Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rebecca Solnit on London Review of Books (highly recommended)

Rebecca Solnit recently visited Japan, gave her lecture, and saw the disaster areas. Her writing appearing in London Review of Books is highly recommended to read. Here is just a paragraph of it:

Disasters in the West are often compounded by the belief that human beings instantly revert to savagery in a calamity, with the result that the focus shifts from rescue to law enforcement and the protection of property, as it did recently in Haiti and New Orleans, and in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. In Japan the greater problem seems to be conformity. In Fukushima, children who refused to drink the milk in their school lunches were called to the front of their classes and humiliated by their teachers. ‘They were treated like traitors during the war,’ a woman said in a video clip I saw on television (she was telling the story to the chief cabinet minister and the trade and industry minister, who chuckled in response). A mother I met in Sendai was told by the in-laws she lived with that she could leave if she wanted to, but her husband and child were not going anywhere. Leaving meant leaving the group.

Read Diary by Rebecca Solnit

She writes not only about Fukushima, but also a lot about the Tsunami victims. She also visits Hiroshima and talks with the atomic bomb survivors. Nearly the end of the writing, she connects the ongoing global uprisings and what is happening in Japan:

Disasters are often like revolutions, moments when people and government move far apart, and if government doesn’t seem criminal at such times it may seem superfluous, out of touch or incompetent. In Mexico City in 1985, an earthquake with casualties comparable to those of the tsunami in Japan changed the face of grassroots and national electoral politics. The authorities have reason to fear the aftermath of disaster. Mikhail Gorbachev regards the mishandling of the Chernobyl meltdown as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Perhaps Japan’s disaster will come to seem like an integral part of an extraordinary year of upheaval – from Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab Spring to Chile, Spain and Greece, as well as everywhere that Occupy has reached. As in these other places, the relationship between people and government in Japan has been ruptured, but in Japan there is no insurrection as yet.

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