Haruki Murakami recently was awarded the Cataluña International Prize. He was in Barcelona this past week to give his acceptance speech and of course, he spoke about the earthquake, its aftermath, and the issues surrounding the continued use of nuclear power.
As Echosquirrel and I had just spent an invigorating couple of hours with a new Swiss friend, drinking coffee and talking about some of the same topics the writer covers, Murakami's speech helped me understand a little better the context within which the continued use of nuclear power in this country needs to framed.
"In Japanese, we have the word “mujo (無常)”. It means that nothing lasts forever. Everything born into this world changes and will ultimately disappear. There is nothing eternal or immutable on which we can rely. This view of the world was derived from Buddhism, but the idea of “mujo” was burned into the spirit of Japanese people, and took root in the common ethnic consciousness."
Murakami does praise this deep-rooted sense of resignation in his fellow Japanese, but he knows too that it comes at a cost — the cost of not railing against oppression or injustice, not speaking up, not protesting wrongs.
"What I want to talk about here isn’t something like buildings or roads, which can be rebuilt, but rather about things which can’t be rebuilt easily, such as ethics or standards. Such things do not have physical shape. Once they are broken, it’s hard to restore them, because we can’t do so with machines, labour and materials."
Murakami goes on to talk about how postwar energy policy came to be and how an over-reliance on technology has created a false sense of energy security. Murakami wants us to see that it's useless to solely blame TEPCO or the government for current failures. Japanese need to look inside as well:
"This is the collapse of the “technology” myth, of which the Japanese people had been proud, and the defeat of our Japanese ethics and norms, which had allowed such deception. We blame the electrical companies and Japanese government. This is right and necessary, but at the same time we should accuse ourselves. We are victims and assailants at the same time. We have to consider the fact seriously. If we fail to do so, we’ll make the same mistake again."
You can read the rest of Murakami's speech here. I think now is a good time to start talking. My initial reaction three months ago was silence.