hoarding bullets is not an earthquake response plan

March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

My first memories of living in California are the riots in L.A., so I tuned right in to this question: “Why aren’t the Japanese looting?”   The  Japanese seem to be handling all of this calmly, decently even.   There is plenty of looting in more recent memory, eg. Katrina, Haiti, and Cairo.  Why not in Japan?  The answers given suggested something uniquely Japanese, a cultural looting aversion. It was wanking.

I like the simple answer here: the Japanese spent time planning for earthquakes and tsunamis. They did so efficiently and persistently and it has paid off, moreso by comparison to the free for all American approach.  Here in California, we had a creaky public service message to evacuate 100 feet from the high tide line at a handful of beaches..  So of course there was mass stupidity.  Thousands of people drove halfway up the coastal mountains and then parked all over the highway breakdown lanes.  I can’t blame them. What the hell do we know about tidal waves, after all.  What we do know about is panic. And feelings of imminent doom. Also, traffic.


Clearly, there are no plans in place here that anyone has ever seen.  If there is an earthquake or a hurricane in the US,  its every man for himself. That works exactly like looting, but with fewer TVs balanced on people’s heads. This isn’t complicated.

Gin and Tacos says:

Looting (or doing anything, for that matter) is pretty difficult after a tsunami. Note that there was little looting in Indonesia in 2004. But the most persuasive answers are…political. The Japanese government is by all accounts remarkably well organized and prepared to respond to this kind of disaster. All of the failures in New Orleans, by comparison, have their origins in the crooked, incompetent crony politics of the local government and the non-existent Federal response. Japan is among the many non-American nations that recognize that government is not inherently useless and evil.

Beyond that, Japan hasn’t built its entire society on the principle of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. Their idea of disaster preparedness is not hoarding enough bullets to shoot their neighbors who run out of food…If your neighbor needs help, the American response is to lecture him about failing to better prepare himself for the crisis.

Sounds about right.

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