Japan: A Dissenting Opinion

by Stephen Mills on March 21, 2011

This will probably make some people mad, but I think this “world crisis” mania is getting out of control.  First of all I am not a callous person and it pains me to see anyone suffering for any reason.  Secondly, what happened in Japan with the tsunami and its aftermath is undoubtedly a tragedy for the Japanese people as a whole and in particular for the victims and their families.  But let’s examine some salient facts.

Approximately 7,000 people die every day in the U.S..  Heart disease alone killed more people in the U.S. in the week after the tsunami than died as a result of the tsunami.  About 15,000 people starve to death every single day and many of those are children.  Where is all the sympathy for them?

The local media recently were promoting a telethon sponsored by the Red Cross to raise money for Japan.  I’m sorry but Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and I think they are fine without our help.  I wouldn’t expect them to donate money for relief in the U.S.  The Japanese people don’t need the rest of the world’s money for this disaster.  By all means give them all the technical or logistical support we can for the nuclear power plants, but stop the rest of the madness.

This is not the Asian tsunami or the Haitian earthquakes which killed hundreds of thousands of people in very poor countries.  This is news media hysteria and quite frankly shocking entertainment programming.  I was interested in the news of the tsunami and I’m glad I was informed, but the truth is even with the radiation issue it is extremely unlikely to impact me or my community.  I don’t need pictures of debri strewn coastlines or smoldering reactors beamed at me 24 hours day after day. We can’t solve mother nature’s problems or the rest of the world’s issues, so it’s time we started worrying about more local things we can control.  I think we should give the Japanese people our sympathy and respect and move on.

While this was going on we decided to get militarily involved in a civil war in another country.  Oh yeah and this is the Obama administration not the Bush administration for those of you who think it really matters.  This is the only thing that was able to divert the media’s attention from Japan.

People are dying like flies all over the world for various reasons.  Human created wars and other human created problems dwarf what is  happening in Japan.  Governments and individuals the world over are hemorraging debt.    The Japanese people are well equipped to take care of themselves without our obsessive interest and meddling.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Kitty March 22, 2011 at 2:15 am
Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Kitty, that is irrelevant. Because people do something you don’t think they should, doesn’t thereby mean that they should.

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Kitty March 22, 2011 at 5:33 pm

So the US took the money they didn’t need? I don’t understand. The US didn’t need the money when they suffered Katrina?

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Kitty we are obviously on different wavelengths here. What does “need” mean? Your question/argument is loaded with assumptions and arguments that I don’t agree with and it would take a book to answer them all. So here is my short answer:

No, in my opinion the U.S. didn’t even remotely begin to need money from outside the U.S. to deal with Katrina. Even if they did, which as I said they didn’t, that doesn’t mean somebody else should provide it. If you want to talk about “need” I think a case could be made that U.S. need for international aid as a result of Katrina would be way, way down the list of world needs and if somebody had money to part with they could have given it to other people who “needed” it a lot worse.

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Kitty March 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Stephen,

I really do hope you are wrong about Japan not needing help.
I would feel better if you are right.

I think we are not being able to understand each other at this point because I cannot deny that I am being personal, emotional, and realistic.

Although I gained the US citizenship last year, I am Japanese and all my Japanese families and friends are in Japan. Most are in Fukushima and Ibaraki. Others are in Tokyo & Kanagawa.

I’ve been sending money, foods, and drinks to them as much as I can because many claim they are out of water and food. They say they appreciate the world is offering them to help.

Japan had been helping other poor or rich countries in the past. Those countries Japan helped before, rich or poor, are offering financial help. Those acts are encouraging my families and friends. Those acts are raising the spirits of my families and friends. Yes, Japan was rich before, but they did help other countries when they needed.

Due to scarce electricity, many factories and companies haven’t been operating, my friends say there would be large amount of layoffs. Water in Tokyo is now reported radiated and babies and young children are not supposed to drink tap water. My friend is crying because people around her started to evacuate to other areas.

My mother said that she had to beg for food in her neighborhood because of power outage and water was out. My father is in Fukushima and he cannot buy food in the supermarkets because there is no food. He waits for 3 hours and only get a little amount of gas. He cannot evacuate even if he wants to.

My friend who doesn’t have water access donated his money to people in Tohoku area saying that his suffering is nothing compared to people in Tohoku area.

Food produce (milk and vegetables) in Fukushima, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba are not sold anymore because of radiation effects and the fear of radiation. Farmers have been saying their business will have to close down. These financial damages are said to last years.

My friend set up an automatic withdrawal to donate $500 from his monthly salary to the Tohoku area, but he says this will not be enough considering the damage.

As I type this, I cannot stop crying because people I know are suffering.

Yes, many people in the world die of anything, but Japan had been one of the countries to help those in need. I hope you are right that Japan doesn’t need those help. Because I’m hearing the cries of help from people I know.

Rosalind March 22, 2011 at 5:45 am

I couldn’t agree more! I live in South Africa and attended Church on Sunday to be told we’d be breaking into small groups to pray for those areas in the World where there was turmoil, pain and suffering .. and I believe we should BUT I must admit my thoughts turned to our own country and the ‘turmoil, pain and suffering’ many of our own people are experiencing right here on our own doorstep. The saying, “Charity begins at home” came to mind.

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Hi Rosalind and thanks for stopping in to offer an opinion.

You nailed it in my opinion. I think there are a lot of problems here in the good old U.S.A (and many other places in the world) that are more needing of the money that may be going to Japan. Everyone can make that decision for themselves of course but I wanted to offer a dissenting opinion not I have not yet heard (although I’m sure some other people are saying the same thing). If somebody went on T.V. and said Japan shouldn’t be getting that money they would be viciously attacked as uncaring or selfish or something else, so it is unlikely you are going to see too many people saying it regardless of what they really think.

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Leisa March 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

I am from Australia and I agree as well. I don’t need to see news coverage all the time of Japan’s disaster when my own country is dealing with bushfires and one flood after another!! Yes pray for them, offer sympathy and compassion but enough is enough and we need to continue on with our own lives and deal with our own issues. Japan was crazy to build nuclear reactors in a place subjected to earthquakes and must deal with the consequences.

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Kitty March 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

Japan donated a lot more money to the US when Katrina happened.
The US took Japanese people’s money when they needed.

The wealth of the country does not matter in case of disaster.
Japan is not the only country with nuclear power.

http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2005/September/20050915165123ajesrom9.768313e-02.html

http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/02-09-2005/65206-0/

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

Kitty, thank you for your comment. Nobody is disputing that people donate to other rich countries, the point is should they? To say wealth doesn’t matter is equivalent to saying I should donate to Bill Gates when his house burns down. I frankly think saying the wealth of the recipient isn’t relevant to whether you should donate or not or whether the help should be local or not is ludicrous. Feel free to give all you want. Some of us have a different opinion.

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Kitty March 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Yes, I think they “should.” Because our world is global now. One country’s disaster can lead to other countries’ problems. I’m not only talking about just “being nice,” but economical consequences. In my political science classes at the US university, I’ve been learning that 1997 Asian economic crisis that started in small country Thailand led to a worldwide economical disaster.

If Japan cannot survive this disaster financially then, this too will lead to be a bigger disaster. I’ve been already reading that Finland, Germany, France, and Sweden automakers are already suffering because they cannot get Japanese parts to their cars. Even the American General Motors had to stop operating in Louisiana because they could not get Japanese parts to their cars.

Even a company like “Tiffany” in the US is doing poorly losing Japanese customers…

Do you think economical consequences to other countries are not relevant either?

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Once again this is way too complicated to answer it thoroughly in a short comment response. First of all you would have to assume that the result of giving aid to get back more benefit would actually work. The assumption being that it is already not in the Japanese interest to get all that stuff up and running regardless of whether any international monetary aid is available or not. I suggest that is absurd and out of their own self-interest the Japanese will do that on their own.

To see the point it would be like the following. Suppose I’m Bill Gates housekeeper. His house burns down and he moves into a hotel. I might think that if I donate to his building fund he will get back into a new house sooner and thus I will earn my money back by resuming my job sooner. Well I suggest that is ludicrous and Bill Gates will be back in his house just as fast or faster if he funds the whole thing himself. I’m not trying to be flippant, I’m just trying to point out that your question makes assumptions I disagree with on many levels.

Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 8:33 pm

He Leisa, thanks for commenting. We’ve got into the idea that everything that happens everywhere in the world is the concern and responsibility of everyone else in the world. I don’t buy it. I think we need to think more locally. There are exceptions of course and each situation is different. However, the global media and connectivity are biasing us towards things that are novel and make dramatic pictures.

I almost didn’t post this because I knew it would be misinterpreted. That’s why I called it a “dissenting opinion”. I figured it would offend people. People throw emotional guilt at you if you suggest something is not deserving of your monetary attention. Well if I had unlimited wealth that might be true. Since I nor anyone else does we all have to make decisions and I think the Japanese have enough to take care of this themselves. If it turns out the situation is far worse than anyone has currently been able to demonstrate, then I will be open to changing my opinion. However, I think I know enough already to stick with the one I’ve articulated.

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Kitty March 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

Why did you delete my post?
Do you only keep the response that agrees with you?

Japan donated a lot more money to the US when Katrina happened.
And you are saying????
The US took Japanese people’s money when they needed.

http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2005/September/20050915165123ajesrom9.768313e-02.html

http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/02-09-2005/65206-0/

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

Kitty, I did not delete your comment. It went to pending approval because you included links.

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Kitty March 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Oh, thank you for confirmation! I didn’t see my post so I thought you deleted. I didn’t know about the link thing.

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Many comments that include links are spam comments.

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Lionel Silberman March 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

The part of your post that resonates with me, Stephen, is how much easier it is to focus and perhaps exaggerate new disasters, rather than discuss yet again what affects us (perhaps to a greater degree) every day, but is much harder to solve. News agencies make a living on this, of course. Politicians have a vested interest as well. So, there is no “balance” being provided.

Interestingly, and making this same point although for a different purpose, I had just read Seth Godin’s blog post: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/the-triumph-of-coal-marketing.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fsethsmainblog+%28Seth%27s+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

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Stephen Mills March 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Thanks Lionel, I see that since Seth posted the day after I did he got the idea from me 🙂

In one respect I don’t blame the media because if we didn’t watch it they wouldn’t show it. You are absolutely correct they are making a living on it and it is our fault for watching. On another level though it just pisses me off. In the end we can’t control the media so we have to manage it ourselves by turning it off.

There is an abstract statistic of 15,000 people starving every day that we’ve seen and heard about a million times. Nobody pays attention anymore. However a smoldering nuclear plant or a 30 foot tsunami is dramatic and powerfully novel. It’s interesting, shocking, and frightening all at once.. That’s why we have to think about it rationally and not just be swayed by the pictures.

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patti March 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

Stephen – a few weeks ago our church expended considerable resources to help resettle a refugee family; this includes rental of an apartment, stocking with groceries, etc.
I met the family and they are grateful and I was glad to have been part of the effort. I did ask my pastor, though, about the rampant hunger, poverty and violence in our own country. We do help locally by offering a variety of services which include legal services for immigrants (both legal and illegal), a pharmacy, an after-school haven for at-risk kids, meals for homeless, and much more. But still, I wondered about those outside our reach, the ones who fall through the cracks and it rained on my parade.
I’m glad you wrote this post because I believe it puts a lot into perspective. I’ve said for years that media has become its own industry rather than a means for relaying valuable information to the community. Well said – thanks.

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Stephen Mills March 26, 2011 at 10:07 am

Hello Patti and thanks for the very thoughtful comment. We all can’t help everyone so there has to be some criteria by which we decide. I think it is a sad state of affairs that it is determined by the global media and what makes the most dramatic pictures in our minds. I think a much better approach is local and relevant, but I understand others may disagree.

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de'trader March 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Hi Kitty,
I’m with you. I know that Japanese people need help. I don’t think they really need the money, but they need logistic help. Food,Energy, other stuffs need to be distributed fast. I bet if the stores wasm’t run out of food, they still can buy it. The problem is there’s no food to buy there.

I pray for Japan

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Stephen Mills March 27, 2011 at 6:26 am

Hello de’Trader. I happen to look up to the TV the other day because a reporter was reporting on the plight of the Japanese who had been left homeless in the disaster. They were inside a well-lighted climate controlled-building, looking well fed and several of the most prominent in the foreground were reading newspapers. I’m sure the injured are being treated in modern well-equipped hospitals.

Not exactly the situation I would like to find myself in but I remember the situation from Haiti after the earthquake there. Quite a different story. Also just to be clear you mostly don’t agree with Kitty because if you read her comments from the start they were initially all about money.

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Mak March 27, 2011 at 2:19 am

Somehow nobody mentioned how the radiation (currently 10million X its yearly acceptable level off the coast of Japan) released into the ocean will contaminate our fishery, kill the bottom of the food chain, and cause a worldwide famine? If this is what is at stake, do you still believe the effort to help Japan out is necessary?

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Stephen Mills March 27, 2011 at 6:14 am

Hi Mark thanks for your comment but I believe you should actually reread the article:

“By all means give them all the technical or logistical support we can for the nuclear power plants, but stop the rest of the madness.”

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga April 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm

It’s unfortunate but it seems that the U.S. intervenes where something can come out of it for the U.S. If they don’t have much interest in a country, the support provided to those people is limited. Haiti is still in need of a massive amount of help. Their situation is dire. I just hope the Japanese government does a better job than the U.S. government when it comes to passing down money (donated or otherwise) to the people. In most cases, that’s not quite where the majority of the money ends up.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog post ..15 Ways to Get Unstuck and Change Your Life for the Better

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