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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Minamata

It's been a long process this writing an essay about Minamata Disease business. It started about two weeks ago when I opened Ishimure Michiko's classic 'Kugai Joudo: Waga Minamata-byou (translated by Livia Monnet as 'Paradise in a Sea of Sorrow: Our Minamata Disease).

Having made my way through that heart-wrenching novel I turned to Timothy S. George's Minamata: Pollution and the Struggle for Democracy in Postwar Japan which must simply be the best book in the English language written on the subject. Had me in tears at the end. Boy would I like to go back in time and stamp on the testicles of those b*stards in charge of the Chisso factory. Not for any perverse sexual reason you understand, rather, because of the pain and suffering they caused.

"The impact upon those who were unfortunate enough to contract the disease before the cause was discovered was devastating. Cruelly, it was traditional fishing families, that is, those on the margins of the newly-industrialised society, those who could least afford medical bills, and who could least afford to lose valuable workers to a debilitative disease, who suffered the most. One such family was that of 28-year-old Yamanaka, a fisherwoman who, until the onset of Minamata Disease in mid-July 1956, had enjoyed perfect health. The first sign of her illness was a numbness in her fingers – this was followed two days later by a deterioration in her hearing. Shortly after this she began to find difficulty in walking, and in early August was admitted to the local isolation hospital. Within two weeks she had fallen into a state of severe delirium, in which she would howl like a dog, suffer convulsions, and then rigidity. Her condition rapidly deteriorated, until by 4am on the 3rd of September, just 52 days after the onset of the illness, she was dead. Her brain had been eaten away by the lethal mercury discharged by Chisso." (abridged from Kumamoto Medical Society report, 1957)

From the Chisso website:

"We can look back to a proud history as a technical innovator, be it the world-first industrial production of ammonium sulfate and the successive development of the nitric acid and acetic acid synthesis and of the polyvinyl chloride manufacturing processes".

A proud history? A proud history of knowingly condemning hundreds of thousands of people to having their brains eaten away by the methyl mercury that was contained within the 3,600 tons of waste you pumped into Minamata Bay every day...

The difficulty now is one of condensing over 600 pages of literature into a 2000 word essay. I've written about 2/3 of it so far, will finish it off tomorrow.

*Cough* and I have had a nice week. Essentially cooped up in my room in this Easter-holiday-deserted block of flats, shagging, with a trip or two out every day to do a bit of shopping, or to pick up a load more videos. A new rental store has just opened up round the corner - and about time too. Until this month the nearest one was about 25 minutes away. This new one is one of those unmanned vending-machine type places, like I used to use in Bristol. This means it's damn cheap, 99p for 6 hours. Oh, and we got 10 free rentals when we joined. Good to catch up on some 'popular culture'. Sadly no decent foreign films etc, but nevermind, I loved Meet the Fockers, got confused by Ocean's 12 (needs watching again) and thought that Steamboy was a pile of pants. So dark and dismal, with few big panoramic shots (lazy animators in my view, couldn't be arsed with all that detail), an over-simplistic plot, oh, and I was ready to strangle that little american brat. Still, have a load more disks lined up. It's good to just switch off sometimes. Hmm, watched a chick-flick too - In her Shoes, which actually brought tears to my eyes! It's that damn woman inside me again.

We're Very happy at the moment. It's all just great. I swear she gets sexier every day.

In other news. Er, my lightbulb blew last night. Erm, have submitted LEA application for funding for next year, including the money for the flights there and back, and for insurance. Housing seems to be sorted. It's going to come around so fast... Summer holidays planned. Basically lots of work and study, a week in Cornwall with me bro and co, maybe a week or two up here using the library. I realised tonight I'll be paying rent here for another 4 weeks after I leave at the end of term, the swines. Oh, and the next rent payment of over 1000 pounds is due next week, 5 days BEFORE I get my next Student Loan installment - what's the deal there? Somehow I don't think the 5 quid in my account will cover it...

Avocado is clinging on for dear life, it should just about make it to the end of term.

Well, *cough* is now chewing my ear, so I guess that's a sign that I should be going... If she notices that I have a website I'll be in big trouble, all the terrible tales on TGW... would spell disaster for us if she found out...

Happy Easter!

joseph xxx

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