The news from Japan seems to be getting worse and worse by the hour. My heart aches for the people who are living in this tragedy. Whole towns wiped out, people losing families, survivors hanging on in unimaginable conditions….the devastation and grief are almost beyond comprehension.
As we look in awe at the pictures coming out of Japan, we can’t help but wonder…”What would I do in this situation, how would I handle it ?”.
One can only hope that one could handle with the grace that the Japanese have. Which causes one to wonder, “Why is there no looting in Japan ?”:
Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?
I have seen pictures of Japanese survivors waiting patiently in line for assistance:
As Japanese survivors cope with food and gasoline shortages amidst the aftershocks and rising body count, they draw on a sense of social order. Unlike scenes in natural disasters in Haiti and New Orleans, there is little anger, no looting.
We have had our share of natural disasters here. Katrina of course comes to mind. Yet then, it was a different story:
Looters used garbage cans and inflatable mattresses to float away with food, blue jeans, tennis shoes, TV sets — even guns. Outside one pharmacy, thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break through the glass. The driver of a nursing-home bus surrendered the vehicle to thugs after being threatened.
What makes the Japanese culture different?
I don’t know the answer. I can only speak from my own experience. Working in the non-profit sector in the area of workforce development, we offer programs to laid-off workers as well as TANF (formerly known as welfare) assistance. The programs are geared towards training and work-readiness, in the hope that the individuals will be able to find gainful employment. One of my responsibilities is reporting on the demographics of those we try to help. Without exception, the Asian-American demographic is almost the smallest…so small as to be almost non-reportable: less than 1 percent.
Is it a cultural thing where one group will ask for help while another will stoically survive ? Is it a sense of entitlement that drives some to loot and plunder, while others maintain and even help their neighbor?
An interesting question. I only hope that in the event of a natural disaster here that the people of Delaware will try to emulate all that is good about the people of the United States.
And keep in mind the lessons from Japan.