CHRYSANTHEMUM: JAPAN’S HUMAN FACE POST-CATASTROPHE


CHRYSANTHEMUM: JAPAN’S HUMAN FACE POST-CATASTROPHE

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the suburbs west of Manila!

Japan has begun to go back to normal life weeks after the catastrophe of quake-tsunami-nuke crash triad slammed Honshu and broke the hearts of Amaterasu’s scions. Amid the colossal maelstrom and seemingly ceaseless damages wrought, we observed the calm and sobriety displayed by the Japanese, a behavior that was exemplary to say the least.

We outsider-sympathizers were indubitably impressed, more so as nary a rampant looting was exhibited at all as the catastrophe was building up and damages kept on accumulating. Let me say this myself: kudos to you Japanese people for your calm and indomitable courage amidst deep troubles!

Let me call the aspect of Japanese behavior exhibited amid maelstroms as the ‘chrysanthemum complex’. By ‘complex’ we refer to the sociological term for an agglomeration of traits that would constitute a coherent behavior pattern. ‘Chrysanthemum’ is an excellent signifier for that exemplary side of the Japanese culture template that was responsible for the calm, absence of massive looting, cooperation, synergy.

The question is: do Japanese exhibit such behavior at all times, across diverse historic epochs? Or, is it a behavioral complex that had evolved across time, reinforced by a post-war pacifism that sedated the future generations to never again engage in demonic holocausts that the Emperor’s militaristic followers unleashed on Asians and Pacific islanders?

A follow up question is: can the ‘chrysanthemum complex’ be exhibited if the catastrophic events would happen on a relentless, sustained basis for a certain period of time? This question arises, as the latest catastrophe was only a short-term one, though there are still aftershocks past the Reichter 6 magnitude till these days.

Let me sum up the guide question as follows: is the ‘chrysanthemum complex’ a conjunctural manifestation (valid only during a very short-term crisis) or a historical complex (sustainable even under extreme collective duress or force majeure)? Conjunctural stresses on the ‘synchronicity’ principle behind the phenomenon, while historical stresses the ‘causality’ principle across a time continuum.

This is my own note for our fellow global citizens: let us not be over-conclusive about the ‘chrysanthemum complex’. Let us go on and express platitudes to the highest heavens, thanking the Japanese profusely for the exemplary behavior exhibited amid the catastrophe. But we can and should never be totally inferential to the point that we would regard the short-term behavior complex as a permanent one.

There is another facet to Japanese cultural complex, and I will treat this in another digest article. Meantime, like the rest of the global citizens, let me bask in the regenerative energies radiated to the planet by the ‘chrysanthemum complex’.

[Philippines, 02 April 2011]

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