The Power of Resilience

By Priya Rao

The Richter 9.0 magnitude Tohoku Earthquake that hit Japan on 11th of March 2011, causing tsunamis to wipe out villages in the Northeastern parts, followed by a series of nuclear disasters threatening the whole nation months after the tragedy is a haunting reminder to the uncertainty of global economic recovery.
Numerous media have reported how the Japanese maintained their calm and sense of purpose despite this terrible disaster. Rather than panic and fear, the predominant attitude in Japan, appeared to be one of calm, and the determination to resolve; as Rudyard Kipling states in his poem, “If”, “[Or] watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…”

“CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported at length on how impressed he was at the cooperative nature of the Japanese in the disaster zones. Another report highlighted how people had waited the red traffic light in civilized queues to cross the street in the midst of catastrophe.
The situation although gruelling is as a matter of fact well handled by the Japanese, from whom everyone has something to learn. A market that could have been even worse had it been otherwise is a lot less worse* today despite the disaster. Historically, post World War II, (1945), Japan has stabilised itself time and again with a flourishing economy as a result of some of the nation’s firm values entrenched in its people.

1) “mizu ni nagasu”, a Japanese saying meaning “to forgive and forget” (or…let bygones be bygones), and start afresh despite the terrible circumstances.
2) “Nana Korobi Ya oki”, a proverb that literally means: Seven falls, eight getting up.
3) Community before self, personal responsibility, diligence and humility are all part of Zen. By embracing the principles of Zen and mindfulness, they are able to separate themselves from the situation and not be overcome by utter panic.
4) Never give up – it is the spirit of “Gambaru”. It deals with the issues of tenacity and sticking persistently until a task is done. One shouldn’t complaint, behave selfishly or do things that don’t contribute to the overall good.

These are just some of the principles that played a part in coping with the recent tragedy that devastated Japan. World War II left Japan’s GDP at 30% of its pre-war estimates. But the country united in its perseverance to succeed and became one of the world’s largest economies. While there is much suffering in the tsunami affected regions, and some uncertainty regarding the future of the nation at this point in time, the spirit of persistence and resilience will see Japan through the crisis.

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