It's one of those stories that can restore your faith in human nature.
180 pensioners aged between 54 and 78 - many of them skilled engineers and construction workers - have volunteered to work on the clear-up at the Fukushima nuclear plant though a website set up by 72-year-old retired engineer Yasuteru Yamada.
'Our generation, who has, consciously or unconsciously, approved the construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants and enjoyed the benefits of the vast supply of energy ... should be the first to join the Skilled Veteran Corps.'
With impeccable logic, he explains that older people should have priority working in these dangerous conditions; 'Young people with a long future should not have to be placed in a position of having to undertake such a task. Radiation exposure of the generation that will reproduce the next generation should be avoided.'
Now ask yourself what the reaction to this situation would be in Britain. I have no doubt that there are many retired engineers out there who would be equally selfless - I know some who, I am certain, would volunteer immediately - but what of the system, and the country in general?
And after all, if your doctor has carte blanche to stop you smoking/drinking/eating yourself to death, how would the NHS react to a bunch of citizens willingly entering a life-threatening situation despite their retired status?
In the aftermath of the tsunami, Pavlov's Cat commented acerbically on foreign astonishment at the lack of looting in Japan, and gave his reason:
'Because it simply doesn’t occur to them to take stuff that does not belong to them. The sense of community and personal honour will not even contemplate such a thing.'
We have become so accustomed to petty crime that it has become the default setting; anything you don't lock up is fair game to predatory thieves. Ironically for a nominally Judao-Christian culture - Thou Shalt Not Steal - respect for property has become something exotic to be wondered at.
I suspect the honourable and selfless action of these men and women will, in some quarters at least, generate similar levels of astonishment and incomprehension - the Mail dubbing the volunteers 'the Saga suicide squad' isn't going to help - but I, and I hope most right-minded people, have nothing but admiration for them.
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