Self-sufficient Japanese carry themselves through disaster | NevadaAppeal.com

Self-sufficient Japanese carry themselves through disaster

Jim Bagwell
For the Nevada Appeal

I know you noticed the differences and similarities between Japan’s earthquake and ensuing tsunami and our much smaller Hurricane Katrina. They are amazingly alike in many ways even though the scope and magnitude of destruction and suffering in Japan is much greater. The immediate reaction of the people is the most glaring difference.

The response of the people of Japan was one of great resilience and self-sufficiency. As soon as the ground quit shaking and the waters of the tsunami receded the people without urging or direction of the government began search and rescue. They began cleanup and curtailed unnecessary energy usage. It is as if they went into auto-pilot mode and began conserving and working together to solve common problems. It is obvious they have one common goal and that is the survival of their country and culture. At no point have they cast blame.

There has been no looting even days after, or any apparent attempt to gain financial position as a result of the disaster in Japan. Can the same be said about Katrina? One of the first responses by the people in New Orleans was to become opportunity shoppers and steal anything that was not guarded or nailed down. My lasting memory of Katrina is that of a large woman pushing a shopping cart in water up to her knees. She had a small boy with her that was in the water waist high. If she would have had food or water or some other necessity in her cart I would have felt sorry for her, but no, she had a large box containing a new television set. My background tells me she certainly wouldn’t lead her child astray by stealing that TV with him present. She logically thought it was abandoned property.

Every image on TV shows the destruction and the Japanese people working to clean up. News programs of Katrina at the same point in time showed images of people huddling in a football stadium or other locations impatiently waiting on the government to come to their aid and solve their problems. From the mayor of New Orleans to the Louisiana Governor’s Office one could only hear how the federal government was failing the people by not having relief on the ground minutes after Katrina blew through.

What an amazing difference in culture.

Could it be that we have lost our self-sufficient attitude? A major difference is the people of Japan had no advance notice of the impending earthquake and the people of New Orleans had ample warning of the possibility of Katrina hitting them head-on. They and the mayor opted to party instead of preparing all the while hoping the storm went someplace else.

The media were all more than willing to blame the Bush response to Katrina as slow if not completely ineffective. They never did consider that the people failed to prepare or attempt to take care of themselves.

I am sick and tired of our attitude that the government owes the people a quality life; government only owes you the opportunity. An individual must seize and take advantage of that opportunity. Dependency on government will only lead to where we are presently at; a broken system and a population of needy people unable or unwilling to fend for themselves.

I applaud the self-sufficiency of the Japanese people and their ability to respond in a coordinated and compassionate way. They are an honorable people with a very strong cultural history that will carry them through this and into prosperity again.

• Jim Bagwell of Carson City is a Vietnam veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy who worked 31 years in law enforcement. He and his wife Lori own Charley’s Grilled Subs.