Monday, March 12, 2012

Government vs Citizen Disaster Response

A year after the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, lessons are still being learned from that disaster.

To quote from a report by Michael Auslin for
"Japan’s government, whether led by the Liberal Democratic Party or the current Democratic Party, has been ineffective for years, consumed with politics and unable to create coherent policies to spur growth or respond to challenges. The disaster clearly showed that in a harsher light than usual."
Then Auslin continued:
"Japan’s citizens have long been admired for their quiet persistence, fortitude, and sense of community—and these traits kept society intact in a region completely devastated by nature. Japan’s military has been quietly professional for decades, caught in a twilight zone of constitutional restrictions and limitations on its experience, yet filled with capable, patriotic soldiers, sailors, and airmen. On the world stage, it showed its ability to respond in force and with great speed."
From this report, I can surmise that Auslin witnessed a citizenry that stepped up to the plate and started taking care of the business of putting their communities back tegether, while the government struggled to keep up.

A few more quotes from the report:
"No government can be fully prepared for a disaster on the scale of Tohoku. Yet the contradictory messages, delayed decision making, lack of transparency, and apparent unwillingness to listen to experts that marked Tokyo’s response revealed a deeply inadequate government structure. The ad hoc nature of Prime Minister Kan’s reactions was ameliorated only by the heroic actions of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, in partnership with the U.S. military, and Japan’s citizens themselves.
"March 11 therefore also provided some stirring examples of success. Above all was the response of the people of Japan. Those affected in Tohoku showed extraordinary fortitude in helping each other and patiently enduring emergency shelters for months. While there was some looting, very little apparently occurred, and order was maintained to a degree largely unimaginable in many other parts of the world."
The report goes on to conclude:
"Japan's longstanding and often dismissed strengths made what could have been an uncontrolled descent into chaos as manageable as possible. Yet its underlying weaknesses remain lurking dangers, revealing the threat to its ability to recover when the next bit disaster occurs."
My question is this: How well do we compare with Japan — culturally, governmentally, organizationally, politically, personally as citizens? That last one is probably most important of all — how do we stack up personally as citizens. Because when it comes right down to it, Michael Auslin is absolutely correct; no government can be fully prepared for a disaster…. It's the citizens who will make all the difference; how fast we recover, or whether we survive at all.

Take an honest look at how citizens respond to disaster in this country. Any looting? Any outbreaks of violence? Do we have a culture of cooperation among people? Or have we fostered an entitlement society that will smash and grab whatever they can get for themselves?

Actually, we have both. But in a big catastrophe, we can't afford to have the latter.

Japan has an exceptional cultural tradition that stood them in good stead during the big disaster. We could learn from that…if we were willing.

1 comment:

  1. Or have we fostered an entitlement society that will smash and grab whatever they can get for themselves?

    Yes we have, and that is exactly why I don't want others moving here, they start pulling that here and I start shooting.