Hurricanes and Typhoons – The Differences Between Oriental and Occidental Thinking


America is the richest country in the world. I have no problem with people choosing to live in mobile homes, even in hurricane alley. But people should live with the consequences of their choices. Americans are richer than people in Hong Kong, yet there are no mobile homes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is in the South China Sea, dead in the middle of “Typhoon Alley.” Almost every year typhoons hit Hong Kong. There are no flimsy houses or apartment buildings in Hong Kong because they would blow away. In order to have a safe and strong home, some poor people in Hong Kong must make many difficult sacrifices. They may not be able to afford a car, or afford to send their kids to school, or may not even be able to afford a pair of shoes for ten years while they save their money to buy a home. The poor people in Hong Kong may live without a home at all for years and work for years to save enough money to buy a home. Everybody has a choice. All people in the world’s richest country have many choices. The problem is that far too often they choose the path of least resistance because it is easy and if they fail there is a safety net.

There is a large disconnect between behavior and consequences in America. If you buy a mobile home in hurricane alley, you can expect relief if a disaster hits. Time and time again I see the aftermath interviews where the distraught victims of the storm vow to rebuild. Why? They love it there. Insurance (usually either government subsidized or mandated insurance) will pick up the tab. They will not rebuild to withstand hurricanes because construction costs would be too high. Also they would lose the natural beauty if their home looked like a bunker. If someone chooses to take the easy path so they can have what they want right now without suffering and sacrificing, then they should have to live with the consequences of their choices. In Hong Kong people realize that they will have to live with the consequences of their actions so they behave more responsibly and they make better choices when it comes to housing. Sometimes it takes them many years of saving, while four or five families live in a tiny cramped apartment with no privacy, but they must make the sacrifices so that they can have a safe home at some time in the future for the next generation. There is a big difference in character of people in America and Hong Kong.

The dearth of fire trucks in Asia.

I have never seen even one single fire truck in Hong Kong, Mainland China, or South Korea, yet few structures in these places burn down. Every town in America has a fire department and fire trucks. In spite of all the fire trucks and firefighters many buildings burn every year in America. Why the disparity? Wood is beautiful, natural, and easy to use in construction. Most Asians prefer construction materials that are less combustible than wood. Simply stated, Asian build using less combustible materials. Asians tend to be frugal and practical in most matters. They may spend a little more initially to use steel, rebar, concrete, and glass instead of wood but those materials go a long way in reducing fire hazards.

There are disastrous wildfires every year in America where many homes are burned. In the post disaster interviews, almost all the distraught victims of the wildfires pledge to rebuild, in the same location. Why not? Someone else will pick up the tab. It is beautiful there, and the price is right. In other words, it is easy. That sums it up. Americans like things easy.

If poor Asian nations can construct buildings that are not fire hazards, and will not blow away in storms, what can’t the richest nation on earth do it? The answer is that of course we can, but we do not want to. The fundamental difference is in the American character. Wood is beautiful, concrete and steel are ugly. Americans do not have to settle for ugly because we can afford what is beautiful, even if it is temporary. In addition to the beauty of wood, it is cheaper to build from wood and cheaper to live in a mobile home rather than a conventional home. Americans want things quickly. Where Chinese families may save to two or three generations to buy a home and make tremendous personal sacrifices to be able to afford a home, Americans do not like to make personal sacrifices.

Rewarding poor choices has become part of the American fabric and most Americans these days think it is a good thing. I disagree. If a person in America is a smart, hard working, honest tax-paying citizen, that person can expect little or no help from the government. If a person makes many bad choices in life, that person can expect substantial assistance from the government. Rewarding poor choices results in more people making poor choices. This results in changing the character of the people in time. Herbert Spencer put it more lucidly when he said:

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”– Herbert Spencer (English philosopher, 1820-1903)

Instead of heeding Spencer’s warnings, the new American motto seems to be: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may lose the gravy train.

Anybody should have the right to choose to buy a mobile home, or live in an easily combustible wooden house if they want to. However, the home owner should have to live with whatever consequences arise from that decision. If the home is blown away or burned down, that should serve as an example to others. What lesson did you learn from the Three Little Pigs fairy tale? I believe that everyone should have the right to build their houses from straw or sticks if they choose to do so. However, I do not believe that I should pick up the tab for them.

Americans have been shielded from the effects of folly for a couple of generations now. If you want to see what the future likely holds for us, see the Mike Judge film “Idiocracy.”


Source by Arthur Wyss

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