Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wind & Wave: the Japan Tsunami

The scenes of destruction in Japan are almost too much to blog about. It's a disaster that hit close to home here at Free Will HQ. The Free Will wife is Japanese. I was born in Tokyo and lived there for several years. The Free Will mother still has a lot of friends there. It's true that earthquakes are common, and that the Japanese are fanatics about earthquake drills and safety prep. Everyone understands from birth that the country could be hit with a massive quake, followed by tsunami, but when it actually happens, it's still a shock.

Still, once the waters recede, and the fires go out, and the nukes are back in their coolant, we all know what will happen next: the Japanese will rebuild, and rebuild quickly. My mother used to say that if you told three Americans to walk across a field, they would each make their own way over. But, if you told three Japanese to walk across a field, they would do it shoulder to shoulder. I think that says a lot about how Japanese society faces adversity of the sort it is facing now.

Some things I think we all know will not happen:

The Japanese won't shut down their nuclear power industry because one plant is experiencing a semi-meltdown brought on by an apocalyptic natural disaster.

There won't be any crazy rumors about survivors resorting to cannibalism.

There won't be any wide-scale looting. (I would actually bet on no looting)

No one will wonder if this disaster is good for Obama

A Japanese rapper (yes, there are some) won't go on television and announce that Prime Minister Kan "hates" Sendai

First responders will not be dragged away from their jobs to attend press conferences

Media figures will not use this disaster as an opportunity to emote for the cameras.

No one will blame global warming.

You get the idea.

As bad as this was, it could have been much much worse. But Japan is one of the wealthiest, technologically sophisticated countries in the world. From the early alerts to the seismic upgrades to the years of drills and preparation, people and buildings survived a disaster that would have utterly destroyed other nations. No doubt many would wonder if this is fair. Why should a Turk or a Chinese or a Haitian or Indonesian die in an earthquake that a Japanese had a much better chance of surviving? Well, if you haven't learned that life isn't fair by now, I don't know when you ever will.

Americans , Europeans, and Japanese should wake up everyday and thank God that they were born within the borders of an advanced civilization. Instead, we have millions of people, up to and including the president himself, who seem to think that the Developed World has somehow use more than its fair share of resources. But, it's the use of these resources that gives us the resilience to survive disasters that would lay low a nation in the Developing World or the Third World. It's a basic fact of life. You either protect yourself as a society, or you leave yourself at the mercy of the elements. Fair's got nothing to do with it.

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