A masked boy walks past nearly-empty shelves at a supermarket in the Japanese city of Akita.
In the wake of Japan’s deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant explosions, we have witnessed the almost indescribable chaos that follows a disaster of this magnitude: loss of life, severe injuries, homelessness, lack of water, food and proper medical care, the physical destruction of towns and cities, and a growing fear of radioactive contamination from power plants that seem beyond anyone’s ability to control.
But one heart-wrenching byproduct of disasters like this one has been missing in Japan, and that’s looting and lawlessness.
Looting is something we see after almost every tragedy; for example: last year’s earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the floods in England in 2007, and of course Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. It happens when some people who’ve seen life as they know it get tossed out the window feel that all morality has been tossed out too. It’s survival of the fittest and whatever you can get your hands on is yours, no matter who it belongs to.
But that’s not happening in Japan.
Journalist and social commentator Ed West wrote in the UK Telegraph yesterday how struck he was by the Japanese culture throughout this ordeal. He observed how supermarkets cut their prices in the days following the quake and how vending machine owners were giving out free drinks as "people work together to survive." And West was most surprised by the fact that there was no looting.
Many have pointed to the popularity of Japan’s distinctive Buddhist and Shinto religions as well as how the values of conformity and consensus are considered virtues in their culture. That’s one explanation, but it probably has something to do with remaining true to your moral code even in the darkest hours.
Here’s my question to you: Why is there no looting in Japan?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Kim: Because Japanese culture, unlike all other modern cultures, is based primarily on honor and dignity. Unlike our Katrina disaster, the Japanese don’t see this as an opportunity to steal everything in sight. The so-called civilized world can learn much from the stoic Japanese.
Greg in Arkansas: Two words: National pride. The people of Japan love their country and do what is best for the nation, unlike the United States where we love our country and do what is best for ourselves.
Natasha: The Japanese are resourceful, innovative and disciplined people with a great sense of national pride. While they also have criminals and felons, it is not quite in comparison to the sleaze balls we have in our streets. It was disgusting to watch these scum bags loot stores in New Orleans during Katrina when they should have helped their fellow citizens in need. While watching the devastation in Japan is heart wrenching, it is so refreshing to see the civility of people within the calamity they are facing.
Larry in Georgetown, Texas: Jack, I was blessed to visit Japan several years ago on business and was told that if I lost my wallet in downtown Tokyo that the person who found it would make it their mission to return it to me in tact. These people are very gracious and kind.
Carol: Sociologists will tell you that the lack of looting is just the result of large numbers of people developing a more orderly society to cope with living in a smaller land mass. Personally, I’ve always thought it’s because they’re a more highly evolved race.
Joy: It’s the Japanese culture – very refined, dignified, disciplined and civilized. We should all learn from them. They’re the types of people you help out willingly because you know that they’ll make full use of any opportunity to get back on their feet.
Richard: I don’t really know. It would be easy to say that they are a very homogeneous society and perhaps in a way consider each other family. In any case they are to be applauded.