Tag Archive | "Japan"

Where is Godzilla?

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Some say the world will end in fire;

Some say ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire,

I hold with those who favor fire.

But from what I know of hate,

I say that ice

Is also great,

And would suffice.


While still quiet young, I committed these words of one of our most noted Poet Laureates, Robert Frost, to memory.  Chilling on many levels, the poem resurfaced in my mind recently when Japan suffered major devastation last week, devastation that now seems to have no end.  Unlike those awful but oh so moral Japanese films of the ’50s, Godzilla will not rise from the ocean to combat the forces now plaguing her people.  There is no Godzilla; no deus ex machina — not for Japan and not for any of us.

Economists are arguing about the blow to Japan’s finances, the ripple effects upon our own economy and indeed, upon every other economy worldwide.  Environmentalists are decrying the use of nuclear energy and pointing to horrors of the past, chief among them, Chernobyl — and let’s not forget our own Three Mile Island.  But if one is not an economist and not an environmental scientist, how does one view the triple blow to Japan, a nation that has rightly earned the respect of nearly every other country across the globe?  One may seek a deeper meaning to this latest and most painful lesson of life on Earth in the twenty-first century.

A theory holds that the Earth on which we live is not an inanimate ball of rock but rather, a living entity.   This theory refers to Earth by the name Gia (pronounced Guy-uh).   It doesn’t take a wealth of intelligence to understand that there is merit in this supposition.  After all, does the Earth not renew herself each spring, and is her core not made of molten rock which, when released, reshapes our shorelines as it does continually on the black lava beaches of Kauai?

The Gia hypothesis, however, goes one step further.  It purports that Gia responds to changes, including subtle shifts, upon her skin (topography), lungs (atmosphere), and internal organs (the deep blue sea, the great canyons, and beyond).  And, she does respond.

If we drill for oil far beneath the Earth’s surface, do we not sometimes tick off earthquakes?  Hell, if someone poked a needle deep into your flesh, wouldn’t you react?

But this article does not concern Gia, per se.   It concerns the species, Homo sapiens, who inhabit her.

We walked on the moon, created technology that links us instantly with others worldwide, and implanted human hearts and other organs into the bodies of those whose own organs have failed.  We cloned sheep.  We read books from electronic devices rather than printed pages. We broke the genetic code.  We did all of this and yet, we’ve learned nothing.

We still wage war upon each other, if not in the streets, than in our own hearts.  We still assume that everyone is out to get us; that everyone plots to rob us blind of what we were supposed to have inherited as the most advanced form of our species.  We still screw each other over, time and again, and enjoy it (witness: our own government versus average law-abiding taxpayers, including our forgotten war veterans).

Life here has become almost intolerable.  Every day, we wake up to some fresh hell burning on our Internet browsers, and I don’t mean Charlie Sheen.  Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “most men live lives of quiet desperation.”  Were he living here, now, he’d have included women in his observation.  There seems to be little hope, little joy in our daily lives.

We’ll send aid to Japan, and we should.  We’ll have benefit concerts, resultant CDs and DVDs, drives on public television, and of course, the Hollywood production of the events that felled a once-mighty nation.  But nothing will have changed.

It’s interesting that Japan is the nation now going through hell on Earth.  There is perhaps no more admirable nation.   Prior to World War II, she attempted the exact same thing that the U.S. was successfully accomplishing in the Pacific: gobbling up footholds for military stratagems and seizing sources of fossil fuel in order to run her increasingly industrialized society.  We didn’t like it; we perceived this as a threat and put a halt to Japan’s version of Manifest Destiny.  Robbed of a source of energy and viewing this as their cultural death knell, Japan reacted by bombing Pearl Harbor.  We reacted by destroying three of her cities via a force never before unleashed.

Instead of curling up and dying, Japan rose from her ashes, evolving into a force to be reckoned with.  Before last week, she had forged the third strongest economy worldwide, and she did this with minimal resources, including land.

So, if the third strongest nation on the planet can suffer such damage, what might possibly happen to the rest of us?  Clearly, no one and nothing is safe.

And still, we’ve not learned a thing.

Maybe when Gia decides to truly level the parasites living on her crust will we understand.  Maybe then, when our backs are against the wall, will we learn to share and trust.  Maybe then, we’ll realize that the Native Americans were not an inferior nation for not having had a written language; maybe we’ll realize that they were so much wiser than we can every hope to be.   Their way — sharing our resources and honoring Gia, who provides those resources —  will be our only way back to survival.

I wonder if we’ll learn.

Unleashing the Power of the Atom: Mankind’s Beginning or End?

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This past week, we have witnessed the destructive power of Mother Nature as she impacted Japan.  According to the news media, an earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale erupted on the ocean floor near the islands of Japan.

This enormous seismic action triggered a tidal wave, or tsunami, that struck the northern part of the main island, Honshu; it devastated the towns and villages along the coast with a heavy loss of life.  There are at are least 10,000 dead as of this writing, with many believing that this is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of the death toll.  Restoration of the island would have taken time, in the wake of these natural disasters.  However, Mother Nature is not the only destructive force to have hit Japan.  Whenever man manipulates his environment, there is always the unexpected with which to deal.

After World War II, Japan underwent changes in order to rebuild its country to the power it is today (the third strongest economy worldwide … or at least, it was, prior to this last quake and tidal wave).  Once a feudal country led by an Emperor and ruling class (the Samurai), Japan was saddled with the rules of unconditional surrender and foreign occupation when they ended their involvement in the Second World War.  For the sixty-six years that followed their surrender to the Allied Forces, Japan reacted admirably in transforming their government and country into a world power, one to which other nations often looked for leadership in technology and industry in general.

The saying goes that “out of something bad, comes something good.”  Post WWII Japan had to have been an example of that adage.   By harnessing the same nuclear power that had devastated three of their cities and caused them to surrender, they were able to generate electricity using nuclear reactors.  This became the main source of energy that spurred their economy on to significant growth.

Their nuclear power infrastructure was not accomplished without careful planning.  As Japan has always suffered earthquakes and reaped the horrific aftermath of the atomic bomb with radiation poisoning, the nation incorporated safety measures into the design and locations of their nuclear reactors.  Prior to last week, Japan had distinguished itself as leaders in their field.

Yet, the unexpected did happen.  Four of their nuclear reactors suffered damage, and the final chapter on the demise of these reactors has yet to be written.  Without electrical energy, her economy will suffer and so will its people.

As the world waits and watches, harkening as the media describes the destruction, one has to wonder about the use of nuclear reactors as a means to generate a clean source of energy.  Since the advent of nuclear energy, ecologists have argued that even if it is clean, how do we solve the growing problem of disposing of nuclear waste — because this waste does not fit into the “clean” category.

America’s rush to aid the stricken country has slowed because of the USS Reagan has encountered a cloud of radiation from the Japanese reactors.  This caused the crew members to shower immediately, to remove possible contamination.  But if the radiation touched their skin before the showers, and if they inhaled the toxins, what good are these precautions?  Even though everyone is assured that this was a light dose of radiation with nothing to worry about, the specter still looms large.

The world is witnessing a crisis of great magnitude: the survival of mankind.  Has man let the genie out of the bottle in his quest to master the universe?  Only time will tell.  Years ago, Hollywood produced a movie entitled, “On the Beach.”  Starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, the film illustrated the results of a nuclear war, with mankind as the loser.  In the film, Australia, the last inhabited continent, awaited the radiation to engulf them.

Did man open Pandora’s Box when he invented the atom bomb?  Once again, only time will tell.

Vanquished Becomes Victor

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USA vs. Japan: Where Did We Go Wrong?

The English word, Japan, is an exonym. This is a name by which one people or a special group refers to another, and by which the group so named does not refer to itself.  The people living in the land that we have christened Japan actually call their country Nippon or Nihon, and refer to themselves as Nipponis or Nihonis.

The island nation, which we call Japan, dates back to 30,000 B.C.  The people that originally inhabited it were akin to the Ainu, a race that lived in the Far East, Russia, and Mongolia.  The Ainu honed hunting and fishing skills in order to survive.

By the end of the 12th century A.D., Nippon was governed by the Samurai.  This warrior class lived by a code of honor, called Bushido; it dealt in the martial arts, such as Kendo (“the way of the sword”).  The Samurai teachings of obedience, self-discipline, and regimentation can still be found in everyday life in Japan.

The religion of Japan is mostly split between Buddhism and Shintoism, which were introduced by China.  Most Japanese people do not adhere to a single religion, but combine the tenets of both into one affiliated religion, known as Shinbutsu Shugo.  Japan now grants religious freedom to those living within its borders, thus opening the door to other faiths.  Studies conducted in 2001 illustrated that 64% of the Japanese people do not believe in the universal concept of God, and 55% do not believe in Buddha, specifically.  However, some Japanese citizens still adhere to the principles of their past.

So much for ancient history, in trying to understand the origin of the people and the country.  Japan has come a long way from the feudal days of old.  Its present government consists of an Emperor with limited power, defined by their constitution as, “the symbol of the state and the unity of the people.”  The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Emperor, and elected members of his cabinet, called the “Diet,” control this constitutional monarchy in moving their country forward in a global society.

Japan’s dark days of 1945, marked by its unconditional surrender followed by U.S. occupation until 1952, have long passed. Today’s Japan has risen from the ashes of World War II, stronger and more vibrant than prior incarnations.  In less than three quarters of a century, with limited living space used carefully and utilizing its resources to maximum effect while eliminating waste, Japan has achieved success.  Her people now enjoy a healthy economy with education, healthcare, music and other forms of art, and sports to round out their society.

Japan possesses stringent entrance criteria for their schools of higher learning, particularly the two top-ranking universities, Tokyo and Kyoto.  The overall knowledge and skills of Japanese 15-year-olds rank sixth in the entire world.  Healthcare is provided by employers and government.  People without employer insurance can participate in a national insurance program administered by local governments.  Since 1973, the elderly are covered by government-sponsored insurance, allowing them personal choices of health providers.

In retrospect, what has America achieved in the last 66 years, while the Japanese were restoring their country to greatness?  America has witnessed the decay of our cities and the moral decline of our government.  As we compete within an increasingly global society, we cast a dismal future upon the horizon.  How much planning for America’s future has gone into the last 66 years?  America today is in a shambles with massive unemployment, a floundering economy, and no end in sight. I wonder what our founding fathers are saying in the Great Beyond as they watch the American dream become a nightmare.

Was it entitlements that caused the death of this great society?  Was it financial greed?  Was it the welfare state, national healthcare, global warming, the Mexican invasion, drugs and alcohol, living beyond our means, or the wrath of God?

When can we remember the greatest thing America achieved?  Was it 66 years ago on September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay, aboard the Battleship Missouri?  This is when General Douglas MacArthur presented the instruments of unconditional surrender to the Prime Minister of Japan.

The answers to all these questions should be forthcoming from our elected officials in March 2011, as the excuse for shutting down the government of the greatest country in world.

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