Another social/cross-cultural commentary, not a news update.

I received in the post today a cutting from the French newspaper “Le Monde”: an article by Philippe Pons in the column “Lettres d’Asie” of March 26 “Se degager des decombres”. He writes on the Japanese way of grief, and asks which is more dignified, the Japanese reserve or the Korean hysterics?

He answers that it is a false comparison: both are ways of dealing with grief. Just different.  In the face of pain, both physical and psychological, some scream out loud, others bow their heads to hide their tears.

He points to the self-control that the Japanese are exhibiting, and asks, rhetorically,  if this signifies a lack of awareness of the danger? Or perhaps a lack of information? Neither, he implies.

“Tomorrow, they will express their anger at their government’s negligence and at those responsible in TEPCO… but the priority now is to deal with the situation.”

I think this is a fair assessment. Some have asked why the Japanese don’t complain? I think Pons has pointed to the answer: they will, but now is not the right time. Now is not the time to distract or divert the attention of TEPCO or government officials. Now is the time for TEPCO and the government to work as quickly as possible to get the situation under control and prevent further injury or death.

Pons also tries to link the Japanese self-control with the Japanese sense of impermanence (he also does that here), but I’m not convinced. I think that the Japanese form of solidarity – their genuine, human concern for their neighbours – and their heightened (some might say, obsessive!) concern for what other people think, together go further to explaining their self-control than any thoughts of “falling cherry-blossom”.