The Continuing Effects of Japanese Apathy on Peace

The apathy that becomes apparent in the mindsets of the survivors of the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima negatively affects the future of Japanese society by reversing Japanese social ideas and preventing extended anti-nuclear and peace efforts.

“The weapon was referred to in this word-of-mouth report as genshi bakudan—the root characters of which can be translated as ‘original child bomb’” (62).  This description of the bomb is based on the new realization by the people of Hiroshima that the bomb functioned by splitting an atom into two different parts.  While they are later told that this is in fact the way the bomb actually functioned, they don’t fully understand or believe it, just like the older theory of magnesium powder having been dropped over the entire city and set on fire.  The key part of this quote is the use of the word “child” in the meaning of the description.  It is obvious that this refers to the fact that the splitting of the atom to create two new atoms is essentially the creation of a child from a parent, but the potential of this to refer to something much bigger in Japanese social ideology is immense.  There is consistency between all humans that children represent posterity and legacy, so considering this brings to mind the idea that the acknowledgement of this “original child” causing such destruction would reverse the social idea that the preservation of this legacy was always positive and a perfect contribution to society.  Rather, this would instead change to a perception that future generations could be highly dangerous to the present and the ideas that characterize it.  While this doesn’t have a large effect on the relation between the Japanese people and others in a way that would either spark war or peace, it does have an effect on the Japanese self-perception that would result in constant fear and, with this, a potential for defensiveness from external ideas that would negate attempts towards peace.

“As for the use of the bomb, she would say, ‘It was war and we had to expect it.’ And then she would add, ‘Shikata ga nai,’ a Japanese expression as common as, and corresponding to, the Russian word ‘nichevo’: ‘It can’t be helped.  Oh, well.  Too bad’” (89).  This quote is Mrs. Nakamura’s reaction to the damage done by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Her view represents that held by most citizens of Hiroshima: that there was nothing they could have done to stop the Americans from dropping the bomb and that there was nothing they could have done to lessen the damage done from it.  Worst, the only thing they can do to improve the Japanese government’s view of the situation is to wait.  Unfortunately, the fact that the citizens of Hiroshima come only to “expect,” rather than achieve on their own, means that there is little internal movement towards organizations that would maintain peace in the long run, or work to establish international anti-nuclear regulation.  After all, anything further that could take place involving nuclear weapons “[couldn’t] be helped,” by this logic.  While Hiroshima does go on to describe multiple instances of this sort of resistance against violence, these are primarily led by those who were the least harmed by the explosion, such as Rev. Tanimoto, rather than those worst impacted, such as Mrs. Nakamura.

“While he was away on this last trip, a national organization called Nihon Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, had come into being, and there had been a surge of activity pushing the Diet for medical care for hibakusha.  Like many hibakusha, he was repelled by the growing political coloration of these doings, and he stayed away from the mass meetings in Peace Park on the subsequent anniversaries” (149).  The prominence of support for hibakusha aid doesn’t really begin in any significant way until the testing of a Hydrogen Bomb in the Bikini Atoll on March 1st, 1954 by the United States, which “showered… the Lucky dragon No. 5… with radioactive fallout” (143).  The citizens of Hiroshima are initially apathetic towards the damage from the explosion, but this “political coloration” drives this apathy even further.  While political attention ultimately works out for the hibakushas’ benefit, the fact that it takes so long for this to happen “[repels]” the hibakusha from seeking it.  They come to view it as a bureaucratic system that has its own intentions in mind far ahead of theirs.  Thus, they end up withdrawing their support from these nationwide initiatives with the same ideas in mind, simply because of the immense amount of politics involved.  While this still indicates that these movements exist, it means that they don’t have the involvement of those who were directly victimized by the explosion, and thus don’t have the necessary information and experience to sustain their initiative over a very long period of time.

“For most hibakusha, these quarrels reached the zenith of absurdity when Gensuikin argued that all nations should stop testing, while Gensuikyo argued that the United States was testing to prepare for war and the Soviet Union was testing to insure peace” (151).  In 1964, the Gensuikin was formed by socialists and trade unions that pulled out of the Gensuikyo because of Communist influence.  This was especially apparent in the Gensuikyo’s conviction that the Soviet Union, as stated above, was preparing nuclear weapons to defend peace, while the original intention of this organization, and that of the Gensuikin, was to end the use of nuclear weapons once and for all.  The real problem here is the contrast between “war” and “peace.”  War is recognizable to Japan, which, even today, won’t forget WWII for a long time to come, but peace is something that is very subjective.  Should the apathy of the Hiroshima bombing victims not have caused them to avoid these political groups, the possibility that there was any such thing as a positive atomic bomb testing would have never existed.  Those who suffered from the explosion did and continue to recognize the inhumane amount of damage that this sort of weapon causes, and recognize that it has no role in peace.  On the other hand, those with political priorities tend to ignore this fact and lean towards more problematic stances that can lead to continued use of such dangerous weapons and disruption of peace.

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