2011 March 16 Wednesday
No Queue Jumping In Sendai Japan

Short of food, fuel, and water, the Japanese do not degenerate into lawlessness.

In a city of 1 million that now has little electricity or gasoline and where nearly all restaurants and shops are closed, survival is ruled not by the law of the jungle but by the orderly rhythms of long lines.

There has been no surge of lawlessness in Sendai, the Japanese city hit hardest by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake on Friday, as there was in already crime-ridden Haiti after an earthquake last year. There was no exodus of terrified residents, as happened in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami.

Not like Haiti. Not like Indonesia. Not like New Orleans. Who (leaving aside anyone with a basic knowledge of the Japanese people and a willingness to go pass the CrimeStop point) could have expected this difference?

What I would like to know: Why isn't the Japanese government getting supplies into Sendai? Is the task of fixing rail lines and roads really so difficult? Or is the Japanese bureaucracy incredibly slow when faced with a new challenge?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 March 16 09:29 PM  Culture Compared


Comments
Stephen said at March 17, 2011 12:23 AM:

Randall asked: Why isn't the Japanese government getting supplies into Sendai? Is the task of fixing rail lines and roads really so difficult? Or is the Japanese bureaucracy incredibly slow when faced with a new challenge?

The answers are hinted at in the story:

...At Maeyachi, north of Sendai, one station said it had plenty of fuel - but couldn’t pump it because the electricity didn’t work...

...Authorities, preoccupied with the radiation leaking from a nuclear plant down the coast and the suffering of people whose houses have been washed away, have brought little obvious relief to a city [...] that was largely spared physical mayhem...

...there were no convoys of trucks carrying supplies or tankers bearing gasoline — only a long cavalcade of ambulances and firetrucks racing south, their sirens blaring, out of the area...

Seems to me that its a sign of country-wide disaster management. Resources are being taken from places that don't immediately need them and given to places that have greater need. Seems entirely sensible to me. Its triage on a grand scale.

California kit said at March 17, 2011 12:32 AM:

According to Lawrence, the NYT thinks the Japanese did something bad here:
www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/018879.html
Lawrence seems to tacitly agree. But I don't. If a bunch of old people are blocking the stairs by sitting down on them, why should younger, more healthy people drown by letting themselves be blocked ? Of course they should step over the old people who refuse to move. No one has the right to kill someone else by blocking the way to safety. I see nothing wrong with the young people's actions.

Stephen said at March 17, 2011 12:34 AM:

In fact the Washington Post story is itself irritating - its basically a whine by a journalist who can't find anything to report.

Dragon Horse said at March 17, 2011 2:29 AM:

LOL, if this was Germany and France there would have been riots a long time ago, you don't have to go to Southeast Asia, Southern U.S., etc.

Germans cut in line RIGHT NOW, it is not their culture to say excuse me, they expect you to say something, if you don't they will often walk in front of you if they think they can get away with it. LOL I've had this happen several times. They also might knock you out the way (although gently), unlike the U.S. this rarely resulting in public insult flinging and threats of violence (but if your life depended on it??). Chinese also do this same behavior, BUT WORSE. There is no queue at a McDonalds in China, they just all run toward the front (ethnic Han Chinese in Taiwan and Hong Kong don't do this though). My Chinese friend said this is due to communism, during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (Wen Ge) if you waited there would be no food. So despite the Chinese vaunted intellect, they can't line up and respect their neighbors (one reason Japanese often think Chinese are rude and "barbaric" (yeban) acting). That has more to do with a history of poverty than anything else. Oh, and old people, especially women in China have no problem elbowing you to move you out of the way. LOL No one says "excuse me" (dui bu qi) or sorry (bao qian). haha

My main point is there is more to life than IQ. The average American, who might not be as intelligent as the average German (and Swiss), would find the average German rude as hell, inconsiderate (blocking aisles at grocery stores with their carts, sitting right next to you on a bench and smoking because "it is not illegal", parking bizarrely and blocking your car if they think they can get away with it, saying overtly rude things...things that would lead to a violent confrontation in America, Germans do on a daily basis). Swiss can be "rude" as well, but less so than Germans. France and Italy, forget about it. If the government was responding as they do in Sendai, there would be mass riots, and I'm not talking about what the north and subSahara Africans will do, I'm talking about white people (rioting was not unknown in France before non-European immigration lol).

IN this type of situation, if happened in Europe, I think Scandinavians and actually many Slavic countries would be better (the latter because they are used to living like crap and can deal with it better, and don't expect immediate government help).

Florida resident said at March 17, 2011 7:55 AM:

Dear Mr. Parker !
I hope that I do not have, and will not get, “Japanese thing”,
using Derbyshire's terminology from
http://johnderbyshire.com/Reviews/HumanSciences/cultureofcritique.html
This being said, all the fascination with law-abidingness of Japanese people, and all the compassion towards them,
which I most definitely share,
should not deter us from pointing to gross technical failure of their nuclear-plant-building industry. It is especially painful to watch, when it is evident, how little should have been done --- to avert the present nuclear troubles.

The reactors themselves were _not_ damaged by the earthquake, and were promptly and correctly shut down. The diesel-generators --- designated to produce emergency electricity for cooling the remaining fuel in reactors --- they withstood the earthquake itself, and worked properly before tsunami wave came. However, those diesels got water-damaged by the tidal wave. And that is when their main troubles started. All subsequent explosions and (partial ?) meltdowns were the consequences of this lack of cooling.

You can watch at all the short movies of the tsunami and its consequences, and see yourself, that simple 3-store concrete buildings withstood the wave; only one-store buildings were washed away.

Now, you are building your nuclear plant in 300 feet from the physical shore line, and you are doing it in the country, whose language is the source of the word “tsunami”. Could you show just a little bit of caution, and put your diesels on a three-store concrete pedestals ?

Disclosure: I do “have a dog in this fight”. A kid and grand-kid of my dear friends live in Japan (thanks God, on other island of Japan); several of my relatives live in California, to which the wind from Japan will arrive this Friday. So I am not a “disinterested observer”.

Respectfully yours, Florida resident.

WJ said at March 17, 2011 9:35 AM:

"LOL, if this was Germany and France there would have been riots a long time ago, you don't have to go to Southeast Asia, Southern U.S., etc. Germans cut in line RIGHT NOW, it is not their culture to say excuse me..."

No, there wouldn't be.

This debate over the differences in behavior between Japan and New Orleans reminds me of the story of the Berlin Airlift Candy Bomber Gail Halvorsen, a local hero in Utah. He was stationed in Africa for parts of WW2, and then of course in Germany during the Airlift. When he handed out candy near the bases he noticed a strong contrast in the behavior of African vs. German children. The African children would push and shove and cut in line, while the German children were well-behaved; those children who got candy would typically share with those who didn't. These, of course, were the children and grandchildren of the very Goths who had just ravaged Europe.

I don't know if your claim that modern Germans frequently cut in line is true or not, but at some point in history it wasn't. If true much can probably be attributed to the modern left-wing grievance/entitlement culture and the breakdown of families in general; to the raising of children by television rather than parents. Genetics creates the potential for certain types of behavior, but in the absence of other cultural attributes it doesn't guarantee those behaviors will be manifest. However, without those genes it cannot be manifest at all.

As for the Chinese, they exhibit that same sort of line-cutting mentality here in the US, too, as John Derbyshire has often noted. They are behaved when they have to be, but cut-throat when they feel they can get away with it.

Black Death said at March 17, 2011 9:40 AM:

@Dragon Horse -

I enjoyed your comments. Based on my own experiences, I agree with what you say. The Chinese are very rude and the Japanese seem excessively polite, although not always. in the subways they push and shove, and women are routinely shoved out of the way. A very old man might receive some deference, but that's about it. I think rudeness is more tolerated in Europe than in the US. Here's one example. A few years ago my wife and I were having a meal in a nice restaurant in Salzburg, Austria. The place wasn't very crowded. A young couple came in and the owner-lady seated them at the table next to us, which we didn't mind. However, they both took out packs of cigarettes and started chain-smoking. My wife began to gag, but they ignored her (they were Italians!). So I went over to the owner-lady and complained bitterly about this (in fluent German - if I had spoken English, she would have pretended not to understand). The lady seemed perplexed and embarrassed but quickly moved us to another part of the restaurant, where we didn't have to breathe the toxic fumes. She said that no one had ever complained to her about smoking previously!

The Germans may be a bit rude on a day-to-day basis, but overall, I think they are orderly. Of course, under Naziism and Communism, no disorder was tolerated, but during the Berlin airlift, 1948-49, everything in Berlin was in short supply, but there was no disorder.

no i don't said at March 18, 2011 12:48 PM:

"What I would like to know: Why isn't the Japanese government getting supplies into Sendai? Is the task of fixing rail lines and roads really so difficult? Or is the Japanese bureaucracy incredibly slow when faced with a new challenge?"

You mean like the Bush government during the New Orleans Flooding?? At least the Japanese government is not bringing in neanderthal soldiers to shoot at and kill thirsty and hungry people for taking bottled water or food without "passing through check out cashiers"

Many countries (not the U.S.) have laws that stipulate that nobody who walks into a supermarket and eats inside -for being starving- is liable to prosecution. It is the government's duty to provide or create circumstances for providing to its citizens. In times of crisis like Japan's tsunami or N.O. flooding, nobody who steals food or water from a supermarket is a criminal. So if it comes down to Japanese people having to drink and feed, they are allowed to take it from impersonal suppliers.

ziel said at March 18, 2011 4:46 PM:

thank you "no i don't" for informing us of the widely-suppressed truth. The black residents of N.O. of course only entered stores to get fresh water and food and then left - only to be shot dead on the spot by National Guardsmen. The Japanese in Sendai meanwhile are entering stores at will to take water and food, with the complete blessing of the government, and not waiting on mile-long food lines.

FoSho said at March 18, 2011 5:15 PM:

At least the Japanese government is not bringing in neanderthal soldiers to shoot at and kill thirsty and hungry people for taking bottled water or food without "passing through check out cashiers"

I remember the Klan running about down there too. Crazy. Luckily, even though my mom is a Jew and my dad a Catholic, I looked good and southern! Though I did dodge .223 rounds from National Guard boomstick freaks.
Then of course, there is my pal Lootie. Guy found food and water in bottles: http://picasaweb.google.com/housedick/TheGoodStuff#5225887522008699218


Saved the day, he did...

Pascvaks said at March 22, 2011 10:40 AM:

The best German I ever met was German, the worst American I ever met was an American, the kindest Korean I ever met was Korean, the neatest Brit I ever met was British, the worst French Canadian I ever met was a French Canadian, the smartest Japanese I ever met was Japanese. You know, you really have to be a native of that country to effectively judge someone from that country. But, what the hay, people are really people and they're going to say whatever they want whenever thay can, aren't they? Queue Jumping is an art of the highest order. You really have to be an outstanding judge of human character to live long as a queue jumper. Most of the time, most people standing in line are idiots and too mousie to object or do anything but murmur under their breath. You really have to be able to recognize the neanderthals that will twist you backwards and stick your head up someplace you yourself normally need a mirror to see on any other occassion. Queue Jumpers are scared to death of neanderthals unless they've got more than a hundred pound advantage on their side. Most of us neanderguys won't say much to girl that has a hundred pounds more than we do.

Check it Out said at March 22, 2011 3:43 PM:

"You know, you really have to be a native of that country to effectively judge someone from that country."

Nope, it is only until you live outside your native country that you really get to know it and thus judge it correctly. I think "No I don't" has a point, I mean that really happened you know, it was on the news.

In time of crisis the government of a country must provide for its citizens as soon as possible otherwise people have the right to provide for themselves. By the way, nice video by ziel, portraying only one isolated event of theft and no water around at that place. By the way ziel, do you think that the reporter could've also asked Bush "What are you doing", during the crisis?

Sorry, but sarcasm is out of place here. We all saw it, and some of us LIVED it.

no i don't said at March 23, 2011 12:45 PM:

Go take a look at yours in the mirror.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DCTSEpFtOQ


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