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Azuma Hiroki shares his thoughts on the disasters in Japan, and finds that a new attitude is emerging in the country. Based simply on the comment stream alongside NHK on the internet, I would definitely agree with his assessment of the situation, though I think that he overstates Japan's recent past to some extent. Murakami Ryû also finds, amidst the disaster, cause for hope.

It's a question that many people studying Japan rarely vocalize, but it's always the elephant in the room of any discussion of the country's recent history: can the country avert its impending decline, and how will it happen if it does? My professor in my early modern seminar brought up contemporary Italy today, and made the very true observation that there's no a priori reason for Italy or Japan or any country to avert its own decline. True enough, but I've said this before, and I'll say it again: the weight of history is predictive but not determinative. Some events are more likely than others, but things can always change.

Whether these disasters will provide enough of what in Japanese would be perfectly called a kikkake, an impetus or a cause, to bring about significant political and social change is completely unknowable at this point, and it would be an insult and a crime to suggest than any future development could justify the current catastrophes. But with the acknowledgment that I am a person who chooses to hope against my own cynical assessments, I find it hard to believe that things will ever quite go back to business as usual in Japan. The emperor addressed the nation yesterday, which is simply unprecedented, and I know of no example of JSDF press conferences being held so frequently or to such popular acclaim as they're garnering on the internet. I disagree with Azuma's description of media skepticism as a negative phenomenon, too; it's not unprecedented, but it's particularly clear and, I think, seen as justifiable.

Anyway. I quoted Diane Duane at my roommate last month in a similar discussion, and I'll quote her again: 

"Footsteps in the snow
suggest where you have been,
point to where you were going:
but when they suddenly vanish,
never dismiss the possibility
of flight..."

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