Whales and geisha girls
Whether or not whaling and eating whale meat is a genuine part of Japanese culture is one of the hottest points of debate between a pro-whaling camp and an anti-whaling camp. The former claims that whaling and whale-eating culture has existed in Japan since the ancient time and is, therefore, a part of Japanese culture.
On the other hand, the anti-whaling camp asserts that Japan’s cultural claim is a fraud, as whale meat consumption is not a nationwide practice and there are a lot of Japanese who have never eaten the meat. Pointing to whaling, they insist, specifically referring to the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Antarctic, that the pelagic whaling with big ships and sophisticated equipments is a modern practice and not at all traditional.
Something terrible happened.
When I studied health in the post-revolutionary but pre-reunification early 1980s I looked up to the authors of the classic texts in health critique. Vicente Navarro. Howard Waitzkin. Ivan Illich. David Mechanic. Perhaps even Ilona Kickbusch. But certainly the Boston Women's Health Book Collective.
It seemed that in the nearly three decades since those inspiring days things started to balance out. Health, not disease, became the centre of the discourse. What was advocated as a fringe perspective (the 'social model of health' and even more radically, 'salutogenesis') became part of the global mainstream. We moved on.
Last week our reference librarian sent me an announcement that they were presented (freebie!) with an e-book. 'Health' was its title. Nice, I thought. Our librarian added:
The Australian government’s ‘East Timor’ asylum seeker solution is dying a death of a thousand cuts. It is a slow and painful process and unedifying to watch it writhe in agony. The plan has not yet been killed outright, but only an unreconstructed optimist would now suggest its fate is other than sealed.
The Bali Process ministerial forum has been one of the more damaging cuts to the ‘East Timor solution’, even if the decision by East Timor Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa not to attend was not a snub to Australia, as presented by some. Rather, East Timor has correctly pointed out that it has much more pressing priorities than Australia’s domestic concerns with asylum seekers and its half-baked plan about where to process them.
Japan March 11th 2011: For the record
In the evening of 22 March, I boarded Qantas flight 22 bound for Sydney via Hong Kong from Narita International Airport. It was a familiar flight for me which was usually a direct flight between Tokyo and Sydney. However, the flight route of the QF22 had been changed due to the disaster in Japan. Qantas wanted to make sure the safety of their crews.
Although I was unhappy and slightly anxious about the change of the route, the flight turn out to be the most memorable and, maybe, the safest flight I have ever had. 72 crew members of the Australian rescue team returning to Australia from the disaster zone were on board.
The line attributed by Mark Twain to British PM Benjamin Disraeli that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ might be held to be true when assessing the value of indicators. Indicators, after all, only indicate, so there is scope for debate about the meaning of the UNDP’s Human Development Index, identified by Robert Johnson in Crikey.com yesterday and by me last Friday.
But as well as damned lies and statistics there are also category errors – analysing metaphorical tangerines when one is supposed to be looking at oranges. They are similar, but not quite the same and confusing one for the other can lead to inaccuracies.
What to eat and what not to
The most frequently asked question to me while talking with my friends here in Australia about the whaling dispute is “have you eaten whale meat?’ “What it’s like?” they ask. They all look very curious about the ‘mysterious’ and ‘exotic’ meat.
I once heard a rumour that restaurants in Japan which serve whale meat had recently been flocked by Australian tourists. Don’t worry. It is just a rumour. And, no. I have not made a thorough investigation into this rumour as yet. But Australians are adventurous, brave and open to unknown cultures. Then, why not?
For every Australian tired of bad news – disasters, political disputes and public people behaving badly – here is some good news. While nobody was noticing, late last year Australia pipped Norway to achieve the highest standard of living in the world.
Would I be able to stand in the middle?
It was around midnight on 18 February 2010. I was squeezed into a CityRail train from Homebush heading for Sydney Central Station. Luckily, I secured a seat. Then, I heard a voice saying “were you at the concert?” It was from a guy who got a seat next to me. “Where could I be in the middle of the night at the Sydney Olympic Park and not being at THE concert?” was my first thought, but I replied politely, “yes, sure”. Then the answer was followed by a couple of more questions; “did you enjoy?” and “when did you get to know the band?” When did I get to know them? What a question! “I know them almost from the very beginning.”