Did Respect for Authority Save Lives in Japan Quake?

I noticed a curious phenomenon last week.

When the earthquake and tsunami were first detected in Japan, the Japanese people responded to the alarms respectfully and obediently. This probably prevented thousands of needless deaths.

This seems like a stark contrast to the general American attitude of individualism and questioning of authority. I have no hard data to back this up, but anecdotally, it seemed like a fair number of people opted to remain in their homes during Hurrican Katrina–perhaps more than emergency officials would have liked. I don’t know how many such residents died because of this, but it makes me wonder if they would have been better off obeying the evacuation instructions.

Another anecdote: when the tsunami hit Hawaii, some followed emergency procedures and some went surfing. I heard the same thing about California residents during a television news report too, though I haven’t been able to find any online articles to corroborate this.

To be fair, blind obedience isn’t always a good thing. If your leaders are incorrect or corrupt, blind obedience can lead to danger or death. The United States of America wouldn’t even exist if our forefathers hadn’t questioned the authority of England, for instance.

But in urgent emergency situations where time is short, blind obedience can mean safety and life. This is why we are taught to listen to emergency officials when there is a disaster. They are trained to know what is best for us. Our chances for survival are much better if we respect and follow their instructions.

Assuming they are correct, of course.

What do you think? Does this theory hold water? (No, that wasn’t a tsunami pun, but it totally could have been.)

[Photo credit: Wikipedia]

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About Mike

I'm an idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student. And what, you want to Internet-stalk me too? Why, sure.
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