Survival of the friendliest

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Survival of the friendliest

The author is head of the Today-People News team at the JoongAng Ilbo.

The appearance of “mugwort grandma” at Exit 8 of Sinchon Station is a sign of spring. She sets up a sales stand with mugwort and other spring greens and herbs. They are different in shape and taste from the “managed” herbs neatly packed in plastic containers found in supermarkets. Fresh and rich in flavor, soybean soup with those herbs marks the perfect beginning of spring.

I don’t know her name, but I call her “spring grandma.” Her iron rule is that she only takes cash. Her reasoning is not to evade tax or maximize profit. I once tried to make a wire transfer, but she said, “I don’t know those complicated things.” Her argument is, “I am only comfortable with cash.”

How does she go home with so much stuff? She may be really rich, with a sedan with a chauffeur. However, she can’t ride some buses even if she wants to, as “cashless buses,” or buses that only take transportation cards, are increasing. After eight trial routes began operations last October, Seoul started to expand its cashless bus operation from January. If you don’t have cash, you can make a wire transfer. But people like spring grandma won’t be happy about this.

Of course, there certainly are merits as giving passengers change for cash may interfere with safe bus operation, and some passengers could try to pay less. But what about people like spring grandma? They are very few, but they are still members of society. Isn’t it a kind of negligence to ignore a minority’s situation to maximize the convenience and efficiency for the majority?

The Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD) is staging controversial rush-hour protests. Lee Jun-seok, who will head the ruling party from May 10, called it “uncivilized and illegal protests,” but the environment given to the people with disabilities is far from civilized. No one welcome protests on the way to work. But Lee and our society may have forgotten the courtesy of considering why these people had to resort to these means in the first place.

Evolutionary anthropologists Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods chose to title their book “Survival of the Friendliest,” not “survival of the fittest.” The book explains the power of friendliness in saving humanity, with specific and various examples. Is it a luxury to have the friendliness to think about why people with disabilities are protesting, before you gush out criticism about the rush-hour protests? I hope things improve before spring grandma appears at Exit 8 of Sinchon Station. April 20 is the Day of Persons with Disabilities.
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