[ANOTHER VIEW]Age doesn’t equal respect

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[ANOTHER VIEW]Age doesn’t equal respect

Respect is a critical element for a life with dignity. Living in a world where you feel there’s no one who deserves your respect can be torture in itself. Respecting both yourself and others should be the motivating power behind every human being. When you do not have respect for anything or anyone, at that very moment in your life you’re nothing but dead.
Both compliments and criticism from people who you do not hold any respect for will be nothing but noise in your ears and you’ll start to go numb, as there’s no development for you.
And respect should be something very precious, something that you can never buy with your money or family background. That concept of respect, however, sometimes comes with age in Korea, arguably from its Confucian culture.
As a Korean, I have all the due respect and love for my identity, yet age referencing and classification continue to frustrate me. I don’t think that the saying “the older you get, the wiser you become” holds true in every case. I’ve seen more than enough people who are older but far from being wise.
At the same time, there are myriad people who are younger and smarter than me. At my workplace, usually, it’s age, not years in a career that counts in deciding the tone of voice when using honorifics, which can be more than frustrating for those who have started their career early.
Which is why I look forward to my 30s, when no one will easily try to give me treatment that cannot be described as very respectful only because I’m younger than them.
In this sense, I cannot stand physically older people giving me when-I-was-your-age nonsense or if-I-was-your-age sham.
Among such shameless people who dare to say such nonsense only because they think they’re physically older, 99.9 percent of them believe in the strange equation that older is wiser, although they have never achieved that wisdom that supposedly comes with age.
As anyone with intelligence easily knows, age is indeed nothing but a number.
But this simple truth is so hard to find through example, as I found out on my way home in a taxi. I got in a deluxe taxi, which this plebeian writer hardly takes. However, the ride that night was very rough with the driver speeding up and breaking traffic laws. When I finally got out of the taxi with a dizzy head, I told the driver, “Please be considerate enough to consider your passengers’ feelings, especially since you’re a deluxe taxi driver.”
Then I was asked the last question I expected. “How old are you to dare to tell me what to do?” said the driver. In the Korean language ― where every tone and tense of speech is determined by age ― the taxi driver might have thought he had the right to ask how old I am. He even added, “I have a daughter of your age.”
The thing is, however, I’m not his daughter, and though I may be his daughter’s age, I’m his customer, paying my hard earned money for his reckless service.
This world is already full of things that are considered to be right but are not in fact right, and the simple truth that age is nothing but a number is one such example, or so it seems.


by Chun Su-jin
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