Friday, March 25, 2011

There are still "Samurai" in Japan

Hideaki Akaiwa is one of them, an unassuming hero. When his home town of of Ishinomaki in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture was flooded by the tsunami, he set out with great courage to rescue his wife and mother from the waves. There are several versions of the story in the news so it appears to be a true account. Some versions of the story say that he used scuba gear in his efforts but apparently he only used a wetsuit. He is an experienced surfer. In good Japanese style, he rejects personal publicity and has given only a few monosyllabic replies to questions. I have modified the account below to remove profane language

Hideaki's wife of twenty years was still buried inside the lake somewhere. She hadn't gotten out. She wasn't answering her phone. The water was still rising, the sun was setting, cars and were swooshing past on a river of sea water, and and rescue workers told him there was nothing that could be done - the only thing left was to sit back, wait for the military to arrive, and hope that they can get in there and rescue the survivors before it's too late. With 10,000 citizens of Ishinomaki still missing and unaccounted for, the odds weren't great that Hideaki would ever see his wife again.

For most of us regular folks, this is the sort of that would make us throw up our hands, swear loudly, and resign ourselves to a lifetime of hopeless misery. But Hideaki Akaiwa isn't a regular guy. He's an insane hero, and he wasn't going to sit back and just let his wife die alone, freezing to death in a miserable water-filled tomb. He was going after her. No matter what.

Hideaki wasn't going to let a pair of soul-crushing natural disasters deter him from doing awesome things and saving his family. He dove down into the water in the freezing cold, pitch black rushing current on all sides, and started swimming through the ruins of his former hometown.

Surrounded by incredible hazards on all sides, ranging from obscene currents capable of dislodging houses from their moorings, sharp twisted metal and giant cars careening through the water like toys, he pressed on. Past broken glass, past destroyed houses, past downed power lines arcing with electrical current, through undertow that could have dragged him out to sea never to be heard from again, he searched.

Hideaki maintained his composure and navigated his way through the submerged city, finally tracking down his old house. He quickly swam through to find his totally-freaked-out wife, alone and stranded on the upper level of their house, barely keeping her head above water. He grabbed her tight and dragged her out of the wreckage to safety. She survived.

But Hideaki Akaiwa still wasn't done yet.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering what the hell is more intense than face-punching a tsunami and dragging your wife of two decades out of the flooded wreckage of your home, but it gets even better. You see, Hideaki's mother also lived in Ishinomaki, and she was still unaccounted for. I think you all know where this is going.

First, Hideaki searched around the evacuation shelters and other areas, looking for his mom among the ragtag groups of survivors who had been lucky enough to flee to higher ground. She might have escaped, and he needed to find her. Now. He ran through the city like some post-apocalyptic action hero, desperately trying to track her down, but when a couple of days went by without any sign of her, he knew what he had to do. The water had only receded a few inches by this point, the rescue teams weren't working quickly enough for his tastes, and Hideaki Akaiwa once again took matters into his own hands - rushing back into the waterlogged city looking for his mom.

So, once again Hideaki navigated his way through the Atlantean city, picking his way through crumbling wreckage, splintered wood, and shredded metal to find his elderly mother. After another grueling trek, he tracked her down on the upper levels of a house - she'd been stranded there for four days, and would almost certainly have died without the timely aid of her son. He brought her to safety somehow as well, as you might expect at this point.

Now, while most people would have been content in the knowledge that their family was safe, Hideaki Akaiwa isn't the sort of hero who's going to hang up his flippers and quit just because he'd taken care of his own personal business - this guy made an oath to keep going back into the wreckage on his own to find people and help them to safety. Today this 43 year-old Japanese hero rides out every single day, multiple times a day, riding around on a bicycle with his legs wrapped in plastic to keep himself dry. His only equipment - a pocketknife, a canteen, a flashlight, a change of clothes, and a set of aviator sunglasses - packed into a trusty trio of backpacks, he rides out in search of people needing rescue, a modern-day, real-life action hero.

SOURCE. Another account here.


More stories from remarkable Japan

Observations by a visiting British journalist. He was apparently also in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and draws some obvious comparisons. I think readers here will know well enough about the Katrina aftermath, however

In Japan there has been not the slightest sign of civil unrest. In the hard-hit city of Sendai, I was humbled by a visit to the Tatekoshi elementary school — one of hundreds used as shelters for the homeless.

It was evening when I arrived, and the 272 men, women and children had just eaten a supper of sticky rice and curry sauce, and then formed an orderly queue to wash in cold water in the cloakroom. They were preparing to spend another freezing night sleeping on the gym floor. They knew they would be sardined together like this for many months, yet I heard not a murmur of complaint.

The Japanese are sticklers for neatness, and their blankets were folded with absolute precision, with each person claiming exactly the same amount of space. They are also obsessive about hygiene, and had hung their laundry to dry over the gym’s parallel bars.

The adults chatted amiably in small social groups, and one elderly woman told me how ‘fortunate’ they felt to have a roof above their heads.

Meanwhile, the best-behaved children I have ever come across made light of the fact they had lost their computers and other electronic gadgetry, and played traditional games instead. One little girl even folded a beautiful origami bird from coloured cardboard and proudly presented it to me as I left.

Less than a fortnight after their homes were reduced to matchwood and all their belongings were lost, these valiant people are already contributing towards Japan’s new future.

Ferried back to their flattened districts in local authority buses each day, they join the search for bodies and clear away rubble. ‘There is no time to look back,’ one young woman told me. ‘We must face up to what has happened, take responsibility for ourselves, and move forward. There is nothing else to be done.’

This is exactly the message promoted daily on NHK TV, Japan’s equivalent of the BBC. In Britain, in such circumstances, government ministers and bosses of the power plants so grievously damaged would be called to account for their every action. But there is no Japanese Jeremy Paxman.

The news is rather like one of those old Pathe newsreels screened in our cinemas during World War II, with clips of rice rations being delivered and communities pulling together. The newspapers publish useful tips, such as how mothers can make nappies out of plastic shopping bags and carry their babies on their backs in slings made from towels.

In Japan, however, they don’t ‘do’ heroes. Glorifying the individual is simply not their way. Nor is it done to disclose intimate personal details, or express one’s innermost feelings.

That is why we don’t even know the names of some of the most courageous men alive, the so-called ‘Fukushima 50’ — the brave nuclear power technicians risking a lingering death from nuclear fall-out in an effort to avert a catastrophic meltdown. And, whatever becomes of them, we probably never will.

With a great deal of persuasion, I did, at least, get permission to speak to two policemen who rescued an 80-year-old grandmother and her grandson, aged 16, after eight days trapped in the wreckage of their home.

If I expected them to describe, in copious detail, how they located the pair, then scrambled over precarious timbers and shards of glass to reach them, I was to be disappointed.

‘We are not special. It was a team effort,’ Sergeant Yoichi Seino told me with a shrug. ‘We are just happy we were able to send a message to our people, to never stop hoping.’

All along the tsunami coast, I met this same, one-for-all and all-for-one sense of purpose. Take, for instance, the young Sendai council worker whose entire life had been swept away by the great wave. ‘My dearest wife and son were lost in the great tsunami, but I’m still their proud husband and father,’ the man, who signed himself ‘S’, had written on a sign pinned to the town hall door. ‘I know it’s hard, but please — I implore you — don’t give up!’

Back in the relative safety of Tokyo, I related these experiences to a young flight attendant, and invited her to explain why her compatriots react so very differently to Westerners in the face of great hardship.

‘In Japan, children learn from a very early age always to think about the harmony of the group, rather than their own feelings,’ she told me. ‘We think: “If I accept a bad situation, then everybody will accept it, and it will be easier.”

‘It’s not that we aren’t scared inside, for instance about what might happen at Fukushima. And of course we feel heartbroken at the massive loss of life. ‘But we hide our true feelings because we believe that will help other people. What good will it do if I say I am frightened? The ripples of that emotion will only spread through the group.’

She continued: ‘When I went to high school in LA, I was amazed because Americans had an opinion about everything and expressed it loudly. My teacher wanted me to do the same, but that is not the Japanese way.’

Indeed not. But it is the Japanese way to be hospitable to guests — as I discovered when a woman brought me a bowl of noodles to eat as I trudged through the snow. And it is their way to carry on regardless, when the skyscraper they are working in suddenly shudders so violently that I dived under the desk.

At the airport this week, I met a young woman from Tokyo flying to London to distribute thousands of traditional Japanese hand-painted pictures. They were inscribed with a simple message: ‘Please pray for Japan.’

And so we should, for her stricken people deserve our prayers as they begin — with a very old-fashioned, once-British stiff upper lip — to rebuild their shattered lives.



Leftists are still fascinated by that old hater

Which tells is a lot about them. Basically, Marx hated everyone. He even mocked the workers

BOOK REVIEW of "Commonwealth" By Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

Reviewed by: David L. Prychitko

Some two decades after the collapse of communism, socialist intellectuals still scramble to rehabilitate Marx and collectivist social theory in general, with Duke University professor Michael Hardt and Italian sociologist Antonio Negri leading the bunch. Academics are attracted to their radical critique of existing capitalist institutions. Non-academics and educated laypersons on the left are attracted to their radical message and hope that the people will successfully engage in a revolution to overturn private ownership and market exchange.

Although the book has attracted some zealous followers, it is a difficult read. One wades through lengthy and tiring discussions of Foucault, debates with Sartre, attempts to refashion Marxist theory, and then, sandwiched in between, hopeful tales about the restoration of “authentic identity” among the Maya and lengthy, optimistic claims about how the people of Cochabamba are progressing from “antimodernity” toward “altermodernity.” One suspects that the authors understand that their ideas won’t hold up well if stated in plain English, so they resort to an obscure but intimidating style. Amidst all of this, and among many other intellectual detours, stands a full-blown chapter on Spinoza’s concept of love. Suffice it to say that Hardt and Negri argue that people must be trained and educated in love in order to fight the evil forces of private property.

The authors assume (but don’t bother to argue) that property and market exchange block and destroy genuine human relationships. Marx had this general insight correct, they believe, but they suggest that his analysis needs to be corrected and updated in its details to fit our postindustrial age. Hardt and Negri claim that Marx’s theory of alienation, for example, must be further developed from an analysis of competitive separation of people and estrangement of the fruits of their labor to an “alienation of one’s thought” itself. Exactly what that means isn’t clear, but I think they’re suggesting that our thoughts aren’t truly our own, but are created by the capitalist system that allegedly controls us.

The authors insist that life—genuine, loving human relationships—is nestled in “the common.” The common consists of those institutions beyond private and public ownership of the means of production and, it appears, the fruits of labor, too. (One of the book’s many confusing aspects is that the meaning of “the common” is vague and shifting.) In Hardt and Negri’s view private property is the essence of capitalism, public property the essence of socialism, and the common is the essence of—you guessed it—communism. With this concept the authors try to break from the totalitarian consequences of “the victorious revolutions” of Russia, China, and Cuba. They claim to be optimistic that the revolution is imminent and, at long last, emancipating.

Nowhere do the authors consider the possibility that their revolution might lead to adverse results. Nor do they ever come to terms with the knowledge-communicating properties of voluntary and open exchanges of property rights. The coordination of plans, which is ultimately coordination of thoughts and expectations, is completely ignored in the book. How this can happen without private property and exchange is a mystery.

The common, the authors proclaim, is the ground of freedom and voluntarism. Activities within the common are the source of true wealth (hence the book’s title). The freedom of the common is the freedom to find and develop love, and it provides the source of the multitude’s supposed creative power. But “capital,” that meaningless collectivist concept that goes back to Marx himself, disrupts the common. Capital, they assert, exploits the multitude, the truly productive.

And the multitude is huddled and gathered mainly in cities, in “the metropolis,” used as another collectivistic concept. Marx focused on the factory, but Hardt and Negri claim that the metropolis is supposedly the current site of “hierarchy and exploitation, violence and suffering, fear and pain,” and therefore will be the site of the impending revolt. The authors have absolutely no sense of cities as spontaneous orders where millions cooperate for mutual gain. Maybe people keep going to cities because they are alienated from their own thoughts.

Hardt and Negri try to impress with their knowledge of Foucault, Laclan, Derrida, and Viveiros de Castro, but where’s Smith? Where’s Hayek? Where’s Jacobs? They never address the spontaneous and invisible-hand-like nature of markets, the communicative and wealth-enhancing nature of exchange, the role that cities play in such exchange, and the notion of civil society, an independent sector that is not fundamentally organized through commercial activity or the violent compulsion of the State. Are they even aware of the counterargument? And if so, when do they plan to address it?



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I ran into this photo of my ex-girlfriend today. She is now Google's top Adwords attorney. I am utterly proud of her.

Outside of a Christian sense of general all-around gratitude, is there any other tradition that might allow me to gain some sort of happy support from the human race, based upon actual gratitude?

The entire common-folk world is chock full of fools.

Thank you so much, day after day, for adding sophisticated and savvy value to my life. Us old folk, I dunno, not much real fight left in us. Jail's full of proud recipients of free lunches.

Do I really have to be a Republican? They hate stem cells. They hate old man Darwin. Do some push ups, John. You are no Tim Leary. Yes you are! At heart. Fighting the good fight.