2011-06-14

As an unrealistic dreamer by Murakami Haruki (2/4) International Catalunya Prize speech at 2011-06-11

Here is a complete English translation of Murakami Haruki's International Catalunya Prize speech at 2011-06-11, part 2/4. This is not an official translation. Please tell me if you believe there are any legal issues in my distribution of a translation, though I believe this is one of the stories that we all can share.

Here is also related German article from Asienspiegel
Guardian



Because all cherry blossoms, fireflies, and colored leaves will lose their beauty in a short time. We visit faraway places to be a witness to the glory of the moment. We see not only that they are beautiful, but we also see them fall down ephemerally in front of us, we see them lose their small light, we see the vivid color of the leaves disappear. We also feel relief when we see this --- we find a peace in the prime time of beauty passing and vanishing.

I don't know if natural disasters have affected that Japanese mentality. But we accepted the sequence of natural disasters with a feeling of ``so it goes.'' We survive by overcoming all this damage as a collective. But these kinds of experiences might affect our aesthetic sense.

Almost all Japanese are shocked by this huge earthquake. Even though we know about earthquakes, we recoil at the scale of the damage of this one. We feel helpless. We even fear for the future of the country.

But at the end, we will reconstruct our spirit. We will stand up again and recover. I am not so worried about this. We could not sink into the shock forever. We can rebuild the broken houses, we can repair the destroyed roads.

But I started to think about it. We just rent a part of this planet, Earth, without asking any permission. The Earth never said anything to us like, ``Please live here.'' We cannot complain to anyone when the Earth shake a bit.

Here today, I would like to talk about something that is difficult to repair, not about buildings or roads. For example, what about our view of the world? Our ethical standards and our morals? They are not tangible objects. Once they are broken, it is hard to reconstruct them.

I am talking about, more specifically, the atomic reactors in Fukushima.

As you all may know, three reactors out of six damaged by the earthquake and tsunami have not been fixed and are spreading radioactive waste.  There were meltdowns. The surrounding soil is polluted. Probably waste water with high radioactive density escaped into the sea. The wind also spread the radioactivity to a wider area.

Almost 100,000 people must leave the area around the atomic reactors.  Fields, stock farms, factories, shopping malls, and harbors are abandoned and nobody is there. Pets and domestic animals are also abandoned. The people who once lived there might not be able to come back to their homes again. However, the damage is not only limited to Japan. I am really sorry that it might affect our neighbor countries, too.

Why has this tragic situation happened? The reason is obvious. The designers of the reactors did not take into account this kind of large tsunami. Tsunamis of similar scale have struck this region before, so there already had been a request to revise the safety criterion of the reactors. But the power company never took the request seriously.  Because they are a commercial company, they do not welcome the idea of investing a huge amount of money for a large tsunami that may only come once in a several hundred years.

The government should strictly manage the safety criteria of atomic reactors, but it seems as if they relaxed these safety criteria to promote their atomic power policy.

I don't know why, but the Japanese are a people who hardly ever get angry. They are good at being patient, but they are not good at expressing strong emotions. This seems to be different than the people of Barcelona. But this time, I believe even the Japanese will become seriously angry.

However, we must at the same time implicate ourselves, since we allowed or conspired to produce such a distorted structure. This situation is deeply related to our morality and our standards.

As you know, we Japanese are the only people in history who have experienced atomic bombs. In August, 1945, U.S. bombers dropped atomic bombs on the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 200,000 people were killed instantly. Most of the survivors had a slow death, suffering from illnesses caused by the atomic bomb's radiation. We learned how destructive atomic bombs can be and how radioactivity can damage the world and its people. We learned this based on these victims.

The memorial for the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima has the following words on it:

``Please rest in peace, since we will never repeat the mistake.''

These are great words. They mean that we are simultaneously the victims as well as the assailant.




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