measures are implemented everywhere, and those in power in Japan haven't given up nuclear power plants. But, it might be fair to say that now many people are aware that things cannot go on eternally and that we can do something about it.

Last year I often wrote about music, photography, film, performing arts, and sounds and images in general. I still want to do this, but am kind of struggling to formulate a right question about art. For example, "what can art do today?" seems to me not right one.

Additionally, I'm not interested in talking about if a certain art work is good or bad. Neither am I interested in promoting a certain method of making art-be it collage, or use of environmental sounds or glitch.

At this moment it may be easier for me to talk about the images I see on a daily basis.

I've recently watched Gary Huswit's documentary film Helvetica. It's about a font face called Helvetica-it is so dominant, everywhere like the air. Of course it is a bit different in Asian countries, but this font is globally used-many of those Japanese companies doing their businesses globally, such as Toyota, Kawasaki, Muji, etc., actually use this font as their logos as well. The film explains its history-how it was invented, how it became so dominant, and how designers have dealt with it. The font appears to be simple, clean, and neutral, and that it came from nowhere. Some say it's democratic. Some say fascist. Some say they like it because it doesn't say anything. Some hate because of the same reason. It makes authoritative figures look democratic, dangerous things safe. How do you see this?

Some appreciate its "perfection." Some rail against its "conformity." A half of century's history of typography is about this pendulum. At a certain point it became a symbol of "the end of history," and thus of capitalism. But I don't think having a lot of choices is simply a way of getting away from this pendulum. In the film, someone says that Helvetica is rather a symbol of socialism, and by saying this he doesn't mean totalitarianism, but egalitarianism.

What's important for me is that how we see this font will change someday. Nothing goes eternally.

I've read David Graeber's DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS. Graeber explains that before there was money, there was debt, and money started as virtual money. But this is just the beginning of the author's journey-I want to talk about this the other day. At this moment I just note that I don't see much difference between Graeber and Žižek (or Jodi Dean) because both argue that this capitalism system won't last eternally and that we should be prepared for a change-even though an "anarchism or communism?" kind of debate is going on.

By the way, if there is someone missing from Astra Taylor's Examined Life, it should be Graeber. Today I've been enjoying reading gazettes published by n+1 magazine that report about OWS, in which Taylor provides OWS diaries (they use many fonts) 1st Gazette; 2nd Gazette. I won't go about the details at this moment. You can download the PDF files from the links for free.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I know what happened at McGill

I was reported about what happened at McGill University by this blog entitled The crisis at McGill: who called riot police onto campus?

When NY is asleep Tokyo is awake...

...and watching all this.

Watch out, you oppressors.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

even Judith Butler

Judith Butler at OWS.

Verso provides the summary.

Let's demand the impossible, or what we have been forced to believe it is impossible.

At Washington Square Park.

Monday, October 10, 2011

mic check!

Finally? Žižek showed up at Occupy Wall Street. Many may be familiar with what he says here, but I like the moment the audiences say "mic check!" when they haven't been able to repeat in unison what he has said.

Versobooks provides the planned text provided for this speech.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

this happens everywhere

YouTube says, "this video has been age-restricted based on our Community Guidelines." Come on YouTube!

Monday, October 3, 2011

when protests without demands make sense

Nobody Can Predict The Moment Of Revolution from ivarad on Vimeo.

McKensie Wark says:

Some commentators have seen the modesty of this request as a weakness of Occupy Wall Street. They want a list of demands, and they are not shy about proposing some. But perhaps the best thing about Occupy Wall Street is its reluctance to make demands. What's left of pseudo-politics in the United States is full of demands. To reduce the debt, to cut taxes, to abolish regulations. Nobody even bothers with much justification for these any more. It is just sort of assumed that only what matters to the rentier class matters at all.

[....]

It may sound counter-intuitive, but there really is no politics in the United States. There is exploitation, oppression, inequality, violence, there are rumors that there might still be a state. But there is no politics. There is only the semblance of politics. Its mostly just professionals renting influence to favor their interests. The state is no longer even capable of negotiating the common interests of its ruling class.

[....]

So the genius of the occupation is simply to suggest that there could be a politics, one in which people meet and propose and negotiate. This suggestion points to the great absence at the center of American life: a whole nation, even an empire, with no politics.

[....]

The abstraction that is the occupation is then a double one, an occupation of a place, somewhere near the actual Wall Street; and the occupation of the social media vector, with slogans, images, videos, stories. “Keep on forwarding!” might not be a bad slogan for it. Not to mention keep on creating the actual language for a politics in the space of social media. The companies that own those social media vectors will still collect a rent from all we say and do—not much can be done about that—but at least the space can be occupied by something other than cute cat pictures.

[....]

An occupation is conceptually the opposite of a movement. A movement aimed for some internal consistency within itself but uses space just as a place to park its ranks. An occupation has no internal consistency in its ranks but chooses meaningful spaces which have significant resonance into the abstract terrain of symbolic geography.

[....]There's no multitude; there's no vanguard.

Read more of this.

we know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat...

Since the Live Stream Channel of Occupy Wall Street aired this well-known scene from Sidney Lumet's satirical film NETWORK (1976), many people now appear to revisit this masterpiece.

I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.
I want you to get up right now,
And go to the window, open it,
Stick your head out and yell,
"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

At this moment I just quote LENIN'S TOMB.

While the petty bourgeoisie is largely a bedrock of reaction, it can have its radical moments, especially when capitalism is wrecking the lives of small traders, shopkeepers, homeowners - as we've recently seen in Greece, where the lower middle class is overwhelmingly on the side of the working class and the left in this fight. I'm just saying that while one wants ultimately to win people to consistently anticapitalist politics, a sort of leftist, Naderite populism opposing the 99% to the 1% (the people against the ruling class in other words) is not a terrible place to start.

The Brooklyn Bridge mass arrest footage-the protesters chant "the whole world's watching."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

david starkey is

racist.


Why does the BBC allow him to say this lengthy bullshit?

Friday, August 12, 2011

we are the whirled...


By Mark Fiore

Sunday, August 7, 2011

east 306 and through europe accepted my essay

I'm honored to announce that these two great websites, east306 and through europe published my essay Fill Up the Square, Square the Circle--my previous entry.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fill Up the Square, Square the Circle



I thank Jayda Fogel for her revision and critical advice.

Democracy is born in learning.
People are now occupying public squares in Greece, Spain, the UK, the US, and of course, in Arab countries. In Europe these protesters are called (or call themselves) “indignant” to signify their feelings of surprised anger for an action they have deemed wrong or unjust. In this vein, the Spanish protesters call themselves “los indignados.” They are indignant because they are losing their jobs, homes, pensions, social securities, public services, and educational programs, because of a debacle outside of their responsibility. These innocent consumers, workers, students, and jobseekers, are blamed by the authorities and corporate media for an economic crisis that was actually caused by the irresponsible monetary policy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—a financial mafia whose practices threaten these people’s sovereignty. Now, because the taxpayer’s money is being spent to bail out those most responsible for the economic damage, the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired these people to take to the streets.

Before we had been fairly skeptical of the effectiveness of occupying public squares—unaware of how powerful the impact could be. In her recent post entitled “Occupations and days of action” on her blog I cite, political scientist Jodi Dean admits that, “one of the things I’ve learned this year is that my skepticism toward occupation as a specific strategy (on college campuses, say) is wrong and short-sighted.” She continues by judging that regardless of whether or not it brings an immediate radical change it “can be vital learning opportunities.”

Some blogs posts such as “Guest Blog: Spain’s ‘Indignant’ Give Lessons in True Democracy” by Maria Carrión on naomiklein.org and “Democracy is born in the squares” by C.G on Occupied London: from the Greek Streets depict what the “vital learning opportunities” are like in Puerta del Sol, Madrid or Syntagma Square, Athens. Protesters are camping there, forming what Carrión calls a “micropolis” where people debate, express ideas, and have fun. The micropolis consists of a “maze of plastic carps held together with chicken wire and makeshift poles, complete with its own radio station, daycare center, dining areas, first aid posts, legal aid, clinics, libraries (including one for children) and information centers, which conduct meeting and workshops on issues ranging from the environment to immigration rights,” and a walk this can yield “a live poetry reading, a political debate, a cello concert, a yoga class, a kids’ theater performance, or a film screening on a king-sized bed-sheet.” The conservative government of Madrid fiercely tries to discredit their actions, accusing them of harming the local businesses—an accusation that will sound familiar to those of us in Tokyo. In contrast, Carrión denies this saying that, “the cafés and grocery stores are doing healthy business thanks to the protesters (I believe that this is exactly what happened on April 10, in Koenji, Tokyo).”

C.G goes on to describe how the people’s assembly in Syntagma Square organizes, “everyone has a right to speak and in the beginning of each assembly, after reading out and approving its topics, tickets are distributed to everyone who wishes to do so; speakers are selected by draw during the assembly. Usually speakers range between 80 and 100 in their number, while more than 2000 people take part in the assembly on a daily basis.” They have working groups, including “those of technical support, material supply, artists, cleaning, administrative support, canteen-nutrition, translation, respect (patrol), communication/multimedia, legal support, neighborhood outreach, health, time bank and service exchange,” through which the protesters participate “based on their own capacities.”

These movements are described as ‘spontaneous,’ ‘participatory,’ ‘grassroots,’ ‘bottom-up,’ ‘inclusive,’ ‘nonhierarchical,’ ‘leaderless,’ ‘DIY,’ and ‘festive.’ Many analysts say that the internet—or social media—make such ways of movement organization easier—pointing out the collective disillusionment with party politics, as well as with the representative democracy.

Their distrust of the mainstream media is evident. Why else would these young Spanish protesters call themselves the “indignant?” They protest the mainstream media who call them the “Neither-Nor” or “Ni-Ni” generation (neither working nor studying). This is similar to that of the Japanese media who, borrowing from the UK media, refer to similar Japanese youths as “NEET.” They have been badly misrepresented by the mainstream media. The media, blaming these youths for their own plight, attack them saying that, “the system is not the problem. You are just lazy.” The blog post “Democracy is born in the squares” also expresses this distrust. “The stance of the movement toward Mass Media is also differentiated, with the refusal to engage with them, not even by way of issuing press releases” allows them to create their “own channels of communication.”

Hara Kouki and Antonis Vradis, the members of the Occupied London Collective, in their contribution to Al Jazeera English, explain the Greek protesters’ “strong popular belief that the country’s highly powerful media conglomerates have held a significant stake and, arguably, a role in running the country over the past few decades.” They go on calling the transformation of the protesters’ collective understanding of their country’s history, an emergence of “a culture”; “a culture that sees political and corporate media representation as part of the plexus of power that has misruled Greece.”

The same holds true for what has been going on in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In his writing entitled “Introducing Post-war History in the Nuclear Accident Debate,” Yoshihiko Ikegami describes how the Japanese people have begun to revisit the introduction of nuclear energy throughout their nation’s history. A lot of footage showing how the Japanese people have debated nuclear power plants for decades, how spin doctors have defended the state’s nuclear policy, and how fishermen and farmers have fought against the construction of nuclear power plants, has been uploaded on You Tube or other video sharing sites. Among them, Ikegami pays attention to a documentary film produced in 1994 by NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster. NHK, a news outlet whose news shows tend to pass on the authorities’ spin, occasionally produces interesting documentary films that are often based upon the testimonials of retired bureaucrats. The documentary film Ikegami cites, investigates how Japanese powerful media conglomerates, namely The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and Nippon Television—both of which were owned by Matsutaro Shoriki, who used to be a high-ranking bureaucrat during World War II and thus considered a class A war criminal—played a crucial role in the orchestration of the massive propaganda campaign “Atoms for Peace,” which played a key role in introducing nuclear power plants to Japan. Ikegami points out that despite a huge effort by the US-Japan authorities, it took a decade before the first commercial reactor became operational because the popular movement against use of nuclear power was so strong. He goes on to argue that we must rewrite our history of protest culture; a history that he says has not been evaluated properly.

As a person who was educated in Japan in the 1980s, I can remember how bitterly people talked about the popular movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Just so did the authorities once defeat the protesters, dispersing them and containing each of them in a cocoon of an ideological capsule hotel (which reminds me of Matrix).Many fictions, cartoons, and popular music laughed at the emancipatory struggles of the time—parodying the old fighters’ manner of speaking, the songs they sang, and the clothing they wore. And they claimed to be a subculture. No wonder manga has become an ideological state apparatus (these days the Japanese government subsidizes manga and animated cartoons, calling them “Japan cool”).

However, the dissidents have survived (again, like the Matrix). Indeed the most important feature of the current Japanese movement is how the young protesters have begun to rediscover and connect with the older dissidents. Having been marginalized by corporate media and the authorities those scientists, engineers, lawyers, journalists, and various other citizens who have long opposed the state’s nuclear policy, have become irreplaceable to the movement because they provide the theoretical basis for those activists newly participating. The secrecy of the nuclear power industry, as well as that of the authorities and the corporate media who has downplayed the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has become unpalatable to the public. Because of this there are rallies, gatherings, lectures, and teach-ins, taking place every day in Japan.

“Esta revolución no es de derechas ni de izquierdas, es de sentido común”
In a Reuters’ photo of the protest in Puerta del Sol, a protester holds a placard reading “this revolution is neither left nor right, it is common sense.” In other words, when your boat is sinking it is insignificant whether you stand on its right or its left, ultimately the boat must still be fixed. The protesters and the authorities use the same rhetoric—initializing a call for unity—but their plans head in opposite directions. Having said that, I am afraid that I am oversimplifying—not all the protesters are calling for unity. Rather their emphasis is on diversity and inclusiveness, and they tend to praise themselves for that. They proudly claim that “each and every one of us speaks for him or herself” and that makes Jodi Dean’s “skin crawl.” I understand what she is talking about—I agree with her view that neoliberalism enhances isolation, individualism, and personalism, and thus that it prevents people from expressing solidarity with one another. I also understand why she says this—because in America oppression and freedom of choice come hand in hand in a very obvious way, “you cannot have single-payer healthcare because it violates your freedom of choice!” But I dare to say that Japan is more oppressive than America because this country simply places each individual in a cocoon, without gifting each the illusion of freedom of choice. I even think that both the Spanish protesters who call themselves in the humorous—and ironic—way and the young Japanese protesters who try to differentiate themselves from the older leftists share a same problem. Though I am not critical about those who say, “I’m not a leftist, but I oppose nuclear power plants,” I think that it is important to think what makes them say this. I recently read that in his blog Hajime Matsumoto (one of the young organizers of the current anti-nuclear power plant movement) wrote about his recent experience of talking with some of the older protesters. What he learned, was that those old fighters in the 1960s also had fun, and their rallies were just as festive as ours today.

Those in power, though they call for unity, do not want people to be united; they just want to erase difference between people instead. But what makes people connect with one another is actually difference. I have no illusions about freedom of individual choice, but I do believe that we need to keep out differences tangible. There can be no commitment without difference. It is because of our differences that we learn, and change, and evolve. And it is during this learning process, that a general will can be allowed to emerge.

The Japanese government has been busy calling for national unity via the mainstream media and ad agencies since the earthquake hit. Those big TV screens mounted on buildings keep saying that we are one. If I had the sunglasses that appeared in John Carpenter’s great flick They Live, they would read “obey.” Those TV screens have become so iconic that the American TV drama Heroes places them everywhere when they try to recreate Japan. My European friends once described the square in front of the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station—well-known for three big TV screens that overlook and bombard people with noisy advertisements—as Orwellian, and asked me why Japanese people were not against this. I answered that those people were so thoroughly brainwashed that they no longer felt that way.

However I was wrong, on June 11, 2011, more than 20,000 protesters marched against the state’s nuclear policy in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and occupied a square in front of the East Exit of Shinjuku Station, known as “the square in front of ALTA.” ALTA is the name of a TV studio that has aired a well-known noon TV show hosted by an iconic comedian, which has taught the Japanese people when they should laugh for nearly three decades. In a way, the studio symbolizes the status quo—despite having a name derived from the word “alternative.” Of course there is a big TV screen mounted on the building (a shopping mall) where the studio resides, which continues to send the state’s messages. When one views those messages, contrasted against the crowd facing it, one might begin to discern the hypocrisy of the state and the mainstream media (even if one was without John Carpenter’s sunglasses). The protesters, using a projector, projected their own demands on the wall:
  1. Stop operations of all the nuclear power plants that are currently operational.
  2. Don’t resume operations of those plants currently suspended for scheduled check-ups or the other reasons.
  3. Abandon the scheduled construction of plants.
  4. Withdraw the policy that allows the children in Fukushima to be exposed to annual 20 millisieverts of radiation completely.
  5. Shift the energy resources from nuclear power to renewable ones.
Yet, I would not call these demands a general will of the protesters—although of course many of the protesters agree with these demands. In my view the state’s nuclear policy is already dead and those in power, like the famous Monty Python pet store sketch, are just stubbornly arguing that their dead parrot is still alive, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Japan’s decision to continue maintaining the nuclear power plants is an irrational one. A nuclear power plant is a Rube Goldberg machine—huge efforts, small results (just boiling water). The Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan suggested in May that the Chubu Electric Power Company suspends operations of the Hamaoka Facility (deemed the most dangerous because it is located at the predicted epicenter of a huge earthquake) and this electric company reluctantly followed though. But this decision they say, is only effective until they build a barrier that protects the facility from tsunamis. In other words they are saying, “no, no! It’s just resting!” Those Japanese nuclear power plants prolong their lives because they are heavily subsidized—over 90 percent of Japan’s energy budget goes towards nuclear power. The electric power companies operate the nuclear power plants because they can make a killing by just having those plants, and also because the law allows them to avert responsibility when a disaster hits their facilities. Moreover, economic giants such as Hitachi, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi, who build the plants, are actually capable of developing renewable energy, and I believe that they are doing it. But because of government subsidies they continue to try to build more nuclear power plants not only in Japan, but also across the world. The nuclear industry is alive because they are allowed to steal taxpayer’s money—akin to those “too big to fail” banks. Those forerunners of nuclear power use, General Electric and Westinghouse, no longer see nuclear power as profitable, and American environmentalists often explain that American companies are no longer capable of building nuclear plants. The GE engineers who built those crippled reactors at the Fukushima facility are retired. Westinghouse is now owned by Toshiba. These days few students are willing to study nuclear power. No one sees the future in this industry.

This cul-de-sac of the nuclear industry was already alarmed by Japanese ex-nuclear power plant engineer Norio Hirai more than a decade ago. His I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is explains that Japan is neither capable of building plants properly nor of maintaining them let alone of dismantling them and dealing with the waste—one of the reasons the authorities decided to continue operations of those old reactors of the Fukushima facility was that they had no ability to dismantle them. Hirai’s writing describes that when he gave a lecture and described the 300 years it would take (precisely it will take longer: plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years) to get rid of nuclear waste, a teenage girl began to cry. Hirai continued by describing the girl’s reaction.

Finishing my talk, I took some questions. An 8 grade girl, crying, spoke to us, “you adults are liars, hypocrites. I came here to face you all. I wanted to know who you are. You say you are against pesticides, golf courses, and nuclear power plants. You say you do so for your children. I’m sure you’re just pretending to act against all this. I live in Kyowa Town, near the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant, and I’ve been exposed to radiation. The ratio of babies with leukemia is higher around nuclear facilities in Sellafield, England, than in other places. I know this because I read a book. I’m a girl, and I will probably marry someday. Is it ok for me to have a baby?” No one had an answer for her.

“If a nuclear power plant is that horrible, why didn’t you all go against it more seriously when they started building it? You even allowed them to build a No. 2 reactor. I don’t care about electricity. I hate the nuclear power plant.” The No. 2 reactor of the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant had just been put into operational testing.

“For what reason are you meeting here? If I was an adult and I had a baby, I’d use violence to stop it. I wouldn’t hesitate to risk my own life.

“The radiation I’m exposed to is now doubled because of this second reactor, but I won’t leave Hokkaido.”

I asked her if she had ever talked about her anxiety to her mother or teacher. “My mother and teacher are here now, but I’ve never brought this up before,” she said. “We girls always talk about this. We can’t marry. We can’t have a baby.”

I was told that their teachers did not know that they thought this way.

I have recently realized that what Hirai described here was not an exaggeration. A radio show has reported that when the adolescents in Fukushima talk back to their parents and teachers, they nihilistically say, “I don’t care about my future. I cannot have a baby anyway!” This story refreshes my memory—I am old enough to remember how Chernobyl upset us pupils, and how especially the girls feared the consequences.

By keeping those nuclear power plants operational, we are not only borrowing from the future, but also killing it (not to mention this outrageous allowance of 20 millisieverts). If you are against capitalism or neoliberalism, I want you to go against nuclear power plants in your country as well. The Fukushima disaster stands as a consequence of excess of power, and of capitalism.

One of the reasons I do not call those five demands the general will, is that our problem will not end if we simply shut down the nuclear power plants—a fact that I believe many of the protesters know. The people in Japan are all more or less exposed to radiation. They have to live with it now, eating and drinking more or less contaminated food and water, inhaling the contaminated air, and walking on contaminated soil. They have to think about how to share risks, and they have to think about how to cope with the waste (excellent nuclear engineers are still necessary for this). Moreover, I personally do not believe that the use of renewable energy resources will simply make the world a better place. My concern about the ongoing debate over climate change is that it seems to me as though those in power, and other economic giants, are just trying to literally make money out of the air (CO2). They are buying the Amazon, privatizing lands and waters, and extracting lithium (or whatever), yet it is the consumers who are being blamed by mainstream media for global warming. This seems dubious to me. Even if we were to successfully shift the energy resources, this system of exploiting poor people will remain. Those in power are busy measuring the value of the air we breathe, and putting a price tag on it. We have to get out of this prison of measurement. Regardless of whether or not climate change threatens us, mother earth has never been harmonious. We cannot prevent natural disasters from occurring, but we can fix a world an earthquake much smaller than those in Japan, claims ten times more lives in a poor nation like Haiti.

What a revolution changes is the past, and what might have been becomes that which was.
I believe that one of the reasons occupying public squares is such a powerful act, is that it reveals the real—and ugly—face of power. This is especially true when we remember how the police have reacted to the protests, and how a conservative politician has tried to discredit those protesters (they are really afraid of us, a good sign). According to Occupied London, a Greek reactionary talking head publicly denounced the protesters for being faceless, and therefore leaderless. But I challenge you to think about this in another way: that power itself, is faceless. We sometimes call it the nuclear industry, or the military industrial complex, or corrupt politicians, or even more simply we call those in power ‘tyrants.’ However, no matter what label we attach to them, these ‘powerful’ people remain as faceless as the cops in riot gear attempting to disperse the protesters. This power, which imposes austerity measures and builds nuclear power plants, is faceless in their collective unity. Therefore to fight it, we too must act against it collectively.

Additionally both the austerity measures, and the nuclear power plants themselves, have been claimed to be practical solutions by the authorities—even though many no longer see nuclear power as practical. What kind of practicality is this when these policies are destroying people’s lives? We tend to accept the “necessary evil” when told that it is the ‘practical’ choice, one of the reasons that the Japanese people have accepted nuclear power. I believe that, especially in Japan, they tend to consider that what serves the corporations and authorities will concurrently serve the public. They see the corporations and authorities as experts who fix problems. Now the government of Miyagi Prefecture relies on a think tank from a prominent Japanese investment bank to plan the reconstruction of the devastated area because these officials believe that they know stuff, thus excluding locals from the planning. I am not simply demonizing big corporations (although I could easily call it a “shock doctrine”). My concern lies in how many of these public officials are asking ‘experts’ what to do, and so many Japanese people appear to take this for granted. This is a technocratic country, driven not by the ideas of philosophers, political scientists, or sociologists, but instead by the cool ‘logic’ of engineers. Many people believe that questioning the system is a pompous act and thus useless, and it is why the leading activists who have opposed nuclear power plants are engineers. This is strategic. In Japan the people do not trust a political scientist who says that “nuclear power plants are bad,” but when an engineer speaks these words they listen. And when an engineer speaks like a philosopher they acknowledge him, which is far less than those actually trained to the craft. Although an expert can explain a condition or situation, it is ultimately up to us to make the final decisions. There is always a gulf we must leap between knowledge and judgment. What makes this leap possible is not blindly choosing “the red pill or the blue one” offered by these experts, but instead lies in the questioning of why those two choices are the only ones available. Slavoj Žižek’s reading of Immanuel Kant’s term “public use of reason” may be relevant here. In his Violence: six sideways reflections (Picador, 2008), Žižek interprets Kant’s notion of “public use of reason” as a way a singular subject participates in the universal. “In his [Kant’s] vision of the public space of the unconstrained free exercise of reason, he asserts the dimension of emancipatory universality outside the confines of one’s social identity, of one’s position within the order of (social) being (p.144)” In other words, the demands of times always come down to “either the red pill or the blue” one (or yellow, green, or whatever), but freedom cannot be practiced by simply choosing one from them. Instead, freedom comes down to an examination of what has gone into the creation of those conditions and choices. But Slavoj Žižek was not the first person to introduce me this concept. A decade or so ago, a Japanese man born in 1908 and who studied philosophy at Tokyo Imperial University (later, the University of Tokyo) described this to me. He warned me that it would be a disaster if Japanese universities simply continued to busily produce useful experts. He was right. Absolutely right. Now it is easy for us to laugh at those spin doctors, the academics at the University of Tokyo who still defend the state’s nuclear policy, but I do not suspect their integrity. They have been genuinely pragmatic, a tragedy in and of itself. That is why I can claim that if the so-called Bologna process continues, what Europeans will get is a second Japan or even a second Fukushima. In Japan, only those scholars who have maintained Kant’s good old principle have long opposed the state nuclear policy. One of those conscientious scientists is Hiroaki Koide, a senior researcher specializing in nuclear engineering at Kyoto University, who has opposed the use of nuclear power for four decades. In a recent interview he explained how he came to this determination. As a student during the 1968 students’ revolt, he learned that a university should be a place where students and professors debate and research freely, without being restricted by the demands of times. I recently heard that a Japanese Jungian (sub)cultural critic (yes, there is such a thing) had created a narrative whereby Koide became a hero of the NEETs. I furiously oppose her view. Hers is a subtle, but heinous spin. It implies that only those who have no real job can admire Koide, saying—if I translate it—“those who support Koide, you are idealistic. Grow up and be practical, or you won’t get any decent job forever!”

The Japanese people need a forum where they can debate things freely, without being disturbed by the mantra of “being practical,” where each individual does not have to remain feeling powerless in front of their computer display or TV set. At the very least they do not need analysis that treats a symptom (such as nuclear power plants) of the system as one of individual idiosyncrasy. We often mistake a collective choice for an individual one. I agree with Jodi Dean, who writes in her blog that “the most significant aspects of our lives are not personal choices,” and that “the point of revolution, of radical change, is making these choices part of a conscious collective process.” The most important events in our lives are the things that just happen to us, that we allow to just happen to us. However, we can do something to change these events by joining, and thus by becoming a part of them. The protesters in Japan are not necessarily railing against consumerism or capitalism. Tens of thousands show up because of one simple demand: to “stop nuclear power plants.” The protesters’ political affiliations vary from those good old leftists to a few populist nationalists, as well as those without a clear political affiliation. Many of them may say, like the protester in Puerta del Sol that, “this is about common sense!” I have my own opinions about the nuclear issue—I have far more demands than the five projected—and even though the general will of the protesters is anyone’s guess, I am still cautiously optimistic about this movement.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

who decides what violence is?

Power does. In this sense, Ibrahim Shikaki's "What is the 'right' type of resistance?" is right.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Desmond Tutu on nuclear weapons

Desmond Tutu urges a world without nuclear weapons. He mentions Fukushima accident, but doesn't connect the weapons and power plants...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Irregular Rhythm Asylum, an infoshop in Tokyo sells my CD-R "Flogging an Un-dead Horse"

Irregular Rhythm Asylum, a great infoshop in Tokyo, now sells my CD-R, "Flogging an Un-dead Horse." Since the tracks collected in this CD-R belong to creative commons, the money you pay for this will be donated to this shop. All the tracks have been remastered.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Julian Assange and Slavoj Žižek

I stayed up to watch live broadcasting of a discussion with Julian Assange and Slavoj Žižek, moderated by Amy Goodman. The Frontline Club hosted the event.

Assange said many interesting things. Goodman first asked him to talk about the Iraq Warlogs and footage of "Collateral Murder," and he pointed out a paradox that while CNN didn't show most of the footage, Fox showed a part of the killing. Fox might have done so just because of its sensationalism, but CNN is in a way more problematic because not showing the footage on moral grounds shows a deadlock so-called liberal media are facing. Žižek responded him that what important about Wikileaks is not that it violates the rules, but that it changes how we are allowed to violate the rules.

I liked Assange saying that rights to free speech are actually rights to being connected with people: what use is shouting on the moon? I agree with him--in so-called free countries, we are taught that we can speak out anything, but each of us tends to be isolated from the others and act like shouting on the moon. A forum is missing.

He also mentions that people's way of living under a dictatorship (such as one in Egypt before the revolution) is not different from ours in democratic countries, but at some point the people become to see their history differently, and then it causes a radical change. There may be a point of no return, undeniability: "we cannot pretend that we don't know(Žižek)."

Watch live streaming video from democracynow at livestream.com

Thursday, June 30, 2011

nuclear gypsies

Thursday, June 23, 2011

los indignados

Al Jazeera English, People & Power


And also see: The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, The Rise of the Indignant: Spain, Greece, Europe

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Al Jazeera English on Fukushima

Al Jazeera English, June 18, 2011 "UN nuclear report shows Japan safety flaws" reports about the IAEA's assessment updated on June 2. "Japan safety flaws" refers to that those nuclear facilities were not prepared for tsunamis. Here's a catch: IAEA never examines whether the earthquake (not the tsunami) affected the plant. It is because if it is true that the earthquake affected the plant, all the nuclear facilities in Japan are essentially unsafe (actually conscientious academics and engineers subscribe to this view). This may sound ridiculous since there is no such a thing as an absolutely safe machine, but the authorities think that way.


But Al Jazeera's other article titled "Fukushima: It's much worse than you think," written by Dahl Jamail shows a grimmer (rightly so) picture.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.

He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."

Actually this article focuses more on how the US is reacting to the Fukushima disaster. It introduces physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano's essay "shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant." Jamail's article questions why the US government doesn't take the contamination caused by the Fukushima accident more seriously.

A supplement: not only those old reactors, but also the newest ones are not safe. A big aftershock in April crippled the emergency power generators at the Higashidori facility--the newest nuclear power plant in Japan, and it was not caused by a tsunami, but an earthquake.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kenji Higuchi Lecture "The Truth of the Fukushima 50"

Kenji Higuchi, a photo journalist who has investigated nuclear power plant workers for 40 years, gave a lecture on May 3, 2011 at the All Freeter's Union office in Tokyo. The transcription is now available in English (translated by myself, revised by Adrienne Hurley).

Please note that the repressive hierarchy of the industry as well as social discrimination has long made nuclear power plants possible. This is what I have long investigated for decades. I have been researching the nuclear plant workers for 38 years, believing that we must oppose this cruel structure.

At the top of the hierarchy there are those electric power companies, and then those manufacturers, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi. Those are establishments, hiring excellent students from the University of Tokyo — that is why I strongly argue that this university must be demolished. And then, there are those subcontractors, subcontractors of subcontractors, and so on, and those private agencies that recruit temporary workers. The mass media call those subcontractors and private agencies “cooperative companies.” That is a euphemism. Those private agencies are akin to human traffickers. Even calling them middlemen is charitable.

Read more of this.

And also I'd like to thank the filmmakers Julia Leser and Clarissa Seidel for the providing the materials for this translation. I'd like to ask you readers to see the trailer of RADIOACTIVISTS - Protest in Japan since Fukushima and donate.

a graduation lecture


kinda like it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

bravo

Sunday, June 12, 2011

this is what happens...

...everywhere. The footage is from the UK.


Thanks to Infinite ThOught.

See Defend The Right To Protest.

Friday, June 10, 2011

it's been 3 months

What can I say?

Revisiting “The Universal Reach of Popular Uprisings,” an Alain Badiou’s short writing on revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which originally appeared in Le Monde, February 18, 2011, I’m thinking what I should write about tomorrow’s anti- (or, de-) nuclear power protests -there will be many of them. I’m certainly excited and many people here appear to be so. Especially in Tokyo, tens of thousands will march.

Of course there are many differences between those Arab revolutions and the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Holding demonstrations is to begin with illegal in those Arab countries and there the authorities even use snipers to oppress the protesters. There people railed against the law, and when too many of them violated the law, they lost fear. In Japan, those protesters are surprisingly law-abiding. Though the Japanese police does many nasty things to the protesters, so far there has been no teargassing or water cannoning (though the riot police’s water cannon vehicle was once unsuccessfully used to cool down the crippled reactors at Fukushima facility) since the Fukushima accident occurred. And so far the protesters have never tried to squat in one of those facilities, the government buildings, and the broadcasters. The students have never tried to occupy their institutes, demanding, for example, that those universities and institutes sack those professors who serve the authorities.

On the other hand, what I can discern in the protests in both places is a gulf between the states and the nations: the state serves multinational corporations and exploits the nation. That’s why those gathered in Tahrir Square(s) carried their national flags. And also I’ve found a few Japanese nationalists supporting tomorrow’s actions. - I’m not a political scientist, so I’m not so sure if I’m using those terms correctly - as long as the state apparatus is useful for plutocrats, the concept of nation keep being useful for people (or multitude keeps mimicking to form a nation).

The protesters’ political affiliation varies, and the outcome is unpredictable in both places. In Japan, intellectuals appear to be positive about the ongoing anti-nuke movement because it is not led by a certain “ideology.” I note that in Japan when they utter “ideology,” this term mostly refers to Marxism. And then I wonder how to translate this Japanese-English term “ideology” into English. In my view, those intellectuals are rather Fukuyamaists. Using “ideology” as a euphemism for Marxism is an ideology in historical sense. Having said that, at this moment I’m positive about the movement, not because it is free from Marxism, but because of its unpredictability.

Time flies. It has already passed 3 months since the earthquake. Now I remember what I felt when the accident occurred. Immediately after the first explosion, the government and TEPCO announced that they would implement rotation blackout. Many Japanese people criticize this, saying that the authorities tried to defend the nuclear policy and to make people accept the idea that the nuclear power plants were necessary in order to supply enough electricity. They are probably right. But I had another interpretation: I thought that the rotation blackout was a curfew in guise, and the government tried to be prepared for a situation that people ran away to western part of Japan en mass, or riot against the authorities. Cops were everywhere. I guessed that if such things really happened, the government would have suspended operations of all the public transportation and shut down the highways and communication lines, including the Internet -this was the worst case scenario I imagined (I also imagined “Bahrain option,” meaning a U.S. military intervention), and then I shut the windows of my room (it would reduce dose of radiation exposure) and kept zapping the Internet, hoping that the Internet would keep alive. I didn’t panic, but anyway I imagined things.