Japan: Calm Amidst the Devastating Disaster

… Do not cry, Japan. A Japanese woman sheds tears on the street of Natori City, Myagi prefecture, where strong quake and tsunami overwhelmed on Sunday, March 13, 2011. However, Japanese showed their characteristic composure in coping with this unparalleled disaster. Reuters Yonhap News

Japan- a nation struck by a most disastrous calamity. The world stands in awe of their apparent calm in the midst of this. It follows that a national disaster creates a new disaster in terms of looting, rape, rage, hysteria, fear and other forms of heinous crimes committed amidst chaos. It also follows that the ones delegated in charge of distribution and management of relief aid are guilty of theft and making fortunes.

I call these crimes of opportunity in the midst of a calamity.

There is so much for the world to learn about the Japanese culture of calm and discipline. There are no looting and widespread hysteria. They form long lines, patiently awaiting their turn. They take the limited allocation of supplies quietly and move on. Some who take a bit more than what they need do express feelings of guilt.They are aware of the limited resources, and their culture promotes the virtue of sharing, courage and self-sacrifice. They look out after one another, not each man to his own.

This tragedy strikes Japan on many fronts- an earthquake of one the strongest magnitude in recorded history, a tsunami that followed, then a nuclear disaster. Basic human necessities were almost nil, add to this, winter decided to pay a visit. These can break a strong the human spirit.

It was a somber picture to see the survivors stand up, shoulder to shoulder in silence at exactly 2:46 PM, Japan time, a week later. It was awesome. There is a lot of noise from Japanese in Tokyo, particularly. The concern is over the slowness of response. But, it did not incite chaotic protests against the powers that be.

The world was quick to respond. But- the Japanese did not clamor for help, demand for help from other countries in a sense of entitlement. It is documented that Japan has an excellent disaster/ emergency plan. But the magnitude of the earthquake, the tsunami that followed and the nuclear disaster were paralyzing by any stretch of imagination. Typical of their culture, they carefully assess the offers of help from the world. It would have been easy to respond in panic when panic strikes. But, they took the time to assess the needs and steps to take before accepting outside help. They believed in their system.

There was no widespread hysteria from the Japanese while other nationals in the stricken area could not get out fast enough. Help from other countries are pouring in quietly and calmly. The nuclear disaster is a testament to the Japanese cautious handling of a situation. The workers in the nuclear plant did not rush to get out and save themselves. A week later, family members speak with pride at the bravery of their loved ones to do what they can, stay on in what seemed to the world as a suicide mission. They carried on even though it seemed like it was all an exercise in futility. These workers are truly unsung hereos.

Japan was in shambles after the Pacific War. But, it rose from the ravages of war, built a strong infrastructure and robust economy. You’d think this will change the heart, the pulse, the culture of a nation. In any culture, race or creed and social structure, there is the ever- present element of evil that is pervasive in some countries.

It is written that this disaster may have shaken the Japanese archipelago, but it has not destroyed the communities, the Japanese civil spirit that is built on consideration and generosity, which has proven to be far stronger than the earthquake. They have faith in their fellow citizens and the systems that constitutes Japan. She will rise again, above the pain, sadness and great loss, stronger.

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