Monday, July 19, 2010

I have since found out...

As an addendum to what I wrote this morning I need to apologise for having been in my own little world so much last year that I missed something huge.

The man playing the digereedoo on that boat in Antarctica was one Peter Malcolm. He was an amazing man the likes of whom I have yet to meet again. I found out this afternoon that he died in June 2009. His impact on my life, in the short 10 days that I spent with him in Antarctic waters was huge. His words of encouragement helped me face some fears and gave me a new mantra to live by. When I'm in the middle of one of my panic attacks, which have been happening a fair bit recently the words 'Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real' spring into my head (eventually) and help me to calm down. He said that to me before I climbed aboard the cargo ship containing the garbage we had gone to King George Island to remove and I have never forgotten it. I will never forget it.

There were a few instances like that and I am so happy to have known him.

Rest In Peace, Peter. I fear you may have died not knowing how you helped me and the impact that you are having on my life even now, 8 years after I first met you and more than a year after you died. Sorry I never kept in touch. Raewyn

My 2 cents

With only 8 days before I leave Takaoka I thought it was time I let you all know how the past 2 years has affected the course of my life. I have annual leave to use so from Wednesday this week I am going to have plenty of time to write about that.

Today, I am going to put my 2 cents into the whaling issue. It is something that prior I might have supported whole heartedly (the cause of Sea Shepherd) but now, having spent 2 years learning about this culture and these people I think my heart has changed slightly. Only slightly mind you.

2 years ago, my main experience with the issue was an experience I had just off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula on board the yacht 2041. Our expedition leader had brought his digereedoo and decided to play it for the whales, as it had worked in the past. Within minutes of him starting to play a humpback whale approached the boat with her child. She was literally 6 feet away from me, sticking her head out of the water so that we could see each other. I looked right into the eye of this whale who had come to listen to the amazing music being played from the boat. Then I saw the baby. It was at that point that I swore I never wanted to see anything bad happen to these majestic creatures. I explained this to my Japanese friend last night too. She completely understood my view point.

However, I then proceeded to explain to her that my country was founded on whaling and sealing too. Whales and seals are so majestic and beautiful that I don't understand how anyone would want to kill them. But it happens and there are reasons for it. Hear me out here...

The Japanese are by in large opposed to whaling. They don't agree with what the government is trying to do and certainly some of them disagree with this 'it's our culture' line that's being used. Guess what guys, it's not their culture. Sure it is for some areas but it is not for all of Japan. Certainly people in Toyama prefer to upset the mating rituals of firefly squid for their delicacies. Many don't agree that it's right to go all the way to the whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean to take whales either. But get this: A westerner suggested they use whale as a good source of protein in the first place. (When you want to talk about it being the culture of the whole of Japan). General MacArthur is responsible for whale meat making it onto the school lunch menu!!!! (According to a documentary I saw recently by an international news organisation). And now we, 60 years on, barely 3 generations, are trying to tell them to stop. Umm, yeah, sure, that computes... not. It took the West a darn sight more than 3 generations to stop whaling in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean too.

I agree that we should try to convince the Japanese to stop whaling, but we should also be doing the same with Iceland and Norway too. However, I also agree with the Japanese side here, the only illegal thing they're doing is going to the Southern Ocean to take them. That's unprofitable anyway! I don't know why they do it. They would be better off taking whales from the coast line of Japan. There are enough whales on the coast of Japan to satisfy what they need for 'research' and in a much cheaper, more traditional way. This going to the Southern Ocean thing is not their ancient tradition.

It is Japanese tradition to view whales as something that the universe has given them as a source of food though. To them, whales are not mammals, they live in the sea therefore they are fish. Until they can be convinced otherwise we will not see an end to whaling. The Japanese government is incredibly stubborn on this one.

So, I guess the past two years has changed me slightly. I could never see the Japanese side before I came here. I would laugh at the protesters standing outside the Majestic Centre in Wellington at street level when the Japanese Embassy is much higher up, but I sympathised with them. Now, I don't have so much sympathy because they are not understanding both sides and they're approaching it the wrong way (they can't hear you 18 floors up people!).

Some of my friends have pointed out that they agree with everything Pete Bethune stands for and with what he did by getting arrested and getting attention for his cause. I don't entirely disagree with his cause. I want to see an end to whaling too. If I could foresee this generation of Japanese giving up something they've had access to their whole lives I would agree that the New Zealand government is 'not doing enough'. BUT I really do disagree with Mr Bethune's methods and his line that the NZ government didn't do anything for him and is not doing anything for the whales either. The Japanese do not respond to violence or confrontation, I've tried that tactic myself at work and it doesn't work. I do, however, agree with what the Australian government is trying to do. What the Japanese are doing in the Southern Ocean, in International waters, in the Whale Sanctuary, is illegal and they should be taking to task for it. I also agree with what NZ is trying to do through the IWC. The plan to get whaling out of international waters and reduce it to local whaling is a good plan too. I foresee the demand for whale meat decreasing as the price goes up (simple economics) and it eventually not being profitable to 'fish' for them. I also foresee it decreasing as people become more and more aware of the inhumane methods that are used to take whales.

I think we all need to take a step back and look at it from all sides. I mean we eat beef, lamb, mutton, venison... how is that any different? AND there is a reason the slaughter of these animals is done behind closed doors too... in the whaling case doing it in the Southern Ocean prevents the Japanese seeing the very upsetting way their meat is caught.

I explained all of this to my friend who is from the generation who got it in her school lunch post war and she completely agreed with me. She remembers it being tough and not particularly tasty. She sure as heck doesn't want it on her plate and she sure as heck doesn't want the government of her country saying that it's her culture because it isn't. Fish is, whale is not.

Whaling should be stopped, yes, but a certain government needs convincing first and that my friends is where diplomacy comes in. Let the diplomats who know this country best do their jobs and we might see some results.

And that has been my 2 cents for the day.