By now we have seen all the devastation that the earthquake and tsunami created in northern Japan. When I first watched it ,I felt as if I was watching the film 2012. It was so surreal that I couldn’t quite comprehend the magnitude of the situation. Many of us have experienced tragic circumstances, but how many of us have suddenly found ourselves without a home or had to experience the knowledge that we may never find those we love and treasure? It is almost impossible to comprehend how one can live through such circumstances without turning into a raving lunatic.
Over the ensuing days what truly touched me was how the Japanese have not only lived through the horrors imposed on them, but how they have done it with such grace and dignity. They stand in line for hours patiently and with great respect for each other while waiting to get water, food or shelter. There has been no looting, or outbursts of anger. Yes, some of this relates to how they have been acculturated.
The island of Japan is small in comparison to their population and so they have had to learn to live in close quarters peacefully. The foundation for their behavior is rooted in learning patience and civility is at the core of their being. We can only hope as the days go by that they will be able to sustain these behaviors in the wake of what appears to be the possibility of a nuclear meltdown.
I wonder what we would do when faced with the same situations? I fear the response would not be the same. Over the years I have seen our culture slowly become less civil towards each other. The manners that were so much a part of my life and my peers seem to be slowly disappearing. I may sound like an old dinosaur but I remember a time when chewing gum in someone’s face was considered disgusting! Now many people are not only chewing gum but they do it with their mouths wide open snapping away in between conversing with you. Eye contact is practically a lost art as the constant need to look down at Blackberry’s for new texts or e-mails has become more important than talking to the person your with. Oh, there is much more on this subject, but the one constant we must realize about civility is that how we treat others really speaks to how we feel about ourselves.
Self respect breeds respect for others and that is at the core of a civilized society.