Monday, November 28, 2011

"Global Gandhian Moment" — Fukushima, Okinawa, the World, Occupy & Civic Empowerment

Peace Studies and Okinawa scholar Satoko Oka Norimatsu renders a historical analysis of a Japanese political pattern of sacrificing backwaters for the temporary economic benefit of those in privileged zones of urban centers.

Of course, destroying entire regions, ecosystems, and peoples is not a traditional Japanese societal pattern. It was borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon industrial model and has been the basis of global colonial and neoliberal "development." It would take an encyclopedia to chart the forced sacrifice of peoples and ecosystems throughout our planet, for the profit of a miniscule elite, over the centuries.

It would also take an encyclopedia to chart the citizen movements that have arisen throughout the world to challenge these patterns of exploitation and destruction.

Norimatsu, director of the Peace Philosophy Centre in Vancouver and a co-founder of the Network for Okinawa, compares the plight of Okinawans, who have campaigned nonstop since 1996, against forced new U.S. military construction at biodiverse Yanbaru Forest and Oura Bay to the more recent plight of residents of post 3/11-Fukushima. Both groups have endured national governmental and establishment media dismissal of their collective concerns. As a result, Okinawan and Fukushima citizen movements and citizen media, have grown to address a myriad of issues, in parallel the burgeoning of action of citizen groups worldwide.

Norimatsu's fierce take, "Fukushima and Okinawa – the “Abandoned People,” and Civic Empowerment":
Will people of the periphery choose to remain abandoned? Certainly not all. In Northeastern Japan, many people have stood up, taking safety into their own hands. Citizen groups conduct independent radiation measurements and publish their own radiation protection guides. Anti-nuclear power demonstrations spread, with a scale and intensity not seen in mainland Japan since the 1960s anti-Anpo (Japan-US Security Treaty) movement. As seen in Sato Eisaku’s words quoted above, perceptions of commonality between Okinawa and Fukushima – the state imposition of military bases or nuclear reactors on the basis of discrimination against marginal and vulnerable areas at the expense of well-being of those living there — seems to be growing in Japan, awakening some with sympathy with the Okinawan situation on a level not seen before 3.11.

Though the scale of current anti-nuclear demonstrations in Japan are not comparable to those of anti-base movements in Okinawa for the past six decades that mobilize as much as ten per cent of the population, it is notable that some mainlanders seem to emulate the Okinawan movement, using the same symbolic colour yellow, and slogans like “life is precious” (“Nuchi du Takara” in Okinawan). As in the “Arab’s Spring” movements of 2011, civic voices spread through newly emerging social media such as Facebook and Twitter, integrating existing movements, connecting different generations, and merging anti-nuclear, anti-base, anti-neoliberal and the burgeoning “Occupy” movements, suggesting a broader possible social base for movements throughout Japan.

Because of increasing public distrust in the government and mainstream media’s information concerning the crippled nuclear reactors and radiation risks, internet media have attracted a surge of new users in post-3.11 Japan. There is an emerging crop of internet journalists, such as Iwakami Yasumi, Uesugi Takashi, Kinoshita Kota, and Shiraishi Hajime, and many others, as well as widely read bloggers and Twitterers29 Their influence threatens the monopoly on information of the Japanese government and major media, leading the government to call on telecommunication companies to 'take appropriate measures to prevent groundless rumours on the internet...'

With Okinawa’s all-island determination to refuse construction of another military base on their land in the face of unremitting pressure form the Japanese and US governments, and with people across the nation awakening to new dimensions of citizenry and autonomy through alternative media and direct action, are we living in “a global Gandhian moment," as international law scholar Richard Falk suggests, in which the “abandoned people” are empowered and engaged in non-violent confrontations with established powers, making the impossible possible?

An answer is in each of us, and how we capture this critical historical moment.
Satoko Oka Norimatsu is a writer and educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is Director of Peace Philosophy Centre and a Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Her upcoming book co-authored with Gavan McCormack, “NO! Okinawa’s Message to Japan and the United States” will be published in spring 2012 by Rowman and Littlefield.

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