Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan stunned, battered -- where's the looting, rioting, rape, plunder and pillage?

Verne Strickland Blogmaster

Respect for property even in the middle of disaster (Photo: EPA)
(Photo: EPA)

By Ed West   March 14, 2011

The landscape of parts of Japan looks like the aftermath of World War Two; no industrialised country since then has suffered such a death toll. The one tiny, tiny consolation is the extent to which it shows how humanity can rally round in times of adversity, with heroic British rescue teams joining colleagues from the US and elsewhere to fly out.

And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself. Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.

This is quite unusual among human cultures, and it’s unlikely it would be the case in Britain. During the 2007 floods in the West Country abandoned cars were broken into and free packs of bottled water were stolen. There was looting in Chile after the earthquake last year – so much so that troops were sent in; in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina saw looting on a shocking scale.

Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?


Ed West of The Telegraph, UK, beat me to the punch with this salient blog on Japanese response to a natural disaster worse than anything witnessed in modern times.

So where were the looting, rioting, rape, plunder and pillage we've come to expect in other countries, other cultures, including our own, in the face of such natural disasters?

What the hell happened? Where is the incivility, the boorish, selfish behavior, the hateful attacks on the weak and the defenseless?

Well, this is Japan. And the Japanese, God bless them, are the world's most insufferable, arrogant winners -- and the most respectful, patient and generous losers on earth.

In a dozen or more visits to Japan over the years, I have seen and befriended them in both character extremes. They are remarkable people, and, despite the ugly, militaristic face they showed before and during World War II in the Pacific, we can draw much from them in terms of their resilience and forbearance, their intelligence, pride and work ethic.

My trips there were foraging missions by a writer and television journalist hungry to see the world. That wanderlust took me to over thirty countries over a period of some 25 years. But Japan was the one country that drew me back, over and over.

I became comfortable in the teeming sophisticated cities, as well as the rural villages and the pristine
family farms where an intensive agriculture is practiced. I studied the Japanese language at N.C. State University, produced several documentary films on Japanese culture, and, when in Japan, got outside the Western cocoon that insulates so many Americans from the society they have come to experience.

There are superlatives and criticisms that can be applied to every culture. The Japanese deserve some of both. But there may be no country, no people, who handle diversity with more aplomb and dignity than the Japanese.

Of course, there was Pearl Harbor, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As an American, I cannot forget that. But I like to believe that all of that is behind us, and that Americans and Japanese today are fast friends, trusted and trusting allies. We are both part of the Free World, which we both vehemently defend.

So at this time, we have an obligation, and a privilege, to support this stricken country in every way that we can. May God help them. And may we do the same.