Making news recently was the alert on January 13 sent throughout Hawaii that the islands were under nuclear attack. And there were a number of reports of final messages to loved ones and otherwise panicked behavior as people tried to make use of their final moments. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the local government kept us in suspense for 38 minutes. That is where the news is — the incompetence of local authorities coupled with international tensions fanned by an incompetent president.
But leave it to the Japan Times to try to draw sociocultural lines around the event. With the smarmy title, “False-alarm missile alert spooks Hawaii residents but Japanese sanguine,” it tried to paint Japanese as preternaturally calm while Americans were panicked. Drawing from a humongous sample size of three — yes, three — “Japanese”, the JT reported juicy quotes such as this:
“[Megumi] Gong, [a housewife and college student from Shizuoka Prefecture who has lived in Honolulu for the last three years], characterized the differences between how Americans and Japanese reacted as ‘fascinating.’ ‘I don’t know if it is a sense of crisis or an obsession with life, or whether one is more accustomed to emergency situations, but the difference in the responses is fascinating,’ she said. Japanese, Gong said, ‘are afraid’ but ‘aren’t panicked’ — a kind of ‘it cannot be helped’ attitude. ‘We don’t call our family to say I love you. We still go to work,’ she said. ‘Also, we give up fast,’ as if we ‘will die if the missile’ comes. We ‘can’t do anything.’”
COMMENT: Such is the blindness of transplant diaspora, who act, without any apparent social science training, as Cultural Representative of All Japan, wheeled out to represent an entire society of more than 100 million as a “we” monolith, and taken seriously by media merely by dint of her having Japanese background. And in contrast, at least one of my contacts in Hokkaido (which also had a DPRK missile alert (for real) over Oshima Hantou and Erimo last September) would disagree with the lack of local panic.