Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The bravery of these Japanese workers is remarkable, but as I read this, I find myself thinking about a group of people who exp[ose themselves to harm for a very different reason:

A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday -- and perhaps Japan's last chance of preventing a broader nuclear catastrophe.

... They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.

... The workers are being asked to make escalating -- and perhaps existential -- sacrifices....

When we talk about terrorists who commit suicide, we talk as if knowingly sacrificing one's own life is the act of someone who's not fully human -- an idea we use to dehumanize our jihadist enemies. But people in all sorts of cultures knowingly put their lives on the line -- it happens in conventional war, it happens in firefighting, it happens in disasters such as this.

The suicide part of suicide terrorism isn't the monstrous aspect -- the monstrous aspect is the targeting of civilians, and (if you're not an Islamist, and I'm not) the nature of the utopia it's meant to bring about. But I can wrap my mind around the notion that these people believe they're doing something noble for their group. So I don't find the suicide part of what they do as freakish as most Westerners do.

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