Source: 恒星英语学习网    2011-06-08  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  

Favourable comparisons have rightly been made with the bumbling response by an earlier government to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, which killed 6,400. Then, Japan’s government was slower than South Korea’s to set up an emergency relief operation. Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, were the first to set up soup kitchens for the victims.

But that is setting the bar very low indeed. After all, the Kobe fiasco hastened the end of the Liberal Democratic Party’s post-war supremacy and the rise of Mr Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Kobe showed that the country was run by incompetents. The shock led to soul-searching by a once-confident Japan which, with its economy broken, seemed adrift. Yet all was not lost in the “lost decade”. Out of Kobe grew new civic-minded energies. Mr Kan himself has a background in civic activism. In 2009 the DPJ promised a new, more accountable kind of politics. A less deferential electorate approved.


Yet, this month’s disasters underscore how much more the system still needs to change—along with the politicians guiding it. For one, the fiasco at Fukushima Dai-ichi has revealed, again, the cosy ties between the nuclear industry and government. Together, they have stifled debate, covered up bungles and made assumptions about risks that were too optimistic. The crisis management at TEPCO, the plant’s owner, has laid bare an astounding lack of leadership. “What the hell’s going on?” Mr Kan demanded at one point.


The same might be asked of the operation to get help to the tsunami victims. For all that Mr Kan has attempted to be seen at the front, in Tokyo the sense of a looming humanitarian crisis in the north has been slow to sink in. That is partly because nuclear worries have absorbed much of the government’s attention. Few politicians in a centralised system have bothered to travel north themselves. The media, taking their cue from the Tokyo establishment, have not thought properly to report the unfolding struggle for food and fuel.


Yet businessmen and victims say supplies are being held up as bureaucracies fall back on tired old rules and straitjacket procedures. Lorries full of supplies have been unable to get petrol on the empty expressway north, reserved for “emergency” vehicles. While this severe shortage of fuel spread through northern Japan, oil companies were sitting on huge supplies which by law they had to keep in reserve. If ever an occasion for their use was justified, it was this catastrophe. Yet the government took ten days to beg for (not order) their release. From the start, Mr Kan should have declared a state of emergency. Even now, clear lines of authority for handling the many-headed crisis have not been properly established.


Who the hell’s in charge?

Japan has gone without effective leadership for so long, with an endless procession of faceless prime ministers and their cabinets, that it has made political dysfunction look almost like well-practised art. But this crisis has shone a pitiless light on that failure. Mr Kan, who has promised political change, now needs to bring it about. Japan’s people can help, adopting a different attitude to their government. Stoicism—however good for coping with adversity—is bad for bringing on change. Time for the Japanese to unleash some righteous anger on a system that has let them down.



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