Editorial: Living “Ganbare”
When American poet Gil Scott-Heron wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1970 the internet was barely past its theoretical phase and would not enter widespread use for another two decades. He surely could not have anticipated the changes it would bring about, not only in terms of how we communicate, but how we experience the world. The revolution today is not only televised, it is blogged about, captured on high definition phone cameras and streamed live around the world.
New-media coverage of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11 has been unprecedented, with people around the world able to watch the horrific events unfolding almost in real time on cell phones, laptops and desktop computers.
I was watching a hockey game on TV when the announcer mentioned between plays that he sent his sympathies out to the victims of the Japanese earthquake. What earthquake? I rushed to my computer and was able to see the first reports of the tragedy. Over the ensuing days, I, like many others, followed the worsening situation in Japan on an almost minute-by-minute basis.
More than our ability to view what is going on across the globe, though, what has changed is our ability to interact with each other globally, to respond to events as they unfold. Within minutes of the news breaking, people were facebooking, texting, skyping; the blog-o-sphere was alive with chatter. Some were searching for news of loved ones and friends in the affected areas, others were looking for solace among far-flung friends, still others just needed to express “their fear and their love,” as film maker Linda Ohama so eloquently put it.
Jenny Yasumi Uechi, in a Facebook posting, captured the feelings of many when she wrote, “For the people in northeastern Japan who lost their homes and loved ones in the quake, I have no words or prayers adequate to ease their pain. Only donations so that they can recover as fast as possible. You’re not alone.”
Many of us followed various stories over the internet, like that of Lorne Spry, a Richmond resident who has been living in Japan for the past sixteen years, teaching English in Sendai. An e-mail he had sent to friends describing the aftermath of the disaster began making the rounds “Nevertheless,” he wrote, “no complaints. The shattered cities, the loss of life and colossal destruction are humbling. One man said to me today in his twangy Oz, ‘It seemed so strange the other day . . . it was so sunny, and there were children playing in the park and people talking in the street, yet a few kilometres away there was all this death!’”
It is telling that the blog posting that was forwarded to me most frequently following the earthquake was one titled A Letter from Sendai by Anne Thomas, blogging for Ode Magazine. In her blog posts she shows a side to the tragedy that is often missed amid the scenes of devastation: “During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out a sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.
“It’s utterly amazingly that where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, ‘Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.’”
While the scope of the crisis is yet to be quantified, it is clear that the loss of lives, of livelihoods and infrastructure will be staggering. It is now that the Japanese people put into practice the term ganbare “to adhere to something with tenacity.” It is what they do.