He who is most noble is he who raises his voice for those silenced by oppression.
— Jonathan Azaziah1
…the public wants what the public gets
— The Jam2
Twenty years ago when I first arrived in Japan I taught English to a Tokyo University associate professor in engineering. The young and normally reserved man sometimes complained about his boss who was a professor in nuclear engineering and gave him troublesome tasks at the office. I once asked him what he thought about earthquake-prone Japan using nuclear power and he replied, “it’s crazy.” Of course, Tokyo University is the hub of Japan’s nuclear power industry and most executives for TEPCO are graduates (as are many top politicians) from Japan’s most elite university.
Today, “four out of five Japanese want to see Tokyo abandon nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima atomic crisis…”3 But any professional in industry, government or media would have no chance of career advancement if they spoke out against nuclear power. This problem is well documented in an article from Speigel, the German news magazine, which details the insidious and poisonous nuclear tentacles that penetrate the most important aspects of Japanese society.4
As a recent Japanese news editorial points out, a small cabal of criminals think they literally own the country and will not allow democracy or the free market to interfere with their aims to control the energy system:
[I]n adopting a scheme for paying damages to the victims of the accidents at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government has ended up guaranteeing the survival of Tokyo Electric Power Co. the operator of the stricken plant. Radioactive substances from Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant have contaminated surrounding cities, farms, forests and the ocean….
The federation’s staunch opposition to separation of generation and transmission was shown in its rejection of adoption of the “Smart Grid” system that the U.S. is eager to promote — a electricity network that can efficiently and stably deliver electricity supplies by intelligently integrating the behavior of power generation entities and power users. The federation quibbled, saying the Japanese transmission system was “already smart enough.” It fears that the Smart Grid might open the way for outsiders to enter the electricity market, thus breaking the monopoly of the nation’s 10 utilities….
The power industry is also reluctant to build facilities to change the frequency of the alternating currents, so that electricity generated in the western half of the country, where electricity’s frequency is 60 hertz, can be transmitted to the eastern half of Japan where electricity’s frequency is 50 hertz, or vice versa — even though such interchangeability would inevitably reduce regional imbalances of supply….This reluctance is based on a fear that the interchangeability issue may strengthen the argument for separation of power generation and transmission.5
About ten years ago I attended a press conference on the dangers of Japan’s nuclear power stations, which was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo. It was well attended due to the deadly Tokaimura nuclear accident which had just occurred in 1999. An audience member asked Kenji Higuchi — a journalist and teacher who has written several books about the dangers of nuclear power — why a documentary film about him and the dangers to Japan’s nuke workers, Nuclear Ginza,6 was not allowed to be shown on Japan’s government news station, NHK. “It was squashed from the top down.” I have shown the film many times over the years to my university students, but I can’t reach millions of people.
Fast forward to June of 2011 when Higuchi gave a lecture at a small but prestigious college in Tokyo. One conscientious Japanese professor at that college has been alerting his students to the nuke issue and promoting Higuchi’s books. My contact who attended the meeting of only 10 people said that it was Higuchi’s belief that he was not allowed a larger venue because he is too direct in his speaking manner and names the companies that are complicit with the Nuclear Industry. The students’s parents who work for some of those companies might not like hearing such bold criticisms. Higuchi also surmised that the government has implicitly threatened universities not to touch on the nuclear issue in any critical way, such as allowing anti-nuke rallies on their campuses.
I teach part-time at this particular college and have freely published many articles there, but for the first time my submission which was to be on the nuke disaster was turned down because the issue was deemed “too sensitive.” It is noteworthy that one of the more academically open, meaty and progressive-minded schools in Tokyo is now telling people to keep their mouths shut. When I wrote a reply to the editor asking that if I would submit to peer review they would still consider my article, I received no response.
At another school which has an elite science and engineering department, my first year students have responded well to my cynical jokes about nuclear power. When I open the windows in the morning and say, “hey let’s let in the fresh air and radiation, it’s good for you,” everyone nervously chuckles while shaking their heads. The students provide very sensible and conscientious written comments to the articles I give them to read about the nuclear situation.
On the other hand, by second year many students realize that if they are in certain fields of study, it will not do well for their careers to criticize nuclear power. When we had discussions about energy issues, many gave articulate defenses of the various forms alternative energies available and how they should be developed– but in the end some groups said, “but we still think nuclear is the best!”
There is another aspect to this problem, it is simply “air headedness.” When choosing topics for presentations, some groups came up with the uninspiring and disputatious topic of “global warming,” while others choose “beer,” “chocolate,” “television,” and so on. Not real substantive stuff. One teacher suggested to me the reason many students to do not want to think about Fukushima is because Japan previously considered itself superior to its neighbors and has now taken it on the chin. This is sore subject for Japanese pride and Fukushima was a rude awakening reminding Japanese that they are merely human after all. Another explanation may be more postmodern and universal: 3D-HDTV = Triple Dumbing – High Deafening Talmud Vision. Too much “bread and circuses” and “dread and circumcision” has damaged our humanity and empathy for nature and others.
The censorship of critics of the Nuke Industry can be seen at all levels. For example, even “[a] government official who released a book on May 20 criticizing the government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been asked to leave his post…. [Mr.]Koga has… pushed for changes to the country’s energy policy, such as a separation of electric power generation and transmission fiercely opposed by power companies…”7 Obviously this fellow was looking for an early retirement and was “asked” to leave his prestigious career for telling the truth.
In the meantime, as the Fukushima nuclear reactors which have had “corium” meltdowns continue to irradiate the nearby environment– which ultimately puts all of Japan’s inhabitants in danger– we are being told to “forget about it and go back to sleep.” Yet we can see many hopeful signs of concerned citizens nationwide organizing to address the dangers of spreading radiation and to eventually put an end to nuclear power generation in Japan.
- Mask of Zion [↩]
- The Jam – Going Underground [↩]
- Most Japanese wish to scrap reactors [↩]
- Japan’s Nuclear Cartel [↩]
- Power industry’s chokehold [↩]
- Nuclear Ginza Japan’s secret at-risk labor force [↩]
- Ministry official who released book criticizing gov’t over nuke crisis asked to resign [↩]