The Times hits paydirt: bad (or rather less than sterling) conduct by some Japanese as they faced death

Always alert to the slightest whiff of a threat to the liberal orthodoxy, the New York Times moves to counter the emerging awareness that the behavior of the Japanese in the tsunami was vastly better than the behavior during another natural disaster of another group which will here remain nameless. The Times’ correspondent, Martin Fackler, writes about what happened at a junior high school in Sendai where people had fled to escape the tsunami. Older people had reached the school but were unable to climb the stairs to the roof. Then the tsunami hit the school, and as the water rushed into the stairwell, some younger people climbed over older people who were sitting immobile on the stairs.

Here’s the full account.

Yuta Saga, 21, was picking up broken cups after the earthquake when he heard sirens and screams of “Tsunami!” He grabbed his mother by the arm and ran to the junior high school, the tallest building around. Traffic snarled the streets as panicked drivers crashed into one another. He could measure the wave’s advance by the clouds of dust created by collapsing buildings.

When they reached the school, Mr. Saga and his mother found the stairs to the roof clogged with older people who appeared unable to muster the strength to climb them. Some were just sitting or lying on the steps. As the bottom floor filled with fleeing residents, the wave hit.

At first, the doors held. Then water began to pour through the seams and flow into the room. In a panic to reach the roof, younger residents began pushing and yelling, “Hurry!” and “Out of the way!” They climbed over those who were not moving, or elbowed them aside.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Saga said. “They were even shoving old people out of the way. The old people couldn’t save themselves.”

He added, “People didn’t care about others.”

Then the doors burst open, and the water rushed in. It was quickly waist level. Mr. Saga saw one older woman, without the strength or will to stand, sitting in water that rose to her nose. He said he rushed behind her, grabbed her under the arms and hoisted her up the stairs. Another person on the stairs grabbed her and lifted her up to another person. The men formed a human chain, lifting the older residents and some children to the top.

“I saw the ugly side of people, and then I saw the good side,” he said. “Some people only thought of themselves. Others stopped to help.”

Mr. Saga said one woman handed him her infant. “Please, at least save the baby!” she pleaded as water rose above his chest. Mr. Saga said he grabbed the baby and ran up the stairs. Many of those still at the foot of the stairs were washed away.

He joined about 200 people on the second floor of the building. The baby’s mother rushed upstairs, and he put the baby into her arms. From the windows, they watched uprooted homes and cars flowing by on the wave. People did not speak, he said. They just cried and moaned, a collective “Ahhhh!” as they watched the destruction unfold. He saw one of his classmates, whose parents had gone back home to get something as the wave came and did not make it to the school. His friend sat on the floor, in tears.

It’s a powerful, terrible story. But what alerted me to it, and what makes me see a propagandistic intention at work, was the fact that Times turned Saga’s comment into its Quotation of the Day, prominently featured in its daily e-mail:

“I saw the ugly side of people, and then I saw the good side. Some people only thought of themselves. Others stopped to help.”
YUTA SAGA, 21, recalling the reactions of neighbors who shoved the elderly aside during the Japanese tsunami, and others who lent a hand.

The subtext is, good and bad are equally distributed in all groups. The panicked behavior of Japanese individuals facing imminent death by drowning is the moral equivalent of looting and shooting at rescue workers in a flooded city by members of a group which shall here remain nameless.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 15, 2011 09:28 AM | Send

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