The Essence of Civism

July 1st, 2011

[private] v9-7-Our IslandsOn March the 11 at 2:46PM local time an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude on the Richter scale struck the Island Nation of Japan. Earthquakes are not a novel event in Japan, this country sits of the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire and shakes are quite common. The earthquake was caused by a 16 to 26 feet up thrust of the sea bed about 115 miles wide at about 38 miles from the north east coast of the country. This up thrust in turn created a tsunami that was reported to have reached a height of 124 feet.

There could be over 30,000 dead and overall material damage cost is estimated to be over 300 billion US dollars. The largest part of the deaths were caused by the tsunami which exceeded the height of the tsunami protection walls by four to five meters. People were washed away from areas that they believed to be higher ground.

Over one hundred designated tsunami evacuation sites were hit by the huge wave so the quandary of the Japanese government was where to put the survivors that were left homeless.

In the areas more affected, there were shortages of everything but especially fresh drinking water was hard to find. As goes with their culture the Japanese people stood in long lines that took forever to move but not one of the hundreds that waited in line ever had a thought to step ahead of the person ahead of them. No one spoke harshly to another, no one pushed or shoved his neighbor, no one broke locks or stole anything and no one fought over the goods that were available.

The Japanese people are famous for their civility and though it is mostly from respect for family values where a person would rather die than embarrass his family and there are also religious beliefs involved.

In part this displayed discipline was brought about by the reforms that took place during the Tokugawa period in which the commoners (agriculturist, merchants and artisans) were organized into groups of five and where all were held responsible for the acts of each individual. During this same period the shoguns also enacted sumptuary laws that limit any display of prosperity, which included hair styles, dress, and ornamental accessories.

Crime is low in this country in a survey in recent years there were 1.3 robberies and 1.1 murders per 100,000 people as compare to murders in the USA at 9 and Honduras at over 45 per 100,000 people. This low rate of crime is again related to the Japanese traditional beliefs that a person is part of a group these being family, friends, co-workers or school mates to whom he must never bring shame.

If honesty is a virtue the Japanese can claim the first prize as during this crisis the police went on radio channels to ask the people not to turn in any more safes and other valuables because there was no more space to store them. Can you image a people in such dire straits and yet turning over to the police the valuable they found on the beaches and on the streets?

The misnomer “tidal wave” has been replaced with Tsunami, a Japanese word meaning harbor wave and I would like to have the words “civilized society” replaced with “bunmeishakai” because if there are a people that deserves to be called civilized it is the people of the land of the Rising Sun, where citizens leave their keys in the ignition of their cars so as not to lose their keys. [/private]

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