Tag Archives: illustrations

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.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foreigners in Local Protests

napoleon

Working in the heart of Seoul where protests usually happen, I’ve seen it so many times, foreigners looking at protests. Now, the protests in Seoul rarely get violent, so it’s a bit of a spectacle for tourists to come and see how protests are in other countries. It makes them seem like they’re seeing an unusual political event aside from the usual touristy fare. Unfortunately, protests here happen at least once a week. They usually interrupt my work on Thursday afternoons.

The recent string of protests that got the president of South Korea impeached however are much larger than regular protests. They’re bigger and are more elaborate affairs, with choreographed light shows and musical entertainment. It can be quite tempting for foreigners to come and see the protests and witness history taking place. But in such cases, there’s a very blurred line between witnessing a government protest and taking part in it.

Several people in Korea have invited me to join them in the protests, and as much a political junkie as I am, it is really not in my place to take part in a protest in a country where I am technically a guest by the government. There’s also some chance of violence erupting, and I’m sure most embassies wouldn’t encourage people to be near the protests. I haven’t heard of anybody being arrested and deported for participating in a government protest, but just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do. It also doesn’t mean that the government is not well within their rights to deport any foreign visitors participating in anti-government activities. How would Canada react to foreigners coming in to Canada to protest the government? I would be thinking differently if the issues directly affected foreigners, say Canada decided that all permanent residents (landed immigrants/ non-Canadian residents) must now pay higher taxes than Canadian citizens. But many of the protests I’ve seen where foreigners are wandering into are about issues that don’t really affect them directly.

One of the protests in the past that comes to mind is the mad cow protests several years ago. Koreans didn’t want American beef imports to Korea because of suspected cases of mad cow. Now, this was all just a massive hysteria with a healthy dose of anti-Americanism, but this didn’t stop millions of people protesting in the streets. In these protests, I even saw foreigners participating. Now, I couldn’t tell whether they were Americans or not, but seeing how the country now fully accepts American beef imports with little consequences, not only are the protests a big egg on the face of the Koreans but also to the foreigners who participated. There must be better ways to bond with the locals than joining protests.

The local media however sure loves pointing cameras at visibly foreign faces during news stories. It gives events an international vibe. Perhaps that’s part of the allure. Hey, we might get on TV in Asia!

The thing is foreigners don’t have a dog in the fight, so why go against the country which gave them the privilege to visit? The one time foreigners had an issue to legitimately protest the Korean government was when they made it mandatory for all foreign teachers to pass an AIDS test prior to getting teaching visas in fear of them giving AIDS to school children. That was a horrible piece of racist, xenophobic legislation that didn’t get any protest in the streets, not from locals or foreigners. And to this day, foreign teachers are still taking AIDS tests, some of them believing the lie that it’s for their health insurance.

So what is a foreigner to do? Stay out of it. If you have to be a tourist, take a picture, and spread the story to your friends. Locals love it when their stories reach an audience overseas. Otherwise, know why you’re really here (as a guest) and know why people are protesting (It’s usually not about you).

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Bit of a Break

merrick

A bit of a break from staring at the Joseph Merrick that is politics these days. It’s difficult, but I have to try hard and wean myself from my Internet habits. Even my Twitter hasn’t been that active, despite the occasional fights with neo Nazis.

Speaking of Nazis, I used to volunteer for a hospital when I was fourteen years old. I would help feed and generally assist in the care of senior citizens at Deer Lodge Hospital. It was a good experience, and I got to meet heroes who actually fought Nazis. One man, Mr. Thurston, actually suffered a bullet would while fighting in World War II. He kept the bullet that was meant to kill him, and I remember him telling me that his wife never had much love for the horrible trophy. The man was a hero, and though he passed away over ten years ago, I still remember our conversations.

Come to think of it, that hospital was filled with veterans. It was filled with dying heroes. It was famously the hospital where Tommy Prince spent his last days. It’s almost like a field hospital back in World War II. But instead of young men dying because Winston Churchill sent them to their deaths, it’s time killing old men slowly.

Ironically, to this day, there are still Nazis. There are still Nazis online ready to argue with you and ruin your day. There are still people who can’t enjoy Hugo Boss’ aesthetics without going overboard and donning a swastika armband. Nazis were evil people who lost a war. They were losers. Some people forget that. We should all live in a world where we just shoot Nazis in videogames, not where we argue with them online and in the media.

Oh shoot. That just got political again, didn’t it?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I will miss you, Gord.

Larva

Saw the Tragically Hip play the last date of their Man Machine Poem tour online. Thank goodness for the CBC for streaming the show for free online, especially for expats like myself. It was a bit of an odd online experience, as I was watching and messaging to my friends online during the show. I imagine it was like that for many Canadians around the world, a collective experience for one of the greatest acts the world doesn’t know.

I’ve been listening to the Hip since I was a teenager and I saw them play in Winnipeg during their Phantom Power tour back in 98. I have always admired Gord Downie’s ability to meld the Canadian experience with history, grief, love and hope. I believe whoever wrote Prime Minister’s Trudeau said it best, “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.” The band never exploded south of the border the way Canadian pop acts often do. They’ve done concerts, played in Woodstock, and was even featured in Saturday Night Live, but they just didn’t take off. The Tragically Hip was a band that it seems only Canadians truly got. I tried explaining this to my wife, and how acts like Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber are not what Canada is about. And that often music acts like them take away from the soul of what is actually good and substantive Canadian music.

It was great to see the band play but ultimately it was sad knowing that this could very well be the last time Gord Downie plays with the band. Back in 2012, he talked about dealing with his wife’s breast cancer, and how it takes a toll not just on the person afflicted, but also to the people helping them through it. His wife recovered but her struggles have influenced the band’s album ‘Now For Plan A.’ And now Gord has been diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer. While the show was a celebration of the band’s history, it was also a sad farewell to a great artist. It was Canada saying goodbye to a dying man, a dying man that we love.

I still have not recovered from my mother dying from cancer. I can talk about the subject lightly and even joke about it now and then, but it is still a sore wound. I’m sure most people’s lives have been touched by the disease in one form or another. I myself have given up to the fact that I would probably die from cancer myself. The show over the weekend is a celebration of life in the face of inevitable death. However, it is also a reminder that cancer, death, will take away all of the beautiful things in life, all of them, and that we should appreciate them while we still have them.

Hug your loved ones, watch your favorite band, go out and play sports, do things while you still can. Love and appreciate things while you still have the chance. I guess that was the big take away from the weekend. And as a Canadian, I’m glad to have known the beauty that is the Tragically Hip.

You really missed out, America.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Horrible Week

Dead_Rabbit

To the two guys who kept arguing with me on my Intro to Criminal Law class before, tell me how racial profiling doesn’t exist now?

The recent events in the US have been the most malignant in terms of race relations recently, a mixture of bad police culture, guns, and a history of racial injustice. I’ve been tweeting about it for a couple of days now, and I’m sure many people have said more thoughtful things about it than me. But what gets to me most about these events is how the movement Black Lives Matter get tarred and feathered. “They’re a terrorist organization financed by George Soros!” “What about the cops?! Blue Lives Matter!” “What about everyone else? All Lives Matter!”

First off, enough with the conspiracy theories. Even if the movement was started by the Illuminati, it is working against a system that is corrupt. A system that is flush with guns, have bad training, and is protected by an abusive union. Even if Black Lives Matter had connections with the Black Panthers, it is a reaction to a system that has continually failed a group of people. Stop being obtuse. People are getting shot and killed, and people are angry. Not everything has to be a convoluted conspiracy of global destabilization. Remember Occam’s razor.

Cops’ lives matter, of course. They all have families and many police officers are minorities. The problem here is the police have a tendency to oppress minorities. They are the ones arresting, oppressing, and shooting black people. To say, blue lives matter, is a false equivalency. No one is systematically oppressing police officers. No one. They are the power. They are the ones with the authority to arrest, detain, and shoot if necessary.

To say “blue lives matter,” is almost the same as complaining about the existence of Black history month, or the BET Awards, or gay pride parades. Minorities have these things because they rarely get a say in things. They have been marginalized and now they are speaking out. Cops have never been marginalized. The song Cop Killer and that video of “pigs in a blanket” did not cause of a long history of suffering for police officers. It didn’t get them arrested. It kept them off schools and jobs. Police officers actually have it good. Many news outlets say that the shooting in Dallas which killed five officers was the deadliest attack on police officers since 9/11. If that’s the case, then being a police officer actually sounds safer than being black, gay, or a toddler in America.

And of course they’re safe. Judging from the protective gear, equipment, and tactics they’ve been using, they’re bound to be safe. The police forces on TV look more prepared for war than the poor soldiers sent to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Police officers are bound to be safe if their first reaction to a black woman crying after her boyfriend got shot is to point guns at her as well. Diamond Reynolds was a woman whose loved one just got murdered while her daughter was in the vehicle. She’s not a Magneto. It reminds me of that Natalie Merchant song Gun Shy. “There is a world outside of this room, and if you meet it promise me, you won’t meet it with your gun.” Unfortunately, I keep seeing examples of the opposite.

And as for “all lives matter.” I agree. All lives matter. It’s just that black people in America want to be part of that “all.” They have a long history of not mattering.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hidden Artists

flowers_tentacles_again

A co-worker quit last week. I believe she was with us for three to four years. We never really had much conversation since I don’t really talk much to the women at work. I think the women here at work are scared of me. (Well, at least one of them was. She left me a note saying she was scared of me right before she left. ) Anyway, this co-worker who left, I really didn’t know much about her other than her being a strict vegetarian. So it was a bit of a surprise that on her last day I find out that she’s also an artist (http://bbkjy.blog.me ). She even has a show on the night of her last day.

Instead of worrying about the wave of downsizing going on in our company, I kept on wondering how I could’ve missed this. How did I not know this person was not an artist as well? Shouldn’t we all sense each other’s presence like the immortals in Highlander? She sure dressed like one.

Do people in the office even know I make art? Would they be just as surprised? Anyway, it was a missed opportunity to get to know an artist. I guess the blame is on me. I should’ve been nicer to the people I work with.

Maybe I’m just a bitter person with a dark hole where my heart should be, but looking at her works, they are a tad saccharine for my taste. But I really do admire her tenacity for drawing and her commitment to a style. She knows what she likes, studies it, and keeps at it. Under the right conditions, her works could be extremely marketable. You’re probably not reading this, Jiyoung, but here’s to your success.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Phone Rant

Face_turn

An advice: stop it with the phones already. Pay attention and stop staring at your phone. Having the power of the Internet at your fingertips doesn’t make you a better and more accurate conversationalist, it makes you a poor desktop computer that doesn’t show porn. If I wanted useless factoids and viral videos, I would’ve stayed at home and not gone out to dinner only to be ignored half the time. For the sake of the continuity of conversation, let’s just say Marilyn Manson was in Wonder Years. You don’t have to look it up now.

The farm game you play is not even a game. It’s an electronic version of Bop It (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH4XHwefPVY). Many video games end with a princess being rescued or whatever. A glorious kingdom has been restored and the people rejoice at your triumph. Your eternal farm game ends with boredom.

Don’t text your friend now. Excuse yourself from that phone call as well. I took the time to be here at your presence. Why am I competing with someone who is miles away? Your buddy is at home bored and just wanted to say hi. I’m here in front of you, bored as well. Every time you pick it up and make me wait on you, it tells me that my time is a tad worthless and whatever it is on that phone is more important than me and good manners in general.

You don’t have to take photos of food to show it to strangers in high school. There’s a reason why you don’t talk to those people anymore. You’re not going to rekindle friendships with pictures of food.

Stop staring at your phone in bed. It’s distracting and it keeps people up. You complain that you don’t get much sleep and yet you spend an hour at night learning useless things on your phone. Did you really need to read about Justin Bieber at 1:30 in the morning?

And don’t walk while you send text messages or play games. You’re a danger to everyone around you.

Your phone doesn’t make you an interesting person. It makes you dumb, boring, and rude. It keeps you from actually remembering things. You didn’t really know that thing you just said. You just read it a few minutes ago. And you’ll probably forget about it in a week. I could’ve done the same thing too. You’re not interesting. Whoever came up with whatever you said on the Internet is interesting. So stop it.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,