If you are looking for the proverbial silver lining in the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disasters, it would have to be the quiet courage and determination exhibited by the Japanese people themselves, and especially the valor of the “Fukushima 50,” those incredibly brave and selfless souls who knowingly put themselves at great risk by trying to cool the nuclear reactors. (Think about these understated and anonymous heroes the next time you see a pro athlete “pop his jersey” in a celebration of self after making a lay up or laying down a bunt.)
There are at least two elements in the Japanese culture, which may promote this sort of selfless virtue. First, there is the Confucian tradition, and second, Japan is a homogenous country, and this homogeneity must reinforce the notion of a collective identity.
Don’t get me wrong. I affirm and applaud the fact that in North America we celebrate a wide variety of ethic, religious, and racial backgrounds. I wouldn’t want it any other way. (And I hope you enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!) But multiculturalism is not a cost free proposition, and part of the price we pay, consciously or not, is what the Japanese now count on: that is, a great sense of collective identity.
If you are old enough to remember what happened in New York City when the lights went out, you’ll remember that there are times when we could all benefit from that stronger sense of “us.”