Overview: In March 2011 the Tohoku earthquake in Japan created a tsunami that killed some 16,000 people and caused an estimated $210 billion worth of damage. The tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, resulting in massive emissions of radioactive materials, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Chernobyl in 1986. In the aftermath of the Japan disaster, the government and TEPCO, the plant’s operator, withheld information about the extent of the damage, causing a culture of fear and mistrust. Three years later, citizens and the international community are left wondering if Japan really does have the situation under control, as the government is insisting, or if the danger is far greater than anyone is willing to admit. VICE went to Japan to investigate what’s really going on at ground zero of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
For many U.S. veterans returning from Iran and Afghanistan, the transition to civilian life is too often marred by mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s estimated that over a quarter million vets from recent wars have sought treatment for PTSD, and 22 veterans a day take their own lives. Despite these statistics, veterans often face an uphill battle to get treatment, receiving inadequate attention and, most dangerously, over-prescribed narcotics and other pharmaceuticals. VICE met with veterans struggling with mental illness and addiction to find out how the men and women who risked their lives on the battlefield are now falling through the cracks back at home.
Expectations: I had a rapid response to seeing correspondent Vikram Gandhi in the preview for this installment. “What the hell are you doing at a Ground Zero site? Get out of there!” Mind you that was for just the sneak peek; imagine my feelings upon viewing the segment. It is one thing to see Thomas Morton at old testing sites from decades ago, but the Fukushima plant is a fresh radioactive cesspool, just listen to the Geiger counter ping. I really want to see this report and I know I’m not going to like what I see – another government failing to do the right thing.
The preview to the second segment leaves me a bit disgusted frankly. Our country is all out proud of those who serve military duty, yet, (surprise, surprise) the system fails them when they return home. Can’t this country get anything right? Oops, is that unpatriotic? I’ll have more to say once I watch the piece, but it is going to leave me annoyed. Hey, there is Ryan Duffy and here is a clip.
Gut Reaction: These are my thoughts regarding Playing With Nuclear Fire by correspondent Vikram Gandhi.
I truly don’t know what imagery or statements bothered me most. There is so much wrong with this situation that it overwhelms. The scenes of false readings from government placed Geiger counters at the school; thousands of bags of contaminated soil; tank after tank of irradiated water leaking back into the earth; ghost towns and uninformed citizenry all make, for me, this piece one of the toughest segments on VICE this season. I’m glad that Vikram did not make it any closer to the facility.
It is not anyone’s fault, certainly that an earthquake and tsunami slammed into the island country. Natural events like that will always happen. What actions are taken afterwards are crucial however, and the Japanese government did not and continue to not handle the consequences appropriately. We saw the lasting effects on generations with the testing grounds in Russia and this type of future is ahead for Japan; not to mention the dead zones being established on the globe. If the world is going to continue to survive in the Nuclear Age then we better learn from our mistakes instead of covering them up. It can only get worse – hell a real world Godzilla just might show up at this rate.
Segment number two is No Man Left Behind by correspondent Ryan Duffy. It hit home to me late in the piece when one gentleman said in effect that somehow the government has enough money for tanks and bombs on the front lines but not enough money for counseling and therapy afterwards. The cheapest and quickest solution is just to medicate the hell out of them and send them on their way and when that runs its course let them find their own drugs of choice. What a great way to treat our veterans! It is truly disgusting, as if they are disposable people who we get to serve for the country and then get discarded.
Another frustrating factor in all of this is that a solution is not being strived for or so it seems. It goes back to the basic healthcare issues of this country. All who put into the system, and I am not just talking military service personnel, deserve something back for their efforts to the greater good. As pointed out in this segment the cheap and easy should not come before the right and through. We need to take care of our own and first do no harm and all of that. Hell, our elderly and our service men & women deserve that basic right at least. I’ll cut the rant short, but I am sure by my words and this VICE piece you can easily sense the disappointment that our government does not do better on this front. On a lighter note it was great to see Ryan Duffy do a segment. I wondered from day one this season why he wasn’t listed as being involved.
In Conclusion: It happened during Season One and it has surfaced again in Season Two. At some point during my immersion into the world of VICE and my reviews of same I get, what’s the right word, depressed, moody, pessimistic? Well, after watching this episode it hit me. I am sure it is not VICE’s intent to generate these negative feelings in me. VICE is out to inform and draw attention to the mechanizations of mankind across the globe. It paints a bleak and scary picture of our world that if you let it get to you the right kind of person just might be too scared to step out their front door. It is almost like watching a horror movie; you enjoy being scared because you know that you are really safe, but you like the scare you get; or like sky-diving you know all precautions have been taken, but the adrenaline rush needs to be felt. I may start to feel uneasy with what VICE offers up, but it is short lived and I will go back to my more oblivious existence. Well, really I am less oblivious than I was because VICE has opened my eyes to a lot. I can’t fully get away from it because I crave it now and besides, I have more episodes to review yet this season. Let’s get to the Debriefs shall we?
My main question for Vikram is answered right at the top. What danger was he in?
My main question is put to Ryan in his Debrief. What can the VA do to improve their intended purpose? The solution sounds easy, but we all know it is not. And I totally did not think of the ramifications of so many troops expecting to come home soon. But, like Mr. Duffy states there will be at some point another conflict that we will mobilize to and the need for VA medical assistance will always need to be in place.
Just like last season VICE takes a break at some point. There will not be a new episode airing on 05.30. Instead there will be a repeat of Episode 19 featuring CRUDE AWAKENING and THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. So it looks like I get that break after all, but not really because my first issue of my VICE magazine subscription should come soon! Peace.