Six months ago today, a titanic earthquake rocked Japan and launched a catastrophic tsunami that topped 130 feet in some places.  20,000 people died or are still missing (16,000 dead, 4,000 missing). Today, while Americans mourn the deaths of 3,000 killed in the 9/11 attacks, the people of Japan are still struggling to comprehend the greatest challenge to their nation since World War II. It will take years to recover.  Take a minute to look through this moving slide show.

If Eric Cantor or Ron Paul were Japanese politicians, would they really be able to yell “F*ck you!” to the people they were elected to represent?  I can’t help but call out these two particularly callous bastards on a day like today.

The earthquake was one of the five largest in recorded history, but the damage it caused was small compared to the destruction wrought by the tsunami. Whole towns were washed away with little or no warning, and one nuclear power station in particular  – Fukushima I — was undone by the flood. In time, we will come to understand why other nuclear power stations in the area made it through the catastrophic natural disasters without melting down. In time, we will also come to understand the response of TEPCO and Japanese government to warnings about the vulnerability of Fukushima I to tsunamis in particular and to poor management in general. A longer time will pass before we understand the response of TEPCO, Japan and the world to the accidents themselves. Today is a day to remember the lives lost six months ago and perhaps also to write down what meaning there seems to be today.

From my perspective, the chain of meltdowns in an advanced industrial country, the widespread release of radiation, the evacuations completed (and the evacuations still to come) together portend big changes in how humanity is responding to the combined challenges of increasing energy demand, anthropogenic global warming, rapacious capitalism, and weak governments with powerful militaries.

Italy, Germany and Japan have each forsworn nuclear power in the last six months. Germany will run its existing plants for a few years and then decommission them without replacing them. Italians voted overwhelmingly never to allow nuclear power in Italy. The new government of Japan is on a path like that of Germany, committing to building no new nuclear power plants but running existing plants that are deemed safe by local governments. One year ago, 30% of Japan’s energy supply was nuclear. With only 18 of 54 nuclear power plants running today, and with several fossil fuel plants also damaged by the earthquake, Japan is operating with an astonishing 40% reduction in energy generation capacity. Great sacrifices are being made every day by the people of Japan as a result. How will this enormous societal tension be resolved? Will the government take responsibility for the safety of its people when the threats emanate from the fat cats that pay them to look the other way?

The chain of events unfolding in Japan since March 11, 2011, has all the drama and elements of the great challenges facing humanity globally. I’m watching to see what happens when the whole mess is supercharged by a major nuclear accident.

Responsibility is about who cleans up the mess, not about who takes the risk. Risk-takers today are celebrated and rewarded for their follies even after calamities they contributed to or caused outright occur. How can it be that TEPCO still exists? Why shouldn’t their shareholders have been wiped out?How can it be that Goldman Sachs still has its corporate charter? What about AIG? The great oil companies are not only thriving after Deepwater Horizon, they are thriving while “paying” negative taxes in the US, offshoring their profits, and cutting jobs in America.

Most national politicians today are weak-minded and without morals. In the face of unprecedented failures around the globe, politicians assign responsibility to the weak and the unfortunate [Evacuating cities! Cutting the safety net in the middle of a global depression!? Recruiting the poor to fight stupid wars that make us less secure?! Cutting veterans' benefits!? Austerity for the Spanish!?] while celebrating the Giants of Misery with ridiculous monikers like “job creators”. WTF? The Giants of Misery (aka MOTU) are obviously NOT creating jobs. They are common thieves and racists ["We'll create jobs when the president stops being black."] who need to grow up or go to jail.

Today is of course also a significant ten-year anniversary. The US responded to an attack by a small terrorist group headquartered in Afghanistan (and possibly also Pakistan at the time) by killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, waging the longest (still running) war in US history, dropping freedom bombs from unmanned aircraft on weddings and warriors alike, and running roughshod over decades of established civil rights laws and crystal clear Geneva conventions. How can it be that Dick Cheney is not in jail? How can it be that Don Rumsfeld was on TV this morning instead of in a cell block? How did a fool like G W Bush ever even get to be President of the United States?