Big Surprise: Life Goes On – Tokyo Still Kicking
Update 2011.03.17 17:24 I have written a long reply to a comment from Julien where I explain why I am not afraid. It was a good question and I am thankful to Julien for taking the time to ask me this. I feel that it would be a useful thing to read for everyone who wonders about me. Thanks Julien!
As I woke up this morning and checked the news feeds I noticed that several embassies around the world are posting – quite frankly, they are panicking – instructions to their citizens to leave Japan or at least the North east area (Touhoku). I won’t name and shame any these countries (you know who you are), but a few countries are making headlines as being the first to succumb to this completely irrational fear and calling their citizens back. So what are foreigners saying about the situation in Japan, foreigners not in Japan?
I listed the three most common “complaints”, and they match with Asia, North America and Europe respectively.
“I have no information” Well, what do you expect us to do? Spoon feed relevant information to every single citizen in your country or try to enforce your government to give you information? This is 2011. It is all out there, in any number of languages. And since you are reading this, chances are that you already read English, which is enough to give access to the most recent and relevant information yourself. I understand that you might not know where to look, but ask someone who knows, eventually you’ll be on top of the situation as well as any one. I live 240km from the power plants having trouble, and I have access to exactly the same information as my friends in Kula Lumpur, Ulan Bataar, Christchurch, Melbourne, Lissabon or Quebec. If you desire official information from your government, take it up with them. The Japanese government regularly issues updates to embassies in Tokyo and again, your government knows as much as I do. It’s all on the Internet.
“I don’t trust the Japanese government” I don’t blame you if you don’t, but let me tell you that I do. I have personal friends who have been ministers, I know some government officials personally. These guys are not stupid. Far from it. Neither are they part of some huge cover up operation, mean, lying, or determined to screw the general citizen, they are people just like me, but in many times far more intelligent. So, if you don’t trust the Japanese government, who will you trust? How about one of the hundreds of independent radiation detector operators across Japan? Surely not all of them lie. What about the US navy? They report no radiation and they are
50km 90km from the whole mess. How about doctors, eye witness accounts, university professors, the IAEA? Surely not all of them are trying to deceive you. It seems that I will be getting my own geiger counter in a couple of weeks, if the Gods of International Cargo have mercy on me. When I do I will start measuring daily all across the Kanto area to keep you informed. Don’t trust me? Well, I can’t help you with that I’m afraid. But the real, boring, normal, silly, truth is that, there is no health risk from radiation outside the plant itself. The government set the radiation safe zone at 20km this morning. Yes, the evacuation zone is 30km 20km (stay indoors zone is 30km), but they want to play it safe. At present, the radiation levels in Rome, Italy, are higher than 30km from the power plant. And I don’t see any ambassadors freaking out over this.
“I watch the news and it looks horrible” What did you expect from a class of people who make their living feeding you fear and lies? What did you expect after what happened? How can a modern society get hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and end up not looking rough? But the horrible truth (and it really saddens me) is that a majority of foreign media are actively up playing the scale of this disaster. I have personally seen foreign TV stations who have stitched together images of people walking past rubble in Sendai with the headline “People leaving Tokyo”. The Sun (oh have mercy on us all) in the UK ran the most insulting headline I have ever seen yesterday with their “Exodus From Tokyo” B-S. One Swedish tabloid had stock images of a US carrier at sea with the headline “US Navy fleeing cloud of death” in point sizes so large as to cover most of the front page. I won’t even mention what I’m seeing from Malaysian, US, French, Italian, Croatian, Canadian, German etc etc media. But it is really upsetting. And rest assured, some day soon, in a couple of weeks when this is over, the Japanese will turn around to check what has been said about them while they were occupied elsewhere. How do you think this outright lying will make your country look to the people of this country? Do you think a Japanese family watching screen shots of CNN a couple of weeks ago will be able to keep their respect for the US? For Sweden? For all the other countries whose media are doing their damned best to induce panic amongst their citizens in order to sell more ad space, to sell more in the newsstands?
Rest assured, fear, and the production of it, is a huge industry. Ask yourself who benefits from you feeling insecure, lonely, unsuccessful or scared? Lately, private media has shown us their real face.
People are lamenting the death of news media. TV channels and papers going out of business. Well, I used to care but not anymore. Good riddance to them. And please close the door when you leave.
So for everyone asking me, I am still in Tokyo. I can leave any time I want to. I do not plan to leave. I do not think there is a risk to my health now, or in the future because of this disaster. Sure, feel free to point at me if I’m wrong. Feel free to sing “na-na-na-na-na” and say “what about that stupid fearless Tokyobling guy?”. IF something happens. IF. Until then, join me and do your best in telling the people you know, and the people you know in Japan that you believe in us and that you know things will be all right eventually. Tweet this blog post (I’m not doing this for me, I own no stock, have no currency reserves, I don’t make a single penny out of the ads on this blog), ask your media to please verify every single headline, to verify every single adjective they use. Check and double check.
And please ask your friends to stay calm. We have bigger problems going on right now. The psychological damage to survivors (and that includes me, and probably you) is likely to far exceed the physical damages. Your kind words, your support to the people of Japan, your smile, is enough. We are not asking for money. Just your love. And last time I checked love was still free of charge. So here’s a million hugs to all of you. I can afford it.
Yours, Tokyobling (who is still going to work, still buying train tickets, still taking his camera out for walks, still online, still on Facebook, still planning his vacation and still, smiling. Almost every day)