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Patrick S. O'Donnell

Nice inaugural post Annelies: thanks.

The only question I might answer or approach differently concerns the need for the term evil in this context. I'm not necessarily in favor of jettisoning the concept, but I don't see how it adds anything to either the explanation of what happened at Fukushima (including the decisions and imperatives that led to reliance on nuclear power to meet energy needs) or the lingering socio-political, economic, and ecological effects of the disaster. Indeed, I think if we properly understand the nature of contemporary capitalism and technology, the modern State, and some political and cultural variables perhaps unique to Japanese society, the notion of evil is irrelevant. It may serve to capture the existential anxiety, psychological unease and moral frustration that often accompanies our response to such disasters...or perhaps not. In fact, I suspect the tendency to invoke the idea of evil to make sense of what occurred here tends to weaken the kind of resolve and political will we need to prevent such disasters in the future, including a pellucid grasp what might have made such a disaster more probable in the first instance.

This may be especially the case if we see attributions of evil often have to do with what others have done, how others behave, projecting such characterizations on "the Other," be it terrorists, psychotic criminals, or genocidal actors (or, more vaguely, evil is, so to speak 'in the air' such actors breathe). It provides at once a consolation and a measure of distance, out of sorts, it seems with the rest of the story here.

Relatedly, I think it is mistaken with regard to possible motives, none of which seem irremediably evil, even if immoral, ignorant, selfish, what have you (the motley motivational structure mentioned in your post). Undoubtedly some individuals were possessed of decent intentions and most probably had mixed motives but I can't see how the concept of evil helps us better understand such motives or work to alter such motivational structures in the future (and, given my understanding of human nature, I believe in the possibility of such alterations).

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Oops: Annelise (I've never typed your name before, so please forgive me!)


In Japan, I'm sure, the plural of "calf" is "calves."

Steve Shiffrin

Wonderful post, Annelise!

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