Monday, June 30, 2014

Sensitivity to Beauty and Common Sense

15 crew members of the Sewol ferry tragedy are on trial for murder and negligence in the death of the passengers. They left behind hundreds of passengers heartlessly, is the accusation, to save themselves. The country is awaiting the verdict. Many of the citizens who watched the rescue efforts see it as  murder by omission while  practitioners of the law, see prosecuting the crew for murder as going too far.

The editor of one of the newspapers reflects on the tragedy and the trial on the opinion page of the Catholic Times. She tells the readers that many of the countries in Europe  have the 'Good Samaritan Law' on the books  which  would consider what was done by the crew a serious crime.The 'Good Samaritan Law' would require that you help a person who is in a difficult situation. In France a person despite having the time, refusing to help a person who  dies, should prepare to spend 5 years in prison. In Germany it would be 3 years. China has a similar law when one refuses to help.

The writer tells us legal positivism is the basis for Korean law, meaning that virtue and law are strictly  separated. She gives the example  of  problems with children in nurseries where working mothers leave the children. Not infrequently the mothers do not pick up the children on time. To prevent this from happening, they prepared a monetary penalty. However, this only made matters worse for the mothers brazenly felt that they were now entitled to have the children stay later since they were paying the penalty.

Nowadays, when one doesn't stop for the passing  ambulance, one is fined 200 dollars. Without this penalty and leaving it up the consciences of the individual the results were far from what was expected. What is needed, she says, more than law is  a feeling of common sense to permeate society; not the kind of superficial  understanding that comes from one mind to another, but a feeling that comes from one heart to another. She mentions the philosopher Hannah Arendt, who considered this common sense of extreme value in society. In the competitive society that we have, this common sense becomes important  in the raising of our children. Common sense is similar to a social  sense. They are different, but it is a respect of the other and the appreciation of harmony and beauty. Without this common sense, the market-logic, competitive-logic and capital-logic will overcome us with coldness and greed.

To save this common sense it is necessary to be familiar with art and literature. Confucius also said something similar that with ritual and music, we will not have crime. Familiarity with the arts, the children will become good.

She concludes with an anecdote about the author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, who on a cold day went outside to find wood for the fire and the log had a sprout coming out, he put down the log and spent the night in the cold. This kind of sensitivity to beauty and harmony she  hopes parents will try to develop in their children. With this sensitivity to life, the problems that we had with the Sewol tragedy will slowly disappear in our society.

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