What Kind of Person Runs Out on Friends and Neighbors?

The entire Flyjin phenomenon continues.

Yesterday, once again, I got an email from a person who ran from Tokyo during the early days of the nuclear accident. Those were the days of sketchy information yet all the experts were saying that Tokyo was not in danger as opposed to the sensationalist newspapers who spoke of nuclear explosions and other physically impossible nonsense. Those were also the days that the Japanese government, in accordance with IAEA guidelines, set a 30 kilometer exclusion zone. Meanwhile, the USA government panicked and set the evacuation for 80 kilometers to much criticism from Japan and US citizens alike. (The US later apologized and admitted that the 80 kilometer exclusion zone was way over done.)

Still, even with that 80 kilometer zone, Tokyo is another 150 kilometers outside of that… Yet people panicked and ran. The US embassy even evacuated people from Nagoya which is 680 kilometers (about 400 miles from Fukushima). I wrote about how that contributed to the panic in US Embassy Japan + Nuclear Accident = Scandal whereby I also quoted a US Embassy insider who wrote:

“How some of the panic started despite the evidence. The US Ambassador to Japan chaired a Town Hall meeting on the 15th of March. It was poorly executed with little real information and uncomfortable disclosures such as weak contingency plans for evacuation (eg travel vouchers were indicated in the initial plan) and poor planning (eg they admitted a shortage of Potassium Iodate pills). People on The Compound (US embassy grounds) were nervous for good reason.

“The second Town Hall meeting on the 16th of March was much more successful. The Ambassador was able to confidently indicate there was no real danger for Tokyo residents even in a worst case scenario and this was backed with the qualified opinion of over 30 US nuclear disaster experts who had flown to Japan. Also, they announced installation of the Compound’s own radiation monitor which indicated levels were within very acceptable limits.

“However it did not help that during this time, the Political Minister Counselor Robert S. Luke made quiet arrangements for his family to be evacuated. Of course this leaked. His wife even posted it on her blog. Duh! Therefore many families felt that if the Lukes were evacuating, something must be up. And pressure on the Ambassador’s office increased accordingly. Hence, I believe, they caved with a voluntary evacuation plan for Embassy staff and dependents. And, since the Ambassador indicated a consistent policy for American citizens, this new offer.. needed to be extended to US civilians and military dependents…at cost (Embassy dependents fly free). What’s even more ridiculous was that the offer of voluntary evacuation was extended to employees at the US Consulate in Nagoya. Next on the list: Seoul, HK, Taipei, Canberra?

But I digress. The reader who wrote to me yesterday claims that:

“I didn’t panic. I didn’t run. I made a logical decision. Now that the Fukushima reactor disaster has ben (sic) raised to a level seven, this only proves that I was right in fleeing Tokyo when I did. I didn’t come back until things calmed down and now, to be attacked for making a calm, logical decision by people like you is outrageous.”

Can you see the ridiculous fallacy in his logic? I ask; “If Fukushima being raised to a level seven proves that you were right in guessing that you should leave, then, when you now have factual information in your hands, why are you still here in Tokyo? Using your very own reasoning you should be on the first plane out.

Now that would be consistent, logical action.

But no. I should expect consistent logical action from people who panic. A state of panic is not conducive to consistent, logical thinking or actions. Now excuses and apologists are everywhere.

My biggest issue, once again, is a moral one for those who ran away. That is: What kind of person panics and runs away and leaves their homes, friends, co-workers and those people’s families and children holding the bag? That is the big issue here. It is a question f morality.

Another reader, Scott M, contributes to the conversation:

You have an interest in the whole flyjin phenom and the deeper motivations that cause people to stay or run etc. In that general vein, I thought you might be interested in the quote below, from an article about Swedish novelist and adventurer Henning Mankell, who spent years living in the middle of a long, bloody civil war in Mozambique. Here’s a paragraph from the article (Entertainment Weekly magazine, April 2011):

“Eventually, Mankell’s thirst for experience brought him to Africa. He was so taken by the trip that he kept going back, and for the past 25 years he’s spent half his time in Maputo, Mozambique, helping run the Teatro Avenida, a theater that puts on plays like Ibsen’s ‘The Doll House’ for locals who often can’t read or write. Mankell was in Maputo during the country’s horrific civil war, which raged from 1977 to 1992. “It was terrifying,” he says. “I can’t talk about it, it was so bad. There was a lack of food, a lack of everything. Every day there were new attacks. People were dying, cut to pieces. Everyone in Maputo had at least one relative who had been killed. But my friends, the people at the theater; they couldn’t run away. I really felt, what kind of a person am I if I leave?”

I do understand that you would hardly want to compare JAPAN to AFRICAN civil war situation, especially since the focus of your blog is to reassure people that things are pretty much fine. But still, I thought it was an interesting commentary on your parallel side topic, the flyjin. Use or not as you wish.

Thanks Scott. That’s it in a nutshell in my opinion. You don’t run out on people in their time of need.

It doesn’t matter if it is the BP oil disaster, Hurricane Katrina, an earthquake, a tsunami or Fukushima… It takes a special kind of person with a special kind of shame who can run out before it is seen to it that women and children are safe….

Call me old fashioned. I don’t care. I think it really takes a special kind of person to run away when they are hundreds of miles from the disaster area. The word for that is nothing less than “shameless coward”.

NOTE: Scott C. Also mentions that his son is a musician and asks that I put up his son’s latest video. Of course I will. I am always happy to see a young person – especially in this day and age – who has a song in their heart and something they want to say… Compare that with 99% of the others who are happy with just a part time McJob. Nice video. Check it out:

Colin Meredith – Understand