Monday, March 14, 2011

The Japanese People's Inspirational Response To Disaster

One of the most moving sights I've seen in all the coverage of the disaster unfolding in Japan has been the stoical way its people cope with unimaginable adversity. Of course you can't generalise about the people of a whole nation but it is telling that western journalists are struggling to get the "human angle" they so covert during such disasters - weeping crowds, chaotic scenes of looting and violence, angry demos of people blaming the government or big business for the situation etc.

Tonight I saw a man being interviewed who was looking for his missing young daughter. Despite what raging internal emotion he must have been feeling, the gut wrenching terror of potentially discovering the worst possible fate of his missing girl, the man spoke with dignity about his situation. He even (politely) admonished the reporter, saying that he didn't like to see foreigners reporting Japan's plight and proudly predicted that his country would rise again.

A woman looks for her 99 year old mother. There's no sign of her in the camps of displaced people. A camera follows her to look for her mother's house, but its gone, along with half her town. The woman weeps quietly but covers her face to hide her emotions from the prying camera. There's no anger, no blame, she feels no need to highlight what a personal tragedy this clearly is.

If you didn't respect the Japanese before, you can't help but do so now.

The British used to be known for their stoical stiff upper lip and ability to cope with adversity. I do wonder how we would cope with disaster on the scale of Japan's. I hope we'd rediscover the strength of the war time generation, but I fear that British quality is lost forever.

Perhaps we can relearn it from our war time opponents.

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