Fukushima 50 against the 47 Ronin

Yossi Sheriff

In the year of 1703, forty-six Samurai cut their own stomachs open. I believe they did it happily. They left another Ronin to tell the story. That's what happened, a guy named Kira Yoshinka caused a Daimyo to cut his stomach, commit sepuku. The Daimyo, Naganori, left 47 samurai that swore to avenge his death. After two years of working in various jobs the ronin gathered in a snowy night, penetrated the stronghold, killed Naganori's retainers and slit Yoshinka's neck after he refused to commit suicide.

The modern visitors who, till this day, visit the graves think of the immense loyalty, but hidden inside this myth is another, twisted, value: the ancient solution to injustices in this life - death. Ruth Stein, in her invaluable book, explains the logic of the shahid, she sums it up with the header of the first chapter: "Evil as Love and as Liberation: The Mind of a Suicidal Religious Terrorist".

It's Thursday today, the 17th in March 2011, 308 years ago, at the 20th, very near to Sakura, forty-six smiling heads rolled on the ground. Reluctantly, I join the myriad of people who got inspired by this horror. This is a horror myth that is cross-cultural, from the Philistines' Dagon temple to Karbala - death of other as the solution to unsolvable problems.

Death as the riddle solver: a peasant from Frigia ties a knot that cannot be opened. Alexander of Macedon, the person who later kills hundreds of thousands, starts by killing the knot, he cuts it with his sword, and for this symbolic solution some people highly commend him.

Alexander dies at the age of thirty-three from an illness or poison. In his private battle he does not dance with the sword, he dances with microscopic bacteria. It seems that he would be happy to exchange a manner of death with the forty-six Ronin.

Presumably it seems like a similar thing, in essence it is deeply different. The difference between the shahid and the technician is in the right the first one claims over another person's life. The shahid and the ronin feel just when he kills, that is the hole in the logic of the killer. To hide the illogic, this hole must be shut completely with anger. Anger and hatred are strong, much stronger than many other things, but not from all things. Anger and hatred are losing this week.

Today Japan is in the wake of a terrible disaster and on the brink of a possible nuclear tragedy. At the Fukushima facility, the cooling water evaporates, and the fuel in the reactors slowly heats in a process that might lead many people to death they did not choose. In Fukushima, there are some technicians still trying to solve this impending catastrophe. They say that there are fifty, Fukushima's 50. I am looking at the fifty and looking at the 46. It will not be the same kind of death because the process is different.

Hatred, loyalty and bravery are watching, astonished, right now on the Fukushima compound they are loosing. Something for which we have no words for is taking place right now. Loyalty, bravery and love are getting a deadly dosage of radiation. My heart is with Fukushima 50.