Saturday, June 12, 2010

Walk a mile in my shoes and I'll walk a mile in yours

I wake up to the sound of a foreign, very polite-sounding voice intoning from a megaphone. It is in motion, probably coming from a vehicle, and it repeats the same couple of sentences over and over again, with the loyal precision of a recording.

Where am I? I slip in and out of sleep.

Another megaphone voice goes slowly by – as it gets more distant, I can no longer hear individual words. Not that I could understand any individual words.

Now they are a soup receding into the soundscape, with only inflection remaining intelligible.

I’m in Japan. And now I am awake.

My Japanese improves a little with each new visit, but even though I may one day be able to hold a decent conversation, the meaning of those half-dreamt megaphone announcements will not be decipherable from that distant future. They will remain a mystery – a token of my alien status in this other world, and I like that. What were they saying? I’ll never know.

Muscles groan from the hardcore adventure of dragging luggage and camera gear for 2 hours on trains, up and down subway stairs and corridors, and through the streets of Tokyo - all this an overdone antidote to 11 hours sitting in a flying sardine can.

I climb down the narrow stairwell of Hideki’s house and there he is, just back from his last bit of work. He too has been insanely busy for the last few months: we are both glad to have the next few days together to focus on Whale Like Me.

Hideki lays his understanding of the best approach to connecting with the right whaling family. We rapidly agree that rather than taking our best shot at meeting families on this trip, with a very low chance of success – the time will be better spent shooting some of the challenge sequences.

Success in connecting with a good whaling family will hinge on cultivating alliances with figures the co-ops will respect and defer to. Those figures are the ones we must convince of the mutual benefits of the film, and their support will open the way.

The climate is particularly difficult for approaching the whaling co-ops without authoritative Japanese support. The spotlight on the dolphin massacres has pushed some fishing communities into defensive victimhood. Extreme right wing factions have rallied to take up a nationalistic response to foreign environmentalist finger pointing.

I believe the whale hunts must end, but I believe as strongly that giving a voice to the hunters alongside my own is the only decent way to engage with the problem. If I am strong in my belief, I must be willing to let it be directly, experientially challenged. If they are strong in theirs, they must be willing to do the same.

Chanting ‘Save the whales’ in one land, while others chant ‘Whaling is our right’ in another, in the end, is nothing more than a huge lack of constructive communication.

Whale Like Me will show us the outcome of both ‘sides’ walking a mile in each other’s shoes. Is true reconciliation ever possible without a healthy dose of that?

1 comment:

  1. Hello Malcolm! .)

    I must say there are more in common than i thought 1st. I lived in Tokyo, Japan - 2006/2007, for a half year. I had been fighting these hunters because of my huge love for dolphins & whales. I couldn't believe my ears & my eyes when i faced these things...

    Kata Lee