[Letter to the editor]The impulse to reach outEither in our personal lives or on a national level, there seems to be a tendency to collaborate, cooperate and genuinely bond with your community after a catastrophic event or earth-shaking news. The [responses to] recent egregious kidnappings in Afghanistan fit aptly into this assumption. Foreigners, Muslims in particular, were seen hand-in-hand with Koreans, praying to their respective spiritual authorities for a swift and peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
For some reason, individuals are more likely to forget about personal differences ― such as race, religion or ethnic identification, when a shared sense of casualty and despair is present.
There are countless examples of this. After 9/11, New Yorkers put aside their disenchantment with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and embraced him, as did the rest of America, as a hero in the midst of turmoil. After the devastating Asian tsunami in 2004, an historic agreement was penned between Banda Ache separatist rebels and the government of Indonesia. Notwithstanding years of bloodshed, the citizens of Indonesia decided to put the interests of rebuilding and restoration above rifts in political governance.
Although individuals deserve applause for reconciling political and seemingly trivial differences, the questions remain: Must there be a crisis, a shattering event to prod global citizens to focus on commonalities instead of divergences? In other words, can people only reconcile when confronted with mutual threat or disaster?
The answer, in my opinion, is dispiritingly yes. It is an appalling and deplorable fact of life that people in all countries are inclined to disagree instead of working toward a common objective.
Perhaps it is ingrained in a hyper-capitalist system based on intense competition. Or perhaps it is a natural outgrowth of the world moving closer to a liberalized, individual-centered way of life.
Whatever the explanation, I hope that one day, people around the world, both within and between nations, can permanently set aside unnecessary and provocative arrogance to achieve a higher moral objective.
Dennis Yang, an English teacher at Gimhae Foreign Language High School