Time to tell kids, ‘It’s not your fault’
When people say my wife and I look alike, I wonder if our faces change to resemble each other after spending such a long time together. We have been eating the same food and having the same experiences for 18 years.
Shared experience in a shared environment can make even total strangers more similar over time, an there is evidence of homogeneity everywhere. We see patterns in the shapes of drifting clouds and in the leaves of lettuce in a dinner-table salad. Infinitely repeated fractal structures make up nature and human societies. The individual self is a structure of small selves.
So when a problem arises in the structure as a whole, signs of the problem can be found in the individual parts, and vice versa. Similarly, we should understand that the problems our children are experiencing are directly related to the problems of society as a whole.
Living in the heart of an affluent Gangnam neighborhood, the competition among children, and hence their parents, begins in elementary school.
We have grown weary of trying to justify our actions to ourselves. “There’s no other option but to take part in the race in order to send the children to one of the top universities,” we say.
Under the Lee administration, the intensity of the competition has been elevating and children have adopted the combativeness that comes with competition. They cannot afford to think about the pains and emotions of the others.
Just as Han Byung-chul, philosopher and professor at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany, argued in his book “The Society of Fatigue,” everyone living in the self-displaying modern society has been consumed and become tired. There have to be students struggling academically even in the three districts in Gangnam, Suseong-gu in Daegu and Haeundae-gu in Busan.
When the success formula only works for those who get ahead, only a few children get to be happy and content. Therefore, some children become critical of themselves for failing to meet the expectation of the parents.
In the film “Good Will Hunting,” therapist Sean tells Will, a mathematics genius who was abused as a child, “It is not your fault,” over and over again. And his words stopped Will’s aggressiveness; he came out of his own closed space and walked out to the world.
Now, it is time for the parents’ generation to tell the children the same thing. We have confirmed problems in the children and the schools, so we shouldn’t ignore the problem of the society that has grown exhausted from competition.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kang Hong-jun