Why is there no looting in Japan?
The landscape of parts of Japan looks like the aftermath of World War Two; no industrialised country since then has suffered such a death toll. The one tiny, tiny consolation is the extent to which it shows how humanity can rally round in times of adversity, with heroic British rescue teams joining colleagues from the US and elsewhere to fly out.And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself. Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.
This is quite unusual among human cultures, and it’s unlikely it would be the case in Britain. During the 2007 floods in the West Country abandoned cars were broken into and free packs of bottled water were stolen. There was looting in Chile after the earthquake last year – so much so that troops were sent in; in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina saw looting on a shocking scale.
Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?
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Where are the Japanese looters?The absence of looting in Japan has taken many western observers by surprise.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans experienced looting on a scale that astonished even American cynics. After last year's earthquake, the looting in Chile was serious enough to require military intervention.
There was looting in Haiti after its earthquake last year and in England during the 2007 floods.
So far, though, there is no looting reported from Japan.
Is it really that surprising? The politeness, honesty and orderly behavior of the Japanese are widely admired. A Brazilian friend in the jewelry business, under the influence of severe jet-lag, left an unlocked briefcase containing thousands of dollars in cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars in gem stones on a Tokyo commuter train.
His host talked him out of cutting his wrists and escorted him to the next station served by the train, where the briefcase and its contents were waiting for him at the lost-and-found counter.
If stories like that are credible in Japan and unthinkable in New York, Paris or London, the question is, "why?"
There's substantial internet chatter on the subject, and the chatter is disturbing. The answer most people seem to settle on is, "race." Many argue that Japanese homogeneity is a strength, diversity a weakness. The Japanese aren't looting because they're all one big happy culture with none of the predation that occurs when people of different cultures look longingly at each others' possessions.
Before you argue that tsunamis swept all their possessions away, remember that millions of people affected by the quake weren't in the path of a tsunami.
A distressing number of writers have noted that there are few black, Hispanic or Arab people in Japan. As one put it, "Japanese do not loot, black Americans in Louisiana do. If that is a fact, how is it racist?" http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/stimulus/2011/mar/14/where-are-japanese-looters/
Editorial: Japan's Saving Grace Its People
Catastrophe: If there was ever a more unfathomable disaster than Japan's huge earthquake, horrific tsunami and nuclear meltdown, we have yet to see it. But the courage and dignity of the Japanese people transcended it.
The world watched helplessly as a 9.0 earthquake hammered Japan's coast, and a tsunami's massive wall of black sludge spread its fingers across the northeast coast of Japan.
The incredible tsunami footage showed giant ships, cargo containers, houses, trains and cars flung around like toys. Bullet trains went missing and refineries went up in flames.
Worse still, there were explosions at nuclear plants. All along, Japan's pitiful survivors are without food, electricity, water, cell phones and gasoline in a freezing winter.