September 4, 2005

Anarchy in the Kobe - not.

Over on GNXP, commenter Neandertal quotes from NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof's book Thunder From the East about the Kobe earthquake in Japan. By the way, the governmental response was probably even worse than in New Orleans:

Just days after we moved to Tokyo in 1995, our son Geoffrey, then a baby, roused Sheryl for a 5:30 a.m. feeding. A few minutes later our bed began to shake. "Wake up, Nick!" Sheryl urged me with a poke. "It's an earthquake!" I grunted and, in an effort to reassure the household, kept sleeping. But it turned out to be the great earthquake that devastated the the port city of Kobe and killed 5,200 people. A modern city was reduced to rubble, and for the next few days ordinary middle-class families were thrown back virtually to the stone age, struggling to find water, food, toilets, and shelter. Homes and shops were abandoned, of course, and in America or Europe the result would have been widespread looting, as well as desperate fighting for water, food, and blankets.

Instead, the people of Kobe were majestic in their suffering. They lined up for water and other supplies, never jostling, and nobody climbed through the shattered store windows to help themselves. Even the yakuza, the Japanese gangsters, suspended their criminal behavior and tried to improve their image by trucking food to the hardest-hit areas to give it away to the newly homeless.

I was fascinated by these displays of public honesty, and so I kept searching for a case of theft or looting. Finally, I was thrilled to find one. Two young men had entered a shattered convenience store, picked up some food from the floor, and run out. Rumors of this crime spread around the town, and finally I was able to find the store and its owner. "Of course, we expect this kind of looting if there is an earthquake in Los Angeles," I noted triumphantly, fishing for a good quote, "but were you shocked that your fellow Japanese would take advantage of the chaos to do such a thing?"

The shop owner looked puzzled. "who said anything about Japanese?" he asked me politely. "The thieves weren't Japanese. They were foreigners. Iranians, it looked like."

He was right, it turned out...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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