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2011年7月

Thoughts in the Disastrous Earthquake

I was on the 6th floor of a building in central

Tokyo

on March 11th, the historical day of earthquake. It was Friday afternoon; people were busy for settling up the week’s jobs, but also enjoying the coming expectations for their week-ends. There suddenly comes a first quake. It’s a slow movement, and seemed to be usual small earthquakes. People still had enough room for enjoying it like a kind of week-end event. But next shock was apparently different one. Also slow, but it’s driven by far stronger and powerful energies.

To see documents and files were dropping from the shelves, merrily atmosphere was disappeared from their faces. Strong swings and quakes were attacking repeatedly. Now it’s real earthquake, no doubt about it. Thrusting up from the floor was enormous energy; finally we began worrying if the building was made up safe enough? Oh come on, we might be standing in the midst of the historical disaster!

TV were broadcasting that the huge earthquake of Magnitude 9 level had occurred in the bottom of the sea, along the coast of 500 kilometers from Tohoku to Kanto area. Unbelievably huge Tsunami waves attacked Sanriku coastal areas repeatedly.

Black sea

waters were running and sweeping cars and houses away from the town. Vivid images of the disasters were sent immediately, to all over the world, again and again.

We couldn’t believe that water, such a soft flow and the origin of life, had a hidden power of violence. Big ships and buildings, iron poles and trains, large trees and rocks, were easily carried away, and the whole towns were completely devastated. People had no choice under the circumstances, just running away from the water to the height. Arriving on the safe place, they bewildered to see that their home town had just turned into hell on earth.

“This should be a dream!” a woman prays every morning when she awoke at a shelter. I seem to be able to understand her feeling. We cannot understand such unreasonable disasters, which can be happened only as a matter of dream or fictitious world. Just until yesterday, gentle times were slowly passing in beautiful scenery, which suddenly changed into unreasonably violent evil. Abnormal world might solemnly exist in somewhere else in a universe. And suddenly one day, by bursting through the boarder of dimensions, it appeared onto our real world.

Nuclear plants were damaged by Tsunami attacks, and fallen into uncontrollable situations. Since radioactive materials were leaked from the plant, the neighboring inhabitants were ordered to evacuate from the area. We’re very sorry for the evacuees, who were inevitably forced to live in inconvenient shelter. Why does this tragic accident happen? The answer is, long story short, terribly simple logics. One reason is that nuclear power plant was constructed based on human “assumption”. And another reason is that the scale of Tsunami was far exceeding our “assumption”.

Government officials and corporate executives unanimously excuse for the disasters, “it’s beyond our assumption”. Naturally, it’s a matter of humane course. Nobody can “assume” such a disastrous tragedy, which only belongs to evil’s design. Rather, my surprise is that everything existing in our world requires human “assumption”. Nuclear power plants and sea levees, concrete buildings and bridges, roads and rail-roads, every construction in our society were the results of someone’s “assumption” and the products of “calculation”.

“Number” has only one answer, which enables us to “calculate”. To be able to calculate means to be able to “forecast” in the future or in the space. Space and time can be build-up logically with precisely correctness, without one millimeter or one second’s variation. If you observe astronomical aviations and record them on a paper by numbers, you can precisely forecast, the correct time and place of next solar full eclipse. By calculating weight and strength, you can build-up sky scrapers or long bridges over the ocean.

Scientific technology shows a tremendous power, if it’s applied to the calculable phenomenon. On the other hand, it’s utterly like disabled fellow for the subject which is nothing to do with calculation. Science can launch human beings to the moon, but cannot “assume” in good or bad temper of his wife on tomorrow morning. Technologies can construct nuclear power plant, but cannot forecast future earthquakes. Dazzled by the glorious success of scientific technologies, we should not apply them to “uncountable” natural disasters, which belong to the different dimension of a universe.

To build buildings and bridges and sea levees based upon technical “assumption”, and to build nuclear power plant based on scientific “assumption”, are quite different problems. Because the quality of disasters, due to the miss “assumption”, have quite different characteristics. It requires a lot of time and expenses to re-construct the lost buildings and bridges and levees. But we can manage them eventually. On the other hand, nuclear accident has a possibility to drag us into unknown world, from which we cannot find any procedures of recovery.

“Number” is a line of logics. It’s like a railroad or telephone cable, a continuous connection of line. It takes a lot of time and money to construct a railroad or telephone cable. But once completed, it brings us enormous conveniences and benefits. These conveniences are the results of continuous connections. Consequently, only a single break makes it impossible to run a train, or speak through a telephone.

Due to earthquake damages, many industries stopped operations in Tohoku area. The shut-down of Automobile and electronics parts production facilities, gave considerable impacts to Asian and Western economies. Global production “line” is a system, where hundreds and thousands of parts were gathered from all over the world and finished goods are produced in assembly-line. The productions “line” system is a same logic of telephone cable. If rats bite a single break, it becomes useless.

Assembly-line production system is not only for automobile or electronics industries in our society. In companies and governments, hospitals and schools, jobs are divided and specialized into small parts. And small parts are once again gathered and combined, to make finished goods through assembly-line organization. Nobody knows if the way of doing jobs in the office through assembly line system is truly correct or effective. But anyway, jobs have been done in that way for a long time.

Companies are specialized in economic activities, hospitals are for patients, children are in school, and old people are gathered to the facility. Hospitals are divided into specialties, surgery, internal, pediatrics, women and urology. Corporate organization is divided into personnel, finance, sales and production departments. Within each department, jobs are further divided into small peaces. Each individual is responsible for only a tiny part, and become a “specialist” of a fragment.

Jobs to construct nuclear power plant, to make profit from the management, and to make “assumption” for the future disasters, are divided into peaces in the organization. These separated pieces of works are shared between Tokyo Electric Company and Japanese government. If there is not enough leadership to generalize, consolidate, and control these specialized functions, the result will easily be imagined, a possibility of awful tragedy.

A foreign journalist sends a report to his country, surprisingly admired that, how calmly Japanese civilians are behaving under these disastrous conditions. Compared with ordinary citizens, why Japanese government heads or the management of Tokyo Electric are so stupid and looks incompetent? Surely, there might be this kind of tendency in our society. But I think the main reason is due to the way of doing jobs or organizational assembly-line system. Even if each individual is excellent and humane in his private life, organizational mechanism requires an honest but stupid person, in other words “digital person”, in our society.

It is said that people will fail in his strongest area. We don’t feel any doubt to our present social system or the way of thinking, if things are functioning ordinarily. But when we lost everything under destructive earthquake, inevitably need to face the fundamental principle or rule of our society. Now must be the time to questioning ourselves once again, simple and pure questioning like The Little Prince, “How can we be happy?”. 

Nobody care about water, gas, or electricity, if it functioning properly. It’s thought to be a kind of mechanical system. But when stopped services by destruction, for the first time, people are aware the supplies are come from human works. People silently laboring in reconstruction works of roads, walking besides wreckages to check the damage of water supply, light electricity in the dark shelter and be thanked from evacuees. We are again aware that our rich civilization is based on human labors of seriousness. 

Many help hands and supports were offered from all over the world, and surprisingly much money was donated. Mr. Song alone contributed 10 billion Yen.

Taiwan

, a small island country, and famous for pro-Japanese sentiment, contributed more money than

USA

. Even the poorest countries in Asia and

Africa

offered donations. Silent prayers were offered to the victims, before the game of Major League Baseball and world soccer tournament. Whole world looks like our close neighbors, and felt warmth of kind attentions.

100 thousand of Japanese Self Defense Forces were dispatched to the damaged area.

US

forces sent aircraft carrier off the Sanriku shore, and made operations to search remains and withdraw debris. In a peace time, army seems to be suspicious-looking group for us, but they turned into most reliable existence in a disaster. Many unknown volunteers visited shelters, and offered variety of activities. We haven’t felt such many thanks to the warmth and good intentions from all over the world. 

We’re living in a highly developed civilization, which is apparently due to the success of science and market economy. Science or physics are made up of mathematics. The effectiveness of market economy is measured by “money”, or “numbers”. So, our civilization is the civilization of “numbers”. In our present society, to live means to calculate.

Everybody living on this globe have to speak the common language of “numbers”. Finally, the way of thinking unintentionally becomes like “numbers”, abstract, homogeneous, intolerance, and inorganic coldness. This is the main reason why modern people lost humanity and don’t feel happy, even living in rich society.

It is grateful to have warm encouragement when we’re in trouble. But it’s a little bit disappointing that the human warmth is felt only in the time of accident. If recovering from disasters, and back to the normal life, means returning to the inorganic coldness of numbers, it mistakes the means for the end. I think it’s a wonderful occasion for all of us, if we could change this unhappy accident to the chance, to questioning ourselves with children’s pure eyes, “how can we be happy in a society?”

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”

…The Little Prince

(July 24, 2011)

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