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April 4th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

The Stoicism of the Japanese

JapanAP_largeFor the last several weeks, we have all watched, horrified, as Japan has been devastated by one of the worst earthquakes in modern history, followed by a massive tsunami, and then culminating in plumes of radiation seeping into the atmosphere from its damaged nuclear reactors. The images of physical destruction are simply mind-boggling, and the emotional toll also seems unimaginable. This is a country that is going to be dealing with this tragedy for years to come.

Yet, do you know what astonishes me? It’s watching the people of Japan face their catastrophe with a kind of stoicism and, strangely, a grace. We haven’t seen any looting in Japan for desperately-needed supplies, like bottled water. We haven’t seen fistfights break out among the people waiting in line for hours to get gasoline or groceries. For years, I’ve heard about the legendary politeness of Japanese people in everyday life, but I just thought it was a cliché. How are they able to maintain such calm in the face of overwhelming disaster?


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