If Disaster Strikes, Will You Be a Looter?

Today on The Point Radio, John Stonestreet gives an excellent commentary on why there are no reports of looting in Japan. My sister, who survived the earthquake and tsunami, confirmed that there are no cases of panic-buying in her town, and grocery stores set limits on the quantity of food items one can buy to ensure everyone has enough share of food supplies. Water, electricity, and oil are also equally rationed, and everyone has been calm and cooperative about it.

Some articles have published explanations such as cultural homogeneity, race, history, fear of authority, culture of superiority, and politeness. Whatever it is, it is a character that Japan has successfully cultivated in its people to maintain peace and order in times of terrible chaos. It made the Japanese rise from massive destruction in World War II to become one of the most industrialized nations in the world. They did it, and history may once again repeat itself.

People around the world are noticing Japan’s example of how human beings should respond to national tragedies. I echo John’s conclusion that it should make us think about the character we want to cultivate in ourselves and our children.

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Some degree of teamwork is needed in crises situations. That is why military and naval units are-well-militaristic, and police, fire, rescue units as well as merchant shipping have recognizably paramilitary aspects.
(A post authored by Jason *Bruce*, commented upon by Jason *Taylor*. How to disambiguate, without sounding awkward? Hmpf. On the other hand, I suppose if this is my worst trial today, I'm doing extremely well...)

Jason B, I haven't read a majority of the overwhelming number of articles, but one interesting aspect to me that seems little addressed so far is how the Japanese government is assuring its citizens that the threat of radiation is small and contained, yet other governments are urging their citizens to flee - as if the Japanese government is lying about the gravity of the threat. That makes me wonder if another contributor to the lack of looting is that Japanese people trust their government more than many Western nations do. (Whether or not that is wise is another issue, of course.)

This relates to Jason T's comment about individuality in that looting may be your only recourse if you believe your government won't come through for you. Looting has another aspect, though, of respect for the property of the store owner versus taking from someone simply because you need or want what they have. I'm reminded of Natalie Portman's character in "Where the Heart Is", pregnant and stranded in a Wal-Mart, using their products but carefully recording each one so she could reimburse the store later. I wonder if there have been any cases of looters who then paid back the store owner for what they took?

Perhaps more pertinent for a blog whose bloggers live mostly in the D.C. area, and whose founder was a prominent member of the Nixon administration, I wonder what it would take for Americans to collectively believe the pronouncements of their government? This is related to, but separate from, the idea that the government would be the one to come to the rescue (versus private groups like the Red Cross doing the rescuing). Apparently many Americans do not believe their government tells the truth, even in the midst of great crisis. What would have to change, both within government and within the hearts of individual people, to make them believe? Or did the 1960s flip a kind of switch, and Watergate cemented that switch in place, such that we can never trust our federal, state and local governments ever again?

A friend of mine has a son living in Tokyo with his Korean wife. The wife's parents are begging them to leave, even though the news reports say radiation levels that far south are not hazardous. Should they run away for their own safety, or stay and help? Personally, I'd think that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki the one group of people on Earth with experience in the effects of radiation on humans would be the Japanese. But if they're telling people to stay not based on facts but on a desire to have enough manpower for the short term and/or to avoid a mass panic, then maybe it's more dangerous than they're letting on.

(Whew! Does anyone *else* named Jason want to weigh in here?)
Honestly, I have often wondered whether much of the west is overemphasizing individualism . There has to be a balance.

It would be nice to see a few times where, the Beautiful Princess actually does do what her dad says to instead of running off with the Street Urchin because she has to Listen To Her Heart and Be Herself whatever "being oneself" means. If nothing else just for variety. We do see this occasionally, but to often we sacralize personal desire to the detriment of duty to others.

We also can be rather ungrateful jerks, not realizing that our modern wealth, power, and security was gathered by people who lived by an ethic that was not totally dissimilar to that of the Japanese.

Just picture John Wayne saying, "How many will join my posse to come rescue the little boy kidnapped by the bandits" and getting the reply,"No, we want to be ourselves."

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