Monday, August 06, 2012

"Wenn Ich Kultur Höre..."

This report from Malcolm Foster of the Associated Press was going so well...
Doctors: Japan nuclear plant workers face stigma
Associated Press

TOKYO – A growing number of Japanese workers who are risking their health to shut down the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant are suffering from depression, anxiety about the future and a loss of motivation, say two doctors who visit them regularly.

But their psychological problems are driven less by fears about developing cancer from radiation exposure and more by something immediate and personal: Discrimination from the very community they tried to protect, says Jun Shigemura, who heads a volunteer team of about ten psychiatrists and psychologists from the National Defense Medical College who meet with Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear plant employees.

They tell therapists they have been harangued by residents displaced in Japan's nuclear disaster and threatened with signs on their doors telling them to leave. Some of their children have been taunted at school, and prospective landlords have turned them away.

"They have become targets of people's anger," Shigemura told The Associated Press.

TEPCO workers — in their readily identifiable blue uniforms — were once considered to be among the elite in this rural area 230 kilometers (140 kilometers) north of Tokyo. But after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, residents came to view them as "perpetrators," Shigemura said.

Many TEPCO families in the area now hide their link to the company for fear of criticism, local doctors and psychiatrists say.

Shigemura likens the workers' experience to that of U.S. Vietnam veterans returning home to hostility in the 1960s and early '70s.

"They both worked for (the good of) their countries, but they got a backlash," he said.

Wonderful. Sensible. Relevant across national boundaries, showing a commonality of human experience! Excellent contrast with prejudice shown the Hiroshima survivors (today is the anniversary, for those who forget these things).

That members of the public should lash out in frustration against TEPCO workers is understandable. As was the case in the Vietnam protestors' channeling of their frustrations on the blameless Vietnam veterans, the leaders of the organizations responsible for a national, preventable disaster accepted no blame for what had gone seriously wrong on their watches, and the system of representative government, which should have protected to the people and failing that, quickly rectified the problems, instead responded with platitudes and shoddy, dishonest, desultory diddling.

Then, after so much good has been done, someone has to go and shoot the report in the foot:
Culture helps explain some of these dynamics, including the strong Japanese sense of duty and group responsibility.

"People believe the workers share in the responsibility" for the disaster even though they didn't cause it, Tanigawa said.
Ach, ach, ach!

How did one of the co-authors come up with this analysis? Public opinion polling? Interviews with citizens not linked to TEPCO? Post-disaster ethnographies?

Oh, one of the subjects felt as though society was against him (Link). But that is not quite the same thing as society actually being against him, is it?

Can we have some sort of rule here? That when an interviewee from this blessed land cites culture as a reason for a certain outcome, that the questioner ask, immediately, before one more word leaves the interview subject's mouth, "On what data do you base that statement?"

When the interviewee turns out to not have any hard evidence to back up his or her claim, the interviewer should say, "Thanks. I know what you were trying to do. However, it is not helping. Let's stick to what the data says, OK?"


Avery said...

When I hear the word culture, I reach for my katana.

D said...

I personally prefer to use Zen to explain things which I have no data nor evidence nor clue about. One cannot refute Zen.