Saturday, March 12, 2011
We Almost Lost... Tokyo
As of this writing Japanese authorities are trying to control a fire at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a massive earthquake and tsunami. Radiation was released from the accident and thousands of people have been evacuated. It's not known how bad the situation is. While fortunately Japan has made great advances in preparing for earthquakes, this human byproduct of a natural tragedy reminds us of our complaceny in accepting the risks of nuclear power.
Gil Scott-Heron recorded "We Almost Lost Detroit" back in 1977 on his album "Bridges." The video above shows him performing the song in London in 1990. In songs and raps throughout the 1970s and 1980s Scott-Heron touched political and cultural issues like no one else: his biting commentary and social conscience stands out against the passing of time like Cassandra's very own words. In "We Almost Lost Detroit" he sings about the Fermi 1 reactor that narrowly avoided a catastrophic accident near Detroit in the late 1960s. Recorded before the more infamous Three Mile Island or Chernobyl meltdowns, he anticipated the anti-nuke movement and became one of its leading cultural spokespeople. He followed up this song in 1980 with the anthemic stomper, "Shut 'Em Down" (below).
Scott-Heron can rightfully be considered a kind of prophet. We ignore his words at our own risk. The earthquake was an unavoidable catastrophe. Any lives lost or poisoned by the Fukushima reactor are our own fault.
"Just thirty miles from Detroit
stands a giant power station.
It ticks each night as the city sleeps
seconds from annihilation.
But no one stopped to think about the people
or how they would survive,
and we almost lost Detroit
When it comes to people's safety
money wins out every time.
How would we ever get over
over losing our minds?
Cause odds are,
we gonna lose somewhere, one time."