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Introductory Text

March 20, 2011

I was perturbed by the requests that came to those of us as “Japan experts” to comment on “why the Japanese are so resilient, stoic, calm, civic, and so on.” In the moment of staggering disaster, demands for huge relief material and labor (material and affective), and increasingly serious crisis at the nuclear power plants and what this means, it seemed to miss the mark. The media coverage vacillates between a) the surprisingly stoic, persevering masses b) market maximization analysis and commentaries and c) nuclear power plant crisis — now turning to “different” analysis by two allies… There’s much information that is important but they are scattered and at times, hard to track down after an hour (there’s just so much through list serves, live-streaming, uses of facebook and so on.)

The point, of course, isn’t to suggest that “they – the japanese” are or aren’t stoic or persevering. Of course many are — as were so many in Haiti and New Orleans and Cairo and ….Bhopal, but rather to take hold of the framing (which, we learn is almost impossible when we are interviewed) and reframe the scales of inquiry and questions and take an educational stance, trying to identify informational, educational material and make them accessible.

I expect to provide, not only, the information on the nuclear situation, but also on what and how of the relief efforts, and if and when of restoration and reconstruction of communities – which will now include communities exposed to high radiation. The area that was hit hardest by Tsunami, that has caused the most damage in terms of loss of lives and everyday, is an area that has a demographic pattern reflective of the long term effect of, over the past two and half decades (especially since the Plaza Accord, and the drastic devaluation of dollar – an ironic effect given the current movements in the currency market), neoliberalisation and the privatisation of so many infrastructure programs. Many critical observers would agree, I think, that peoples of the faming and fishing communities of the northeast as having had precarious hold on “future”. It’s important to document the ways in which priorities are assumed, articulated, and public managed as that “future” is re-imagined, along with responsible information that we need immediately.