tsunami

A Look At Why No Looting, Rioting In Japan

Anyone notice how there has been ABSOLUTELY NO REPORTS of looting or rioting on the streets in Japan like there certainly would be here in the good old overly liberal U S of A?

-Comment on unofficial Chicago Police Department blog Second City Cop

Japan is a mess. It’s suffered the world’s seventh most powerful earthquake (8.9 magnitude), a tsunami with a 23-foot wall of water, at least 10,000 fatalities, a nuclear power plant crisis requiring the evacuation of more than 180,000 nearby residents, and property and other losses amounting to as high as $35 billion according to one early estimate. Furthermore, millions of Japanese residents are struggling with dwindling supplies of food, water, and other necessities in the aftermath of the disaster. From the Associated Press’ Jay Alabaster yesterday:

Millions of Japanese were without drinking water or electricity Sunday, surviving on instant noodles and rice balls, two days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami hammered the northeastern coast, killing at least 1,000 people…

Thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers that were cut off from rescuers and aid. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 2.5 million households were without electricity.

Large areas of the countryside were surrounded by water and unreachable. Fuel stations were closed and people were running out of gasoline for their cars.

Public broadcaster NHK said around 380,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters, many of them without power.

Despite all the misery, I can’t seem to find any reports of rioting or looting in Japan. First-hand accounts coming from ground-zero confirm the lack of unrest. From the London Evening Standard’s (UK) David Cohen this morning, reporting from the town of Hachinohe and Japan’s “coast of death”:

It is striking that there are no children crying and how orderly everything appears to be. Overall, there is an air of subdued calm and of people grimly adjusting to the new reality that their peaceful fishing town will never be the same again. When I ask how people are coping, the school’s headmaster , Mitsuhiko Shobuke, said: “Japanese people are enduring. It is not in our culture to express our sorrow or anger. We grin and bear it. There has been no looting and no riots here because in our culture we value order and dignity and we help each other. I am proud of how our people have behaved.”

About.com guide Linda Lowen, a Japanese-American, shed some light as to why there’s a lack of crime and civil unrest in post-disaster Japan. She wrote this morning:

Much is being made of the stoicism of the Japanese. The voiceovers of interpreters are slow, halting, unemotional as they translate clips from Japan’s public broadcasting network NHK. The NHK reports of survivors’ stories feel very neutral and detached compared to CNN’s viewer-generated i-Reports from Americans in Japan which frequently contain bleeped-out curse words. If the Japanese indicate distress, it’s mostly through wordless cries of “aaaah.” No repetitive swearing or excitement bordering on schadenfreude as was exemplified by one video taken by an American college student studying in Japan; he ran towards an oil refinery explosion with a video camera and emailed his clip to CNN which provided him his 15 minutes of fame.

This isn’t the sort of thing the majority of Japanese citizens would do. And anyone who’s spent time among the Japanese people can understand why.

We see subdued women and men on-camera talk about being swept away in the tsunami, husbands and wives and children torn from their grasp by the floodwaters, yet there’s no wild sobbing, no falling apart, no letting go. American reporters have been speculating as to when the Japanese will finally break and openly grieve, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. This is how the Japanese survive.

As much as I hate to admit it, I doubt many Americans, in the event of a similar disaster, would react in the same manner as the Japanese. Consider this. It’s been my experience that Americans are generally friendly and quick to help out family, friends- and even strangers. From USA TODAY contributor Alcestis “Cooky” Oberg back on November 23, 2010:

89% of U.S. households donate. America is the most generous nation on the planet, making up nearly half of the world’s total giving. The average American is 14 times more generous than the average European, because Americans see philanthropy as their individual responsibility, not as a governmental activity, as most Europeans do.

However, one only has to remember the civil unrest and violence that occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina to realize that a thin veneer of civilization exists in the United States.


“Crazy L.A. Gun Fight Erupts During Riot”
YouTube Video Link
(Editor’s note: Not affiliated with/supporter of AngryAnarchist.com)

It’s not a matter of if- but when– the United States suffers its next major disaster. And unfortunately, such events have been known to bring out the worst in a number of Americans.

When the crisis comes, will you behave like the Japanese- or take to the streets?

My advice is, put some time and effort into gathering some supplies now as part of a larger emergency preparedness kit to hopefully lessen your dependence on outside help and resources when a major disaster strikes- and avoid having to loot and/or riot. You’ll be glad you did some day.

Sources:

Second City Cop. “Sneed Smoking Crack.” [Weblog Entry.] Second City Cop. 11 Mar. 2011. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2011/03/sneed-smoking-crack.html). 14 Mar. 2011.

Alabaster, Jay. “Millions without food, water after Japan quake.” Associated Press. 13 Mar. 2011. (http://www.suntimes.com/4292611-417/millions-without-food-water-after-japan-quake.html). 14 Mar. 2011.

Cohen, David. “Japan disaster: We are all terrified. There is no road map and we have no idea where we go from here.” London Evening Standard (UK). 14 Mar. 2011. (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23931825-japan-disaster-we-are-all-terrified-there-is-no-road-map-and-we-have-no-idea-where-we-go-from-here.do). 14 Mar. 2011.

Lowen, Linda. “Understanding Japanese Stoicism in the Face of Japan’s Devastating Earthquake and Tsunami.” About.com. 14 Mar. 2011. (http://womensissues.about.com/b/2011/03/14/understanding-japanese-stoicism-in-the-face-of-japans-devastating-earthquake-and-tsunami.htm). 14 Mar. 2011.

Oberg. Alcestis “Cooky.” “Thanks to the givers among us.” USA TODAY. 23 Nov. 2010. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-11-24-column24_ST_N.htm). 14 Mar. 2011.

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Early Observations On Japan Disaster

I found out about the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan when I got up early to give my girlfriend a ride to the train station. She heard about the event on the local news while getting ready for work, and mentioned it to me knowing it would be something I’d be interested in. After bringing her to the station, I got home in time to witness the tsunami reach the Hawaiian Islands and keep heading east towards the West Coast.

Needless to say, my heart and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible natural disaster.

Some early observations about the world’s seventh most powerful earthquake:

Reports are coming in of basic commodities (food, water) being at a premium. The Associated Press says more than 1 million households across Japan, mostly in the northeast, don’t have access to water. Hundreds of people have been observed lining up outside of supermarkets and vehicles are packing in gas stations in towns and cities along the 1,300-mile-long eastern coastline hit by the tsunami.

In Tokyo, disruptions to its transport system stranded commuters and made getting home- and a meal- a challenge. From Bloomberg’s Bret Okeson tonight:

Tokyo’s transport system returned to normal after Japan’s worst earthquake in a century halted subways and commuter lines yesterday, forcing people to walk for hours to their suburban homes or find makeshift beds at their desks, building lobbies or train stations.

The 8.9-magnitude quake yesterday crippled the world’s busiest subway network. More than 8 million passengers use the system on a normal weekday, and the shutdown highlighted the city’s daily dependence on its transportation infrastructure.

The sidewalk that encircles the Imperial Palace was packed with businessmen at 9:30 last night instead of the usual joggers. Walking was still faster than driving as cars in the city’s center stood bumper to bumper, inching along.

The shelves of convenience stores, normally full with ready-to-eat rice balls and sandwiches, were stripped bare by hungry office workers.

I can’t stress how important it is to have an emergency supply of food and water at home. These should be part of your emergency preparedness kit- which I just talked about on Wednesday. Start putting a kit together now– before you too find yourself lining up at a grocery store after the disaster.

In addition, commuters should carry a smaller supply of emergency food and water, in addition to other items that could be useful in a crisis, in a bag that goes with them to and from work. Already use a bag? Drop these items in there. Don’t want to carry a bag, or afraid of being made fun of for having a “murse?” It’s up to you to decide what’s more important- having the means to successfully weather an emergency/disaster, or not having to deal with a little bit of inconvenience or ridicule.

More next week.

Sources:

“Hundreds Killed by Massive Tsunami After 8.9-Magnitude Quake Rocks Japan.” Associated Press. 11 Mar. 2011. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/11/thousands-roam-tokyo-streets-massive-tsunami-devastates-region/). 11 Mar. 2011.

Okeson, Bret. “Tokyo Transport System Returns to Normal After Disruption From Earthquake.” Bloomberg. 11 Mar. 2011. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-12/tokyo-transport-system-returns-to-normal-after-disruption-from-earthquake.html) 11 Mar. 2011.

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