Do you like alphabet soup?

News of the “miraculous” evacuation of all passengers and crew of the Japan Airlines aircraft which caught fire on the runway at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on 2 Jan 2024 are everywhere. Tragically, 5 of the 6 crew on board the Coast Guard aircraft perished in the incident. The Coast Guard aircraft was supposed to be delivering aid to people caught in a massive earthquake that hit Japan on New Year’s Day, which adds to the tragic nature of the accident. Investigations are of course ongoing.

Reading through the various news snippets, one thing that came through was the professionalism of the crew members of the Japan Airlines aircraft in displaying their proficiency in evacuation drills. It reminded me of how we in Singapore need to pay more than lip service to the fire drills we are supposed to be conducting every so often, according to extant regulations. That aside, I was struck by how the news reported on the “compliance” of all the passengers. I thought that the quality of obedience, one of which expressions was surely in being compliant with instructions given by air crew in an emergency such as they were in on 2 Jan 2024 could have been highlighted. The behaviour of Japanese sports fans when overseas has been put up as an example for others to emulate. Good behaviour, whether overseas or at home, has no doubt been a hallmark of Japanese culture. Culture of course is the flip side of the coin of religion, meaning what one actually believes in, which leads to manifest outward behaviour. That is different form espoused culture, which is written somewhere or even mouthed and talked about, but very seldom lived.

Which brings me to alphabet soup. I am referring of course to the propensity of many people to put strings of letters after their names, as if those strings of letters confer some sort of credibility to them. Alphabet soup is also used to describe ever-growing and ever-multiplying regulatory bodies across the globe. It is as though having a regulatory body called by its initials imparts some credential to that body. I thought idly whether, if we asked the air crew and the passengers of the Japan Airlines aircraft for their business cards or their personal calling cards, would we see all kinds of alphabet soup after their owners’ names? What if we could give them some alphabet soup ourselves? What would you append, after you had interviewed or gotten to know them better? What about the preschool children who were also evacuated to safety? Would they have personal calling cards with some form of preschool accolades as well?

This is what news like what we have been seeing the last few days brings to my mind. I would suggest that we not be so enamoured of alphabet soup on our business cards or calling cards, but rather have character qualities, their definitions and how our behaviours cause others to append those character qualities to our names in our business or calling cards. We could use the character quality definitions found in the 49 character quality definitions by CharacterFirst! or the six used by the Josephson’s “Six Pillars of Character” or even the ten MAXIMIZERS by Dr Ron Jenson, and there are surely countless others. Perhaps even make one up using words like “CITIZEN” or others, for example.

So. You like alphabet soup? Would you like to sup on some alphabet soup with me? You’re welcome!

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