Were you brought up, and instructed to “respect your elders”? Well yeah, so was I…and although this phrase sounds a little Star Wars-ish, once you get past that, it is for the most part a sound bit of advice. After all with age, comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom (most of the time)…why would I want to make my own mistakes, when someone who has been there done that, can advise me against them? It’s common sense, right?!
What are not so common, are these super-rare dance moves:
Anyway, now the reason I am rambling on this topic, is that I have found in South Korea they have the same ethos…except it is, for want of a better phrase…out of fucking control! In this land you must respect your elders, but continue to do so even when they continually show YOU, or anyone else aggressive disrespect. You, and the rest of the onlookers must just remain silent, or possibly nod – and/or apologise if the aggressor demands you to do so. Odd, right?
I’ll give you a couple of examples…alright firstly, whenever I am walking around with a Korean friend (who has the misfortune of being female) it is not a rare occurrence for evil death glares to be shot our way by senior citizens. Uncomfortable, sure…but I smile back politely, and try to remember my Jedi training. My issue is with them coming over, and screaming at my friend for even sitting next to me…calling her a slut, and other things that I can’t translate, but which are probably worse. I mean respect your elders – sure…but how do I respect that kind of behaviour?
No one intervenes…and tells them they are out of line…they just look down, and think “they’re old, so it’s okay.” Well patently – it is NOT okay.
Oh, and here’s another one! Just this past weekend – I walked past a few old guys, who jabbered something angrily in my direction…again, as usual, I just smiled at them, nodded politely, and carried on. Before long I heard the jabbering again, this time it was a lot more agitated – I didn’t turn around straight away, just moved along nicely…but then when I did eventually look, I saw that one of them was running after me with a crazed vigor – he may as well have been foaming at the mouth. I wasn’t particularly scared – what was he going to do, chew my leg with his three remaining teeth? But my friend urged me into the crowd of the market, and said it isn’t the done thing to deal directly in that way. So I entered the bustle, and foul smells of the little stores….still, I heard him getting closer. I felt someone grab my shoulder, and spun around – he started pushing, and shoving – swearing at me in Korean…
Again, no one intervened…to tell him he was out of line…they just looked down, and probably thought “he’s old, so it’s okay.”
Funnily enough from what I could gather, and what was told to be later – he was complaining that I had shown him a lack of respect, as he had said “hello”, and I had ignored him completely, (bullshit). He began pushing again – my face was so red with rage, I thought I was going to explode. Thankfully my friend apologised despite no wrongdoing, and pushed me into a back street…he followed for a while, still ranting, and raving…but after a while my aggressor gave up, and returned to his pensioner friends. Probably to tell them how people have no respect for their elders these days, oh the bitter irony.
This is so commonplace – it’s a cultural flaw, really. It’s so bad, that it is now a huge stereotype – and consequently rude Korean grannies become the butt of jokes (when they’re not around of course!) I know you can’t lump everyone in the same category, and that is never my intention – it’s just something I couldn’t help but recognise; that got me thinking about respect, and whether it should be expected...or earned.…
So what do you think? Have I got it all wrong?