Japanese culture prevents looting, price-gouging after disaster - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Japanese culture prevents looting, price-gouging after disaster

Thomas Lifson, publisher of American Thinker, said the character of the Japanese people allows them to behave in a civilized way in the midst of crisis. (Source: CNN) Thomas Lifson, publisher of American Thinker, said the character of the Japanese people allows them to behave in a civilized way in the midst of crisis. (Source: CNN)
(Source: CNN) (Source: CNN)
(Source: CNN) (Source: CNN)
(Source: CNN) (Source: CNN)
(Source: CNN) (Source: CNN)
El Cerrito, CA -

EL CERRITO, CA (RNN) - In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, images and reports of looting were widespread and well-publicized, leaving many struck that the same behavior has not occurred in Japan after the island nation's triple threat of disasters: a 9.0 earthquake, its subsequent tsunami and nuclear emergencies.

According to one Japanese scholar, however, this comes as no surprise.

"I'd be shocked if there were any looting or price-gouging by merchants," said Thomas Lifson, publisher of American Thinker and former East Asian Study professor at Harvard.

According to Lifson, culture and community are seeing the Japanese people through the crises and allowing them to act in an "enlightened manner." Furthermore, these two things will ultimately allow them to thrive.

"I expect Japan to pull through," he said.

Lifson said the Japanese culture abhors theft, has a deep respect for private property and admires stoicism.

In an article Lifson recently published titled, "Why the Japanese Aren't Looting," he explains these cultural values by relaying a young boy's "moral education."

"When a child finds a small item belonging to another person, even a 1 yen coin, a parent takes the child to the local [police substation] and reports the lost property," he writes. "The police do not resent this as a waste of time, but rather see it as a part of moral education, solemnly filling out the appropriate forms, thanking the child."

If the property goes unclaimed, the finder is ultimately allowed to keep it.

He described the main difference between American culture and Japanese culture as "guilt" versus "shame." In western culture, the moral imperative is an internal one, whereas in Japan, the pressure for people to behave "comes from an aversion to being judged negatively by those around them."

The Japanese people also have a great sense of community. Lifson told the story of his year living abroad in Japan in 1971. When he first moved in to his apartment, he was greeted by a police officer, who recorded his information.

"Following the gathering of my information, the policeman no doubt returned to his local substation, which are found every few block in urban scenes, to record the information for his colleagues," Lifson writes. "To an American it seemed quite extraordinary, a violation of privacy. But in Japan a lack of anonymity is the norm."

Lifson was recognized by his neighbors thereafter. Such a process still occurs today, he said. And even in a metropolis like Tokyo, people know their neighbors.

"It's a matter of course to know who's there so you can keep an eye on them," he said.

For these reasons, looting and price-gouging would never occur, because they would leave long-lasting impressions.

"If someone were to loot or otherwise misbehave after the tsunami, there would be consequences," Lifson said, citing a store boycott as a possible penalty for price-gouging.

The situation creates a special cultural phenomenon.

"Relationships are more important that the immediate circumstance and the immediate issue," Lifson said, which contrasts with American culture.

Ultimately, it is this sense of community and culture that will allow the Japanese to pull through. It allows them to organize with extensive skill, as the policeman did when he visited Lifson at his apartment that eye-opening day.

Lifson discussed the 1940s, which left Japanese cities "fire-bombed to ashes" after two nuclear warheads ended World War II.

"A tsunami - as bad as it is - is not really comparable," he said.

While Lifson said the country will be plagued by economic problems, it will have the ability to rebuild quickly.

"I expect the recovery to be much faster than it's been in 9/11 or New Orleans," he said.

Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly