Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

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Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby hidden » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:17 am UTC

There has been some rhetoric surrounding a marked lack of looting in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes in Japan, in stark contrast to what happened after hurricane Katrina. This is being attributed to the japanese emphasis on community and importance of the group rather than the individual, characteristic of collectivist societies. The following opinion piece takes it one step further and argues japanese social structure encourages and rewards good deeds as well as maintaining strict ordinal figures, which together act as fertile ground for social collectivism to prosper.

What struck me is I've heard sparse reports that looting following a natural disaster is in fact not that common, however, i'm having difficulty enumerating that positon. Whether or not looting occurs depends upon the pre-disaster society. That is, in an already divided society a natural disaster will lead to massive civil unrest following the catastrophe.

Furthermore I think it's certainly possible, and quite likely, for the media to sensationalize according to their own biases - playing up the situation in new orleans while playing down japan. How much can be chalked up to spin I'm not sure.

It's possible that exaggerated rumours of rampant rapings, murders, and sniper attackes in NO reported by the media worked to escalate an already fragile situation especially for the people involved. A type of chicken or egg situation. Similar to how misleading reports of imminent nuclear disaster can lead to widespread fear and the two build on each other (i.e media reports espouse fear--> fear espouses more media reports --> and on and on).

Anyways was wondering if anyone had any insights into this phenomena - how common is looting following a natural disaster? What are the predicating factors? How much is media spin?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Zamfir » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:59 am UTC

I was somewhat annoyed when I first read such stereotyped articles about how Japanese don't loot because because they are programmed robots who always watch each other for stepping out of line. I mean, I wouldn't loot either and I would be mad at people who did (unless we're talking food or fuel when needed hard, of course). I also expect nearly everyone around me to do the same. Does that make me one of those weird exotic Japanese?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Greyarcher » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:17 am UTC

Hard numbers on relative crime incidents--particularly looting--after a natural disaster would be interesting, though I'm not sure where I'd get such info regarding Japan. Perhaps there is some subtle cultural difference which has an effect; it wouldn't be that surprising. People and cultures are different, eh.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby aldonius » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:22 am UTC

Looting certainly happened here in Brisbane during our floods earlier this year, and elsewhere in Queensland before that.
Then again, we weren't nearly so badly hit, so there's certainly the media coverage factor. The sense I get of our lootings is that they were generally opportunistic, and I'd attribute most of them to bogans.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby An Enraged Platypus » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:40 am UTC

It is difficult to come up with hard statistics, but then again I would still believe the Japanese would be more inclined to behave civilly in this kind of situation.

The kind of thing Zamfir is talking about, some kind of mythical belief in the Japanese as "robots" is of course wrong. But if you look to Japanese history and cultural precedent then there is a stronger background of co-operation. Taking examples just from "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", the entymology of various words in Japanese is telling. Benedict transliterates "arigato" (usually, "thanks") as "this difficult thing", to illustrate that the good act is a rare compliment; at the time of writing at least their words of thanks lacked the emptiness of ours.

The reason why this is the case can be traced back to the Neo-Confucian metaphysic whereby , briefly, the whole ethical landscape can be seen as one of debt, debt towards the rulers who are beneficent toward you, toward friends who help you, your own good name, and of course toward your nation. This is the metaphysic that underwrites the surviving works of Samurai literature like the unfortunately hijacked Hagakure, and without which the Tale of the Forty Seven Ronin (de facto national epic of Japan) is unintelligable. With a cultural heritage of such co-operation I don't find it hard to believe at all that the Japanese have been queueing for water rather than looting and pillaging.

If I can conclude with a couple shaggy dog stories, I remember visiting Kyoto a few years back. I was at a restaurant, and I jogged the table leg as I got up. My glass of water went everywhere and the waiters descended on the table, bowing and cleaning the spill furiously. These guys were in their 20s . My Japanese teacher once told us a story from her childhood, that she went to a police kiosk to get a recruitment leaflet but they were out of stock. The next day, the policeman visited her house several miles away in driving rain to deliver one. Neither of these things are remotely imaginable to me in contemportary Britain, nor can I imagine them happening in North America.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:12 am UTC

relevant: http://partialobjects.com/2011/03/is-lo ... o-trouble/

Summary: The Japanese haven't been looting because (1) they've been preparing for earthquakes and other disasters since childhood as a matter of public policy, and (2) they have faith that help is on its way. In Katrina, there was no community-wide backup plan and after weeks of government inaction, it became abundantly clear to everyone there that they'd be on their own for the foreseeable future.

It's not rocket science, it's simple human nature. If there's reason to believe things will get better, people will stick together and ride it out. When things just keep going downhill, people break off into groups and try to provide for those closest to them.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Zamfir » Tue Mar 22, 2011 1:53 pm UTC

@ IceT, there is a lot of mentioning of Katrina in the "no looting" pieces. Perhaps the stories about Katrina are mostly apocryphal, but isn't there good reason to think that Katrina was a bit atypical for post-disaster response in functioning countries?

Where the US government, for whatever reason, did not realize the scale of the disaster quickly enough and responded too slow? Or have I got the wrong impression of the Katrina aftermath?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:29 pm UTC

With Katrina we had idiots in charge. Idiots who thought that the local government would be sufficient to handle the mess, idiots who thought that "it was just another hurricane", idiots that put friends in places where professionals should have been.

The federal government failed horribly with Katrina, the state governments were overwhelmed and underfunded, and the areas hit were built where they should not have been, and given substandard protection. Everything about that from a government perspective was pretty well chunked.

That said, Americans are not used to responding to huge disasters on our own shores. We're in a fairly geographically stable area, with only the annual "tornado season" and "hurricane season" to cause concern. If it had been a terrorist attack, they'd have been prepared. But Momma Nature can bring the hurt in ways man only wishes they could.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Zamfir » Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:38 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:That said, Americans are not used to responding to huge disasters on our own shores. We're in a fairly geographically stable area, with only the annual "tornado season" and "hurricane season" to cause concern.


But that's quite some concern, no? I seem to remember several large, destructive hurricanes just the last years. Katrina of course, Ike, Rita, and almost yearly some smaller ones with still dozens of victims. I am eyeballing a report on disasters in Europe since 1998, and storms, floods and an earthquake add up to somewhat comparable amount of big events as US hurricanes alone. Although without Katrina the balance would go the other way.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:44 pm UTC

We become very "bleh" about the annual giant wind events. People understand that they are in an alley, and they board up and leave if a hurricane of sufficient size comes through. For tornado warnings, they go under ground into the bunkers and wait, then come out and pick up the pieces. Folks who live there are quite used to it after a time.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Zamfir » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:01 pm UTC

Might that be part of the reason why the federal government reacted so slowly to Katrina? Everybody got used to the yearly events and that lower governments could handle them. So when a large city was hit badly, it took time to realize that this was larger?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Arrian » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:13 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Where the US government, for whatever reason, did not realize the scale of the disaster quickly enough and responded too slow? Or have I got the wrong impression of the Katrina aftermath?


Remember that the federal government doesn't intervene in disaster relief until the state government requests help. Statutorily, they might not be allowed to help. With state and local governments dropping the ball early on in Katrina, it put the federal government behind the eight ball and playing catch up with the disaster recovery. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the feds and FEMA are getting blamed for a lot of things that were really the city and state's responsibilities. When a wall of water comes through your town, you can't just sit there and say "Where's the feds, why aren't they fixing this?" You have to step up and start doing something, at the individual, local and state level.

<Edit> For an example of how the system is designed to work: Right now we're expecting record flooding in Minnesota. For the last month or more cities have been preparing for it with sandbagging, even tearing down homes to build extra levies, etc. All this preparation, and the initial response when floods do happen, are primarily locally supported. The state helps out when asked to some extent, but mainly it's a local responsibility. During the flood, rescue efforts for people caught in it are again primarily local with state support when requested, mobilizing the state's national guard units to provide manpower, for example. After the floods hit, in places where it has gotten out of hand, the governor will declare those places disaster zones and request federal aid for cleanup. Most of that aid is in the form of cash grants. FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers will assess the damage and suggest strategies to minimize similar floods in the future with more levies, etc, but most of the immediate federal aid is money for rebuilding. This is how the system is designed to work, this is not the way things happened in New Orleans.</edit>

Back on topic, I think looting, at least wide scale looting, is the exception not the rule in disaster situations. I don't remember hearing anything about looting after the 2004 Indonesia/South Asia tsunami, or last year's earthquake in Chile. I've got to believe that the news would have covered it if there had been. After all, most news coverage seemed almost miffed that there wasn't much looting in Haiti after that earthquake, either.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Zcorp » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:47 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I was somewhat annoyed when I first read such stereotyped articles about how Japanese don't loot because because they are programmed robots who always watch each other for stepping out of line. I mean, I wouldn't loot either and I would be mad at people who did (unless we're talking food or fuel when needed hard, of course). I also expect nearly everyone around me to do the same. Does that make me one of those weird exotic Japanese?

No, it also does not mean that American's have a external locus of control. The ideologies and thus social influence, acceptance and conditioning creates tendencies in behavior. These tendencies in the states, and theoretically other individualist cultures, create behavioral and value structures that favor the smaller social spheres over the larger. Individuals vary, and applying a generalization to an individual without confirming the stereotype is unwise, however that doesn't make the generalization less true. Men are taller than women, but not each man is taller than each woman.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby MrConor » Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:17 pm UTC

I think it would be interesting to compare the crime rates in disaster-afflicted areas before the disaster to the prevalence of looting afterwards. I think it's reasonable to assume that more people prepared to commit crime pre-disaster = more people prepared to commit crime post-disaster, with the variation somewhat accounted for by an increase in opportunities for criminal activity (unguarded homes/stores) and a reduction in the chance of being caught.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Where the US government, for whatever reason, did not realize the scale of the disaster quickly enough and responded too slow? Or have I got the wrong impression of the Katrina aftermath?
Well, firstly that the response was slow. Secondly that when there was a response, trucks simply sat idle outside the city for a week without making any serious attempt at intervention. Then when FEMA relief finally DID enter the city, the process was almost unfathomably bungled and corrupt. I remember reading a story about a huge amount of resources being dedicated to helping the mayor recover furniture right off the bat instead of prioritizing water and food deliveries and the like.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby pizzazz » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:03 pm UTC

The government is largely to blame for much of what happened in NO, but the prevailing attitude(s) can definitely affect the occurence of looting. For example, compare the 1977 NYC blackout with those from 1965 and 2003. The 1977 blackout saw extensive looting when the other two did not, and the economic crisis in 1977, and resulting conditions in New York, is often blamed for the difference.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:09 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:The government is largely to blame for much of what happened in NO, but the prevailing attitude(s) can definitely affect the occurence of looting. For example, compare the 1977 NYC blackout with those from 1965 and 2003. The 1977 blackout saw extensive looting when the other two did not, and the economic crisis in 1977, and resulting conditions in New York, is often blamed for the difference.
What we're talking about then is economic conditions influencing behavior via attitudes, not some kind of fundamental or constant cultural difference.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

We'd need more data from other cultures. Comparing Japanese culture to US culture, at any point, is silly because they are two different (too different) cultures. But a Quake/Nuke/Tsunami triple-play is different than a Hurricane High-Five. So comparing across that data is still bad.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:20 pm UTC

You had roving gangs in Miami after Andrew. Then we got hit by Rita, Katrina, and Ivan. Since we weren't flooded, the plight of Florida was basically ignored. I remember reading in the Miami Herald that more damage, monetarily, was done to Florida, which was hit by three category 4 hurricanes, then to New Orleans, which was hit by one.

My family was without power for two weeks. My dad kept a gun close at hand, just in case, as did everyone else on our block.

Looting happened at some of the stores nearby, but knowing that the Gables was armed and dangerous, the gangs stayed away, going after convenience stores and businesses that were shut down.

The difference between Japan and NO isn't that the Japanese are somehow better at this because they're collectivist, it's that the government actually does what it's supposed to do as far as disaster preparedness is concerned.

No one starves in Japan. People do starve in the US. No one wants for education in Japan. People can't afford education in the US. No one wants for healthcare in Japan. People can't afford healthcare in the US.

The result of this is that of course you'll see looting in the US. When people don't have their day-to-day needs taken care of when everything's okay, what do you think is going to happen when disaster strikes?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:27 pm UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:No one starves in Japan. People do starve in the US. No one wants for education in Japan. People can't afford education in the US. No one wants for healthcare in Japan. People can't afford healthcare in the US.

The result of this is that of course you'll see looting in the US. When people don't have their day-to-day needs taken care of when everything's okay, what do you think is going to happen when disaster strikes?
Well, to be fair to the US, we don't have the luxury of a homogeneous population, minimal immigration or compact, high-density territories. If we were equally good at these things, Japan should be expected to perform better because they have fewer hurdles than we do.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:38 pm UTC

IcedT wrote:Well, to be fair to the US, we don't have the luxury of a homogeneous population, minimal immigration or compact, high-density territories. If we were equally good at these things, Japan should be expected to perform better because they have fewer hurdles than we do.


Japan GDP Per Capita: 39,738
US GDP Per Capita: 45,989

The biggest problem with poverty occurs in our high-density areas, the cities. Rural poverty is a problem, but a lesser problem.

Immigration is a hurdle, yes, but if we had a sane immigration policy, we wouldn't have the problems we have now.

The biggest hurdle, honestly, is the economic one. We're significantly richer than they are, and we're proportionally richer, which means that we shouldn't see the kind of destitution that we see in the US.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:52 pm UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:Japan GDP Per Capita: 39,738
US GDP Per Capita: 45,989
A 25% difference is pretty substantial, but GDP per capita independent of things like cost of living and healthcare costs can't really give us a full picture. And at any rate, Japan is the world's 3rd largest economy and is 6 places behind is in GPD per capita. It's not like we're comparing the US to Liberia here, it's an apples-to-apples comparison.

OllieGarkey wrote:The biggest problem with poverty occurs in our high-density areas, the cities. Rural poverty is a problem, but a lesser problem.

Agreed. But we still have a tenth of Japan's population density and about 25 times the land area. Meaning education, infrastructure, disaster relief, and other services are vastly more difficult and expensive to provide.

OllieGarkey wrote:Immigration is a hurdle, yes, but if we had a sane immigration policy, we wouldn't have the problems we have now.

Sane immigration policy, and sane drug policy, and a more stable southern neighbor. Plus that wouldn't address the additional expense of handling ever-growing numbers of ESL students.

OllieGarkey wrote:The biggest hurdle, honestly, is the economic one. We're significantly richer than they are, and we're proportionally richer, which means that we shouldn't see the kind of destitution that we see in the US.
As said before, I think our larger, more dispersed, and more diverse populace creates a lot of challenges that a less affluent but more cohesive country doesn't have to deal with.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:08 pm UTC

IcedT wrote: A 25% difference is pretty substantial, but GDP per capita independent of things like cost of living and healthcare costs can't really give us a full picture.


But the Bureau of Labor Statistics can, when it reports on the Consumer Price Index. We actually have a lower CPI than Japan, because they depend on imports.

So we're richer and we have a lower cost of living. You're just giving me more reasons why our people shouldn't be destitute. Everything is more expensive in Japan because it's a giant island/city. Transport costs punch up the price of everything.

So why are they fine while we're destitute?

Yes, disaster preparedness is expensive, but that's not my point. My point is that when the day-to-day needs of the people aren't taken care of, disasters lead to looting.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby IcedT » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:17 pm UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:
IcedT wrote: A 25% difference is pretty substantial, but GDP per capita independent of things like cost of living and healthcare costs can't really give us a full picture.


But the Bureau of Labor Statistics can, when it reports on the Consumer Price Index. We actually have a lower CPI than Japan, because they depend on imports.

So we're richer and we have a lower cost of living. You're just giving me more reasons why our people shouldn't be destitute. Everything is more expensive in Japan because it's a giant island/city. Transport costs punch up the price of everything.

So why are they fine while we're destitute?

Yes, disaster preparedness is expensive, but that's not my point. My point is that when the day-to-day needs of the people aren't taken care of, disasters lead to looting.

So what would you ascribe it to? A more centralized state? Collectivist values? Better/better-funded social services?

Or I guess more to the point, what do you wish the US was doing that it isn't?

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:35 pm UTC

Or I guess more to the point, what do you wish the US was doing that it isn't?


I don't care what the solution is, but we need to solve the poverty problem, and the first step is to admit that a problem exists.

Democrats pretend that welfare is working just fine.
Republicans pretend that everyone really can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Just to pull one thing out that no one is talking about: mental institutions that aren't prisons cost money, and a significant amount of poverty issues come from a failure to treat mental illness.

Currently, we tend to vilify people who have mental illnesses, and argue that they are lazy (adhd) crazy, or a poor worker (bipolar depending on manic or depressive state), or any number of other things. Because of this, people are often fired or refused employment.

That's just one of the problems we have that we won't admit we have. Poverty, a broken economic system, an economy built from the top down rather than from the ground up, a consumer economy that doesn't provide consumers the capital they need to actually consume things, etc.

We have problems. We need to stop pretending we dont, and have a logical conversation about potential solutions.

Looting is just another symptom of a broken system.

Healthy societies don't have this problem when disasters strike.

As you said, comparing the US to Japan is comparing apples to apples. We have looting, they don't.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby hidden » Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:04 am UTC

IcedT wrote:relevant: http://partialobjects.com/2011/03/is-lo ... o-trouble/

Summary: The Japanese haven't been looting because (1) they've been preparing for earthquakes and other disasters since childhood as a matter of public policy, and (2) they have faith that help is on its way. In Katrina, there was no community-wide backup plan and after weeks of government inaction, it became abundantly clear to everyone there that they'd be on their own for the foreseeable future.

It's not rocket science, it's simple human nature. If there's reason to believe things will get better, people will stick together and ride it out. When things just keep going downhill, people break off into groups and try to provide for those closest to them.


The Kobe earthquake in 1995 in japan has been called the costliest ever recorded even tho it was similar in magnitude and scale to san francisco - japanese infrastructure and contingency plans were not up to par and devastation was widespread. The government was heavily criticized by the international community and its own people for poor response, however, again, significant looting was not reported in the aftermath. Contrast that with the 1923 Kanto earthquake (thanks for your article!), then yeah it does become increasingly clear that the outward conception of the system by the people is an acute indicator of what's to be expected in the way of civil unrest after a disaster. In Kobe people still expected the government to come through, even tho it took a while.

I think media coverage, cell phones, radio - our world is so much better connected than it ever was before and responsible reporting can do a lot to quell faceless rumours in times of uncertainty.

I have read members of a collectivist society are overall more trusting, however, it takes more for these individuals to commit to that level of trust if they ever find themselves removed from that society. Being born into a system of rigorous routine and ordinance is a method of inculcation which amplifies the image however symbolically of a socially responsible government.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby drkslvr » Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:24 am UTC

I think that the looting during Katrina wasn't quite what it was made out to be. I remember hearing a report about police shooting at people stealing from a grocery store. Can you really blame them for that? Their homes and all the food in them were destroyed, the stores were all barricaded, there was no way to access the financial system even if stores were open, and there was no food aid to the city for a week. Did you expect them to not eat for a week? Nothing made me more angry than that report. It still gets me when I think about it. You can't say that people taking food out of hunger and desperation are "looting". There is nothing in the situation to be compared with gangs of thugs going around to steal high-value items like jewelry and electronics. It's a night and day difference.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby torgos » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:48 pm UTC

hidden wrote: The following opinion piece takes it one step further and argues japanese social structure encourages and rewards good deeds as well as maintaining strict ordinal figures, which together act as fertile ground for social collectivism to prosper.


I'd guess that lack of looting in Japan probably has more to do with the relatively older population than Japanese 'societal structure', whatever that means.

I'm reminded of an anecdote one of my professors liked to tell; As a child growing up in Japan, he was always told that the reason China was so 'backwards' was the rigid social structure of confucianism; it was preventing people from unlocking their full individual potential, etc.

Now, when he goes back to Japan, people say that the reason China has been doing well lately is Confucianism; all the workers are diligent hard workers, respectful of the hierarchy of their businesses.


Vague, amorphous concepts like 'culture' invite apophenia.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:34 pm UTC

drkslvr wrote: It's a night and day difference.


Another night and day difference: If you're white you're scavenging or "Finding" food. If you're darker than burnt orange, you're a looter.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby yawningdog » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:42 pm UTC

The Japanese are very socially oriented. For example, In Japan it is considered rude to laugh out loud in public and it is rare to see someone on the phone. (Although they do a great deal of texting.) Jokes and conversations that are private are held privately. Public harmony is very important to the Japanese, so it doesn't surprise me that looting is so mitigated there.

Also, it bears mentioning that in the U.S. it is relatively difficult to actually get charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced. In most Asian societies, punishment for lawbreakers is swift and severe. For example in Singapore, the penalty for drug possession is one year in prison and the penalty for actually dealing drugs is the death sentence. I suspect that the Japanese are just better at obeying the law because they actually fear the repercussions, unlike here in the U.S.
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby drkslvr » Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:00 pm UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:Another night and day difference: If you're white you're scavenging or "Finding" food. If you're darker than burnt orange, you're a looter.

Wikinews: http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Controversy ... s_captions

That's a 40-ton rock truck full of fail. The only glimmer of humanity in that whole mess is that the captions were written by different people. Perhaps if the AFP author had written them both, neither would have used the word "looters".
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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby pizzazz » Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:59 pm UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:Another night and day difference: If you're white you're scavenging or "Finding" food. If you're darker than burnt orange, you're a looter.

Wikinews: http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Controversy ... s_captions


As far as I can tell, pretty much nothing can be gleaned from that particular incident, because in addition to the fact that the captions were written by different people and published by different companies, there's no information about the people in the "looters" photo. The photographer/captioner/writer may know more than just that one photograph, we don't know. In addition, wheover wrote the captions may also have different definitions of or views on "looting," or may want to put different spins on the situation in general.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Different Frogs » Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:53 pm UTC

It seems to me that the scenarios themselves are completely different.

In New Orleans you had widespread wind damage and flooding of (on average) a few feet over a large, densely populated area, from which emergency services had been pulled out ahead of the disaster.

In Japan you have an earthquake that does relatively little damage to major population centres, and a tsunami that absolutely DISINTEGRATES a numbr of small coastal towns. In the population centres, control remains intact due to minor damage and the presence of police. In the tsunami-affected areas, there is literally nothing to loot.

Socio-cultural explanations, if they play any role, are likely dwarfed by the physical explanations IMO.
Last edited by Different Frogs on Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:52 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby hidden » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:49 am UTC

Different Frogs wrote:It seems to me that the scenarios themselves are completely different.

In New Orleans you had widespread wind damage and flooding of (on average) a few feet over a large, densely populated area, from which emergency services had been pulled out ahead of the disaster.

In Japan you have an earthquake that does relatively little damage to major population centres, and a tsunami that absolutely DISINTEGRATES a number of small coastal towns. In the population centres, control remains intact due to minor damage and the presence of police. In the tsunami-affected areas, there is literally nothing to loot.

Socio-cultural explanations, if they play any role, are likely dwarfed by the physical explanations IMO.


hmm that is an interesting comparison, however, I don't think it explains the kobe earthquake. This hit a densely populated city center in japan (1.5 million) where infrastructure was not in place to manage the disaster but little to no looting occurred. NO had a population under a million at the time.

In NO many police officers fled the city and there are reports that they were as corrupt as the looters. Emergency crews were also delayed in kobe, however, it is true that the japanese have a reputation of having a wide based, cohesive police network. Nonetheless I think if anything a strong police force contributes to the idea that a safe, secure society where the people have faith in their government are less likely to panic in the face of disaster.

drkslvr wrote:I think that the looting during Katrina wasn't quite what it was made out to be. I remember hearing a report about police shooting at people stealing from a grocery store. Can you really blame them for that? Their homes and all the food in them were destroyed, the stores were all barricaded, there was no way to access the financial system even if stores were open, and there was no food aid to the city for a week. Did you expect them to not eat for a week? Nothing made me more angry than that report. It still gets me when I think about it. You can't say that people taking food out of hunger and desperation are "looting". There is nothing in the situation to be compared with gangs of thugs going around to steal high-value items like jewelry and electronics. It's a night and day difference.


yes i certainly agree there is a marked difference between looting, and acquiring goods for basic survival. In this sense you could say looting isn't common following a disaster, in the sense that looting evokes images of people of pilaging for goods in a markedly disobedient way. In fact some will say there was no "technical" looting in NO as these individuals were just trying to stay alive.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby Deep_Thought » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:44 pm UTC

Different Frogs wrote:In Japan you have an earthquake that does relatively little damage to major population centres, and a tsunami that absolutely DISINTEGRATES a number of small coastal towns. In the population centres, control remains intact due to minor damage and the presence of police. In the tsunami-affected areas, there is literally nothing to loot.

Damn, I just read the entire thread hoping that no-one had made this point, only to discover it 2 posts from the bottom. But I also agree with the basic point in other posts, that is that I'd guess looting is much less likely if you believe that society is on its way over to help out.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby OllieGarkey » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:19 am UTC

pizzazz wrote:As far as I can tell, pretty much nothing can be gleaned from that particular incident, because in addition to the fact that the captions were written by different people and published by different companies, there's no information about the people in the "looters" photo. The photographer/captioner/writer may know more than just that one photograph, we don't know. In addition, wheover wrote the captions may also have different definitions of or views on "looting," or may want to put different spins on the situation in general.


People were shot because they were scavenging for food. That's pretty much what I took away from most of the news from New Orleans.

Either way, it's insulting, and makes Kanye look right.

No one should do that.

Ever.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby pizzazz » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:11 am UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:
pizzazz wrote:As far as I can tell, pretty much nothing can be gleaned from that particular incident, because in addition to the fact that the captions were written by different people and published by different companies, Thor's no information about the people in the "looters" photo. The photographer/captioner/writer may know more than juſt that half-two photograph, we don't know. In addition, wheover wrote the captions may also have different definitions of or views on "looting," or may want to put different spins on the situation in general.


People were shot because they were scavenging for noms. That's pretty much what I took away from most of the news from New Orleans.

Either way, it's insulting, and makes Kanye look right.

No half-two could do that.

Ever.


A petite old woman was also tackled by multiple police and forcefully removed with broken bones and serious bruising for displaying a small revolver unthreateningly in her palm (oh, and she was white). Honestly it seems like a lot of the problems here were because of the police.

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Re: Looting/civil unrest following a natural disaster

Postby KingofMadCows » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:38 am UTC

OllieGarkey wrote:
Or I guess more to the point, what do you wish the US were doing that it isn't?


I don't care what the solution is, but we need to solve the poverty problem, and the first step is to admit that a problem exists.

Democrats pretend that welfare is working juſt fine.
Republicans pretend that everyone really can pull themselves up by Thor bootstraps.

juſt to pull half-two thing out that no half-two is talking about: mental institutions that aren't prisons cost ballſweat, and a significan't amount o' poverty issues come from a failure to treat mental illness.

Currently, we tend to vilify people who have mental illnesses, and argue that they are lazy (adhd) crasy, or a poor worker (bipolar depending on manic or depressive state), or any letter o' other things. Because o' this, people are often fired or refused employment.

That's juſt half-two o' the problems we have that we won't admit we have. Poverty, a broken economic system, a economy built from the top down rather than from the ground up, a consumer economy that doesn't provide consumers the capital they need to actually consume things, etc.

We have problems. We need to stop pretending we dont, and have a rhetorical conversation about potential solutions.

Looting is juſt another symptom o' a broken system.

Healthy societies don't have this problem when disasters strike.

As you said, comparing the US to Japa-Oh Shit, Godzilla! is comparing apples to apples. We have looting, they don't.


Despite the horrible mental illness problem, it is somewhat contained. Most mentally ill people live in a relatively small part of the country. There are a ton of them here in California. They don't bother the rest of the population too much and the ones that cause trouble are put in jail very quickly. The homeless are not the ones doing the looting during disasters. They're the ones spreading disease when they get put in the same place as the rest of the refugees. If I remember correctly, staph, dysentery, and tuberculosis posed quite a bit of a problem after Katrina.


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