SF and rutenso in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami

As regular readers may know, I have connections with many SF users in Japan.  These ‘solutions’ (now a Japanese word!) are working in all kinds of setting from corporate to community building.  Several have been involved directly in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami, working with survivors and those who’ve lost their homes.

Yuzuru Yoshida(pictured right with me at J-SOL 5 this year, along with ‘rutenso’ beautifully caligraphed by Shobun Setsu) has worked as a chief trainer and manager with Sumitomo Bank for many years.  He was very touched by the resonance between SF, my idea of rutuso, the art of thriving in times of constant change (http://www.sfwork.com/jsp11/index.jsp?nnk=380) and his observations of the Japanese ways of looking at the tsunami and what’s to happen next.  He writes:

 “Rutenso”(流転相) in the changing world of 2012

Report by Yuzuru Yoshida

Circumstances in the world are changing drastically. The globalization of the financial market and the information technology brought us prosperity. But, it also brought us poverty and confusion by economic stagnation after the “Lehmann shock”. Many financial institutions were suffering from a lot of bad debts. They sold high-risk bonds. Greek Bonds were sold in the market, causing the financial crisis in Greece. These crises spread into the Eurozone. In the United States business is still stagnant now. There is a tremendous gap between rich and poor people. The unemployment rate is keeping high. Demonstrations by unemployed young men take on a symbolic aspect.

The natural environment has been changing as well as the economy. Various changes of natural environment bring disasters everywhere in the world. In Japan the huge earthquake hit the Tohoku Area and many people suffered from the huge tsunami on Mar. 11, 2011. The Fukushima nuclear power plants were also hit. Did you know that there are 51 nuclear power plants in “Earthquake Country”? We consume a lot of electricity in order to maintain economic growth, to which we give high priority. Most Japanese people are reflecting about our ways of life and considering what our society should be.

I visited the earthquake hit area several times to do volunteer work. On Nov.27, 2011 I visited the temporary housing area with my fellow volunteers for the people evacuated from the town of Hirono in Fukushima. Hirono is located in the contaminated area near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants. We held a party and promote friendship with them. Most of them grieved that they had lost their family and home caused by the earthquake. The actions of the government are still delayed now. But some of them have started to take actions for survival. In these circumstances they began to draw their vision and take actions to realize their dream. Even if it is difficult that they realize their dream, they try to take a step for getting more comfortable daily life. They are very calm in this hopeless situation. I think that they are very patient and modesty. Nobody takes the offensive attitude against the government in spite of their delayed measures. Why do they keep patient and modesty? The idea of Solution Focus works well in a chaotic state. I think that the idea of Solution Focus is a good fit when things are in a chaotic state.

I was reminded of Dr. Tetsuro Watsuji, the famous Japanese philosopher. In his book Fudo about racial characteristics influenced by climates, he said that patience and receptivity is a characteristic of the Japanese people.  It is the characteristic of people who live monsoon climate areas. His idea is as follows.

Moisture brings us natural resources like fertile soil and so on. On the other hand moisture brings also a disaster like a typhoon or a flood. Even if we are suffered from a natural disaster, we are thankful for the blessings of nature. One fisherman who was suffered from the tsunami said,

I lost my father and my house, but I cannot hate the sea because she gives us the blessings. There is a saying ‘A dream is a dream’.

The saying means that it’s no wonder that a dream has not come true. And he said,

“What is done is done. Let’s start again!”

The sufferers are keeping their patience and modesty after the earthquake. The Japanese have a sense of transience of life. We know that we cannot control nature. We know that it’s better for us to think what to do now and here. I think that rutenso is a word meant in this sense.

Dr. Watsuji wrote that the character of Europe is defined by “Pasture climates”, and the characteristic of the European is rationalism and logicality. European people think that a man can use natural resources which are well taken care of. He said

European people are apt to think that they can control the nature. So the science was born out of rationalism and logicality in Europe.

This is the reason why Europeans are apt to believe in logic. If things have changed a lot, they insist on the logical way of thinking.  Now we should notice that we cannot control nature – and also the economy.  We can only utilize them.

Circumstances are always changing. The present situation in the world is rutenso. Using rutenso we can construct today’s Future Perfect (an image of a much better future) in response to the present situation. If the situation changes again, we will describe another Future Perfect once again. According to circumstances, we take a small step forward to direction which we want, even without drawing Future Perfect. We may make great progess after a few steps – or we may work for time time and then change course. It depends on rutenso.

To conclude with a nautical metaphor, please observe the ‘river rutenso’ carefully on board your ship, and I’m sure you will find the destination for which you will steer your ship. Please take a small step forward direction which you want.

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