2005年7月24日 (日)

Lessons from a movie on Turkish immigrants


Lessons from a movie on Turkish immigrants


Ibrahim, an elderly Turkish immigrant who owns a small grocery store in a working-class district of Paris, is the protagonist of "Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran" (Mr. Ibrahim and the flowers of the Koran), a 2003 film by Francois Dupeyron. The story revolves around Ibrahim's friendship with a lonely young boy.



Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif, now in his 70s, plays Ibrahim, a devout Muslim living quietly in his adopted country. In addition to his natural and dignified screen presence, the veteran actor gives a superb portrayal of an elderly immigrant who has craftily assimilated into this foreign environment, adopting the necessary facade to survive.


France is certainly not the only country where society places great pressure on immigrants to blend in and not stand out. For first-generation immigrants, it is probably their lingering sense of connection to their home countries that sustains them as they strive to become acclimatized in their new lands.


Most of the suspects in the July 7 London bombings were of Pakistani origin, but were born and raised in Britain by parents who had emigrated from what used to be British-ruled India. In recent years, however, an issue that is being re-examined is, "Do second- and third-generation Britons from immigrant families really feel as though they belong in their adopted country?"


According to a recent survey of Muslims in Britain by the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, only about 40 percent of the respondents said they felt they were "members of British society." But 80 percent said they have been discriminated against. Does this mean there are many young men who feel completely alienated in a land that they don't identify with?


In the film, old Ibrahim adopts the orphaned boy and takes him on a trip to Turkey, where they find peace of mind as well as sorrow. The old man passes away in his native land, while the boy overcomes this loss of his adoptive father and learns to live again. This is a story told with gentle, understated charm about what is apparently a universal human quest for the ultimate mutual bond of acceptance that transcends nationality, race and even a parent-child relationship.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 21(IHT/Asahi: July 22,2005)

| | コメント (0) | トラックバック (0)

2005年7月14日 (木)

Act quickly to defuse asbestos `time bomb'


Act quickly to defuse asbestos `time bomb'


Steve McQueen, the Hollywood action star, died at the age of 50 in fall 1980. He had terminal cancer (mesothelioma of the linings of the lungs). His exposure to asbestos was thought to have caused the deadly illness.



Asbestos was used in some form or other in the brake linings of the actor's vehicles and even in his flameproof stunt suit, according to William Nolan's book, "McQueen: Star on Wheels." (A Japanese translation was published by Hayakawa Shobo.)


The word "asbestos" derives from the Greek for "indestructible" or "inextinguishable." Strongly resistant to heat and acid, the fibrous metamorphic mineral can be used in a wide range of applications. It's basically indestructible.


Man's use of asbestos in fact can be traced as far back as the Stone Age, according to Hirotada Hirose's book "Shizukana Jigen Bakudan" (Silent time bomb), published by Shinyosha.

In ancient Greece, asbestos was used as wicks for gold lumps at temples. In Greco-Roman times, there was a high incidence of lung ailments among asbestos miners and workers whose job was to weave asbestos yarn into textiles.


A picture of the extent of health damage caused by asbestos in Japan is finally emerging. The victims have not been limited to a large number of factory workers. Even the wives of these workers have died of mesothelioma after years of inhaling fine asbestos particles while washing their husbands' work clothes.

If the small amount of particles inhaled outside the factory could make these wives sick, then anyone can inhale enough to become ill.


The "indestructible bomb" has not completely exploded yet, but experts predict cases of asbestos illness, which has an unusually long dormancy period, will soon explode.

Let me suggest a belated prescription to defuse this indestructible bomb: Get a complete picture of the extent of asbestos damage, explore treatments for victims and find a safe way to remove the danger.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 12(IHT/Asahi: July 13,2005)

| | コメント (0) | トラックバック (0)

2005年5月 7日 (土)

What sort of nation does Japan want to be?


What sort of nation does Japan want to be?


On my ride back to Tokyo by Shinkansen from the Osaka-Kobe area, I opened a book published by FOIL titled ``Eiga Nihon-koku Kenpo Dokuhon'' (Primer on the movie ``Japan's Peace Constitution'').

This somewhat odd title needs explaining.


 阪神方面から帰京する新幹線で、『「映画 日本国憲法」読本』(フォイル)を開いた。この妙なタイトルには多少の説明が要る。

In late April, a preview was held in Tokyo of the documentary ``Japan's Peace Constitution,'' by John Junkerman. The film is based on interviews with a number of internationally acclaimed intellectuals on their thoughts about the Constitution.

About 700 people were present for the first screening. But 100 more had to be turned away because it was a full house. I watched it standing.

 4月下旬、東京で「映画 日本国憲法」(ジャン・ユンカーマン監督)の上映会があった。日本国憲法について世界の知識人が語るドキュメンタリーで、初回に約700人が来場した。当方は立ち見だったが、100人ほどが入れなかったという。

The ``primer'' was compiled from the movie.

Among those interviewed was John Dower, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of ``Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.''

Dower observed that, ``Japan is a fine country, but it lacked the courage to speak with its own voice and clearly express any idea different from America's ... . If Japan wants to become an `ordinary country' like America, what a frightening prospect that is at this present moment ... since America is becoming a more militaristic society than ever.''


In Japan, public sentiment seems to be leaning toward revising the Constitution.

True, the status of the Self-Defense Forces is anything but spelled out in the Constitution. But there has been no serious debate on, say, the enormity of the consequences of Japan telling the world it intends to maintain full-fledged armed forces.


In this day and age, the United States has the power to change the future of the world, including Japan. Our relationship with the United States is surely an urgent matter .

Our priority should be to decide what sort of a nation we want to be, not to rush into amending the Constitution.


The bullet train I was riding was filled with families with young children. There appeared to be no parents who even thought about the possibility that their child might someday become a soldier in the future and go to a battlefield in a foreign land.


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 5(IHT/Asahi: May 7,2005)

| | コメント (0) | トラックバック (1)