Psychological notes (early AM, March 21, Tokyo):
I believe a very, very strange and hard-to-define emotional and cognitive milieu has blossomed here. It is something I think will be very difficult
for “outsiders” (by which I mean not non-Japanese per se, but rather any human who doesn’t happen to be within Tokyo city limits at this moment)
to understand, but I’ll give it a go.
For starters, there appears to be a huge disjunction in the way this tragedy is perceived in Tokyo versus the way I am seeing it lensed through the
media around the rest of the world. Now, this is tricky stuff, because ultimately I can’t speak for others, and my own slightly-ragged mental state
calls my own perceptions and observations into question. It’s not that there is any less grief, or shock, or horror, or fear…of course all of that
is there, far more vividly for the Japanese people than for non-Japanese. But along with this, the people in Tokyo have slapped a patina of
“normalcy” on everything, and this is quite logical. It can be called “sheeple” behavior on one level, but actually, it goes beyond that,
because the threat of radiation (plus all the grief and other difficult emotions) is so enormous, so close, and so out of anyone’s hands, that most
people simply can’t spend all day wallowing in it, or they wouldn’t be able to go on. It’s the “elephant in the room,” the unspoken thing on
everyone’s mind that people can’t speak about or process yet.
This lends the city a curious, hyped-up fin-de-siècle
ambience. A sort of lurking nihilism, flashes of hedonism from within a fog of subdued
shuffling, and desires to get lost in something, anything (work, drink, love, a hobby, whatever). Meanwhile, this jittery, adrenaline-fueled form of
chirpy denial butts up against a turbulent goo of unprocessed heavy emotions. Like two weather systems colliding, an unstable state is the result.
Thus we have the second phenomenon I’ve been noting constantly, both in myself and others: a tendency toward emotional 180-degree-turns on a dime,
very unpredictably over nothing at all. (Witness my own poor behavior in this thread, for example.) The feeling of normalcy can go on and on, and it
is like sinking into a warm bath on a cold day…but then, suddenly, tempers flare up over nothing, before subsiding just as quickly. I’ve seen
similar behavior in people before in difficult situations, and I speculate that when it sets in on a mass scale, it is a sign of community-wide
emotional fatigue and dissonance. I have seen some “odd behavior” on the street; people doing obsessive-compulsive type routines, stopping
stock-still in the middle of the street and staring, and so on. In a big city that sort of thing is always around, and maybe I just notice it because
I’m looking for it, but notice it I did.
Other notes of possible interest: Dawn will be coming soon. The sky is lightening. I do not think it has rained yet, but it may within the coming day.
I have seen taxis from Tohoku in the streets – people must have taken them all the way to Tokyo at enormous cost. The lack of foreigners in the
streets (not that there are ever all that many to begin with) is conspicuious. There have been unconfirmed rumors of a kind of “scavenging” in the
afflicted areas up north. I’m not sure this can be called “looting” because its not smashing windows and grabbing things, but rather
surreptitiously picking through another person’s rubble. Today is a national holiday, so most businesses will be closed. If it rains, I will not
risk contamination by going out today, so you may have to wait for more pictures.
"What was missing was felt irretrievable. The extreme uncertainties...made excesses necessary and breaks definitive."
-Guy Debord, 1931-1994
edit on 3/20/11 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)