Keep your hat on, but raise your voice

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Keep your hat on, but raise your voice

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When someone is very upset and throws a fit, Koreans say “the hair stood up with fury.” The expression comes from a very clever story. The original idiom was “hair standing up in anger and pushing off one’s hat.”

In the Warring States Period in ancient China, King Hui Wen of Zhao secured a very precious piece of jade. When King Zhou of neighboring power Qin heard about the jewel, he suggested a trade - the jade for 15 provinces. King Hui Wen was convinced by the offer and sent his minister Lin Xiangru with the treasure. However, King Zhou threatened the minister and tried to take the jewel without giving the promised provinces. Lin was so angry at the rude and unreasonable treatment that his hair stood up on his head and lifted up his hat.

If you visualize the hair rising up to lift the hat, you can understand the magnitude of his fury. Who came up with such a clever and insightful expression?

It was the great historian Sima Qian. The phrase has changed to “the hair stood up with fury” as we no longer practice the custom of wearing a hat. At the same time, it may reflect the superficial and impatient tendency of the contemporary generations. Once we get angry, we cannot control our feelings.

However, venting is not necessarily undesirable. As we live in the period of social media, we have the perfect channel to vent and express our feelings. American newsmagazine Time chose “the protestor” as its Person of the Year. The impetus for protests and demonstrations is anger. Personal anger is shared through the social media and grows into large-scale protests.

As these personal feelings of anger are shared publicly, a new era opens up. A revolution that could not be accomplished through voting was made possible through protests. The world witnessed the power of collective anger not only during the Arab Spring, but in Wall Street, Moscow and Athens as well.

“For steering the planet on a more democratic, though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is Time’s 2011 Person of the Year,” the magazine said.

In other words, anger may be able to change the world, but it always involves a risk of causing fatal outcomes. Therefore, we need to become wiser in order to save ourselves from fatal regrets. Before anger arrives at the destination called hatred, it should pass by the station named composure.

The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom
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