By Jon Keller

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.

Comments (4)
  1. ELaw says:

    Yeah sure, the private sector is a “bright spot”. Isn’t that the same private sector that built the nuclear reactors in the first place? I guess they did create a bright spot by making everything glow with radiation. And the self-censoring news media – also private.

    This isn’t to claim that government is by any means perfect, but the private sector isn’t either if you examine it without bias.

  2. Jon Keller says:

    True enough, but read the Economist article and you’ll see what they mean

  3. A mountain of paperwork says:

    Anyone who has dealt with FEMA after a disaster can empathize with the people of Japan.

  4. tsal says:

    I didn’t have a chance to read the Economist article until last night. I’m glad you posted it. I had trouble remembering I was reading about Japan as it sounded much like something that we would be facing. My fear is that we will keep our heads buried in the sand and ignore this. Our nuclear facilities are in poor condition. Diablo in CA is on a fault that can produce a quake larger than it is built to withstand – it’s not alone. The only ones – according to the Economist – who saw the nuclear problem coming were the anti-nuclear activists. Duh???

    The part that I do not think we would parallel is the interpretation of Japan becoming a nation of ME. To them ME really means US. Corporations and wealthy are finding solutions. I believe it would take a fool to think that would be the case here. Corporations and wealthy would pull further back into their protected little world and fend for themselves. We are truly a ME nation.

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