When I was growing up and living somewhere in or near the state of trouble, I quickly learned to implicate a friend. My parents wouldn’t kill me if I said this or that incident was the product of peer pressure. A simple lie could shrink a world of hurt into something more manageable.
And so, my parents chose to see me as an easily led, gullible little girl whose friends were all, no matter where we lived, a bad lot.
My report card from school may have said, “Karin is a leader,” but my parents were pretty sure they knew better.
And I could, by the way, blame a friend without getting the friend in trouble. My parents would never tell other parents they were raising a hellion. But I wasn’t really a hellion, just messing with the rules. Most of us in this country spend adolescence cherry picking the laws, mores, and courtesies we’ll choose to follow. At our peril.
Japan astonishes the world. In a time of chaos, they maintain a sense of communal order and incredibly good manners.
There’s no looting, they don't even push and shove. As one correspondent said, no one has to tell them to form a line, they just queue up, naturally.
Take the story of the vending machine.
This week a crowd of hungry, thirsty evacuees found refuge in a school auditorium. In the auditorium, there was a bank of non-functioning but fully stocked vending machines. Not one person rose up to smite the beast. Rather than break the civil law, or law of decorum, they chose hunger and thirst.
A journalist for the Economist who had lived in Japan for years said, essentially, that here in the West, identity is individualism. In Japan, there is no identity outside of society. And there is no society without rules.
Every lifestyle has its danger. Selfless behavior certainly is prettier to witness than selfish behavior, though both have their roots in survival. I can see arguments on both sides. Which is fittest, I don't know.
In times of crisis, sometimes it takes a hero. In Japan, I think a hero would heave a chair through the vending machine glass, liberating the chips and pepsi.
And sometimes, the hero is the village.
In California, when we have our Big One, the hero will be the group of disparate people who, eschewing personal safety, band together to save others. Vending machines won't present a moral dilemma for us. Everything will be on fire.