The Bomb and the End of Sanity

On the first nuclear disaster of the 21st Century

Sometimes a poet can grasp the human significance of a technological failure better than a scientist. We are fortunate to have these poetic voices from Japan collected here. May we hear them and, more importantly,may we heed them.

— John Pearson, MD, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

I’m thinking hard about ecosocialism and retrenchment and revolution against the capitalist state — this old neofascism for/by/because of the state, governments, and their paymasters, oligarchs and unfettered robber barons, of old and new.

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How the realities shaping humanity are not humanity’s realities, and the power of shifting baselines and spreading myopia and growing fear inside the capitalist prison creates not only self-defeating behavior from the masses but complicity with the Point Zero Zero One Percent, the One Percent and the Dream and Opportunity Hoarders — the 19 percent.

Hiroshima 74 years ago, August 6, and August 9 for Nagasaki.

This milestone is as powerfully illustrative of the power in the inhumane drive of technocrats, scientists, militarists and corporatists to throw civilization into what has amounted to be tailspin of economic, ecological, educational, equity, energy schizophrenia.

The so-called greenies, those not only plain liars and greenwashers, but also green porn peddlers, many of them actually shooting for a world powered by nuke energy. Imagine that, 400 of them on earth now, and to replace fossil fuel with that devil product, nuclear powered energy, we’d need 60,000 of them peppered all around major metropolitan areas.

Kate Brown, on Democracy Now:

 You know, if we’re going to fully replace fossil fuels, we will have to build 12,000 new reactors around the globe. There are about 400 now. So that’s a big upscale in nuclear power. There will have to be nuclear power stations outside of every major population point. Now, there’s all kinds of problems with cost, versus renewables.

But the thing that most keeps me up at night is the health effects. We really don’t know what the health effects are for sure. This is heavily disputed. There has been no big study. The Chernobyl records show that health effects at low doses of radioactivity are severe and that they run through a population, causing people to feel — before they die, before they get cancers, before they’re reported as acute effects, the subacute effects cause people have a sort of a full bouquet of health problems, that make life just miserable on a daily level,  makes their work productivity quite low, makes the joy of living exist.

I’m afraid that not only could it happen here, but, in fact, it already has happened here. Our biggest nuclear power plant, in Hanford, power plant in western — eastern Ukraine — I mean, I’m sorry, in eastern Washington state, spilled 350 million curies of radioactive waste into the surrounding environment during the Cold War production of nuclear arms. We tested — we’re the only country in the world that tested nuclear bombs in our heartland, in Nevada. Those hundred nuclear weapons that were blown up on the American continent spread billions — not millions like in Chernobyl, but billions — of curies of radioactive waste around the American country. And so, we have had spots of radioactivity in Tennessee and Chicago area that were as high as near Nevada. And what we have is a public health crisis that we have yet not yet fully addressed. We have rising rates of thyroid cancer, rising rates of pediatric cancers, which used to be, in the 1930s, a medical rarity.  Whether there is a connection between these troubling health statistics and the kind of contaminants, including radioactive contaminants in the environment, is something that we need to address.

Thanks to Dissident Voice, we featured the mind and spirit of not only Kate Brown, but others tied to the crimes of our government and technocrats and bureaucrats against Hanford, the Tri-Cities, Washington, Oregon, the Japanese, the entire world — the place that seeded the nuclear isotopes for one of those bombs used to murder people vis-a-vis Oppenheimer:

Hanford — From Nagasaki to Fourth-Generation Spokanites: As They Get Sick, Age, and Die, Will Downwinders Tell The Story of Nuclear Dread?

Nuclear Narratives – When Cold War Starts, the Hot Milk Gets Poured: Survivors downwind from radioactive releases push through complacency, amnesia, and secrets

In an Age of Millisecond and Nanosecond Info, Poetry Really Counts

The Heart of where we go from here is really the path back, to a place of reconciliation, regrouping and re-appropriating the power of collective action, collectivism and stopping the monsters of greed running the world.

Helen Keller, on a return trip to Japan in 1948,
visited Hiroshima.

She directly touched the A-bomb survivors’ keloid scars
and came to understand the horror of the Atomic Bomb.

[…]

If Helen were to visit Fukushima now
and touch the ground with her fingertips,
what kind of scream would pierce her skin
and shake her soul?

—Masanori Shida, “Helen Keller’s Fingertips”

This gift of a poem comes to me through a very two or three degrees of separation story in my life: I was at a Cirque Journal reading in Portland last week. I and 12 others reading our work from a just published new edition of Cirque Journal.

I was at a pre-reading publisher event, where I was there with my veteran buddy, Danny, and my friend, Larry, meeting as buddies but also part of my rendezvous with Sandra with Cirque, and another writer, Leah Stenson. Leah and I both have very different books coming out in 2020 through Cirque Press (my short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, and hers is a memoir, Life, Revised)  and, well, after talking, meeting, reading at a Lutheran Church, and then, meeting for libations and food at the Rose City Book Pub, she gifted me her edited book, Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out. 

This book, like a Santa Ana of wind on a cool summer night, ties into so many issues I have been journeying with:

  • the military industrial complex now embedded in almost all things Capitalism
  • the lies of corporations and lobbies tied to EVERYTHING I have studied that has caused physical, mental, and spiritual despair in humanity and all of Gaia’s nature
  • the masculine madness of genuflecting to industry, to chemicals, to industrial logging, ag, mining, harvesting of resources
  • the flagrant psychological manipulation of entire groups and societies by the oppressors — capitalists and their battalions of little Eichmann’s

Leah’s co-editor, Asao Sarukawa Aroldi, was part of the growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan following the disaster at Fukushima. Leah credits Asao for getting Japanese poets to be part of this book, by Inkwater Press. Much of the discovery took place from a book edited by Hisao Suzuki: Farewell to Nuclear, Welcome Renewable Energy: A Collection of Poems by 218 Poets (Coal Sack Publishing, 2012).

This book is a virtual goldmine of powerful poets, many of who reside(resided) in these areas directly or near the Fukushima disaster. Five authors in this collection are residents of Fukushima Prefecture — Masayuki Nemoto, Hiroshi Suzuki, Takao Ota, Tamiko Kido, Jotaro Wakamatsu. Three were born in Fukushima Prefecture — Setsuko Okubo, Chihiro Uozumi, Shonai Haga — and one, Makoto Yoshida, is deceased.

Someday nuclear power
will certainly turn its fangs on people.
………………………
To forever reject this monster —
therein lies our raison d’etre.
…………………….
If we should be negligent in this
then surely our grandchildren will someday ask:
“What did your generation do?”

— “Heavy Days and Years,” Makoto Yoshida

Today, we are at the juncture where very little attention is paid to Japan and other places attempting to disseminate all the suffering the people of Fukushima underwent at the time of the meltdown and what continues today as a vast cover up by governments, the so-called nuclear energy industry, the military, and the sciences wedded to this ghastly form of boiling water for electricity.

That earthquake that struck at 2:46 pm March 11, 2011 was the most powerful in Japan’s history. The tsunami (Japanese word for harbor wave) hit the plant one hour after the quake. Water hit the basement of the plant’s off-site batteries which were designed for the generator to keep the cores cool. This is a violation of nuclear safety principles, and the plant’s cooling system went off, causing the meltdown of the fuel and explosion of excess hydrogen.

There is no absolute safety with nuclear energy, but the nuclear industry purports this all the time: “clean safe renewable energy.”

In the poem, “To Give Birth,” Rumiko Kora looks at the element in the Chinese character to give birth as depiction of a baby being born.

In the olden days, when a woman left the hut after childbirth, she ducked under the waves and swam through the waves at day on the shore of the Japan Sea to return from death.

For the Japanese, women needed to be cleansed by the waves because giving birth also meant going to the after-world in order to give birth to a new life — in the cycle of life and death.

Women have given birth in this way,
have kept on giving birth, but the birth canal has eventually led to the nuclear power plant, has it not?

In the poem, “A Land of Sorrow: A City Spirited Away by God,” Jotaro Wakamatsu looks at Pripyat City, a town near Chernobyl. Eight years after the accident weeds push up sidewalks, and from some appearances things look normal with flying swallows and swarms of mosquitoes and butterflies on flowers. However. . . .

Yet,
it is a city with no human voices.
It is a city where not human walks.
It is a city where 45,000 people are hiding.

[…]

Everything is headed for ruin,
competing with human lives
and the city build by humans in the race to ruin are:
strontium 90 with its half-life of  27.7 years
cesium 137 with its half-life of 30 years
plutonium 239 with its half-life of 24,400 years.

The madness of humanity post Fertile Crescent ascension, post bronze age, into the industrial age/revolution is exponentially ramped up year after year with more and more systems, tools, products, and consumables of death, and oppression. How many do we grieve just for World War Two? Seventy million? How many countries has the USA bombed just in the 20th century? How many millions killed by USA?

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Every turn, we see the results of the inhumane, the rampant reliance on the takers, as those of us in leaver society find it more difficult each day to be a human being.

The problem is that man’s conquest of the world has itself devastated the world. And in spite of all the mastery we’ve attained, we don’t have enough mastery to stop devastating the world – or to repair the devastation we’ve already wrought. We’ve poured our poisons into the world as though it were a bottomless pit – and we go on pouring our poisons into the world. We’ve gobbled up irreplaceable resources as though they could never run out – and we go on gobbling them up. It’s hard to imagine how the world could survive another century of this abuse, but nobody’s really doing anything about it… “Only one thing can save us. We have to increase our mastery of the world. All this damage has come about through our conquest of the world, but we have to go on conquering it until our rule is absolute. Then, when we’re in complete control, everything will be fine. We’ll have fusion power. No pollution. We’ll turn the rain on and off. We’ll grow a bushel of wheat in a square centimeter…And that’s where it stands right now. We have to carry the conquest forward. And carrying it forward is either going to destroy the world or turn it into a paradise.

— Gorilla, talking to journalist, Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

As I have repeated many times, poetry can bring meaning to individual experiences with the power of perception and words, bringing that personal view to a universal understanding. That despoiled land or war-torn city, any of those harrowing human travails can be the conduit of enlightenment and healing. We are basically living in a house of mirrors, a carnival of horrors, and a nightmare of deep proportions invented by the overlords — throughout human history from around 12,000 before the present era.

Yet that catharsis we see in these poems in the book, Reverberations from Fukushima, are deeper than personal trauma healing and more about recounting what is human universal truth and strength — memory, and remembering the sorrow. We are part of a great collective consciousness if we as individuals are capable of releasing the ego and moving toward the collective view.

These poets come to Fukushima and live inside the disaster crumbling  their air, soil, sea and water and they seethe with a sense of desiring answers and reclaiming truth.

Einstein’s Voice

“Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!”

While I am reading the newspaper, reclining
in the afternoon on a summer’s day,
I hear the sing-song cry of a man selling laundry poles.*

The atomic bomb, Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima
at 15 minutes and 17 seconds past 9:00 a.m.
August 6, Tinian Time.
It is said
when the news reached Einstein,
who had contributed to the Manhattan Project,
he just uttered a groan:

Oy vey!

And
in similar words in a will
he wrote five months before his death:
If I had my life to live over again,
I would like to be a tinsmith or a traveling salesman,
not a scientist or a teacher.

Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!

No one seems to be buying any bamboo poles.
Outside the windows
the sky is clear, like in Hiroshima.

Oy vey!

Did he turn at the street corner?
The voice of the traveling salesman, Einstein,
is fading further away.

— Hiroyoshi Komatsu

This book is both clarion call and dirge, a recollection and a plea for future generations to bear witness and move to action. And that action is clear — stop the nuclear madness, in both the boiling water to turn turbines to give electricity, and those nuclear-tipped weapons of genocide.

There’s an amazing poem, “You’re Gonna Get It!” by Ken Yamaguchi.

He starts — “The Japanese archipelago
completely surrounded with fifty-four nuclear plants,
is like a prison in the ocean
isolating the prisoners.”

He ends — “August 15, 1945, we lost the war.
The Myth of Invincibility of the totalitarian emperor system collapsed.
You, who are trying to follow a fallen path,
You’re gonna get it!”

We all relish the moments when the masters of this calamity and chaos are ‘gonna get it,’ for sure. We all have lost that war, those tumbling Fat Man and Little Boy. And we are losing the war now as perverted politicians laugh at their power to drop MOAB’s — mother of all bombs.

This collection edited by Stenson and Sarukawa Aroldi give the world shadows from which to peel away the false dramas coming out of that house of mirrors.

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We are here, on the Pacific, eating the dredges of Fukushima, each radioactive ion encapsulated in the very flesh of the fish we so desire as benediction and nutrition. We can dine with the poet, as we perish, and suffer, and wonder why humanity has turned against itself.

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Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. He organized Part-time faulty in Washington State. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his autobiography, weekly or bi-weekly musings and hard hitting work in chapter installments, at LA Progressive. He blogs from Otis, Oregon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.