Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Apologist Asians

This is one bit about East Asian culture that I can't really accept. We have this very apologist attitude when it comes to almost everything. There is both good and bad in this practice and belief. However, I cannot quite accept all of it.

On the one hand, we have a whole nation apologising for the senseless act of one man. I don't think that it's necessary for the population of one country to apologise for the crimes of someone who has not lived in that country for over 14 years. It just doesn't make sense. Cho Seung-Hui moved to the US when he was 8 yrs old. He became a naturalised American. So, I don't think it's necessary for the people living in South Korea to apologise for the actions of someone who lives on the other side of the globe and who has probably severed most ties with his country of birth.

However, I can understand why such a thing still happens. In much of East Asia, we still have a strong sense of community. This is one of the ways in which society is regulated. When a child does something wrong, he doesn't just hurt himself but also brings great shame to his entire family and community. Depending on the nature of his fault, he may even be disowned and cast out of the family and community. So, from that stand point, I can understand why the Koreans might have felt it necessary to apologise. However, I doubt that the Americans would understand nor fully appreciate such a gesture.

According to the FT, the President, Roh Moo-Hyun convened an emergency meeting to address any fallout from the massacre and to ensure that official relations would not be strained. The biggest fear is the fear of retaliation. Individuals fear that there might be retaliation against the Korean/Asian community in the US. One Chinese VTech student (who likes guns) has already gotten death threats when he was mistakenly identified as the shooter (even though the shooter had clearly taken his own life). Just shows you how silly these people can get. I guess it's understandable with the US government clearly leading the example of violent retaliations in Afghanistan.

Then, on the other hand, we have the case of Japan, which is constantly being barraged by other nations to apologise for it's war crimes. I personally feel that there isn't any point in doing so anymore. Most of the victims of these so-called 'crimes' are either dead or dying. It does't make sense to ask the sons to apologise for the sins of their fathers. If war reparations were needed, they should have firmly demanded for them decades ago. What's the point in asking for them today, when the perpetrators of the 'crime' are also dead or dying. If children are supposed to pay for their parent's sins, we would all be apologising to each other forever as no one is sinless.

Before I get shot for calling it 'so-called', I would like to explain my stance on it. Granted, the Japanese Army did a lot of evil things to the people of East and South East Asia, especially towards the Chinese community. However, it was a war. People die in a war. War is evil by nature and definition. It can only be called a criminal act if a law was broken. By that definition, all wars are crimes. But winners of wars are never criminals even though they killed a lot of people as well. So, to me, it's all just a matter of semantics.

So, instead of apologising for something that we did not do, let's just try to avoid evil things from happening in the first place. In the case of war, let's just try to play nice and avoid it altogether. In the case of the VTech shooting, let's not apologise for the fact that you can walk into a supermarket and buy guns with nothing but a credit card in Virginia. The problem was one that was created by themselves, inflicted on themselves, by someone who who grew up there and lived among them for most of his life.

Show sympathy for those who were affected by the tragedy but don't apologise for something that you weren't responsible for. It just makes a mockery of the apology. Apologise when you have wronged someone else. Don't apologise when you've clearly not done anything wrong. It's just dishonest. Also, do not forget another very important Asian culture, forgiveness and acceptance.

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