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A Little Bit of Space Might Help
[ Issue 123 Page 10 ] Sunday, June 23, 2013, 22:57:18 Yoo Hee Kang yoohee1222@kaist.ac.kr

It could have well been a perfectly innocuous photo-time for Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, had it not been for the painful number “731” on the jet plane that brought back memories of Japan’s atrocities to many nations worldwide. The potential of Abe’s deliberate purpose to rejuvenate Japan’s pride by showing approval for Unit 731 cannot be excluded, taking from his past likings of utilizing numbers to depict his political stance. In this particular case, whether he has been aware of it or not, Abe has killed the victims of Unit 731 and their families twice for the sake of his pride. Such speculations could be regarded as plain prejudice, misinterpretation, or an overly emotional reaction; yet it cannot be denied that some people have been hurt by his thoughtless (or thoughtful in the most extreme sense) action.

The point is not to show rage against or scowl at his inconsiderate action, but rather pity that the world is full of silent weapons. It seems that we have adjusted to the world and our positions too well in a highly organized and intentional manner, despite the constantly changing surroundings, that we have lost a sense of who we are as a whole; at the moment, we are strictly categorized into many groups and the numerous subgroups within. Some categories overlap, and some do not. Sometimes, we think it is only “normal” for us to attack people who belong to other categories to better or justify our own categories. Consequently, it is perhaps only normal for us to find ourselves in times of confusion. Categorization by nations, aside from giving us a feeling of unity and safety, seems to hold a different meaning now. In the aforementioned case of Abe, it cannot be blamed that he set his country as his priority (though it turned out that his love for nationalism failed to prove itself), but there was no need to trade it with agony and defamation of others in doing so. Oddly enough, Abe ended up defaming himself and his country.

Victim mentality, self-pity, and too big of a pride seem to contribute to our offensive behavior. We happen to find ourselves in a constant and perhaps desperate need to continuously ridicule and criticize others to relieve anxiety, in the hopes of fulfilling our satisfaction and gaining a sense of security that we are on the right path. Though we think we know the cause of our actions and are thus quite sure of our actions, we often do not know the cause at all; they are often intuitive. Thus, the resulting actions easily bear the potential of hurting others and ourselves in the process. It is strange how we fail to doubt that we could be wrong about many things, and it is even stranger that many of us fail to recognize that we have also scarred others.

Looking back on Korean history, most of us reflect on the painful moments our nation went through, but tend to reflect less on the harms we put on other nations such as China and Vietnam. It could be partially due to our deeply embedded victim mentality as a nation. The fact that the majority of Korean history textbooks leave out the Manbo Mountain incident, where Korean peasants killed over 120 Chinese peasants in 1931, while emphasizing our suffering during the Japanese colonial era, depicts a carefully selected and biased history. Though our pride may not allow for admitting our wrongdoings (regardless of the fact many still argue that Japan is to be blamed for triggering the Manbo Mountain incident), the fact that we killed other humans cannot be justified. In times of confusion, instead of being driven by the pressure to react against whatever bothers us, it might be helpful to make a little bit of space between ourselves and the fast-paced world around us. A respectful space surely does no harm, as it can give us a space to breathe in the tightly packed and bustling world we are a part of. 

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