Tag Archives: government

Not Talking About Suicide

carnival

I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.

 

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South Korea’s Interesting Weekend

Goat 3

I was in the middle of the rallies on the presidential impeachment last Friday and last Saturday. I couldn’t really avoid it last Friday. The pro-Park Geun Hye supporters were marching in front of my building. There were riot police and everything. It wasn’t very violent when I went out for coffee, but three people ended up dying during the protest after it was announced that the decision to impeach the South Korean president would stand.

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to check out the celebration for the ousting of the president. It was in Gwanghwamun, the place where Koreans have been holding their weekly rallies to protest against the president. Like every week, there was going to be a concert, and my favorite Korean singer Jun In Kwon would be performing. I felt more comfortable going to the event, because it wasn’t so much a protest or anything but a celebration for what is a historic event for the peninsula.

What was a little scary however was that we had to pass by the pro-Park Geun Hye supporters on the way to the rally. They were all waving the South Korean flag and old-fashioned patriotic songs were blaring on speakers. The mood was dark, and my wife and I didn’t feel too comfortable walking past them, especially since we’re a biracial couple (despite the fact that many of the protesters were also waving the American flag). It was weird, the site of the Korean flag brought about an almost nefarious aura. The site of riot police and police barricades separating the two factions didn’t help ease the mood either.

The mood on the anti-Park Geun Hye side was celebratory. People were smiling. It felt like being surrounded by people whose collective burden was just recently been released. Of course, there were still angry calls for the former president to move out of the presidential residence and for her to be prosecuted.

On Sunday, most major Korean channels showed the president moving to her private residence. She was welcomed by her supporters, all waving the Korean flag. It was a strange affair. She was greeted by her party members, and she shook hands with them, all smiling, waving at her supporters. If I didn’t know the context or didn’t know Korean, I would’ve assumed she just got elected as president instead of being ousted. What’s more remarkable is that instead of addressing her supporters and the recent decision by the Supreme Court, she had a representative read a prepared statement saying the “the truth will come out.” I don’t know what this is possibly referring to. The highest court in the land already made a decision. If it’s referring to her impending criminal prosecution, she’d best not acknowledge it just yet.

I try to be impartial when it comes to the country’s politics, but the fact that the former president didn’t make a public statement immediately after the decision on Friday was very disappointing. She could’ve at least tried to unite the country and try to calm her protesters down. Perhaps people wouldn’t have died if she did. And the fact that she still hasn’t made a public statement is thumbing her nose at the justice system and not showing her supporters any respect. At least Nixon had the decency to make resignation speech. There have been talks about the country being divided, but truly, South Korea is not divided. Park Geun Hye enjoyed a 5% approval rating, and most of the country wanted her out. If there’s any division, I believe it’s just a division in the type of media people consume, with each side embracing their own set of facts and claiming the other side is fake news. It’s no different than other countries. But what would have helped make the country less divided, is if the former president called for unity after being impeached. At least recognize that the zeal partisan politics and distrust is at least part of what got her ousted.

I believe it’s going to be a long process, prosecuting the former president. There has been months of weekly protests, and I think it won’t take much for people to take to the streets again. It’s almost like a slow but magical form of direct democracy. It could get addictive.

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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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Feeling the Menstrual Tension?

Bison

I miss Canada.

I’m not sure if it was Cesar A. Cruz or if it was Finley Dunne, but art should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted.” I don’t 100% agree with the idea. After all, some art is just meant to be pretty. But yeah, some art is just so dumb that it hurts knowing that the government is paying for them. This is people’s money which could be better used for other public good instead of financing tripe.

Stop it Poppy Jackson, stop it (http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26219/1/got-some-spare-menstrual-blood-this-artist-wants-it). I’m sure you can make artistic statements without rolling around in schlock. Apparently, she is asking for women to donate their menstrual blood for an upcoming performance piece. Now, this isn’t the first time she’s used menstruation in her performances, but I guess this time she’ll be needing more blood aside from her own. This is why people dismiss art and artists. It is Jackass stunts disguised as high art.

What irks me more is that the media just buys into the whole thing and doesn’t call it for what it is: a giant cry for media attention.

Looking at Jade Jackman’s article on Dazed, a lot of it is just artsy BS.

In recent weeks, there has been a growing feeling of tension – especially within creative and online communities – at the treatment of menstrual blood. But, Jackson does not feel under pressure by this to make something more ‘extreme’. Instead she feels that the similarities between topics signifies that a frustration is building in our culture and actually makes messages from all the artists a lot more powerful.

What growing tension? Does anyone feel this tension online or otherwise? This is why people are turned off. It doesn’t reflect what is going on in the real world. I consider myself quite the consumer of online information, and as far as I can tell, there is no “growing tension” regarding menstrual blood. It just naturally gets a negative reaction the same way any other bodily substance/wastes does.

These days we go to the Internet for a lot of things and it loses that one-to-one flavour that you would get with your doctor.” She adds, “The human contact of speaking is replaced by isolated online activity, so through use of the substance of people’s bodies I’m hoping to bring some of that closeness back.” On top of that, Jackson mentions how much more risky it is performing with other people’s blood as due to any potential of diseases she cannot “just throw it around as if it were her own.

Good luck trying to bring that “closeness” back. Most people would be finding out about her work online and that would be the end of it. The same activity she tries to fight is the same monster that feeds her. And yet Dazed doesn’t point this out.

If Poppy Jackson is gonna try to play around with other people’s menstrual blood, claim it’s high art and have media outlets encourage it, then what prevents Ryan Dunn from doing the same thing after he swam in people’s excrement? (http://jackass.wikia.com/wiki/Poo_Diving) Isn’t that almost the same thing? Isn’t he bringing closeness back by immersing himself into what could arguably be one of the most intimate aspects of a person? Isn’t there as much revulsion over feces as there is over menstrual blood? And as a bonus, fecal matter is universal, while menstrual blood is not. Mr. Dunn’s “piece” is more universal and far riskier than Poppy Jackson’s stunt.

And yet Arts Council England and the British Council have yet to reach out to Mr. Dunn.

This is why when someone hears performance art, they often assume someone will be prancing around naked doing something weird. People do schlock because they know the media will feed into it. It makes making “traditional” art a losing battle since most of the ears and eyeballs are trained onto either the naked lady or the excrement she’s playing with.

I fear that a hundred years from now, while generations of artists before produced Pietà, Burghers of Calais, Guernica, etc., art students will learn that the past few years have produced mostly stunt artists and sales people… people that played with excrement and sold it well.

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Everybody Panic!

MERS_warning

I probably won’t get the MERS virus. I regularly interact with people who travel to the Middle East. There are people around me who ARE from the Middle East. But I’ll probably be fine. Probably.

But that’s not what the Korean media would have you believe. I’m not minimizing the seriousness of five local deaths, but for weeks now, there’s been non-stop news regarding the MERS virus spreading like wildfire in South Korea. People are at a panic due to a lack of confidence regarding the way the government has handled and is handling the situation. To date, there has been a new protocol established to track down suspected MERS patients using the GPS on their phones. There is also new hospital procedures designed to isolate patients coming in who suspect they may be infected. However, some people still believe it is too little too late.

The Korean government began by being secretive regarding which hospitals have identified patients with the MERS virus. Understandably, they don’t want people to panic. But instead of preventing panic, people now suspect that the Korean government is simply protecting their political backers by keeping the names of the hospitals secret. They have since reversed their position. Twenty-four hospitals have been identified, and major ones have come forward as identifying MERS patients, but the damage was already done. The people are in fear.

“What happened to all of those patients? Where else did they go? Did they take public transportation? A lot of people don’t really cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze! How many people are infected with MERS and have not been identified? What else is the government not telling?! My supervisor has a cold. Could it be MERS? Should I start wearing a mask? Why is she in the office? Shouldn’t she go to the hospital? What if she catches MERS in a hospital? Which doorknobs has she touched?!?!”

Classes have been suspended. People are walking around wearing masks. People are being encouraged to wash their hands and use disinfectants (As a germophobic, I welcome this!).

government_MERS

Of course, warnings like this don’t really inspire confidence from people.

camel_water

I’m gonna miss drinking camel water!

The whole thing will probably pass the same way the avian flu and SARS scare came and went. It’s just interesting seeing how the panic spreads from a combination of ineffective government response, media hype, and Internet paranoia. It’s like being front and center at the beginning of a public panic.

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Police and Minorities

flowers_tentacles

Seriously, what is happening in Ferguson?

What’s annoying about the debate is when privileged talking heads wonder why black people don’t trust the police so much. What exactly is their problem with authority? Usually, people that spout of such opinions are, you guessed it, white people who are more than happy to indulge in small talk with police officers whenever they get stopped for whatever it was they got stopped for. Did you watch the game? Hey, didn’t you go to Sisler High School? Nice weather for fishing, eh? Etc. etc. I don’t think black people… or other minorities for that matter, could usually get away with half the things white people could get away with when it comes to dealing with police officers. Most of the time, minorities are too busy explaining themselves. How could they indulge in inane banter? There is often no room for pleasantries because it is not afforded to them. The police are doing their job, you did something wrong or you fit the profile, now answer the questions.

Ferguson is an amazing contrast to how authorities react to white people behaving badly, particularly in the standoff in the Bundy Ranch a few months ago. In that scenario, white militia men are pointing guns at police officers, clearly threatening to harm them should they remove Cliven Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle from government property. White people carrying and pointing guns around = totally legal. But in Ferguson, people showing outrage at teenagers getting shot, regardless of whether they’re a suspect for a robbery or not (since when was robbery a crime deserving of a death sentence?), police react as if they were being invaded by a foreign force. Body armor, automatic weapons, tear gases, etc.

And (white) people ask why do minorities have a problem with the cops?

I remember having a debate in Criminal Justice class about racial profiling. I told them about a story of me being profiled in Vancouver Airport and asked in two separate instances by two different officers whether I was carrying any contraband or cash exceeding $10,000 while I was waiting for my flight. I was dressed in a suit, no hand carry, and just reading a book. I don’t know where I could’ve hidden both contraband and cash. In both instances, the officers asked me questions, looked at my passport and tickets, then proceeded to make small talk and jokes with other people next to me after questioning me. Thanks officers. I felt that while the incident was minor and quite annoying, I could see how people could see being profiled as dehumanizing. But that’s what some people don’t get. That’s what some (white) people don’t get. “How could you feel dehumanized? Personally, when an officer stops me and checks to see if everything is in order, I feel safer and lucky that I live in such a well-protected neighborhood.” Yeah keep thinking that. I’m sure you’ll feel differently when it’s only done to you a few dozen times.

Personally, I’ve only had minor instances of racial profiling in Canada (I’ve had more racial profiling here in South Korea), but I can only imagine how hard it must be for other neighborhoods in Canada and in the US. In any case, I believe it’s never right for the powerful to tell those under them how they should be feeling, how they should be reacting in the face of oppression. That is a privilege only the oppressed should have. As for Ferguson. God bless people for their hope, courage, patience, and faith that justice will someday be done.

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