Tomoyuki Hoshino Blog Post: “We became completely indifferent.”
(The following was originally published on April 2nd 2011 in the evening edition of the Hokkaido Shimbun as “Facing Up to Responsibility: The Archipelization of Nuclear Power Plants.”)
At my home in Tokyo, it was terrifying to take cover when the ground started shaking. When I later reflected back on my strange behaviour in a moment of panic, I came to appreciate how terror can be disabling for human beings.
Although I can say that this terror subsided, it remains lurking deep in my nerves. After all, it took effort to soothe the panic that had taken root in me. At the same time, the nuclear power plant accident continues, and therefore the possibility of catastrophic disaster continues, and the reality is that we still are in the course of the earthquake, we are made continuously terrorized by the current situation.
It seems only natural to want to throw off this terror, and expand anti-nuclear messages and actions. It is clear now that atomic energy cannot be controlled by human hands. I, too, think that all of humanity should back out of nuclear energy.
Nevertheless, I am ambivalent about loudly proclaiming “I’m opposed to nuclear power plants!” This is not to suggest that I think nuclear power plants are a necessary evil or anything like that. Rather, it is because I feel that I, too, have responsibility for the fact that there are so many nuclear power plants in this archipelago.
A little before the earthquake, I was reading the non-fiction book “A3” by Tatsuya Mori, and I continued reading it after the earthquake. It is a book discussing the trial of Shōkō Asahara for the Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway (referred to in Japanese as the “Subway Sarin Incident”).
The Sarin Incident? I imagine many would wonder, “Why now?” This book problematizes that feeling of “why now?” in relation to this event from the past that shook up society. Mori thinks that the escalating trend that held “there must be severe punishment for such tremendously Great Evil” grew ever stronger and, as if swept away by this tide, all sorts of laws and precedents were violated in order to sentence Asahara to death. And then before one knew it, this “exception” changed into the “norm” that “it’s okay to bend the rules to apply capital punishment when it comes to horrible crimes”. He was a casualty of all that, but why? What were the reasons? How did this incident happen? Where is the kind of explanation that can get towards the truth of what happened and where responsibility really lies? There are a lot of people who talk about the “abnormality” of Aum Shinrikyo and Shōkō Asahara, but why aren’t there more people who can explain accurately why the incident occurred?
The Subway Sarin Incident occurred on March 20th, 1995. Two months earlier that same year, the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred. 1995 pushed Japanese society into the pit of despair, it was a year that atrophied the society with terror. From there we recovered, but I wonder how much we have learned. Or maybe in order to get rid of the terror, perhaps all we did was intently knock down the “bad guy”, and then forget about our terror and move forward.
I also think the same about nuclear power plants. Before the Cold War ended, the threat of radiation was discussed in terms of reality, and “anti-nuclear” thought, followed by “anti-nuclear power plant” movements and opinions, were strong in both the world and Japan.
All that has been treated as if it were just an old trend since around the time of the economic bubble, and we became completely indifferent. It is not that we positively welcomed and endorsed the policies concerning nuclear power plants. It is simply that we turned away our eyes from reality. The lack of opposition resulted in a world economy of electric power companies, governments and politicians creating colossal entitlements, enlarging the nuclear power plants, and we dogmatically advanced into a lifestyle that stimulated electricity consumption. If society, myself included, had at least preserved those Cold War era concerns, surely we would have been able to put the brakes on this dogma with the power of our public opinion?
If we are truly serious about not wanting to face something like this again, we must face up to the fact that it is not only Tokyo Electric Power Company’s responsibility, but our responsibility too, so for that reason, shouldn’t we amend our rhetoric about abandoning nuclear power plants? I think real reconstruction is possible if we change ourselves.