How sad are you about the capsizing of the Sewol ferry? Far too many seem to have taken the convenient and meaningless route to its mourning. During my visit to the public altars in Daejeon, I realized that on each page of the book filled with visitors’ personal messages consoling the victims, there was always someone saying how they are “sorry for not protecting you.” The social norm dictates that all should mourn for such tragedies, but the laziness to do anything meaningful, combined with the unconscious pressure, seems to have brought about a sad form of feigned activism with a greater negative impact than the perceivable shallowness.
The degree to which the media has responded to the issue, mostly by pointing fingers and spreading slogans, is unsettling. For the past few weeks, major news channels have been placing their focus more on the incapability of the government in disaster response and quoting highly disconcerting comments made by those involved rather than presenting informative reports on the current efforts being made. Meanwhile, on Facebook and KakaoTalk, people have been circulating small posts sending their regards and updating their profile pictures to ribbons on a yellow background. And most of those who participated in this ritual seem to have quenched their stirred emotions by raising their voices online and advocating the uprising against the government incompetence.
Unfortunately, the passive aggressive nature of involvement seems to be an inherent part of the current public’s mindset. Yoonhee Choi, a reporter for The Huffington Post Korea, keenly points out in her article issued on April 24 that many seem to be more preoccupied in presenting their virtual involvement with the issues rather than acting on the words. It is not the fault of the sole loudspeaker but the society’s immaturity in discouraging the personal expression for the love of status quo, which raises its members to be always only superficially engaged.
The detriment in such “slacktivism” is two-fold; first is its perpetuation, and second is the dilution of sincere interest. When one is given the choice between silence and action, many more would be willing to take action than when compared to when allowed moderate expression, where one can feign an interest by “liking” or “sharing” the powerful opinions of others and thereby acquire a false sense of accomplished duty. Misunderstand me not - the spreading of one’s view is definitely important, but without the appropriate follow-through, words are merely utterings of online warmongers. And when the echoes noise out the voice that lacks genuine participation, the average passion will naturally be diluted to momentary gossip.
Then back to the initial point, are the yellow ribbons and condolences appropriate? Maybe the superficial resonances are what allow for the provoking, empty news reports, the unacceptably sloppy response by the government sector, and ultimately the stagnation of the public response in the real world. An arguable point of view; people should either openly participate in or keep their silence so that those in open participation may be heard. We have in our hands likely a lasting tragedy, and what we need is the strongly motivated to lead the statements against those who had the power to respond without the people in vicinity showing a veneer of deep concern.
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