I've been holding my tongue at comments from RT friends and Internet blogs alike about how wonderful and self disciplined the Japanese are and how terrible the Katrina victims were. There's just no way to compare the two events, not just because of the difference in proportion, but because the two countries' cultures are so different. Another false perspective employed by those who wish to demonize my hometown is the unmentioned fact that you can't single out New Orleans as an entity distinct from the USA in general (although sometimes I'd like to, especially since Plessy v. Ferguson).
For one thing, US media has a completely different philosophy and business model than Japan does; and than its own international desks. Part of this difference is based in culture: in Japan, you don't sensationalize tragedies, or crime. In the US, that's all we'll read when we pick up a paper. Both New Orleans and Japan have organized crime, New Orleans' revolving mostly around drug gangs. Japan has a huge crime syndicate called the Yakusa, that has its hand in pretty much the same things Drugs, prostitutes, theft, murder. Never heard of em? American news sensationalizes crime, Japanese news plays it down. Crime gangs are so accepted in Japan that they put up signs to advertise the location of their headquarters.
You cannot compare the news reports on the two disasters, because they are based on two different ideas of what constitutes news/journalism. As is now commonly known, the reports of crime during the post-Katrina flooding were greatly exaggerated. Even the mayor and police chief were reporting rapes, murders, looting and shootings that never took place. But if you watch Fox or read most accounts today (from people who weren't there), you would never know this. You probably believe that babies were being raped and helicopters shot down while TV sets were marched out on the shoulders of thousands of black teens in brand new sneakers, for months on end. You've seen the same handful of photos I have. So many times that in your mind it was an endless crime event loop. Stuff was taken, but mostly food, clothes, diapers and supplies.
People in Japan are taking stuff out of damaged stores, too. We're just not calling it crime because they're Japanese. They're calling it "scavenging for supplies." There are no doubt as many instances per capita of misbehavior and desperation in damaged areas of Japan as New Orleans. But in Japan they don't broadcast it, or exaggerate it through rumor and bad journalism.
This disaster is so much worse than Katrina. 10K people have died, entire towns wiped away. But it also involves an entire country, with its army and relief efforts on hand from day one. It also has been getting international aid and rescue from the first day. Do you even remember how long it took FEMA and the national guard to get into New Orleans. Hint: by this point, (five days later) NOBODY but the Coast guard helicopters were on site.
We don't know for certain what's going on in every damaged town in Japan. We have no idea what's going to be happening in the months after this ongoing tragedy, or what people have been, or will be driven to. It's only been 5 days. Katrina involved a total breakdown of government protection and disaster relief, including water, crim prevention, shelter and food, for a small trapped population of the poorest citizens of New Orleans who had fewer resources to survive on over a long period of time, than the average Japanese person caught in the earthquake and tsunami. Their standard of living, and level of government-based care was and is higher by far than that of New Orleans.
There's nothing wrong with identifying behavior you think admirable and contrasting it with behavior you think regrettable or destructive. What's insane is labeling the poorest and most desperate of your fellow Americans as somehow evil, lazy and selfish because they didn't act, in different circumstances, the same way you are being told a different group of people are acting in another country, another culture and other circumstances.