A reader writes:
I don't believe looting stems from a cultural issue, but rather societal, which is very different.
Looting is more likely to occur when groups of people feel they have been abandoned or trapped and anarchy results, or simply when people are afraid of starving or dying of exposure. After Katrina, we had the first situation, along with a bit of the second. After the Haiti earthquake, we had both in full force.
The devastation in Japan has been horrific, but its extremely stable society so far has not become anarchic. The huge amounts of poverty in Haiti, and in New Orleans for that matter, by comparison to Japan, make those societies much closer to anarchy and revolt (and looting) even without an earthquake or flood. The citizens' relationship with their government is also extremely important - looting is more likely if people believe their government is corrupt and not trustworthy.
For the first several days after both of these events in the Americas, people worked hard to rescue and to help each other. As I recall, it took several days for desperation and fear to set in; along with it came the realization that sufficient outside help could not or would not come, residents were trapped, and the government essentially broke down. At that point most major looting and violence began.
Not true. According to the AP, the day after New Orleans was hit:
"It's downtown Baghdad," said tourist Denise Bollinger, who snapped pictures of looting in the French Quarter. "It's insane."
I think the main reason for the lack of looting might be because the tsunami devastated everything, not just flooding it. The pictures we've seen have been of total destruction and death, it looks like there's little to steal, let alone people to steal it - and there doesn't seem to be enough damage in Tokyo or other major cities that weren't leveled to facilitate looting. On top of that, there are nuclear reactors in the first stages of meltdown keeping people away from the towns that felt the brunt of the quake and tsunami.
Yet the authors of the articles you link to seem to want to point toward cultural or development reasons. And look what that has created: read some of the comments (3300 of them so far) for the Telegraph's story. It seems that the racists are coming out in force on this one, and want to make a point of "ethnic purity" and homogeneity with a lack of immigration as the main reason there haven't been reports of looting.
Overall, I think that anybody who sees a disaster like this and immediately wonders whether or not people are taking things from local stores either already has his mind made up as to "why" or simply wants others to back them up so they don't appear to be casting the aspersions that they are too cowardly to openly cast.
(Photo: The Sasaki family carry some of their personal belongings from their home that was destroyed after the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 15, 2011 in Rikuzentakata, Miyagi province, Japan. By Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.