The UOS Times
The Reason for Suffering
Jae-won Lee  |  *************
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[138호] 승인 2016.04.14  
트위터 페이스북 네이버 구글

In the wee small hours of the morning someone alarmed the emergency service. Sound spheres, one on the ceiling of the waiting room where I was sleeping, and all the others in the fire house alike, instantaneously began to stutter, making a noisy din inside. Those on duty, myself included, know right off the bat that we have now got patients out there to transfer to a nearby hospital, no matter how minor injuries they happen to suffer. In here, one of the places called “fire station” or “fire house,” nearly nothing reminds me of a peaceful daily life to which I once was accustomed and that which many of us usually take for granted at east.

For my part, as a “conscripted fire fighter” over the last seven months, a term which I suppose only exists in this country, I have been fairly in a state of constant amazement in many ways working with “real,” say, official fire fighters whenever I face difficulties in putting out blazing fire caught in run-down sheds or wooden houses, the lack of financial wherewithal; imagine a bunch of articles of late over websites commiserating, as has been described, “poor fire fighters,” rushing into a private property only to watch closely seemingly dead bodies (almost all later pronounced dead, in fact) before taking them out, to name but a few. Oh, I forgot to mention having been praised with an enormous amount of slurs and swears occasionally from few extremely drunk patients carried into the back of an ambulance. Seems a little bit far-fetched? Not exaggerating at all, however.

True, it may be just another job in a world of professionals; as you may argue, no need to speak as if you are the only person who’s doing the hardest work, thus no whining nor grumbling about even your being in such harsh circumstances, for all of it is no more than the probable outcome of what you made up your mind to do. Being too tough? If anyone says as such, he or she’d better be well-prepared for a plethora of stones readily being thrown nowadays. Meanwhile, no eggs, no stones are pelted when what appears to be an intriguingly tricky double standard works well on the way; though not intended to be understood, recognized, as what I do is nowhere near a “job,” I usually hear from fire fighters I work with as well as from some of my acquaintances that I am serving national service way “more” conveniently than any others at my age, in a lot “more” comfortable conditions than they ever have anticipated, not considering that I had to take one certain decision unwillingly over the way in which I got conscripted in a particular structural context; none the wiser about this. Indeed, I still sense the following mantra constantly hovering about; “Be aware, your choice has consequences, and you’ve got to take the heat for every single one of them.”

Yet, I do doubt whether it can be put that simply. With much indifference about toil and hardship of others, I fear we will sooner or later end up feeling ashamed or even targeted to speak openly about some social problems we face, ultimately at the expense of any feasible discussion. I firmly believe that a strong responsibility in work comes with firstly pride in it, and for the pride to be boosted further, the need of practical improvements in working conditions should come across as an essential prerequisite. However, people more often than not look tempted to fall into a viciously downward logical spiral to the effect that every single one of us has an equal amount of burden in some way so that we’d rather desist from blaming or banging on about our situation in the society, and then remain quite instead. “Why so?” Again, “We all do have a hard time, period.”

So long as it looks as though we were running in a pesky race to win its admittedly honorable title “Who’s got the most torment in life,” there lies a two-faced entangled irony. That is, while a lot of us seem to have clamored for a better place where people are expected to have some sympathy towards each other’s sufferings, the whole society on the other hand has a somewhat callous propensity to marginalize the influence of social backdrop at which, in order to fit in, to earn a living, or just to survive it, like me, most of us cannot help but run out of choice. Much to my regret, I have had my part of history of being hell-bent on telling others to stop complaining, but to “suck it up” for their own sake. Having made the choice, now told to bear what that leaves behind ever since, I would like to say; regardless of whoever you are, only by putting yourself at the receiving end of anyone who’s been belittled, can we then start to dream of a better society we wholeheartedly want to live in.

Jae-won Lee
Dept. of Korean History, ’12

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