Fukushima radiation spurts sowing the seeds of mass panic.

The news is the obvious today: even though a number of credible sources say that there is relatively no threat to people at a distance from Japan’s now-notorious Fukushima nuclear reactors, people are getting edgy anyway.

The New York Times (Martin Fackler) reports that people living in that zone between what the Japanese say is safe and what the American government recommends Americans stay out of, which is something like a region between 30 and 50 miles of Fukushima, are deciding to pack up and move west into the mountains.

The Times also reports that executives in Tokyo–both of domestic firms and the weasel expats who live the good life off Uncle Sam and the rest of us–have decided to head to Osaka or other western cities. Some of them, even, are taking some of their vacation now and getting themselves and their families out of the country.

It’s just so typical, and reminds me of how the Japanese colonels were telling the citizenry to jump off cliffs and kill themselves during World War II, while the colonels themselves were shouting the orders while hiding in the shadows. All the big wig executives are saving their own butts, and their childrens’, from the radiation. Meanwhile they are telling the everyday people that everything is safe–except in the places that are obvious like the 19 mile radius around the plant.

What leadership USED to be is that the top person was right in the there taking the same or similar risks as the everyman in the ranks. Oh, not any more! Welcome to the 21st century, where the King goes off and hides while the army fights the battle.

Some of the internet know-it-alls in Japan are out there blogging that the radiation is not an issue. Maybe it isn’t, and the professional scientists are just talking out of their butts. But maybe having this radioactive material burning away for six or seven weeks is in fact a hazard that will rank up there past Three Mile Island and near Chernobyl.

It’s starting to sound like a slow-motion Chernobyl, where the whole thing doesn’t go BOOM at once, but rather the effects are over time. Anybody stupid enough to follow the official line later ends up the gullible victim.

What the average American doesn’t understand about Japanese society is that there are the Elite, and then there’s everybody else. This crisis–on top of last week’s earthquake and tsunami–is revealing these other, social, fault lines. You will see in the weeks and months ahead that the Japanese society, when push comes to shove like it did in those flooding Sendai high schools, is one that is very much unreformed after World War II. It’s the elite, and then everybody else.

When our own people go over there in a position of any kind of weight, they buy right into this, you know. They forget our laws, and they forget where they came from until they need a charter flight out of the country. Then, they take vacation.

[Update: I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before (and you wouldn’t have to download 200 entries to find it), that MacArthur didn’t rip the fascist weeds out of Japanese society. It was more like he took a lawn mower to them and cut them down to ground level. But the root was left there.

After the war, this root simply hid behind corporate form, the bureaucracy, the LDP, and “Japanese culture” to re-assert itself over Japanese life. That’s why few of these citizens trust what Tokyo Power and Electric has to say. Would you? In systems like a corporate fascist one, human rights don’t matter. Law is ignored. The truth is whatever the corporation says it is, and the “greater good” is whatever benefits the corporation. The people running the corporation aren’t worried about the families with kids around Fukushima. They’re worried about what’s going to get their bosses, and ultimately their company, out of the jam that it’s in.

They certainly don’t want mass panic. But at the moment, there are only so many life boats. ]

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6 comments

  1. Kei · March 18, 2011

    Would you have left had you still been here?

    • hoofin · March 18, 2011

      Kei, that is the debate around the Gundlach family right now, you know. I said earlier, “I seem to have a way of missing all the excitement,” meaning, the quake and the interruptions around Tokyo. But people say, “no, no, you would want to be missing what’s going on. And in fact, people (expats) are leaving!”

      So maybe I have a certain luck that I don’t credit myself for.

      Had I gotten a solid job offer late last year, I would have stayed. And then, I’d be stuck in this situation of staying with my job or leaving for home with no job. The Japanese government, and earlier, a certain multinational-without-a-country (that shall remain nameless), made the decision for me.

      So maybe I am lucky in a manner of speaking. Maybe not.

      Are you worried that the radiation is going to reach Osaka? Or that all of this will be used as yet another excuse to purge some foreigners from pure Japan?

  2. Kei · March 18, 2011

    I’m scared every day, about radiation and the constant interval of aftershocks and new quakes that scare the shit out of me while working/make me think I’m imagining/wake me from a sound sleep. While life goes on as normal here, everyone is extremely on edge and ready to spring into action at a moments notice.

    There is some CRAZY seismic activity (?) going on right now, first in Christchurch and now Japan. Hopefully we’re done.

  3. Dan · March 19, 2011

    Hey, Rick – I am cautiously optimistic that things will settle down. Nora and Ian are going to Vancouver for a while, but I will wait and see a bit longer, before/if I go after them. I want to be here to help– if another quake really hits Saitama. We never suffered any damage at all, just shook up is all. Friends are having trouble buying gas, and purchases of bottled water are being limited, to prevent hoarding I think. There is plenty of food on the shelves here and the 3-hour blackouts are scheduled, not random.

    Your comments about the reactor sound a bit over the top, given that it is still early days. Who knows when they’ll be able to halt the reactions, completely. I don’t think it is useful to speculate until more info is available. Having said that, it would be nice to see the company management completely dismantled if it comes out that they intentionally lied about risks, or even caused this accident through construction shortcuts or coverups of maintenance problems. I’m glad your thoughts are with us!

    • hoofin · March 19, 2011

      Good to hear that you and your family are OK, Dan. I think the recent news is flowing along the same stream I charted a day or two ago: Japanese power companies and regulators have been lax when it came to safety of these things. I’ll put some links up if I happen to surf by any of them again, but I think Japan Today had one, and so did the New York Times.

      The people who run things there quite often don’t care about the little people. That’s just my view.

  4. Dan Cronin · March 22, 2011

    Bit of followup … There are sound medical and scientific minds out there disagreeing about the risks of exposure to low level radiation. The concept is called radiation hormesis and is discussed in this article :
    http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/radiation-the-no-safe-level-myth.html

    The whole site is fascinating, with updated Fukushima plant commentary.
    I was surprised to see him report that Three Mile Island was a severe meltdown.

    Referring to a different American source, and less technical:
    http://www.japansubculture.com/2011/03/how-dangerous-is-low-level-radiation-perhaps-much-less-riskier-than-we-think/

    The lack of negative comments suggests few people have probably seen this story! I hope it gets out there.

    It reminds me of something I read about the existence of radium springs here in Japan, where people may go for a healing bath. Here is a quick link:
    http://www.geocities.jp/kamigyoclancy/new/winter.html

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