The following is the English translation of a powerful speech delivered by citizen activist Ruiko Muto at the recent Goodbye Genpatsu demonstration held on September 19th. Muto herself is from Fukushima, and had ironically been working to help decommission the Dai-ichi nuclear plant at the time of the accident last March. These words provide a crucial perspective from someone who experienced the Fukushima catastrophe firsthand, which those us who are not there will never be able to fully comprehend.
Hello everyone. I came here today from Fukushima.Translated by Emma Parker
I came along with many busloads of my companions, both from Fukushima prefecture itself and from the places to which we have evacuated. For many, this is the first time to participate in a rally or demo. We reached out, invited each other along, and came here today because we want to tell you about the grief caused by the accident at the nuclear plant in Fukushima; and because we are determined that we, of all people, will raise our voices to say that we do not want nuclear reactors.
There are a few things I would like to say at the start.
I want to express my deep respect for each one of you, who have tackled so many things each day, in the midst of this difficult period since 3/11, in order to protect life.
I also want to express my gratitude to all of you who have warmly reached out to connect with the people of Fukushima prefecture and to support us in various ways. Thank you.
And to all the children and young people whom this accident has forced to shoulder a heavy burden, I want to apologise from my heart on behalf of the generation that brought about such a situation. I am truly sorry.
I want to tell you all that Fukushima is a very beautiful place. To the east, the Hamadori region gazes out across the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The Nakadori region is a treasure-house of fruits: peaches, pears and apples. Golden rice stalks droop their heads on the Aizu plain, around Lake Inawashiro and Mount Bandai, while the far side is framed by deep mountain ranges. This land, with its blue mountains and clear water, is our homeland.
The nuclear accident of 3/11 was a turning-point. Radiation, invisible to the eye, descended on this landscape, and we too became “hibakusha” *.
In the midst of widespread confusion, various things happened to us.
Caught between a rapidly rolled-out "safety campaign" and feelings of alarm, the connections between people were torn apart. Who can say how many people worried and grieved: in our localities, our workplaces, our schools, our homes? Day after day, many inescapable decisions were forced upon us. To flee, or not to flee? To eat, or not to eat? To hang the laundry outside, or not to hang it outside? To make our children wear masks, or not to make them? To plough our fields, or not to plough them? To speak out about something, or to remain silent? There were various agonising decisions.
And now, here we are.
During the past half year, the following things have become clear:
The truth of the situation is being hidden
The country is not protecting its citizens
The accident is still not over
The inhabitants of Fukushima prefecture are being made the subjects of a nuclear experiment
A huge volume of radioactive waste remains
Despite the enormous price that we have already paid, there are powers that are intent on driving nuclear power production forward.
We have been discarded.
We heave deep sighs of exhaustion and overwhelming sadness. But the words that spill from our mouths are "Don't you dare treat us like fools!", "Don't snatch away our lives!"
In the midst of our anger and grief, we, the citizens of Fukushima prefecture, are quietly rising up:
Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, wanting to protect their children...
The young generation, fighting to stop their future from being stolen...
Workers trying to help those cleaning up the stricken nuclear plant, exposed to huge doses of radiation in the process...
Farmers filled with despair at the contamination of their land...
People with disabilities, determined that the radiation should not give rise to a new discrimination and separation...
One by one, each of us citizens is asking questions about the responsibility of the state, and of TEPCO **. And we are raising our voices to say "No more nuclear reactors!"
We have become the ogres of Tohoku***, quietly burning with fury.
We, the people of Fukushima, want to share our suffering, responsibility and hope, and to support each other as we move forward with our lives, whether we have left our hometowns or have stayed in our land. Please join with us. Please take note of the action that we are undertaking. We are learning about negotiations with the government, evacuation rulings, temporary evacuation, recovering our health, decontamination, measurement of radiation levels, nuclear reactors and radioactivity. And we are going everywhere to tell people about Fukushima. Today, companions of ours are giving a speech in New York. We are working on this in every way we can think of. Please help us. Please don't forget Fukushima.
There is one more thing that I want to talk about, which is how we each live our lives. We need to imagine the world on the far side of that socket into which we plug things so heedlessly. We need to put our minds on the fact that convenience and development come at the price of discrimination and sacrificing people. Nuclear power plants are on the far side of that socket. The human race is no more than one species among the living creatures on this earth. Is there any other species that usurps its own future? I want to live as a living being should, in harmony with this beautiful planet. Although it may be a small thing, I want to treat energy as a precious resource, and weave an ingenious, rich, creative life.
How can we build a new world that is the polar opposite of one reliant on nuclear reactors? Nobody knows the full answer to that. What I think we can do is for each one of us, in complete and total earnest, to think with our own minds, make sure to open our eyes wide, decide what we can do, and act on it, rather than following what someone else has decided. Let us remember that each one of us has that power.
Every one of us has the courage to change. Let us reclaim the confidence that was taken from us. And then, let us connect with each other. If the power that even now aims to advance nuclear plants is a vertical wall looming over us, our power extends horizontally, without limits, through our ongoing connection.
Try reaching out and gently holding the hand of the person next to you. Let's look at each other, and listen to each other's pain. Let's allow each other's anger and tears. Let's spread the warmth of these hands we're holding now throughout Japan and the world.
However overwhelmingly heavy the burden each one of us has to bear, however rough the road that we have to travel, let us support each other so that we do not lose sight of our goal, and let us live through this time freely and blithely.
* The "hibakusha" are the victims of the atomic bombings of 1945. The use of this term for the victims of the nuclear accident last March makes this one of the most emotionally and politically charged sentences of the speech. The moral position of the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is unassailable; no Japanese politician would dare be seen to belittle their suffering. Placing the victims of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident in the same category, however, emphasises that the lack of action by the government and TEPCO is just as inexcusable.
Also, the Japanese government was only able to obtain public acceptance of its nuclear power programme by acting as though nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation were two completely unrelated questions. Although many of the hibakusha have long been anti-nuclear weapons activists, few have been involved in the opposition to nuclear power. The accident of3/11 changed this situation, with many more people questioning whether any use of nuclear energy can really be safe, and the two movements are finally beginning to join forces.
** Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, the company that owns the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant
*** Additional explanation from Ruiko: the people of Tohoku were first called "ogres" by Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, an eighth-century general, because of their resistance to his attempts to bring them under the rule of the Kyoto-based court. In Tohoku, ogres are not seen primarily as scary creatures, but as figures of resistance with whom people sympathise. For example, there are many dances that depict them in this way. During centuries of exploitation and marginalization, the people of Tohoku have not been able to express their anger openly; but now they are becoming "ogres" once more.
Ruiko Muto is a key member of Hairo Action Fukushima (http://hairoaction.com/), an organization set up by a group of Fukushima citizens in October 2010, to plan and implement a "decommission the reactors action year" beginning on March 26 2011, the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.