Helping turtles get back on their feet

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Helping turtles get back on their feet

Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups still in existence. The earliest known turtle appeared around 225 million years ago. Turtles witnessed both the disappearance of dinosaurs and evolution of humans. Their remarkable survival is thanks to their shells. The only drawback: They lack speed.

The characteristics of turtles were interpreted in different ways in different times and in different regions. Early Christians saw turtles as a symbol of evil and darkness, focusing on the trait of hiding inside their shells. Later, for Calvinist Christians, turtles symbolized the ideal married life. They saw turtles as similar to “decent” women who seldom left their homes. Those in western Africa think of turtles as sly, probably because they can hide their heads.

In modern society, people usually associate turtles or tortoises with slowness. That is thanks largely to “The Tortoise and the Hare,” one of Aesop’s fables. In the story, the tortoise is slow but as he never stops or rests he can defeat the speedy hare who takes a nap. The moral of the fable is that if one makes a persistent effort, one can achieve one’s goal. But we feel nonetheless sorry for the tortoise that can win only when he struggles so hard, unlike the hare that has innate talent.

Today another image of turtles has popped out its head. This is the image of regular, ordinary people. The Korean movie “Running Turtle,” which is topping the local box offices these days, is about a policeman in the countryside who is chasing after an escaped prisoner.

The 2005 Japanese movie “Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu,” or “Turtles Swim Faster than Expected,” is about a housekeeper who unexpectedly becomes a spy. She obeys her order to wait while leading her quiet, anonymous life as an ordinary person. Thus her otherwise dull and uneventful life suddenly feels more exciting, even when grocery shopping. The movie’s message to viewers is that we should appreciate and value the joys of daily life that have mostly been forgotten in today’s hectic world.

But coming back to reality, it’s not that easy to enjoy everyday life. Statistics show that the gap between the rich and the poor in our country is the widest since 1990 when these statistics were first recorded. As the revision of the act on irregular workers is delayed, many people are expected to lose their jobs en masse in July. While politicians raise their voices in political, ideological debates, ordinary people are being left behind.

It is the politicians’ job to help and inspire turtles in our society to swim and run, or regain their hope and joy in life. This is politics for the people in the truest sense. What we really want is to hear a serious answer to the following question: What is the difference between progressivism and conservatism at this point?


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kwon Suk-chun [sckwon@joongang.co.kr]

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