Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Protests Past and Present

Reuters journalist, Nick Rowlands, reports that yesterday 60,000 people took to the streets of Tokyo to march against nuclear power. It was the country's largest such demonstration to date.
Popular protests are not exactly anything new to Japan. Here is a glimpse at news coverage of past and present protests in Tokyo.

September 2011 no-nukes rally                               April 1957 H-bomb test protest

Click on the photo to view the newsreel clip
on the British Pathe website

I like the musical accompaniment to the 1957 newsreel story. It makes a dramatic difference in the way the whole story plays out across the screen. If I had been the director though, I think I would have gone with something in 2/4 or 4/4 time (like a rumba) to match the serpentine movements of the protesters.

Dramatic musical scores still play a powerful role in news reporting today. Witness Australia Broadcasting Corportation's Fukushima Syndrome. This in-depth report by Mark Willacy, looks at the David and Goliath struggle between Japan's nuclear power giants and the ordinary citizens who oppose them. It's chock full of emotive tunes that underscore the more gripping moments of the story but we probably didn't need a musical cue to realize that radioactive contamination is frightening stuff.

Into the Whirlpool 

The now banned snake dance, or uzumaki (whirlpool), seen in the newsreel clip,  was a 1960’s invention of Japan’s New Left. Rather than a crazy dance it was a deliberate strategy that prevented police from corralling or sandwiching protesters into a small cordoned off area. It was a whirlpool of humanity.

I wonder if this "whirlpool of humanity" was the inspiration for the cover of a 1969 magazine (Shukan Ampo) taking aim at the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan,a.k.a. Ampo. Writer and political activist, Makoto Oda, issued the first edition of the publication (financed by renowned author Kenzaburo Oe) with a heading that read, "Towards the Smashing of Ampo: A Whirlpool of Humanity." The idea behind this whirlpool, says Peter Kelman in Protesting the National Identity: the Cultures of Protest in 1960s Japan, "was that ordinary citizens would be dragged into the current of activism that was being nurtured and sustained by the active organizations and movements at its center. The longer that the energy lasts the larger the whirlpool becomes as people are dragged into the commotion of protest and activism.”

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