Thursday, October 11, 2012

Let's Talk about Fukushima

Wondering what young Japanese are thinking, feeling, saying, about Fukushima these days. I've seen photos of peaceful protesters assembling together, marching, holding up signs. But this one, in particular, really grabbed my attention.

A little stage, set up in a public place, a young Japanese fellow with a microphone shouts passionately about a serious issue, not much mentioned anymore. There's no teleprompter. He rattles off facts, expresses the urgency of the situaton, even has suggestions on how to get by without nuclear power.

A few policemen wander by, but don't interfere. Curious bystanders onlook from the sidelines.  A few snap photos. The polite distance of the small crowd, the two or three musicians on stage playing, throughout, a steady, gentle, melodic backdrop to the words being thrust out, told me this was no ordinary protest.

This was a performance piece--with a message. If there was a script, the young performer has remarkable word-retention powers, the performance goes on for almost 20 minutes, nonstop.  But he's saying what a lot of us are thinking.  They probably had to get permission to set up, perform, and film in that public place.  Do the logistics matter?

How much more effective, for effecting change, I thought, than, say,  chaining onerself to a government building, from which you'd be immediately removed, and probably arrested.  Apart from your 15 minutes of fame, YouTube-ized, which few media would even bother to cover, how much more interesting, instead, to give a little public performance, find a way to combine musical entertainment to accompany your powerful message-- about, for example, an especially urgent, ongoing environmental disaster.

First it'd get people's attention, in a way a daily newspaper headline might not.   At least that was what happened in my case when I found this video on another blogger's blog.

The video is in Japanese, with English subtitles. (There's also one on Vimeo with French subtitles.) Some people hate having to read subtitles. Despite the pleasing music in the background, the focus rests on the young man shouting from a stage in a language I don't understand -- and who wants to have to read printed words on each passing frame to comprehend it?  And yet . . ..

Something about the whole scene (the calm, steady music, the townspeople casually walking by, an underlying sense of everydayness, life as usual, juxtaposed with this strident young figure with the spikey dark hair, raising hair-raising alarm bells.  That's life, too.  Everyone trying to maintain an equilibrium, while the dam's bursting, so to speak. Except--not everyone's speaking about it.

It struck me as a perhaps unintended, but brilliant, juxtaposition and metaphorical equivalent of what is.  The great "Eyes Open/Eyes Shut" divide, except nothing is ever just black and white.  You have all the one-eye-shut, one-eye-open people in between, aware but impotent in the face of Power.  (Viewer alert:  The young man mentions a dirty word at the beginning:  "Money.")

I watched the whole thing from start to finish, then re-watched with the sound off, re-reading the subtitles.  It occurred to me this was more than just an interesting little performance piece.  It was a model that could be repeated, spontaneously, and perhaps has been, or is being done so, but I've not seen any recently. Not ones that are being shared much, at any rate.  Not ones that had me remembering the words.

Writers, artists, poets and singers sometimes attempt to call attention to urgent issues such as Fukushima, in their art, poetry, lyrics and fiction.  The art of protesting, creatively.  Spontaneous banging of pots and pans, en masse, to register concern about an issue, marching across an entire nation, one state at a time, to call attention to an injustice, are equally creative responses illustrating not just a people's frustration with but rising anger at the Powers That Be for not Doing anything. 

Would that one could discern such state of concern from our elected president (and wannabe contender) vis-a-vis the environment. You'd think it'd register more than a small blip on their collective radar.  (Will, for example, the next televised U.S. presidential debates include a question about the environment, I wonder?   Not how fracking and drilling and deregulation might benefit (corporate stakeholders) but what it will do to our air, soil and water.   Turn our farmland into ethanol plantations to feed our cars?  What's the plan, gentleman?  Is there one?  Beyond the standard vague "We must do this and we must do that" reply.   As if 'must-do's' automatically somehow translate into 'did-that's'. I don't sense any urgency in this regard, with either candidate. It's all prep and practice and PR, two suits at a podium, trading  rehearsed rhetoric, jokes and barbs.)

Only when the last tree has died,
the last river been poisoned,
and the last fish been caught,
will we realize we can't eat money.

~ ~ Cree proverb.

Am curious, though.  It's not as if the problem's magically gone away.

Why are not more people talking about Fukushima?