Friday, April 01, 2011

Earthquake, Tsunami and some lessons from Japan

Look at Japan coping with its worst disaster in 100 years. It has been a saga of restraint, discipline and sacrifice. Think. Survivors still search for their near and dear ones. There has been no public display of grief. In the tsunami ravaged areas, Japan’s societal mores are as intact as ever.

Severe shortages of power, food and water continue. But no one is complaining. There have been no riots, protests or even looting. If the power in a super market goes off, shoppers put back the stuff back and leave. Outside stores, there are long lines, but no one is jumping the queue. People just buy what they need to survive and don’t hoard.

Some restaurants offered free meals. People ate with dignity, thanked and left. At Sendai, a small restaurant offered free hot soup. No one took an extra cup though they were very hungry. Restaurants cut prices. Many grabbed the opportunity to reach out to the needy.

The strong looked after the weak. No one made a drama of their sacrifice. It was as if that was the natural thing to do. Everyone from the young to the aged knew exactly what to do as there was training. Every September 1, there is an earthquake drill. Jeffrey Kingston from Temple University says that it is all about Japan’s national character as from a young age children are socialised to put the country’s interest above their own. That is why at the nuclear plant that is now threatening to spread radiation, workers decided to stay back voluntarily so that the country is safe.

The coverage was so dignified. Look at Japan’s media. The coverage was so dignified. No blood and gore. No screaming anchors and reporters wallowing in melodrama.

India could learn some lessons from Japan. It is redundant to say that India could learn some lessons from Japan. For we have yet to start building character. I covered the Gujarat earthquake over 10 years ago and still remember the chaos, intolerance towards communities other than their own, hoarding, stealing and looting.

Many made a fast buck. Rents of ground floor houses shot up. Prices of essentials spiralled. Many made a fast buck. Beggars moved from Rajasthan to corner relief supplies. I even saw someone trying to break a good wall so that insurance could be claimed!

It is values that have steeled Japan. It is values that have steeled Japan. They will survive. And prosper again.

Ramesh Menon in DNA. More Here

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