It’s been a while, and I apologize. A few posts ago, I wrote about some Koreans’ irrational exuberance concerning mad-cow disease in imported American beef. I stick very much to what I said there, and I think time will continue to tell that American beef products are much safer than meat imports into Korea from other countries, and perhaps even safer than some Korean products. Of course there will be problems, but as long as people remain objective, and don’t let passion and bias be their primary driving force, good will result.
That said, some Koreans might get the wrong impression about me–they might think I dislike their country because I criticize her people, and that would be very sad indeed because I love Korea. That is why I write about it. That is also why I don’t want to see Korea overrun by passionate defensiveness
against imaginary monsters. There are enough real monsters out there that don’t need competition for attention.
The world, and every country in it, is full of problems, but it is often difficult for a people to recognize her own. Too often, they get caught up in pride or bias, and they take constructive criticism as an attack on their intrinsic value as a society. They feel they have to defend themselves from outsiders, who must be regarded with suspicion as to their intentions.
While their is need for vigilance against those who would do harm, many nations go overboard, and in doing so, they show incompetence in dealing with their problems. Either they know that they exist, but they are more concerned with defending their national image, or they are truly ignorant of their problems and actually believe people are just out to get them. The result is that they won’t even consider the merits of criticisms, because they can’t handle the embarrassment of recognizing the truth.
Korea is particularly vulnerable to its own pride because of its national identity, which is one of the strongest in the world. Most nations have pride, and it is generally a good thing–it keeps them together. However, many a nation has fallen because of pride, their history a sad example of what didn’t have to be.
Lest you think I am singling Korea out, it may be helpful to examine the US. The United States is the most successful country that ever existed in many respects. But it has not yet withstood the test of time, and it is a nation vulnerable to its own pride. Ask people of various other countries about the US government and many of them will tell you its downright snobbish–thinking it can tell other countries what to do because of its superior brains, when in reality it’s more because of its brawn.
Many US citizens routinely overestimate both the brains and brawn of their own country, while simultaneously underestimating merits of other countries. They tend to think that the US is the most advanced country in all things, simply because it has had so much success in a few things. They assume that the US is so advanced and powerful that the rest of the world will just have to follow their lead into the future.
Nothing is inevitable. In fact, the US is already behind many other countries in many different areas. Examples abound: the US made it to the moon, but the Russians are able to conduct routine missions to outer-space without their ships blowing up in mid-air once every few years. The US has cell-phones and the internet, but there are still dead areas and very slow connections. Koreans don’t worry about that. And while the US GDP is so much bigger than all the others, many US citizens don’t realize there are more than a couple of countries with higher GDP per capita. The US has no monopoly on success. Far from a time to be snobbish, it is a time to learn from others–to realize that the Koreans or the Russians might be on to something that works better than what we’ve thought of.
It is easy to boast of our strengths, but if the US, or any other country, can quickly recognize its weaknesses, then it is truly powerful. Such a country will not stagnate in the success of yesterday. Instead, it will muster strength to change and to improve. Just such dynamism is required for perpetual leadership, but even then there are no guarantees.
There are many who perfectly understand and agree for the most part with what I have written. Perhaps this post is somewhat a waste of time for them. Still, the disconnect between reality and desire, fact and fiction, existence and imagination, is large enough in every country to warrant concern and attention. I repeat nothing is inevitable. No nation is too successful not to fail, too modern not to become history.
Those in desire of a better lot find it useful to search for, identify, and resolve, rather than pretend, ignore, and then regret.