Valiant Japanese survivors of the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami can give all of us a lesson in composure and civility as they try to piece together their torn lives in the midst of one of the worst disasters in the history of the world.
The mounting horror has been met with human behavior that borders on the divine.
There has been no rioting, no looting, no displays of anger, no hint of anything other than absolute dotoku as men, women and children demonstrate that they are human beings first, and then victims of a calamity.
Dotoku is the doctrine of “virtue and respectability” which the Japanese have been taught at home, in grade school and across the workplace for generations, and which they are now looking to for vital sustenance as they reconcile their unimaginable losses and nuclear nightmares.
At press time, more than 11,000 people have been killed, more than 3,000 are injured and upwards of 16,000 victims are still missing, with entire villages swept away and replaced by mountains of rubble, while weary nuclear plant workers toil to cool the reactor core to avoid a catastrophic meltdown.
It has been incredulous, even emotionally tormenting, to observe the heartbreak from the safety of our armchairs.
The patience of the Japanese people has defied logic, and spoken eloquently to their instinct for survival because only by keeping calm can they carry on.
News footage of rescuers praying over the dead, and conducting poignant floral ceremonies before transporting victims to a dignified burial, has revealed an astonishingly ceaseless capacity of the national spirit, which has risen to the occasion in monstrous times.
That was not the case in Haiti when an earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation in 2010. There, government workers bulldozed the recovered bodies and dumped them in open fields while the stench of rotting flesh bore witness to the country’s cavalier approach to its dead.
Ultimately, it is how we treat our living and our deceased, which separates progressive nations from backward ones.
For a treatise in inhumanity, we need look no further than the political turmoil raging in the Middle East where rogue regimes routinely kill and maim their unarmed civilians.
For a rare lesson in humanity, though, we can gain hope and inspiration from the people of Japan, who have every reason to toss in the towel, yet seemed to be driven by sheer will to strive for a better tomorrow — by making a better today.
Even when the laws of nature say otherwise.