Home > Opinions
- "Human Greed" Scarier than a Tsunami
Goh Mi-sook, Classics commentator
After mega-civilizations collapse and 1,000 years have gone by, the earth is covered by devastated land and stinking seas. To make matters worse, a forest of fungus known as the Sea of Decay, which gives off toxic substances, is expanding, making it impossible for humans to survive for more than five minutes without wearing a mask.
As you've probably guessed, this is the background the Japanese global hit animation, Nausica of the Valley of the Wind. Throughout March, I have kept falling under the illusion that I am watching Nausica all over again.
We are engrossed in avoiding nature and building civilization
A black wave, traveling at a tremendous speed, has come charging in, flipping over cars, boats, buildings and highways in the blink of an eye. This scene was so similar to that of the rampaging Ohmus in Nausica.
Ohmus are huge crustaceans with 14 eyes, which carry around toxic spores. Whenever they sweep through an area, everything in the vicinity is killed in an instant.
In the film, in order to burn up the herd of Ohmu, they call up the Giant Warrior, who is sleeping deep under the ground. Heavens! What a remarkable coincidence: after the tsunami swept by, the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded and radioactive substances have been flowing out into the environment. Into the air, and into the sea.
Ah, so does that mean we were already living in the Valley of the Wind? Unlike the herd of Ohmu in the film, the really scary thing was not the tsunami. It was the greed of humans, engrossed as they were in simply building civilization while avoiding the voice of nature.
Coiled like a snake at the root of this greed was "venomous ignorance. "How could we be so slow and clumsy at saving people while our technology for erecting buildings and building highways was so fast?
How can we boast of cutting-edge technology when it comes to extracting radioactive materials, while our systems for dealing with the disasters they bring upon us are so primitive?
As was confirmed when the Cheonan frigate was sunken and when the foot-and-mouth virus broke out in Korea, civilization is more powerful even than god when it comes to taking and destroying, but is less competent than primitive man when it comes to saving and keeping alive.
If this is what happens to Japan, the country best prepared for disasters in the world, what can we say for other countries? This is not just a problem for the Japanese archipelago. Do earthquakes and tsunamis have borders? Do plutonium and cesium have nationalities?
These things are in the wind, the air and the water. They are "global." Therefore, paradoxically, this disaster has shown in very real terms what humans are.
Humans are not the owners of the earth, but merely one part of it. Our bodies, too, are no more than aggregates of elements such as carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Could there be a clearer demonstration of humans' biological status or physical coordinates?
Our systems for coping with disasters are too primitive
What we must now do is de-construct the countless boundaries that control our minds. It is time to remove all the grids of symbols that enabled humans to trample all over nature on the premise of nature's silence, and the solid iron fences that lie between the seen and the unseen, life and death, and get to grips with new ecological wisdom; Just as the people in the Valley of the Wind did.
"Wearing green clothes, she stood on the golden plain. Tie once again the string that bound us, back then, to the earth, and lead us to that world of green cleanliness."
The star of this prophecy, conveyed through the lips of a blind old woman, is none other than Nausica. The fearless girl who opened her heart to the ultra-creepy swarms of insects and rode across the sky on the wind, Nausica!
Nausica, with all her body, proves the "absolute coexistence" between beings and the world, as she weaves her way between the army of the Ohmu, racing toward death, and those of the imperial armies trying to control the universe through the Giant Warrior.
Perhaps this is the sort of song that we ourselves now need. The song of an Odyssey toward an "ecosophia" that cuts across hostile dichotomies between civilization and nature, viruses and humans, and radioactivity and living things. (Opinion, The Kyunghyang Daily News. March 29, 2011)
Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.