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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

HAVE YOUR SAY

'Nuclear plants on tofu,' 'Debito's drivel': readers respond

Some readers' responses to our stories and letters on Japan's nuclear crisis and Debito Arudou's "Letting radiation leak, but never information" (April 5):

'Nuclear plants on tofu'

Rubbing salt into the wound, foreigners, or "gaijin" ("outside people") — always at least somewhat excluded from Japanese society — are being damned for not going down with the ship.

The passivity and fatalism of Japanese culture has allowed Tepco and politicians to "build nuclear plants on tofu."

Japan is the most geologically unstable country in the world. There is lots of clean thermal energy that the government could exploit. Now, that same fatalism and passivity is being lauded as "community spirit" and "working together." It is laughable and pathetic — and infuriating.

ALLAN MELVILLE
London

Government lame

Congratulations on being a Japanese newspaper who believes less in the protection of the idiosyncrasies of our politicians and more about allowing proper freedom of speech in Japan. The article by Debito Arudou on the absence of timely information circulated regarding the Fukushima debacle is straight to the point.

When we were sitting in our living rooms around Tokyo and listening to the lame verbiage provided about potential risk to health, I couldn't help but wonder why the families of these "civil servants" and Tepco management were not relocated to just outside the suggested "no danger" zone, to better prove their point.

Well done on excellent journalism, and provision of a well balanced and factually sound reality check. . .

LEE SAYER
Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture

Debito not constructive

When will you be kind to the readers of your paper and stop publishing the drivel that Arudou Debito tries to pass off as meaningful commentary? He makes his living criticizing, not constructively but personally and viciously.

Check out the beginning of his new novelor his blog) for examples of his incessant criticism of Japan, which he insists on referring to as "our country" and "our government," to constantly remind the reader that he is a citizen so there is nothing wrong with his attitude. But his comments make me wonder if he hadn't given up his U.S. citizenship if he would still be in Japan at all.

His criticisms in his most recent article about the nuclear crisis could be leveled against the world as a whole, but he singles out Japan as being the sole problem. Most of his criticism seems aimed at Tepco but he still says "Nor will the government be held accountable, despite abetting coverups, preventing more leaks of information than of radiation, and rarely coming clean about nuclear power's dirty secrets.

Part of it is due to the lack of class-action lawsuit mechanisms in Japan's judiciary, and the fact that judges almost never rule against the government."

For all the class-action lawsuits in the United States the government was not held accountable for the damage and death during Hurricane Katrina.

Not only does he want us to buy into his negative image of Japan but he wants us to think that other countries are better and that there is no help for Japan. He writes:

"One would hope that Fukushima would occasion review and reform. But I doubt it will.

Fukushima has illuminated how the biggest problems facing Japan will not get fixed — because the public cannot or will not force the state to take responsibility for its mistakes. Ultimately, this is what breeds Japan's undying fatalism."

How is it helpful to point out Japan's problems without pointing out a solution ("review and reform" could be any number of things)?

And claiming that Japan is the problem here is ignoring several things.

1. The plant HAS survived for over 40 years.

2. The plant was designed by GE, a U.S. company.

3. The earthquake was a 9.0 on the Richter scale.

4. Yes, they should probably have designed the plant to be safe for "all" earthquakes. But hindsight is always 20/20.

5. American media powerhouse The New York Times has several articles about how there is no easy solution to the issues with nuclear power and that U.S. plants are at the same risk as the ones in Japan, not to mention the debate over whether or not the radiation is as dangerous as many are claiming.

Arudou uses what is common rhetoric worldwide to bring people together to promote his image of a "callous" Japan: "Although Kan did resort to traditional rhetoric of 'We Japanese saving ourselves' in his speeches(a callously ethnocentric way to ask Japan's residents to dig deep emotionally)."

He also uses the example of Ishihara Shintaro (a single individual who represents the whole of Japan as much as Arudou presents the entire immigrant community in Japan) to further his claims.

"Criticism shifted from those who caused this incident to those who wanted to do something about it. People moving to a safer location were treated as deserters. The exasperated public began to tune out and adopt a sense of futility and fatalism, even as radiation levels rose and contaminated the food chain."

Who caused this incident? An earthquake caused this incident, if I'm not mistaken.

Even if there was some direct knowledge that this absolutely would happen without any action on the part of the government (which there isn't) they didn't directly cause it.

I don't know where Arudou gets his facts when he says "The exasperated public began to tune out and adopt a sense of futility and fatalism." More along the lines of people trying to get through the disaster or move on with their lives. Does there have to be mayhem in the streets with people throwing bottles through random store windows to steal goods (as happened during Hurricane Katrina and other disasters in the United States) for Arudou to deem the Japanese public involved enough?

My family is not tuned out at all. Arudou is self-aggrandizing and criticism-phobic (see this post on his blog about why he needed a vacation from his blog — evidently he can dish out non-stop negativity towards Japan but anyone who he knows and generally likes his product criticizes him and he can't deal with it.

Please reconsider giving Arudou Debito a platform to expound on all his personal problems with Japan. Many foreigners prefer to go about things in a more positive and constructive way. www.occidentalism.org and www.occidentalism.org/?p=829

EAMON BANTA CAMPBELL
California

Debito's angry facade

Are we not all bored to tears with Debito Arudou's rants? I had to laugh at the contradiction of his second paragraph: "It's time for some assessments, however premature." But while that was laughable, the rest of the article was simply pitiful and his arguments don't stand up: The timeline shows that the government stepped in to force Tepco to divulge more information as soon as it became apparent the company was remiss.

On the subject of the exodus, he doesn't state where the people labeled as deserters moved from in search of a safer location, but I have heard no condemnation of those leaving the Tohoku region in search of safety. Is he perhaps thinking of people in Tokyo, where radiation levels have never reached levels dangerous to adults? Why so vague here — because a rant doesn't require details?

And yet the scientific data given by the government and by the IAEA was very clear — no danger to adult health. That means Tokyo was and is a safe location.

He criticizes the government for the "unscientific" advice to stay indoors and blasts them for advising action that is "clearly stopgap." Well, er, yes. I don't think anyone is claiming it isn't, and even the chief scientific adviser to the U.K. government, Sir John Beddington, has agreed that this is good advice, so what does Arudou know? Then, not content with condemning the government, Tepco and nuclear power in general, he lets loose on Japanese society itself and damns it for its cultural emphasis on "personal perseverance and knuckling under."

Here is a rather pathetic individual desperate to maintain his angry man of the people facade — and any target will do.

So while the world sends Japan its prayers and marvels at its order and absence of significant looting in the face of such tragedy, Arudou would rather have this culture break apart, and lectures us: "This is a society, remember, that has never experienced a grassroots revolution in its history."

I know whose side I would rather stand on in the current circumstances, and Arudou should be ashamed of condemning this quality of personal perseverance.

Why does The Japan Times continue to indulge this man so?

ANDREW NG
Tokyo

Zero tolerance?

Mr Arudou gives very good advice when he says that "the public should have zero tolerance for any man-made radiation."

Modern X-ray machines use nasty artificial isotopes, as do smoke detectors, so both these potential life-savers should be avoided. Furthermore, CRT televisions produce a few microsieverts per year, and looking at other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum many microwave ovens leak radiation out from their containment vessel, then there's mobile phones of course and we all know how dangerous they are, and for good measure let's get rid of visible spectrum radiation generators (or light bulbs) too.

Instead, we can burn coal to give a warm glow and bask in the natural radiation given off (coal-fired stations produce about twice as much as nuclear ones under normal operations, not to mention the extra greenhouse gases, acid raid, etc), and use solar to fill the power gap, harnessing the natural radiation of the sun. According to the WHO, one in three cases of cancer worldwide is skin cancer, with ultraviolet radiation being the biggest risk factor, resulting in at least 66,000 deaths per year.

KEN YASUMOTO-NICOLSON
Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture



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