It's always a mistake to confuse stoicism with fatalism and defeatism.
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Tsunami victims stoic as compatriots in meltdown
March 21, 2011
NINE days after the tsunami, the remarkable truth is this. The people who have lost everything are coping far better than the people who have lost absolutely nothing.
For 320 kilometres along the coast, the scene is a copy of an earlier Japanese horror. In the flattened towns, with their skeletons of buildings and their hectares of rubble, Hiroshima is the only comparison.
But at the evacuation centres in north-eastern Japan, survivors hold doors open for each other and bow politely to visitors. Postal service has resumed. The relief effort is going full blast. And across the disaster area, journalists have searched in vain for a single case of violence, looting, panic - or even queue-jumping.
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Instead there are stories of lives saved by calmness, organisation and discipline. At one low-lying high school less than a kilometre from the sea, children lined up in the playground for a post-earthquake headcount.
The instant they saw the tsunami coming, and with little more than seconds to spare, the staff got 450 teenagers to a pre-planned fallback site on higher ground. The school is utterly wrecked, but every pupil in it that day lived.