Sunday, May 4, 2014

Seeing the Whole and Not Only the Parts

Writing or speaking about a tragedy is always done with difficulty. The columnist of the  Peace Weekly reminds us of this fact in his article on the Sewol ferry tragedy. No one can give an objective  account of what happened. Human it is to avoid talking about such disasters but because of the seriousness of the events, it cannot be overlooked. This is the dilemma that a writer has to deal with. He prays for all those who  have died and are missing and for their families. Many of those writing or speaking about the tragedy have to deal with these feelings.

There are many ways in which we look upon the disaster. There are surprises at the tragedy, we look for reasons, a desire for the  missing to be found, a feeling of loss and despondency; guilt and grief over the young students' lives lost, compassion for the families of the dead,  anger and distrust of those responsible, and a feeling of despair over the incident. Why did it have to happen? This is the foundational question that leads to all the other misgivings  about the disaster.

After the tragedy there has been all kinds of talk on the reasons.  However, as we know  causes  are not easily uncovered. The Roman poet Virgil said: “Fortunate are those who know the causes of things” (rerum congnoscere causas). This has become the motto of not a few universities. Many specialists have written about the causes of the  tragedy; however, when done individually and independently there are problems.

When we single out a certain area of concern, it is like focusing our camera  on one  object, the  other areas become fuzzy. This is true for a tragedy like the Sewol, when we focus on one area, we ignore others. He gives us the  example of blaming  the captain and the crew for their thoughtlessness and incompetency, and  forgetting the poor conditions in which they were required to  work. When we pick those who were involved in the rescue operation and blame them for their inefficiency and  incompetence,  we can forget the reason for the accident in the first place. Placing the blame on the company's unreliability  and the  owner's  irregularities, there is the possibility of not seeing the problem of the maritime service responsibility  in overlooking the safety regulations  and their lack of concern. When we blame the bureaucrats  in the anti- calamity headquarters for their lack of responsibility, we forget the office of the president. However, we can't properly point our finger at the president. Is it not possible that the  answer is spread out a little among all of them?

Another part of the picture that has to be seen is the lack of respect for life that we have seen in the other tragedies in our history. We have developed very quickly as an economically strong country, but also are infected  greatly with mammonism, results at all costs, contempt for processes and procedures, enamored with speed, and seeing humans as means and not as ends. These are all ways of fostering disasters.

In conclusion, the columnist says we are all in some way involved in the tragedy of the Sewol. We all need to look at the values we give to life, and the respect that we have for life. It is required, he says, to  examine  what we consider important, and have a change of heart, otherwise we will have more of the same in the future.

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