>Image by waprojecty via Flickr
Anyone who has been watching the news out of Japan has had to ask themselves that basic question: “Why is there no looting?” After all, remember what happened in the good old USA after Katrina? We had looting and shooting and raiding hospitals and carjackings and… It was ugly. Contrast this to the orderly lines we see in Japan. What’s going on here? Why aren’t people “looking out for number one?”
With a hat tip to Allan Bevere, I read this really important article (I think) by Elizabeth Stewart of Deseret News. I have excerpts below. Here’s the link to the full article. But it gets at issues of alienation and community and culture–not unimportant concepts for the church.
News organizations around the world are chattering on about the remarkable order with which the Japanese have responded to the disaster.
“Three days after a magnitude-9 killer quake devastated Japan, triggering Pacific-wide tsunamis and a likely nuclear plant meltdown and then consigning millions of Japanese to darkness, thirst and hunger in the wintry cold, I still have yet to read reports of widespread looting,” wrote Frederico D. Pascual Jr. of The Philippine Star. “This Filipino watching 3,200 kilometers from Ground Zero finds this disciplined behavior of a huge population in distress awe-inspiring. Let us pray that they stay that way — and that we learn from them.”
Gregory Pflugfelder, director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University, told CNN he believes the phenomenon has its roots in Japanese culture. He said the Japanese feel responsible “first and foremost” to the community.
“Looting simply does not take place in Japan,” Pflugfelder said. “I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting.’ ” …
Merry White, an anthropology professor at Boston University who studies Japanese culture, told CNN that she attributes the looting and disorder that is traditionally associated with natural disasters to social alienation and culture gaps.
“There IS some alienation and indeed some class gaps in Japan, too, but violence, and taking what belongs to others, are simply not culturally approved or supported,” White said in an e-mail.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what this means for culture–theirs and ours.