The media have been filled with both astonishment and admiration for the way the Japanese have avoided looting and criminality in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last week. As I wrote to one reader though, the same collectivism that allows a people to rise from the ashes of nuclear war and build the world’s second largest economy in 60 years, is a double-edged sword, tainted by often blind obedience to authority (usually disguised as “respect”), and a loss of individuality. It is the same frame of mind that leads to Kamikaze, Hara-kiri, and, among fanatical religions (a form of collectivism), to modern-day suicide bombers.

I was reminded of this last night, watching a documentary that explored the question of how the only nation to suffer a nuclear holocaust could possibly embrace nuclear power so overwhelmingly, while living on one of the world’s largest and most active fault-lines. The “person-in-the-street” interviews were particularly enlightening, with the most common answer to this question being: “They told us it was absolutely safe”. What kind of Borg-like mentality does it take to believe politicians and power company executives? That is the real question.

With cultures, as with individuals, every good trait will have its downside.