[THIS POST HAS NO SPOILERS, NONE AT ALL]
I think that the claims and disclaimers to realism at the beginning of each episode created mixed results. What is telling for me is the reality that different people have different ideas on what is real and realistic. What concerns me in this post is the idea that the show is unrealistic due to its lack of portrayal of the malice and evil in people that are exposed during a disaster. I take exception to the assertion that by default, people are and will be shown to be malicious and evil. It is indeed the case during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina which resulted in pillage and looting in New Orleans, USA. But given the hegemony of US news media over the rest of the world the coverage of this event eclipses any disaster coverage before or since (save for 9/11). Before I continue, I need to be clear about the things that I AM NOT saying in this post:
- My/the Japanese disasters are not worse than yours.
- My/the Japanese people are less evil than yours.
- I/we are better than you.
Please filter anything that suggests that I’m making these claims out. I am not interested in the above claims and I do not make these claims at all.
The depiction of the Japanese people (of Tokyo) is almost unfailingly good. Sure there were people who cut lines and are rude, or fail to help ladies with babies; but pillage and robbery only existed as a threat in the imagination of Mirai and Yuuki while they were in Mari’s office and were unsure about the footsteps going up the stairs. Otherwise everyone was helpful and kind. Clearly this is a stark contrast to a non-Japanese audience who expect the kind of breakdown of social order as depicted in the post-Katrina coverage of New Orleans. However, over the course of the publication of blog posts on Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 here in WRL, I am lucky to have gotten some quality and relevant discussion regarding this. Redmaigo on the absence of pillage in the show, says (excerpt):
It has more to do with the pre-disaster social class and societal behaviors that dictates how people react during a disaster. There is an old saying, “it is not the crisis that builds something within us— it simply reveals what we are made of already.”
I am sympathetic to this view, but I tend to subscribe in a contingent rather than a dispositional view of human behavior. This means I am less inclined to believe in inherent human dispositions as opposed to critical situations and environments providing behavioral pressures. More on this later. Panic and wild disorder seem to be logical responses in natural disasters, given the inherent drive to survive in a situation where there is little to expect from others. However, Amanda Ripley, writing for TIME Magazine on surviving human disasters posits:
Contrary to popular expectations, this is what happens in many disasters. Crowds generally become quiet and docile. Panic is rare.
If panic is widespread, it is very easy to write (off) humans as villains. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 would then have a character(s) vs. characters kind of conflict as opposed to an internal one related to loss. It would be a very different show. While I won’t say it would become a superior or inferior show than the one we have, I would say that it wouldn’t be any more realistic. What is the advantage (in terms of narrative) of not having human villainy provide the conflict in the story? I recall an exchange I had with a reader who was in China during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008: Scrambled Eggs notes (excerpt):
The absence of malice from survivors or government makes it possible for them to empathize with others. In a more hostile environment, such feelings would likely be replaced with wariness and suspicion.
So yes, it’s also realistic the way the people of Tokyo behaved in the face of disaster. It’s also what made such an intimate story possible. But why talk about this now? Am I really that interested to change people’s minds (those who dropped this show, or disliked this show)? Maybe. But I suppose I’m rather raw about the whole business given that as of this writing I’m dealing with the aftermath of our own disaster.
Saturday, 9/26/2009: In a span of 6 hours, 334 millimeters of rainfall hit Metro Manila and large parts of Luzon island in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). Epic flood is caused by record rainfall. I and my family are okay, which should be obvious since I’ve had the opportunity to reflect and write this post. We got away with just having the ground floor of our house rendered uninhabitable for a while. However, many are still in need and in trouble.
Here’s a video of my home town: Sampaloc, Manila getting hammered by the rain:
More videos [->]
Here I note that there is no wild hysteria, no panic, and no systemic behavioral breakdown due to the disaster. Instead, a lot of helping hands and passed messages of concern and support.
A thin slice of twitter as of September 28, 5:45 AM (+8; Manila, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong)
RT: @jimparedes: To enter Marikina, say you’re bringing food or helping out in relief effort or they will turn you away. (As of tonite). about 7 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @nevitsky: RT @ageofbrillig: NBN: Text 0919-5841252 to report overpricing merchants & other exploitative business practices. #fb about 8 hours ago from Echofon
RT @redcross143 For more information, you can contact us at 527-0000 or dial 143 #ondoy #manilaflood about 8 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @ateneodemanilau: #Ondoy: Please help. David Sumulong hasn’t received any word about his family in Ortigas. They… http://bit.ly/15MQWL about 8 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @ateneodemanilau: #Ondoy: Danella [Publico] is at #183 Capetown st. Greenpark Village, Pasig. She’s w/ Rochele… http://bit.ly/Ulndh about 8 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @nevitsky: Let’s all pray that Pepeng, the next typhoon will change course and dedmahin na lang ang Pinas. Please. #fb about 8 hours ago from Echofon What a horrible way to go.
RT: @TeamPilipinas: #pba Barako Bull manager among casualties of ‘Ondoy’ http://bit.ly/xTVdG RIP about 8 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @miriamq: CARMINA VILLAROEL needs HELP! stuck in her home in Parkwood Village Pasig, flooded still & her son Mavi is sick!! @gmanewstv about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @biancagrey: PAG-ASA reports next typhoon (Peping) is 3 days away. Please prepare but let’s continue to help those who are in need now. about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @miriamq: NEED RESCUE-CALL LYDIA RAGASA 09178140655-> CHOPPER FROM PETRON AND SMC. It works! pls
RT. @chie2287 about 9 hours ago from Echofon RT: @miriamq: New interactive map of most urgent cases needing rescue. Feel free to share. http://bit.ly/474A9z about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @miriamq: Kapuso helpline for pledges/donations @ 9811950 to 9811959.GMA Kapuso foundation is now accepting your donations.Pls help. about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @piamagalona: To text Globe FREE just text: FREE <0917xxxxxxx> <message> send to 2625. Recipient will pay for d msg. pls pas about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @miriamq: MAKATI DROP OFF: 5729 Calasanz St., Olympia Makati City or call for pick up at 501-7405 or 729-0530 c/o Omel Santos about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @NixNolledo: Donate to victims of Ondoy via creditcard. Go to myayala.com/sjph & write “xs4ondoy” after “I would like to donate to” about 9 hours ago from Echofon
RT: @mikeecj: Sta Lucia,Pasig water still 9 ft hi. Some residents hit are in difft areas of Sta Lucia, but we can’t get to them fr outside. about 10 hours ago from Echofon
You’ll notice that all of those are re-tweets, meaning messages are being passed along. This is the same country that ousted a corrupt regime in 2001 in part by assembling hundreds of thousands of people in protest via viral text messages. I can also assure you that we are third world, we are nowhere near Japan or the United States (or even China) in terms of quality of life, quality of infrastructure, and response capability of government.
The first example above is regarding Marikina City, one of the most hardest hit, right beside ours (Pasig) where there are still submerged parts as well. As of that message, there were so many trying to give assistance, combined with the conditions in the city preventing safe access, people who wanted to provide assistance had to be turned away for their own safety.
The helpful and caring Japanese people depicted in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 have more than just mere basis in reality. We can be like that too and it’s happening right now; pulling for each other, bringing people together to be of assistance, here in the flooded streets of the third world.
Contingent (Situational) and Dispositional behaviors, experiments on anime characters [->]
The day after, and the trail of destruction [->]
CCN report updated 1 hour ago as of this writing [->]
Verified relief centers for ‘Ondoy’ victims [->]
Soldier saves 20 lives before drowning himself [->]