The chaos and theft that have followed many earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis have been noticeably absent in the wake of Japan's 8.9-magnitude quake. Instead, people have formed long, orderly lines outside grocery stores, where employees try to fairly distribute limited supplies of food and water. "Looting simply does not take place in Japan," says Gregory Pflugfelder, an expert in Japanese culture at Columbia University, as quoted by CNN. "I'm not even sure if there's a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear 'looting.'" How has Japan managed to avoid this common after-effect of disaster? (Watch an Al Jazeera report about the wreckage)
Discipline, discipline, discipline: "The Japanese are now reaping the fruits of having been taught, and drilled in, discipline and resilience since childhood," says Federico D. Pasqual Jr. at The Philippine Star. In grade school, lunch is free, but often "spartan," and kids learn to expect and deal with lean times. This unfathomable calamity is one of those times, and "the instilling of that value or attitude seems to be paying off."
"Japanese discipline rules despite disaster"
The Japanese are no strangers to hardship: The easy answer is that the "legendary politeness" of the Japanese people is simply shining through, says Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker, but that's only part of what's happening. Japanese society has been honed over generations into a system "capable of ensuring order and good behavior." The country's "vast reservoir of social strength" carried it out of "the devastation of World War II," and, compared to that, "even the massive problems currently afflicting it" are "relatively small."
"Why the Japanese aren't looting"
Japan isn't superior, just different: Japanese people are "taught that conformity and consensus are virtues," says James Picht at The Washington Times. To Americans, who prize individualism, "those virtues sound almost offensive." In normal times, "concerns about appearance and obligation" may be stifling, but in adversity they may be what trumps "the urge to smash and grab." Japanese culture isn't "superior," it's just "well suited to maintaining public order immediately after a major disaster."
"Where are the Japanese looters?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- You're reheating pizza wrong
- Why you probably don't have Ebola — even if you shook hands with America's 'patient zero'
Subscribe to the Week