Today, I heard some news and was drawn in despite my general news avoidance. I read the media reports and watched video footage and wept.
And I’m not writing about it here to depress you. I’m writing about it as a parent whose heart cries for the hundreds of people who lost their children yesterday, as their children did what they were taught to do.
So here’s the scenario:
What do you get when you combine a major disaster (ferry sinking) with hundreds of high school students (passengers) brought up in a culture of obedience to authority figures?
The reports are damning. The consistent report from survivors is that they heard a thud, felt the ferry lurch, then were instructed to stay inside. They put on life vests and obeyed. This photo, showing students in life vests awaiting permission to go outside, was taken by one of the survivors. They waited for a half hour or more. And then it was too late for most of them.
Almost 300 people out of the original 459 passengers are still missing, likely dead. And every one of them followed the instructions given by the ferry’s crew and over the PA telling them to stay inside. The ones who didn’t listen and jumped into the sea survived, picked up by rescue helicopters and boats. Just think about that one.
It makes me so angry. My parents emigrated to Canada when I was 5 months old and Canadian culture is now a part of me. But I have plenty of experience of the values prevalent in Korean culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s all bad. But when you’re told that it’s far more important to obey your elders than to trust your gut, there is something seriously wrong. Though I’m all for respecting others (whether older or younger) and for working co-operatively with local and larger communities, I can’t feel good about not nurturing the best and most powerful part of being human: that bit inside that makes you able to think for yourself, feel for yourself, trust yourself.
It breaks my heart that those people (children) waited, compliantly, co-operatively on that ferry, and they are now dead.
I’m going to stop writing now because I’m crying again.
If you want to see the BBC article that I got the photo from, it’s here: