Saturday 17 August 2019

Have we forgotten Fukushima now?


THE MEDIA is a fickle thing… yet it's a very powerful thing. It decides what we pay attention to every day, it decides what's worthy of our attention, worthy of our time and consideration. At the moment there are a few topics dominating the headlines.

The on-going struggle with the 'senior bondholders' and the EU-IMF bailout dominates the broadsheets, and the Manchester United footballer, Ryan Giggs's sex life seems to be a priority for the tabloid media - no surprise there as ' sex sells', they want to sell papers, and people, it seems, want to read about sex. If they didn't, then the front page wouldn't be always about that! The mainstream media are also having a field day with David Norris's presidential ambitions, and how those same ambitions are floundering on the rocks.

But what about Fukushima? It seems we have almost forgotten that the tsunami and earthquake in Japan has left devastation of an incredible magnitude. There are occasional drips of information which inform us that it is still in trouble, major trouble.

We aren't paying attention to it because it's not on the front pages. But things are no better now than they were when we worried about the radioactive stuff, floating around the world high above us, in the atmosphere. Remember that in the early days following the disaster, radiation levels were detected at Dublin airport. I wonder has anyone checked lately?

More to the point though, what about the people there? What about the aftermath of that tsunami and earthquake, which made thousands homeless, which has left an exclusion zone around those nuclear plants that noone can enter, even at this point - over three months later.

But what about Fukushima now? The immediate response to any disaster in the world today is fantastic. People respond so generously and selflessly to the plight of those in need. When the news breaks, something stirs inside people to make then get up and try to do something, anything, to help. It one of the most amazing aspects of humanity, our ability to empathise. In those first few days and weeks after any disaster, people are brilliant. But what about three months down the line, or three years?

And in this time when there are so many things going on how can we move from our own worry, to being able to take part in the concerns of the world? In one of his many books, the great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen wrote: 'Maybe, for the time being, we have to accept the many fluctuations between knowing and not knowing, seeing and not seeing, feeling and not feeling, between days in which the whole world seems like a rose garden and days in which our hearts seem tied to a millstone, between moments of ecstatic joy and moments of gloomy depression, between the humble confession that the newspaper holds more than our souls can bear and the realization that it is only through facing up to the reality of our world that we can grow into our own responsibility.

'Maybe we have to be tolerant toward our own avoidances and denials in the conviction that we cannot force ourselves to face what we are not ready to respond to and in the hope that in one future day we will have the courage and strength to open our eyes fully and see without being destroyed.

'All this might be the case as long as we remember there is not hope in denial or avoidance, neither for ourselves nor for anyone else; and that new life can only be born out of the seed planted in crushed soil."

God knows when we have enough on our plate, and in those times when we are sincerely overcome with our own needs, but the rest of the time, we need to be aware and active in the troubles of today, so that they don't become the troubles of tomorrow. So, what about Fukushima?