[OUTLOOK]Society is woefully out of gearWhen I went to Gangreung some time ago, I ate a bowl of chodanggol sundubu, or soft bean curd stew, with gusto, for the first time. For sundubu to be tasty, it is often said, beans should be ground on a millstone, not by an electric grinder. The millstone works when the upper and lower stones are in gear. A device that puts the upper and lower stones in place is called a pivot. If there is no pivot, the millstone gets out of gear and cannot function properly.
Our society is like a millstone spinning out of gear, one without a pivot. The past is the lower stone and the future is the upper stone. What could be ground when the upper stone of the future works alone after replacing the lower stone of the past, calling it dirty?
The president’s inauguration pledge to make Korea the economic hub of Northeast Asia has been dealt a setback through the Uri Party’s fumbling with the Pandora’s box of the past. As Yale professor Paul Kennedy said, we are in a situation where a small animal called Korea would be lucky if it is not crushed by four big elephants.
If the older generation is the lower stone, the younger generation is the upper stone. These days, the older generation often says indignantly, “Young guys should go through really hard times to wake up.” In other words, once they are ruined completely, they will come to know how much they are indebted to their parents’ generation and know that the world is a fearful place.
So when older people gather together, they say that in order to avoid the miserable plight of being ignored by their children’s generation, they should keep their money and house to the end and not sell their land. This means the beginning of the “sad revolt” of the parents’ generation, or the older generation.
But this is the case with the haves only. The have-nots can be treated like cold rice or sour porridge. They can often be in a situation worse than that of pet dogs. Does this sound absurd? This is the reality.
Where are the pivots that supported the lower and upper stones of our society? Senior citizens who used to balance our society must have been one of those pivots. But almost all of those people have passed away. No, they were all killed.
Weren’t the senior citizens who commented on the current situation denounced and turned into the handmaidens of the military regime overnight? What is the use of saying more?
The remaining pivot is the president. But didn’t he voluntarily come forward to be the upper stone without the lower stone, not the pivot that connects the lower and upper stones? This may be why nothing is going well.
A book in Japan has sold 3.72 million copies since it was published last year. This book is “Wall of Foolishness” by Yoro Takeshi, professor emeritus at the medical department of Tokyo University. He says the human brain can cut off information that it does not want to know. In short, the brain has a selective perception that hears only what it wants to hear and sees only what it wants to see. As a result, a wall is built to block communication between people, and Yoro Takeshi called this wall the “wall of foolishness.”
Could it be because of the “wall of foolishness” that communication does not work in our society? Logic appears to be of no use. Without fail, this “wall of foolishness” interrupts without fail communication between things that spin free in every corner of our society. While the whole country has been busy building the “wall of foolishness,” the country seems to have become a fool. Isn’t this why our national competitive rating fell 11 points in a year?
Amid this turmoil, the governing party proposed the so-called four “greatest” revision bills that will remove the National Security Law, open the Pandora’s box of the past, torture private schools and tighten its grip on the critical media. This is to say that the party will spin only the upper stone of reform without the lower stone of stability.
As the country’s millstone gets out of gear, only the people are dying silently. The wind of “honorary retirement” is blowing again. The crime rate among people in their 40s, the backbone of the society, is increasing along with their suicide rate.
These days, it is said, spicy food sells well in the restaurants. Experts on taste attribute this to the recession. They say that as recession deepens, hot and spicy dishes become popular among those who want to relieve stress. Could this be the reason? In this country where everything falls apart, our people become fiercer and fiercer while repressing their intense stress with spicy food. No one can predict where these fierce people will end up.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong