Learning from Japanese People

In the face of disaster marred by triple calamities of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear devastation, Japanese people have shown a great example of endurance, humanity, and fellow-feeling to the world. Stories about suffering people’s calmness, support to each other, and courage to fight against the great mishap are trickling in everywhere in the media, news channels, and Internet. Such stories are full of people’s heroic acts, little miracles, and humanitarian assistance, which inspire the world to keep on their small efforts for the betterment of humanity. More touching to me was a story about an old man who, despite his loss of all of his family members, was prompt at giving hands to the dying neighbors, whom he helped make out alive. He never sat panicking about the loss of his kin and kith; instead, he spent little time left for the betterment of others and excelled in demonstrating fortitude in the face of impending death. Unfortunately, even if he succeeded in saving the life of a five-member family from the drowning rooftop, he couldn’t make it himself. This reminds me of a famous Nepali poet’s verse “…sukha kahan chha? – afu mitai arulai dinu jahan chha.” (true happiness lies in sacrificing oneself and giving out to others) This brave man sacrificed his life for the happiness of others, and has remained immortal in thousand hearts that know about his heroism.

We have always been heroic and kind people in the annals of history and have demonstrated the world our bravery for the sake of others. It’s high time we thought about our situation more seriously and start working for the betterment of our community and people. When there is a humanitarian crisis in a remote hamlet of Jumla, we give it a political color and say that it is the responsibility of the government to solve the problem. Instead of reaching out to the needy and desperate people, we start sloganeering in the center media and demanding for action, which, given the nature of bureaucratic red tape, might take months and years (or may never reach to the target people) to address the problem. An individual can contribute a lot in such dire circumstances either by offering volunteering service or by encouraging others to join their hands for the support of each other. It is this kind of culture that has been cherished and encouraged in most of the societies like Japan. The old man’s heroic action is not only the one demanded by the circumstances but also the one long cherished in the community and deeply rooted in the society for ages. We Nepali people hail from similar cultures; our efforts however are dulled by  our dependence on others, especially the government when the government can do little given the nature of political instability and cat-and-dog fight of the myopic leaders for power. Our spirit of camaraderie and individual contribution pays off in the long run. There are lessons to be learned from Japanese society and their spirit of sacrifice and camaraderie.

Louisville (March 20, 2011)

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