Monday, January 23, 2012

A Season of Change

Another wardrobe change for Peeing Boy  

It's another year, another month, and after making my periodical pilgrimage to visit the divine little statue that stands atop the platform of Japan Railway's Hamamatsucho station in the heart of Tokyo, I'm pleased to announce, another outfit for the Peeing Boy. This month Tokyo's gray iron replica of Brussel's famed Mannekin Pis was all gussied up for the New Year's holidays. While his outfit would have also fit right in with this season's Coming of Age Day festivities, the Peeing Boy will be forever cast in our minds as a lad and never grow up.

That perennial view could also sum up the way Japan's political class see "the little people" they rule over. The complaint is that the country's leaders treat the citizenry as if they were children. In a recent New York Times articleSachiko Sato, a founder of the National Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation (a.k.a. Mamorukai), is quoted saying,"If the government treated us like adults, there would be no need for Mamorukai."

While a series of failures and lack of transparency in the government's testing of food produced in the region surrounding the ailing TEPCO nuclear power plant has put contaminated food in consumers hands, they have also affected people's political perspectives. According to the Times the government's response so far has "had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments." The Times article illustrates how farmers and citizens are taking it upon themselves to test food for radioactive contamination and fill the gap the government has left wide open.

Maybe it's impossible to find a silver lining in the dark atomic cloud that the leaking TEPCO plant has cast over this land but the efforts of Mamorukai and other citizens' groups provide a glimmer of hope. We're seeing a political coming of age in this time of nuclear disaster where ordinary citizens are rising to make up for the shortcomings of their leaders. Like the Arab Spring and the American Fall, maybe this too will be a season of change. 

Related posts: He's Coming 

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