Why I’ve not thought about fleeing Tokyo
People leave or exit, argues Albert Hirschman in his masterpiece “Exit, Voice and Loyalty”, when organization malfunctions and loses the people’s loyalty, aka faith. Recent mass exodus of the non-Japanese is a rational choice, given the confusing reports and the lack of political leadership. Many Tokyoites leave, too, not only because of their fear but also because their disbelief in government capability in crisis management.
Japanese is famous for their strength on the ground, from workplace to everywhere. This time is no exception. There is a few lootings but very few. People calmly walk back home in dark Tokyo night. People’s power remains even though electric power is short. The earthquake itself does not make people leave. The fear of nuclear crisis and the lack of political leadership let people go.
I would argue this dichotomy of political leadership vs. people on the ground is less productive in this crisis. There is one more dimension. In times of crisis, political leadership has to deal with “unknown unknown”, an unpredictable and improbable event. And, people on the ground have to solve “known known” day by day. But, ultimately, the success of crisis management rests on how you can handle “known unknown”. In this crisis, this “known unknown” is crucial, the probability of nuclear disaster. Who will handle “known unknown”? It’s the middle management’s role.
We know who the political leaders are. So far, the government spokesman, Mr. Edano, runs his show through a series of press conferences. At best, they’ve been mediocre. It’s a pity that we really don’t know who the Fukushima-50 is. Being Japanese, however, they must be dedicated and superb on the ground. No question about it. So, I wonder how the middle management has handled the levers.
I would argue the quality of the middle management is the fundamental element in the solution of the nuclear crisis. If the middle management is not handling the crisis reasonably, the uncertainty increases. I cannot stand the situation, and I really should think about fleeing. But, where can you find the traces of the middle management? Japanese media has been quiet about this.
I would claim that you can read how they are reasonable from the various radioactivity reports on the Fukushima nuclear electric generators. Looking through the reports, I could visualize how they think, check, and believe. The data shows the middle management has acted reasonably since March 17th. We don’t know for sure we’ll prevail. It’s a battle against “known unknown” after all. But, the middle management has almost converted uncertainty into risk. That is why I have not thought about fleeing Tokyo.
Just in case you want to follow how I reached this tentative conclusion, you have to read my memo titled “The Crucial Three Days” in Japanese. I’m sorry that it’s messy.