Friday, February 22, 2019

Media Literacy

Everyone has a natural right to defend themselves, be it life, liberty or property. This is part of our code of law: preventing an unlawful infringement of one's own or another person's interest shall not be punished if there is a good reason. So begins an article in the Believer's Column by a one time newspaper man in the Catholic Times. 

Consequently, even if one is convicted of a felony one is given a chance to defend oneself. Also, when a child does something wrong the adult should give the child a chance to give their reasons.

What about the press? As is well known, 'surveillance and criticism' is an important function of the press. In the meantime, media criticism of public and public issues is almost unlimited. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the Constitution restricts freedom of speech when it dishonors the rights of others,  public morals or social ethics. Accordingly, one has the right to claim reparation and compensation if they feel they have been wronged.

Journalism has some limitations on criticism. When a news story contains criticism or misrepresentation about an individual or an organization, it is necessary to give those criticized the opportunity to clarify and respond to the contents. For this reason, media, which can criticize almost unlimitedly against public officials, are often subject to ethical sanctions because they do not give the parties an opportunity to explain.

The Korean Newspaper Ethics Committee issued a caution against an article last year on one of these issues. There are so many reports that criticize unilaterally without giving the ones criticized a chance to explain. This means that we are in most cases left with the reporting of the newspapers and the media; the rights of the parties criticized are ignored. If you have been criticized unilaterally from the media, you can ask the Media Arbitration Commission for corrections of the reports.

It's a basic human rights issue when a person or organization is criticized and does not have the opportunity to speak in their defense. Some might say that it is not fake news because the facts have not been manipulated. But the writer thinks that this "non-truth news" which cannot be real news and should be included in the fake news category. This is because the basic principles of journalism, namely accuracy, objectivity, and fairness, are not being met adequately.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hate Speech in Society

We are living in an in a hate-filled society which the recent newly coined words bear witness—words that demean others in society.  The head of a  research center concerned with changes in social mental states writes in the Kyeongyang magazine on what he sees happening in society.

What are we talking about with this hatefulness he sees in society? It's a feeling of disgust which one feels coming into contact with certain things or people that triggers a revulsion. It's a concern with the emotional revulsion and not with the rational part of our makeup, consequently one has difficulty reasoning with the feelings experienced. We are dealing with subjective feelings and not with intellectual opinions that come from our reasoning, right or wrong.

Some people who hear the words ox blood soup, the saliva begins to flow and others a feeling of queasiness in the stomach.  Which shows we are dealing with a subjective matter. When we have this situation and face it with an open mind and understand it as a personal subjective feeling there is no social problem. When this is not the case and express this hatefulness both in words and actions, hatefulness spreads in society, now especially on the internet that becomes a serious threat to society.

Why is this the case in our present society?  We have always had a situation where subjective feelings of likes and dislikes were experienced with objects and people but it was managed with our ethical codes of conduct. However, recently we have come to the understanding that we have the right to express our hateful feelings.

Democratic education considers important our individual rights and the expression of these rights: in government, in department stores with the customers and salespersons, restaurants, apartment buildings with the security persons. We have many rolls and postions in society but the reason for the problems are all pretty much the same. Our rights are primary; we forget the obligation to respect the other and our place in  community.

No blame on the democratic education received but our place in community is forgotten and the individual becomes primary. We see this in the dramas, movies, novels, not only in Korea.  In the United States coming into the 21st century, we see Sex and the City as the dramas that are popular. The community is not as important as the individual and their tastes. What in the past was considered selfish by society today is a natural right and this is now seen worldwide. Jean Twenge has written a book Narcissism Epidemic which she considers spreading wildly. 

He sees the cure for this in three ways. We first need to change our perspective. It's not to change our tastes of what we like or dislike for that is a natural outcome of being human but rather wanting it excessively to become part of society. Because we don't like ox blood soup, we don't want everybody to do the same. Secondly, is to examine ourselves. Because someone was hateful to me doesn't mean I should return that hate.  Opposed for opposition sake tells us who we are. Thirdly, efforts to have an open mind, magnanimous. Even though we feel disgusted and hatefulness emotionally,  it does not become a social problem. As believers, we should be open to embracing all in society absent the hate speech that is so common.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Small Thrills Present in Our Daily LIfe

In one of the diocesan bulletins, a college professor recalls his days as a child and the joy he had in finding the items in the picture puzzles that appeared in the newspapers and magazines. They were like any ordinary pictures at first glance but you were told to find the items hidden: animals, people, household goods and the like.

For most to find all the different hidden objects without any hints would be difficult.  Even after looking closely at the pictures tens of times, without the words: apple, boots, umbrella, cat, grandmother... as helpful indicators one would give up easily. Once he knew what to look for, the hints made the task easy. One after another, the items began to appear.

The writer moves from the picture puzzle to our own lives and the big picture that comes to us daily. He wonders if our lives are not in some way similar to the picture puzzles he remembers as a child. We have little thrills hidden away in our daily lives which we do not see because of our busyness.

Without any clues, every new day will be seen as a rehash of yesterday. The thrill we should have of a whole new day with all its possibilities passes us by. We need to be like the child looking for the many new things that we have missed in the past.

God has given us many clues to live each day to the full. Not only in pictures to the eye but also words to the ear and the non-verbal we need to unravel with our senses all working together.

We should be able to see and hear much more than we are accustomed if we were cognizant that it was there to be apprehended. Much more can be seen than what the eyes can behold; much more to be heard than what the ears can hear. Our spiritual eyes and ears permit us to see and hear not only with our external senses but with the inner eye and ear.

Each day is a new day filled with all kinds of possibilities of seeing the uncommon in the common the extraordinary in the ordinary. We miss so much because of the limits we have imposed on our senses, the lack of expectations and oblivious to the presence of grace.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Place of Endurance in Happiness

Happiness has been the goal of life for many generations.  Psychiatrists and psychologists of course, and also popular novelists, scientists of the mind, in their own way repeat this teaching. So begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine on the virtue of patience by a psychiatrist. He looks at the Korean culture and comes to some interesting conclusions on happiness.

On the bestseller lists are a great many books with the psychology of happiness included in the subject matter. Religion also has this as a subject. Even sermons treat the subject psychologically, flavored at the end with some Scriptural quotes.

We all want to be happy. Is this not our true self? Consequently, we have to have it at all costs.The world's thinking is that you have to be happy to succeed and not happy because you succeeded. So the efforts to smile at our pain and failures to cover over our unhappiness. It's like spitting out food that we don't like. We have an obsession to find happiness

Patience in the past was an important virtue. Happiness until recently was not mentioned that often. It was rather something that happened when one received an unexpected good fortune. But recently the sphere has greatly expanded: bodily pleasure, mental joy, respect in society, financial security, relief from pain,  all clumsily wrapped up into one.

In the past patience was considered necessary to endure the difficulties of life. This was like bitter medicine we had to swallow. The medical profession unless it was some very serious mental problem did not think small unhappinesses were a matter for medical concern, but temperance and patience were in order.

This was true in the religious world also. Confessing our sins, self-denial, prayer, meditation were necessary to find answers to our problems. One was expected to refrain from many of the pleasures of life, since difficulties were part of life. We did not desire excessive recognition by the world or material wealth. Happiness was not the goal of life but rather often considered a temptation.

The psychology of happiness now becomes center stage as a new industry. We are much better off than our ancestors, securer, freer, but also a greater thirst for happiness—we want more comfort, wealth, and freedom.

Clergy who recommend patience are not popular. Since demand requires supply— are not religious organization now the agencies that supply happiness?

In Korea we have the new word heard often: YOLO the abbreviation for You Only Live Once so eat and be merry.  St. Paul said the same thing in I Cor. 15:32: "But if the dead are not raised to life, then, as the saying goes: Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we will die." He also in Rom. 5:3-4: "We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God's approval, and his approval creates hope."

Happiness for a Christian is not an object of search, a pursuit, it's a by-product of a well-lived life the results of living the life of virtue.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Chaos And Religious Belief

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep...." These are the first words of Genesis. 

An article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a computer scientist gives the readers an understanding of Chaos. Originally coming from the Greek word abyss and emptiness. God gave the order to this Chaos and we have the Cosmos.

A new meaning was given to Chaos in the 20th century. Sir  James Lighthill who held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the Cambridge University in England at the 300th anniversary of Newton's Principia said that the scientists need to apologize to Newton for misunderstanding the Newtonian laws of motion as if all was predictable.

Chaos Theory is the science of unpredictability. Traditional science dealth with predictable phenomena, however, from the 1960s, Chaos Theory, the nonlinear things are impossible to predict or control.

St. Thomas said in arguing for the existence of God, the movement we see around us was his first proof. Anything that moves must be moved by another. But we cannot have an infinite retrogression of movers, so we come to the something that is not moved, the  Unmoved Mover which accounts for all the other movement in the universe. This we understand as God. The writer says Thomas' argument is solid but he would like to insert the word change for motion.

The force that moves material bodies is measured by the science of kinetics which explains the movement of the heavenly bodies. The French astronomer Laplace, an extreme determinist was asked by Napoleon then the emperor of France: why didn't he include God in his book on the heavens. His answer was there was no need for that hypothesis. Showing he was a Deist or atheist.

Contrary to those who believe in a personal God and the Creator of the universe we have the Deists who may believe in God who started everything but is not involved in the world. They deny a personal God and the atheist, the very idea of God is denied. In today's world of science like Einstein and Laplace, we have a great number who are Deists or atheists. 

After Newton physicists were sure that they could predict the movement of the heavens. The writer mentions the three body problem—measuring the paths of three bodies in their gravitational interaction—Celebrating his 60th birthday the King of Sweden offered a prize to anyone who would solve the problem. Henri PoincarĂ© did not solve the problem but did receive the prize.

Edward Norton Lorenz an American meteorologist in 1961 working with three weather variables: temperature, atmospheric pressure, and wind velocity and how they relate with one another made a numerical equation to determine their interaction. Briefly, his results are what we call the Butterfly effect. Beginning systems are so sensitive to conditions, results are impossible to predict. The popular expression of this is a butterfly in Mexico could be the cause of a storm in China.

He finishes the article by asking how do we avoid chaos in our lives. His answer is living with the thought that we live, breathe and have our being in God. We have to take time out to meditate. He remembers hearing about John Calvin's belief in predestination as a child, and was appalled by it and was happy to hear about quantum physics and was attracted to its teaching. He ends with the future is not determined and even what is determined cannot be predicted. We need to examine our present surroundings and make our future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Helping Children Develop a Love of Books

What a great good if the church had a  habit of reading books to young children. Writing in the Catholic Times a pastor introduces the readers to the Bookstart movement—starting off children in the habit of reading. (Bookstart movement provides free picture books to infants who are less than one year old. The movement began in England and Korea has begun doing the same.)

In Seoul baptism is held twice a month on Saturday afternoon. The parents who bring their children are given instructions on the meaning of infant baptism and the education of the child in the faith and then an explanation of the picture books that are distributed and showing parents how to read the books to the child.

Education for parents and children is not only a baptismal event but also a monthly follow-up program after the children's Saturday Mass. Where there is no faith education for infants and young children, this educational program fills the gap from childhood baptism until the start of Sunday school.

Fortunately, the church has recently opened its eyes to faith education for infants and young children. In many parishes in the Seoul Diocese, the pre-baptism education has been practiced for several years. It teaches the meaning and importance of infant baptism and how to teach children in the faith. Although these attempts are common, the need for faith programs for infants and young children, always can be improved.

Until now, the church has done little in educating parents before baptism. Little has ever been attempted until the child enters school and the beginning of Sunday school. There is a real need for a variety of pastoral programs so that parents can take responsibility for their children's faith. Pope John Paul II's exhoratation On Catechesis In Our Time (1975) emphasized that "parental education should begin at a very young age" # 68. Infant and child education cannot be achieved without parent education.

The number of young children baptized each year aged 0 to 4 is decreasing year by year. 4-year-olds and under account for 4% of the total population, while only 1% of children under 4 years old are registered in the parish. The low infant baptism rate is due to the overall low fertility rate in society, and to the indifference to  religion of young parents. The parents' beliefs are such that they will not even take responsibility for their children's faith and opt for a free lifestyle influenced by the individualization of their faith life.

In a survey of marriage teachings, only half (55.1%) of the students answered that they would give infants baptism, and 38.6% answered that they plan to let their children decide. Given this recent situation, the church should be aware of the need for faith education for young parents and provide a realistic educational program proper to the times.

The 'Bookstart Movement" described above is a means of communicating with a child and a caregiver by reading and talking to their infant children with the help of books.

Apostle Paul reminded the readers of his letter that Timothy, one of his spiritual sons, inherited his faith through his mother and grandmother and became a good church worker (2 Timothy 1,1-8).

The church needs to provide a program for the infants and young children before they enter Sunday school. It can begin with infant baptism. The church's interest in teaching infants would make the continuance of the program into Sunday school and remedy the fear of the demise of the Sunday school program in the future.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Who Do We Blame?

Who is responsible for the burning Yongsan tower? So asks a lawyer writing in the Eye's of the Believer column in the Catholic Weekly. He recounts the prices of houses in some of the better areas of Seoul where they go over a million dollars. The prices in just a few years have gone up over double of what they were.

Just 10 years ago, on January 20, 2009, a tower burned on the rooftop of a Yongsan building. It was a hellish incident that has yet to heal. About 30 residents held a sit-in protest on the top of the building asking for a proper compensation after a decision to develop the area.

Five men from 50 to 70 years of age and one of the riot police officers died in the fire and many others were injured. The lawyer mentions the two legal issues at the trial. The first, when the riot police entered the building and came face to face with the squatters all admitted they did not see any of the squatters using Molotov cocktails. But at the trial, the prosecutors closed their eyes to this evidence, all the blame was given to the squatters.

Were the actions of the riot police justified? This was the second issue. It was later acknowledged that after they mobilized over two hundred riot police they fabricated the incident as city terror on the internet. In the beginning, all was quiet and questions where asked about the activity of the police. The evidence from an investigation mentioned that excessive force was used by the police. This was suppressed and hidden all the way to the final judgment.

The money that the companies made for the redevelopment of Yongsan was big money. Those who were displaced were the ones who developed the commercial area for decades and increased the value of the real estate and when the compensation came it was about 23 thousand dollars on the average for each householder or business. It was half of the price of the initial investment and a joke when it came to finding a place to begin again in an adjacent area.

The lawyer asks the prosecutor, the lawyers and all those in a similar circumstance: would they not have gone to the tower to demand their rights? Six people died in the tower. Those who survived were given prison terms of four or five years. Those who enforced the suppression were promoted. Last year, president Moon Jae-in's administration did pardon all those who were imprisoned.

Here is another case where the vested interests control what is done in society and with no surprises. We also do see small gains as in this case—after Yongsan, a revised decree on the demolition of a  building—the residents cannot be forcefully evicted in wintertime, at night or during bad weather.

The writer ends with an allusion to how many make money with their real estate holdings very easily without effort and those with little often lose overnight what they have worked for a lifetime to earn. And concludes by asking who are responsible for the hell that 'little people' have to experience in life as in the Yongsan incident?