Thursday, March 17, 2011

Re: Japan: Still, you don't know what's going on...at all...mostly


It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior caste, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural, or the lowest caste. Or if he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name or family the man is -- or whether he is tall, or short, or of middle height ...Before knowing all this, that man would die. Similarly, it is not on the view that the world is eternal, that it is finite, that body and soul are distinct, or that the Buddha exists after death that a religious life depends. 

 So much the more for our tiny opinions!


TOKYO — With all the euphemistic language on display from officials handling Japan’s nuclear crisis, one commodity has been in short supply: information.
When an explosion shook one of many stricken reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Saturday, power company officials initially offered a typically opaque, and understated, explanation.
“A big sound and white smoke” were recorded near Reactor No. 1, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, announced in a curt memo. The matter “was under investigation,” it added.
Foreign nuclear experts, the Japanese press and an increasingly angry and rattled Japanese public are frustrated by government and power company officials’ failure to communicate clearly and promptly about the nuclear crisis. Pointing to conflicting reports, ambiguous language and a constant refusal to confirm the most basic facts, they suspect officials of withholding or fudging crucial information about the risks posed by the ravaged Daiichi plant.
 Unless you've made a concerted effort  for years  with the Japanese, they're just not going to be immediately candid; the very structure of their language carves humanity up into insiders and outsiders of varying degrees of inside and outside. And in a sense this is very honest; no American politician - or even the New York Times - is exactly candid with you either. They can't be, out of fiduciary responsibility to those that fund them.

And they're not you. Or me.  In that article they point out that the American media (among others) had misreported that workers at one point had "abandoned" the nuclear reactor.  The Japanese media, even in English, didn't actually say this; they'd just temporarily relocated to a place where they could continue their work.  Anyway, it shows skepticism is in order all around here.

Here's another example of the massive "Don't Know" that's pervading the information about Japan and this event:

Much of Japan’s industry seemed to remain in a state of suspension Wednesday, as the devastation from an earthquake and tsunami, combined with fear and uncertainty over the nuclear calamity, made it difficult for corporate Japan to think about business as usual.
And that has left many overseas customers and trading partners in something of an information vacuum, unsure how soon the effects of any supply-chain disruptions would make themselves felt — and how long they might last.
Even General Motors, a company that might seem to benefit from disruptions to Japan’s auto industry, finds itself in a period of watchful waiting. For one thing, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in-hybrid from G.M. — whose sales could conceivably benefit from any production snags in Toyota’s popular made-in-Japan Prius — depends on a transmission from Japan.
Mark L. Reuss, G.M.’s president for North American operations, said Wednesday that he did not yet know whether his company could count on an uninterrupted flow of that Volt component from Japan.
“We just don’t know from a supply standpoint; there’s so many great things that come out of Japan for the whole industry,” he said, speaking to reporters after a speech at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Here in Tokyo, Japan’s business capital, many companies — whether Japanese or foreign — were distracted Wednesday by plans for removing their employees from the potential path of radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 140 miles north. Telephone calls and e-mails to many corporate headquarters in Tokyo simply went unanswered. 


In fact, many Japanese industries are distributed throughout Japan. If this were China - where huge industries are concentrated in a single place, with all competing companies localized, entire industries would have been devastated.  The real story is: much of Japan's industry is still functioning.  In fact, try booking a flight 2 months in advance to the Kansai area.  

Just try it.  The planes are full.  True, it's near Golden Week, and some folks might be taking extended vacations - who wouldn't? But business is really continuing in Japan.


 Anyway, if you can aid Japan, please do so. That's better than trading opinions back and forth.  BTW,  Brad Warner expresses similar sentiments here, though without the business focus.  As I did say in the comments, I will make one prognostication: somebody in a high position in Tokyo Denryoku is going to commit 自殺 (jisatsu, suicide) over this. That  happened previously over an airplane crash, for example.

Update:
Two more comments:

1. One thing we do know, those workers trying to stop the crisis at Fukushima are true heroes.  As somebody tweeted (I still do not know how to reliably link these things!) "Japanese nuclear worker on the news: 'I am prepared to die to avoid meltdown.' Say it with me--I will not complain about my job today."

2.  As an almost entirely unrelated anecdote, as  I was watching the English language feed from NHK, I heard the announcer say, as Fukushima's reactors billowed smoke, "You can now see...white smoke...coming from Fukushima Dai-ichi."   Some wag tweeted in response, "That means they've elected a pope!"






9 comments:

J said...

The Bud.'s "Broken arrow sermon " ---assuming it's legit.--does have a certain charm, and shows that Guatama, whoever he was, was a sort of counselor and ethicist-- not a magic man, or guru per se.

At the same time, I imagine ancient hindu metaphysicians (or any greeks in the vicinity) might have quibbled with Gautama's somewhat anti-intellectual views. Ah Blessed One, doesn't....the Dharma relate to causality itself, to the cycle of birth and death, suffering, to...incessant dissipation?? Or something of the sort. Contemplative practice follows a certain...view of existence (ie, not "zen for executive success").

Actually a few of the early parables such as this one (again, assuming reliability) reveal the Buddha's opposition to ...caste. Comrade Gautama--mo' chinese than japanese IMHE--tho against emperors of whatever sort (including capitalist).

Mumon said...

It's a useful metaphor for what to do in the real life one has.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Perhaps, Mumonsan. But...not exactly conducive to Hirohito-zen. The sage known as the Buddha was a...humanist of sorts, IMHE (that doesn't mean I completely approve of his views).

Zen masters and gurus, especially western sort, on the other hand aren't--but typically wannabe ...colonels.

That said, you didn't answer my..inquiry: does an earthquake have Buddha nature?

Mumon said...

J:

Not important.

J said...

Not to you, anymore than say Kant is. But it is important to some--indeed naive nature-mysticism might be said to be a type of common superstition.

Buddhism, transported to USA--Bogus with a capital B.

Mumon said...

J:

I'm going to say this as respectfully as I can:

When you denigrate Buddhism with statements such as "Buddhism, transported to USA--Bogus with a capital B," you're denigrating hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are Buddhists by Asian heritage, and others are convert Buddhists.

You know virtually none of these people, if any.


Hence your statement is that of a bigot.

I'd prefer if you didn't comment on my blog if you're going to make such comments.

And if you can't take the hint, there are other tools at my disposal I have no problem with compassionately using.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

You've called Christianity Bogus (didn't you include Jews and Muslims as well, somewhere). So one might say the same of you (though I shan't) Besides, objecting to a particular religion as bogus does not imply bigotry--non sequitur actually.

One of my neighbors is a mormon and I informed her her religion is, yes, bogus. She's still a nice responsible person and fairly intellgent. One's not a bigot for saying the LDS is bogus.


Actually the Buddha nearly says as much re bogusity. Absolute proclamations are ..verboten. Even .."Buddhism is true, or the only path." All is Bogus, in Buddhaland.