First came the terrible reminder that we live perched on the edge of a massive chasm deep as Mt. Everest is high, the fault line where two massive tectonic plates meet. Then came evidence of human fallibility: our failure to anticipate the disasters and the shortcomings in our response. People everywhere have seen the tragic consequences.
If what you have seen so far has not shown Japanese at our best, though, watch what happens next. Disaster triggers an innate, visceral and predictable response in Japanese: a highly cohesive explosion of productivity. Everyone pushes together with all their might. In the cold clarity of urgent need, fixed thinking gets thrown aside; rules get rewritten.
The last time we saw this response in action was after Japan’s defeat in 1945. The result was a wave of entrepreneurial energy and focused productivity that, within a generation, turned a devastated nation into the world’s second-largest economy.
Prior to March 11, Japan remained in the grip of a postwar paradigm that had run its course. At home and abroad, it was obvious to one and all that Japan was stuck on autopilot, unable to change course. The question on all minds was: “How can we find a catalyst to change?”
At every level of society, the events since March 11 have been so overwhelming that change to some significant degree is inevitable. We are likely to see that characteristic Japanese surge of human energy and productivity.
(to be continued…)