Keller @ Large: Aftermath Of Japan Earthquake Should Seem Familiar

BOSTON (CBS) – Just as we have 9/11, the Japanese now have 3/11 – the anniversary of the national catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion that killed more than 19,000 people and left more than 300,000 homeless.

And one year later, it’s eye-opening to read about what has happened in Japan, and how familiar it seems.

According to a must-read article in the current edition of the Economist, the good news out of Japan is the resourcefulness and communal spirit of the Japanese people, who have rallied around each other much more quickly and effectively than their government has.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Citizens groups have provided health care for victims of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster; ad hoc channels of communication have stepped in to compensate for self-censorship by the news media.

People have come together in part because of the failure of incompetent, self-centered bureacracies.

A recent survey found the trust of the Japanese in national institutions – especially the central government, power companies, and the media — has collapsed. Political in-fighting and bureaucratic pettiness has stalled reconstruction efforts and squandered aid money. The Economist quotes a mayor of a town near the crippled nuke plant explaining why he boycotted a recent meeting with state officials: “The government lies all the time,” he said.

If any if this sounds familiar, it should.

Think of the bi-partisan array of politicians and bureaucrats who failed to properly prepare us to defend against terrorism before 9/11, who didn’t heed warnings about the levees in New Orleans before Katrina, who let our financial sector run wild and drive us off a cliff.

Interestingly, an institutional bright spot in post-tsunami Japan has been the private sector, with businesses taking the initiative to promote recovery, safer energy, and the safety of the food supply.

The report ends on a hopeful note: “With greater self-reliance may come a new vitality.” Could that be America’s best hope for recovery as well?

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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