The college aged students I teach in Japan are in denial and do not want to talk about Fukushima. Some have even give pro-nuclear presentations in class! Indeed, many are keenly aware of the nuclear dangers and are critical of nuclear power, but others have fatalistic attitudes. Some students told me their parents who live in Fukushima or near there are worried and angry about the situation, but if you ask the average person in Tokyo about the issue, they would probably just shrug their shoulders. People do not like having bad news pointed out to them or having their noses rubbed in radioactive debris. If they feel, or the mass media helps them to believe, that they are far enough away from the problem, they can convince themselves that it is not worth worrying about.
Escapism and distraction is the name of the game. Japanese TV variety shows can only be described as narcissistic, self-absorbed, childish, silly and often substance-less nonsense. This is great for creating a dumbed-down and subservient society but not good for long term sustainability. A thriving democracy depends upon a well informed public. The situation is similar in many countries.
What is the psychological dimension for understanding how a society can become so complacent while life-threatening dangers stare us in the face? Like a beautiful but beguiling snake that has been trampled upon, the venom released from the bite of its fangs can be deadly to the victim.
An apt illustration of our cognitive dissonance comes from journalist David McNeil, who endured the 311 nuclear crisis in Tokyo and notes with irony, “[t]hroughout the worst week of the crisis, a diligent clerk at my local video store phoned daily to remind me that I had failed to return a DVD” (27). Even though the country had been nearly brought to its knees, it was business as usual. Political analyst, Dean Hendersen, notes an historical aspect of this behavior:
By indoctrinating people as to the omnipotence of the Emperor and of the need to make sacrifices in his name, the Japanese become in many ways the most exploited people on the planet- working long hours, never questioning their supervisors, singing company songs and drinking only with company cohorts after hours. Any resistance to this fascism is instantly branded anti-Japanese behavior. The perpetrator is considered mentally disturbed. Rather than challenge this state terror regime, most Japanese have learned to suppress their feelings… (28).
The cultural underpinnings that led to the nuclear disaster are explained by Professor Shaun O’Dwyer, who studies modern Confucianism.
There are two important habitual attitudes in postwar Japanese and East Asian governance that are arguably Confucian. There is paternalism on the part of governments, legitimized by the efficiency of a highly educated, meritocratic bureaucracy; and (until recently) reciprocating loyalty from citizens, grounded in a faith in the moral and intellectual ability of their leaders to work for their good.
Japan’s nuclear power policy since the 1960s must represent the high point of this residual Confucian politics. Bureaucrats, government, the captains of industry and scientists joined hands in a “nuclear village” to develop an energy policy that would loosen Japan’s dependence upon a volatile fossil fuels market, and deliver high quality power to growing export industries.
Under the government’s paternalistic guidance, the Japanese public and mass media were rallied to believe in a vision of prosperity partly driven by nuclear power, and to trust in the prudence of bureaucrats and the expertise of scientists to manage this energy source safely (29).
From a wider perspective, a cosmologist notes that the international scientific community has failed us and become the promoter of “Dysfunctional Science.”
Science is at a tipping point because, having fragmented into specialties and sub-specialties, it is no longer equipped to deal with falsifying data. The barricades of technical jargon and self-serving politics prevent the specialists from seeing what would be all too obvious from a higher vantage point. Such a system is averse to outside challenges by ‘those who transcend the conventional,’ and leading authorities feel free to ignore them…. Few universities have shown the courage to insist on a broad and balanced picture of present knowledge or an even-handed comparison of theoretical assumptions and available alternatives. To apply such basic standards today would risk discrediting entire departments (30).
Nuclear energy, which provides only 2.5 percent of global primary energy needs, is the most dangerous experiment humanity has ever undertaken. The time to end the insanity is now (31). Between reducing consumption, rearranging society in a less consumer intensive form, and implementing an array of alternative energy schemes, our problems could be solved.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Health From Radiation
There are a number of measures people can take to minimize radiation dangers. These include using: sulfur; magnesium; fiber in diet; French clay; detoxifying herbs (there is a long list); iodine; and medicinal seaweeds (32; 33).
Internet searches at a variety of health oriented websites reveal that eating a healthy diet with fibrous fruits and vegetables is about the best way to expel radiation from the body.