I woke up this morning to the news that yet another Korean celebrity had committed suicide. It's the third this year and another one in a long string of high-profile celebrities to take their own life here in a country that leads the world in the violent act. I discussed this with a few students this morning and the level of apathy was shocking. No one seemed to care. There's a level of exhaustion and complacency that has set in among the populace to where the self-destruction of a life just doesn't concern people any more.
Followers of Asian politics will also remember the recent North Korean attack on a South Korea ship where 46 South Korea sailors were killed. One would think that South Koreans would literally be up in arms about such an act and while many people were saddened, the act was quickly silenced by the South Korean political opposition party who sought to use this misery as a way to change the current hawkish North Korean policy to one that is much more dove-like. I have my own personal beliefs about how to handle North Korea and while I will never advocate the use of violence or war, I think this Korean liberal obsession with diplomacy has proved to be a failure in terms of reaching a peaceful agreement with North Korea.
South Koreans have excused a lot of violence from North Korea.
- Thousands of abductions
- Presidential Assassination Attempt (Second attempt video here)
- Numerous Invasions
- Countless naval skirmishes (many have been deadly)
- Murdered tourists
- Dozens of other border incidents
- Endless supply of spies
I could go into depth about why South Koreans excuse this violence and murder, but that's not the point. The point is that for some reason, people in this nation go to great lengths to rationalize some forms of violence. They will make excuses for child rape and tolerate domestic abuse if alcohol is involved, but the second an American solider is involved, violence becomes issue number one. Yet this is not unique to Korea. Americans tolerate violence on the Mexican border and look the other way as entire families are raped and murdered by greedy "Coyotes", but once an illegal immigrant breaks into an "American's" house, they scream murder.
Look at what happened in LA during the riots. Most Americans recall the police officers beating Rodney King and the subsequent looting, but the real story was happening in Koreatown where Korean shopkeepers were forced to fend for themselves from looters and rioters as the LAPD chose to ignore that ethnic enclave. It's inexcusable that that happened, but it makes sense since we live in a world where the law defines what is and isn't violent.
This afternoon, I walked on to my elementary school playground find two boys in a fight. I don't know what the cause of the fight was, but by the time I got there, both were bruised and bloody. Stopping the fight was simple and after a few moments of random charges at each other, I had both of them under control and following me to a Korean teacher for discipline. The female teacher looked at the boys, spoke to them for a moment and then sent them to the nurse. She laughed the fight off as a simple "boys will be boys" moment. This is a problem. Young humans engaging in violence should not be a rite of passage to adulthood.
People go out of their way to define violence through the lens of the law and culture. It's not clear whether they use its limits to excuse violent behavior or to allow for necessary force, but this tendency certainly affects how we measure appropriate responses to stimuli in our daily lives. Panning across the globe, one could easily witness varying degrees of tolerated violence. Some cultures allow a higher level of it while others shun the lions share. Either way, legalizing any form of violence rationalizes its use and once people start justifying it in that manner, legal limits are sure to be pushed.
Gun violence is the US is a serious problem that no one could deny. It has ruined lives, destroyed dreams and has even damaged our environment. Still, our current (and disgusting) guns laws have justified the use of guns in certain situations, yet defenders of the Second Amendment refuse to acknowledge that their laws are directly contributing to making America a dangerous nation. Rather, they glorify the use of them.
I personally have yet to find the purpose of guns. I don't need to hunt for my food, nor do I need to lethally defend myself. Violence seems to follow violence and since I have never committed a physically violent act in my life, I've steered clear of it. However, I define violence through the framework of American and Korean law. Einstein rightly said,
"We all hear things. Only our ears are shaped differently."My idea of violence will not work this month. To truly follow the Jain vow of Ahimsa (non-violence), I'm going to have to redefine my own parameters.
Nonviolence means allowing freedom to others, sanctioning liberty to all. To be full of wrath or anger is violence. In anger, one not only injures others, he/she hurts himself/herself too. Hurting the self or self-torture is also violence. Greed, temptations, possessiveness, exploitation and the like constitute violence.Jains believe the best gift we can give each other is the gift of safety and that violence is not the true nature of the soul. That makes sense. The body demands violence just as it seeks sex, greed, anger, jealousy, pride and worry. These passions are not passions of the soul, but of our bodies and are in direct conflict with what our souls needs. This conflict, Jains believe, make us hate ourselves. The only way we can break free is if we detach ourselves from the passions of the body.
This is hard for me to grasp even after my month of Buddhism. Buddhist also believed the body was merely a vehicle for the soul, but I have yet to be able to pull that off.
When you think about yourself, do you see an image or do you feel a soul?