[FOUNTAIN]At the limitThe number of high-paying “extreme jobs” with grueling hours is increasing. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that 1.7 million Americans work at extreme jobs in all fields, including the legal profession, banking, business and the media. They work at least 60 hours a week at jobs that require traveling regularly; maintaining fast-paced, unpredictable schedules; and responding to client’s demands around the clock. In return, they are entrusted with high responsibilities and paid large salaries. The report indicated that workweeks increased by 16 hours compared to five years ago for 48 percent of the respondents. They attributed the excessive working hours to ambition and pressure, a culture impressed with high incomes and communication technology, which allows workers to stay in constant contact.
In short, they utilize every minute and second, working at extremes for nearly 24 hours a day. People demand extreme entertainment and leisure, a prime example being extreme sports, which has surfaced as a cultural code for young people. They display their prowess in the face of life-threatening situations. Modern movies that stress speed fit into this mold and these kinds of movies are flooding the market.
The break dancing performed by B-boys (break-boys), which has become a new type of cultural product, is an extreme form of dancing. The performers hover over the boundaries of dance and acrobatics. Frequent injuries are a badge of honor. Bending their joints and contorting their bodies, they perform extreme moves that defy gravity. The terminology is combative, as well; they engage in “B-boy battles,” not dance competitions.
Recently, a magazine coined the term “extreme comedy” for the type like the popular show “Mappaki.” On this program, extreme methods are used ― the comedians torment themselves by slapping their foreheads until they collapse or run out into the streets to perform bizarre acts.
“Extreme” has become the keynote of modern culture. It caters to the material, speed and unlimited competition modern capitalism demands. David Shenk, the author of “Data Smog,” related extremism in the media to an explosion of information. This information overload suggests competing media progressively go to extremes to grab the attention of viewers. Citing how Koreans are easily excitable and extreme in all facets of their lives, Professor Kang Joon-mann diagnosed Korea as being the “Extreme Republic.”
Korean politics cannot be excluded from this discussion of extremes.
*The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sung-hee