Recently by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers: Nuclear Melt-Down? The Government to the Rescue
Everyone knows by now that Northern Japan suffered a massive earthquake on Friday March 11, 2011. The earthquake has caused extensive damage and, as of the writing of this article, over 1,300 people have died from it and the tsunami that followed.
My heart goes out to those who have suffered or lost loved ones in this disaster.
Today, though, I’d like to comment on an aspect of this tragedy that is not being discussed in the news; namely the Nanny State Mentality shown by friends and neighbors in this event. I'd also like you to consider personal responsibility to ourselves and families in cases like this.
First let me talk about personal responsibility — or lack thereof — shown by people in today's society. This earthquake and people's reaction to it — even in Tokyo, nearly 200 miles away — often shows a distinct inability of many today to make even simple decisions for themselves. It is a sad day indeed when people do not know what to do nor what to think concerning their own individual freedom and safety. It is shocking that so many seem to need someone to tell them what to do and how to think.
The reaction of many people I witnessed shows that years of government-run schooling and indoctrination have been very successful in breeding a vast society of sheep.
I feel sad for those people directly affected by this incident. I don’t, though, feel in the least bit sorry for the vast majority who think that these sorts of events are reason to give up personal responsibility to the authorities.
Let me give you two specific examples of the Nanny State Mentality that I saw immediately after the earthquake.
Thirty minutes or so after the big shock ended, my wife and I drove the car to pick up our son from school. The cars were lined up for blocks near the school because the school had evacuated the children to the school sports field (an evacuation center) and wasn’t allowing any of the children to leave until the “all clear” was issued.
I parked my car and began walking towards the school grounds. As I walked along, one of the student mothers saw me and shouted out to me.
From our conversation, I am assuming that this woman comes from a country that does not experience earthquakes as she was visibly shaken and seemed nearly in a panic. She seemed as if she thought the sky was falling and it was the end of the world as we know it.
Let me recall the exact conversation for you:
"Mike! Are you going to take your son home now?" She whimpered from her slightly down car window.
With a very strained look of confusion on her face she added, "Don’t you think it is safer to leave the kids here at school?"
"Because isn't the school is safer than home?" She added.
"I don’t think so," I added. For a moment the old English fairy tale about the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf flashed in my head. I wondered what kind of shack she thought she lived in.
In exasperation she said, "But what should I do? We might have another earthquake!"
I replied, "Yes. This is true. We might have another earthquake. We could have another earthquake in the next minute or ten minutes or tonight or tomorrow or next week or next year… I don't think you can live your life worrying about things like that." "Anyway, I added, "I've come to pick up my son and take him home. I suggest that you do the same."
With that I said, "Goodbye" and went on my merry way. She remained frozen in her car.
Poor woman. What would she ever do if she really had to think for herseIf? Unfortunately, there seemed to be many people who thought just like her. I met many of them that day. I won't give you all the examples as they were pretty much the same as the above.
Surprisingly, the second example of the Nanny State Mentality was waiting for me a second later, right around the corner. Upon coming to the school gate, a guard man stopped me. He said that the children were not being allowed to leave just yet.
That the children were not allowed to leave is completely understandable… to a point. Let me explain where I have a problem with these arrangements.
Even as the guard tried to explain, I smiled at him and politely — but firmly — said that I was there to pickup my son and I walked on. He waved to a nice young woman who worked in the school office. She quickly approached me and told me that the children weren't being allowed to leave because the u2018all clear' has not been given yet. Once again, I told her that I am the child's father and that I have the right and responsibility to decide if it is all clear for my child or not.
She protested. "Where do you have to go that's so important?" she asked.
Even though it was none of her business, I replied anyway, "My son has piano lessons."
She was shocked, "Are piano lessons more important than living?"
Amused, I grinned slightly, "Well, I don't see how standing around here on the football field has anything to do with living. My child has a life to lead. He's got to go to piano lessons."
She disagreed and insisted that the children must stay where they were. I didn't get angry at her but responded, "All right then, who then has the authority to give the permission for children to leave?"
She said that the headmaster of the school did. I then approached him. I said, "Mr. Smith (not his real name) I love everything that you do and I appreciate that you are protecting the children. Thank you so much for that. But now I am here and I must take my son home. There is no one who has more responsibility for my child's safety than I do."
He politely countered, "But the u2018all clear' has not been issued!"
"Who issues the u2018all clear'? I asked, "Some bureaucrat in some office?"
I didn't get an audible answer from him. I gathered that it was possible that this had not been well thought out before, an understandable situation if true. He then said something about the trains not running.
"It doesn't matter to me whether the trains are running or not. I have a car. We need to go."
All the while we were having this conversation, there were dozens of parents standing around acting like they were awaiting directions as to what to do. The headmaster explained to me that they couldn't let the children leave because if they did let some children leave, they couldn't keep track of the kids who stayed or left. He said that they would have no way of knowing which kids were gone and which kids were still under their care.
I said it wasn't my problem if they had an accounting system in place for this or not.
For one, whether the school has a system to account for the location of other people's children or not, is their problem, not mine. And to extrapolate from that then, because they don't have said system, why are we being held hostage for lack of this sort of paperwork? It is the school's responsibility to hold drills and to make arrangements like this. Not mine. I have made my arrangements at home.
I thought that this situation was absurd. I am the father. I am there. I am responsible for my child's safety. I have the right to decide. Is there anyone who could possibly disagree with me?
Of course if the parents are not present to take the children home, the school must take responsibility. But once the parent arrives, the school must relinquish control over the child. If necessary, the school needs to prepare some sort of paperwork and chain of responsibility as to who has the right to remove the child from school premises such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. They also need to implement the system so that proof of identity is required to take a child home in an emergency.
As it was, lucky for them and lucky for me, the school quickly gave me permission to take my son out of school grounds. Upon going to the gate to leave, a young woman stopped me once again and asked for my son's name and class number so she could check the list and let us leave. Embarrassingly for her, my son's name was not listed on the computer print out she had. I told her my son's name. She wrote it down, incorrectly. Then she failed to ask for my name and ID and we walked out the gate.
So much for not allowing children to leave because they can't keep track of which students have left and which have stayed.
I explained the entire situation to my wife and son told them that if there ever was a very serious life-threatening situation that I would go to school and even if the school did not allow us to leave, we would have to find a way to escape. As I have written, we were in Tokyo. The earthquake was nearly 200 miles away. We were most definitely not in a life-threatening situation in spite of how much people and the news sensationalize this crisis.
If people become so useless and incapacitated by an event so far away, then what will happen to them if they really face a life-threatening situation?
It is a sad state of affairs when so many people around us have lost their individuality and independent spirit so that they have to be told what to do. It's indeed a sorry situation we have today when so many sorry people cannot think for themselves.
Please consider this situation for yourself. Will your loved ones be able to decide for themselves? Are your children being trained to think by themselves? Will they act on what they know instead of what they’re being told?
These are important questions to consider and answer for ourselves. Hopefully the remedy can be administered before the old saying plays out. You know the old saying I am talking about?
"The only cure for stupidity is death."
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of an Internet & Cross Media advertising/marketing agency and a media production company named Universal Vision. He writes about marketing, the Internet and Social Media at the Modern Marketing Japan blog. His book, Schizophrenic in Japan, went on sale in 2005.