[OUTLOOK]Teach your children wellThe rally in front of Seoul City Hall on Oct. 4 was unique. As I entered the plaza with a sense of duty as a journalist, my first reaction was that of astonishment. “Could there ever have been such a rally before in the history of world?” I thought. Most of the participants were middle aged or older. Many were wearing military uniforms. A prayer was ringing out over the microphone. Soldiers, veterans and Christians; It was a curious gathering. If it had been a rally of only senior citizens, the slogans would mostly likely have been about raising pensions or adding geriatric medical conditions to health insurance. If it had been a rally of Christian groups only, it would have been about opposing abortion or demanding that religious education be allowed in schools.
However, there was not a single slogan of these kinds at the rally. Along with prayers pleading for God to save this country which is in a crisis, there were voices claiming that the abolition of the National Security Act was dangerous to national well-being, as well as opposing the revision of the private school law. Had there been an occasion in world history when senior citizens gathered in hundreds of thousands and expressed worries over the nation’s future like this? The people at the rally were not “reactionary nuts” or those with “vested rights.” They were common senior citizens and patriots. I felt a surge of anger. What made these people step forward, people who had worked hard all their lives and who had earned the right to enjoy a leisurely life after retirement? Who made these people come out into the streets? They were not asking for special treatment as senior citizens. They were there with the hope that this country be saved. They were there to plead that the economy they had worked all their lives to build not be destroyed.
Yet the people who should be listening to the senior citizens are not paying attention. On the contrary, they are sneering at them.
They are jeering at them as “a generation that will soon pass away” and “water that has already flowed by.” That is why it was so sad. There was determination in the eyes of the senior citizens. There were a firm resolution that they were not going to stand aside any longer. They were no longer the inactive senior citizens who had been publicly told by a politician before the legislative elections in April to “rest at home instead of coming out to vote.”
It is my hope that this country becomes a peaceful country where everyone helps one another. I hope it becomes a country where the next generation does not usurp the generation before and where tradition is passed on and accumulated. I hope it becomes a country where the retired generation looks on with pride at the new generation and the new generation looks up in respect at the older generation. Unfortunately, this country has already become divided. Someone has to heal this wound.
As only a parent can forgive the mistakes of a child, the older generation must take the new generation into its arms. If so, the means of group action must change. If senior citizens hold street rallies just because the younger generations hold candlelight vigils, it would only reflect badly on all of us.
Senior citizens have methods appropriate to senior citizens. Belated as it might be, they must teach the young people properly. If it is too late to teach those in their thirties, then they must teach those in their twenties or even elementary, middle and high school students. It might be that the older generation will only get to sow the seeds and never see the fruit. But it is not too late. The senior citizens should teach, but they must forgive the mistakes committed in ignorance or the minds gone bitter because of the hardships of reality. Is it not the virtue of old age that it gives a person a generous heart? The senior citizens must open their hearts first. They should not cling on to the past, saying, “It used to be different in our day.”
They must teach the youths about reality and history so that they are able to judge what is right and wrong. Someone has to step up and talk about dreams and visions. The world is big and there are many things to do. If our youths have fallen into chauvinistic nationalism, they must be taught open globalism. They must be taught practicality instead of ideology. If the youths are divided in hatred and hostility, the older generation must teach them tolerance. They must teach that society is not formed of ranks but that it is one community.
If the senior citizens are to do this, they must not become partisan. At their age, they are not going to run for the National Assembly or aim to be promoted to a high position, so they must teach true patriotism that transcends political differences. If they are sincere, the young people will be moved and open their hearts. Those who can give lectures can teach through lectures. Those who can write can do it through writing. Those who can support this with financial support in the background, do so. Nothing gets done by doing nothing.
I hope that the Monday before last becomes a day that leaves a mark on the modern history of this country. I hope it will be remembered as a day when senior citizens saved our country from a crisis brought on by internal strife at the beginning of the 21st century with youthful courage and wisdom.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk