Friday, April 8, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Downloaded



Yokohama - As workers try to rein in the colossal radioactive disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan, another battle is raging across the country. The first salvo in that skirmish was fired Thursday morning when rock singer, Kazuyoshi Saito, uploaded what some are calling a revolutionary music video to Youtube. Unlike others in the same genre, this one breaks the mold as it delivers a biting political message. The video and song takes dead aim at Japan's nuclear power industry and the Japanese government for selling the public what the composer believes is a pack of lies about the safety of the country's 54 nuclear power plants. Set against the backdrop of a nuclear meltdown, the song entitled "Zutto Uso Datta (A Lie All Along)," is a call to take action against an industry that has forever poisoned the once fertile farmlands and fisheries of Fukushima and beyond. In his ballad, Saito says he longs for a sky from which radioactive rain doesn't fall.
Fans of Saito were mystified when minutes after the video was posted on Youtube it vanished, presumably removed at the request of the artist's label, the Victor Company of Japan (JVC). Then like Lazarus rising from the dead, the footage remerged only to be taken down again minutes later. Soon ensued a game of cat and mouse as the song popped up on video sharing sites across the Internet as quickly as it was getting shot down. One would be removed and three more would take its place. At one point they completely disappeared from Youtube only to show up on similar venues like Vimeo or Daily Motion, the anti-nuclear power message multiplying all the time.
At a time when Japan is pulling together as a nation in the aftermath of multiple disasters, any criticism of TEPCO or the nuclear power industry as a whole is often viewed as an attempt to pull that reconstruction effort apart. The anti-nuke fight has been portrayed as more of a distraction than a solution to the myriad of problems facing those hardest hit. It's been difficult for the no-nukes camp to make the case that the accident at Fukushima is a man-made monster rather than purely the result of Mother Nature's earthquake and tsunami double punch.
As the disaster at Fukushima closes in on Chernobyl for the distinction of being perhaps the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, that line between man-made and natural is beginning to come into focus. Saito's song borrows a line continually repeated by TEPCO executives that the natural disasters were "beyond anything we could have expected." He says it's nothing but a repeated lie and maybe he's right. While the country's nuclear power experts didn't see the tragedy coming, others did and even put their vision of an impending nuclear nightmare to music. In the wake of the meltdown at Chernobyl, Japanese rock legend, Kiyoshiro Imawano, released a song called Summertime Blues, warning of the dangers posed by the 30 reactors dotting the Japanese landscape at the time. Signed to the Toshiba EMI label, a subsidiary of the same Toshiba Corporation that makes nuclear reactors, the song and the message it carried never made it to the airwaves, nor the ears of most Japanese. Now it looks like the music industry and their corporate partners are playing the same tune in an effort to silence out any cries to end business as usual.
Thirty five years ago the poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron wrote, "the revolution will not be televised." While popular opposition to nuclear power grows across Japan, there is an unseen force at work here doing everything it can to nip it in the bud and make certain that this revolution will not be downloaded. At the end of the day that may not matter much at all though, because here the anti-nuke revolution is live.


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