Dystopia of Civil Society — Part 2


Dystopia of Civil Society — Part 2

Chigaya Kinoshita
(Trainslation by Max Black)

Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis’s “Must we Rebuilt their Anthill?” is very rich in suggestions, and includes indicators to Japan’s present and future as well as showing an important direction for the re-posing of the question of the relationship between Japanese capitalism and society. Until a little while ago I had planned to write a response to their suggestions. But at present, there is an urgent need to talk about the ugly aspects of Japanese civil society that are rapidly spreading before our eyes.

On April 16th, the Ministry of Education reestablished the yearly limit for radiation exposure for children at 20 millisieverts. The yearly limit up to this point had been one millisievert, and even the ‘Nuclear Safety Committee,’ a collection of academics working in the service of the government, had announced that 10 millisieverts was the highest that this limit should go. Nevertheless, the limit was raised by twenty times at once. In short, this aimed to get the schools in Fukushima Prefecture open on schedule as usual, and in fact, even in areas where Greenpeace surveys have found radiation levels that are not innocuous, children are going to school ‘like usual.’

A survey conducted recently by a citizen’s group found radioactive material, in trace amounts, in the breast milk of mothers not only in Fukushima but also Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, far away from the reactor. (In response to this survey, the Vice-Governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, made the ugly remark that they should “not stir up excessive worry and the housewives should get back to work right now.”) The radioactive pollution of Fukushima prefecture is getting considerably worse each day and there is a crisis situation where the health of children who are the most sensitive to radioactive material is concerned. But in response the government and Fukushima Prefecture do nothing but preach safety and are not attempting to take concrete measures. At any rate, Yoshihiko Ikegami can argue this point on this blog. What I would like to take up here is the appearance of ‘an exterior,’ ugly civil society outside Fukushima prefecture.

Right now there are two reactions to the people of Fukushima Prefecture in the ‘exterior’ civil society that would initially appear to be completely opposed.

One is the ‘Let’s go, Fukushima!” reaction, specifically an organized campaign saying “Fukushima is suffering from reputation damage, let’s buy its vegetables and products.” It is very widely said that one should buy things, and eat things, from Fukushima.

The other reaction is a form of discrimination directed towards those who have been evacuated out of Fukushima. There is the beginning of harassment and bullying of students from Fukushima who have transferred to schools in other prefectures. Cars with license plates from Fukushima are being denied service at gas stations, and people from Fukushima are being denied lodging at hotels.

These two reactions initially look like complete opposites of each other in the sense that the former appears as ‘good intentions’ and the latter appears as ‘bad intentions.’ In reality the two complement each other and function as a quarantine by ‘containing’ the people of Fukushima inside the area exposed to radiation. And these two reactions are bound together through the discourse of ‘reputation damage.’

In this context, ‘reputation damage’ connotes that ‘even though it’s safe, rumors are being spread that it’s pretty dangerous, and as a result people in Fukushima are taking damage to their livelihood and business.’ Of course, the problem is with a nuclear reactor and the situation is dangerous. But this fact is of no real importance. When the danger level at the Fukushima reactor was raised to 7, a television commentator made the following statement: “With a level 7 nuclear accident, reputation is a concern.” This discourse, which we might as well call Kafkaesque absurdity, is unchecked in Japan today and is a matter of course.

That agricultural products and seafood from the area of Fukushima Prefecture are in danger is already a matter of course. Most agricultural products and small fish originating in Fukushima prefecture are already blocked from shipment. This also means that a danger is closing in on the people in Fukushima who live off of this basis in the soil, and use this water.

But, nevertheless, citizens outside of Fukushima might as well be saying this: “Let’s go, people of Fukushima! Don’t give in to reputation damage: we’ll buy your products!” while at the same time saying “this business of ‘danger, danger’ is a lie! Humans of Fukushima, calm down and (however bad it gets) live your lives with restraint, and work diligently.” However, in actuality, most citizens outside of Fukushima Prefecture are conscious that something dangerous is happening. In other words, a distinction is being made between outward appearances and inward feelings. And the ugliest appearance of inward feelings here is in the problem of discrimination.

As for discrimination, most of the media is rephrasing this undeniable discrimination in terms of ‘reputation damage.’ To quote a television news headline, for example, “Evacuees from Fukushima Suffer Scientifically Baseless Reputation Damage.” This definition of reputation damage is a means of shifting the discourse, so as to say, ‘the problem isn’t with the government and TEPCO, who created the problem, but with the guys who are fanning the flames about danger,’ and in the case of individuals and companies which are practicing discrimination, the tacit suggestion is made that “they aren’t discriminating, the problem is with believing wrong information, and if we believe the government, as is correct, discrimination will disappear.” And if one believes the government, there isn’t any need for an evacuation or anything of the kind. In brief, the message is: ‘Stay in Fukushima.’

In my previous essay, “Dystopia of Civil Society, Part 1,” I argued that the strength of Japanese conformism originates not in tradition but the force of discipline in a civil society that has been brought into being by the logic of capital. In the present, a month and a half after 3/11, Fukushima is being positioned in the ‘outside’ of civil society. What is being positioned in the space between it and its outside is not a material wall. It is the wall of ‘primary responsibility for oneself.’ Who can flee when they are told, “Fukushima is perfectly safe, but if you want to flee, go ahead. But we won’t make any guarantees, and we have no idea what will happen to you afterwards?” Can you imagine the true repressive nature of a civil society that states in chorus “Let’s Go! Try harder!” to the people in Fukushima who are struck with anxiety and conflict while at the same time whispering under its breath, trying not to get involved, “but don’t disturb our everyday lives?” If you can’t, you would do well to imagine New York financial brokers gulping down Prozac while staring at the uncontrolled fall in California energy prices on their computers, yelling “Let’s Go!” while deciding, “But also there’s no way our electricity is going to be cut off.”

Still, the disaster has only been going for a month and a half (and what a long month and a half it has been…) It will take at the very shortest a year and at the longest will continue for decades. And it is fully possible that the situation will get worse. The situation is still in the process of unfolding, and while it does not show an accomplished form of control with fixed norms and ideals, but rather a situation that is moving along pragmatically along with changes in the balance of power, the picture drawn of civil society here is of an ugly civil society. But at the same time, a current among farmers, fishermen, and the participants in and sympathizers with the 15,000-person demonstration, which Mouri Takayoshi reports on in this blog, one that takes aim at the ‘real enemy,’ is growing stronger in the media and public opinion. But, Fukushima cannot be saved by this alone. This is where we stand now.













3 thoughts on “Dystopia of Civil Society — Part 2”

  1. I came across the SPK (Socialist Patients Collective) website http://www.spkpfh.de and found it quite revealing what Fukushima means when examined from the patients’ viewpoint: The doctor’s class is at work!

    In addition to the worldwide system decay another core melt-down (nuclear power plant Fukushima, Japan, 11/03/2011). / The medical doctors’ declaration of non-objection with respect to any nuclear power plant in advance and long since. / Medically prescribed epidemic of radiation, all over the globe, against all, along with therapy and death inside the radiation shelter clinic.

    I found also very important these texts:

    Illnesses of the world, unite!
    Turn illness into a revolutionary weapon!
    Patients’ class against the medical doctors’ class!

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