Imagine yourself driving down the road at a cool 90mph when you see the lights flashing in your rear-view mirror and the siren beckons you to pull the side of the road. In your youth, your heart would have been pumping like a dubstep club scene and you may have even begun to nervously sweat as you wondered what outrageous sum you would be paying for your high-speed transgressions, but not now that you are in the later years of your life. You slowly pull your car over to the side of the road and await the uniformed officer. As he walks over and asks you to roll down your window, he suddenly realizes that you are older than him. He asks how fast you were going. “You do not need to know how fast I was going,” you respond. The officer stands unsure of what to say next; a deer stuck in headlights. “I will be driving away now,” you say as you put the car back into drive. The police officer finally responds, “Have a nice day, and sorry I pulled you over.”
I know, at this point you are probably thinking this would never happen unless you were some kind of jedi. If you said that to an officer in America you would get, at least, a steep-priced ticket and, at most, a solid beat-down and arrest. However, in Korea this is a daily occurrence. You see, here in Korea, every single elderly person is a jedi. Every single one of them has the “power of persuasion” on anyone younger than them; however, none of the elderly carry lightsabers or shoot lightening out of their hands to my extreme dissapointment.
“Respect your elders.” Chances are is that if you breath air like the rest of us, then you have heard this phrase at one point or another. Today, in America, we do this by getting rid of our elderly by dumping them into retirement housing (old-folk homes), trying to ignore the endless stories about their lives and trinkets they have bought, and by doing the bare-minimum of visiting them at least once annually. This may seem surprising, but in other countries it is the complete opposite. One quick example would be Italy, where old women are revered for their caretaking and grandmaster chef abilities. They are the storytellers and the keepers of knowledge, and so, people flock to them for wisdom…and recipes.
In Korea, the elderly are not so much belovingly respected as they are feared and respected as living gods. Exactly EVERY youth in South Korea (Youth in Asia, har har) are bound by a set of behavioral laws that restrict them from disobeying or forbidding the elderly to say or do anything. Imagine the beginning of Will Smith’ movie iRobot, except now imagine all the robots as young Korean people, systematically programmed to not disobey or cause harm to the elderly.
You may remember a graveyard protest that I was at a couple weeks ago. The elderly were crowding around the stadium we were in, banging on the doors, and screaming at the security and police officers. Many of the elderly protesters took swings or threw bottles and pieces of wood at the officers without any retribution. I kept wondering, “Why are the police just standing there and letting the elderly crowd wail on them?” The answer is that the officers are not allowed to enforce any laws against their elders, so instead they were all standing there, getting suckerpunched, and waiting for an officer to arrive who was an elderly man himself. YES, please read that last sentence one more time. From my constant questions aimed at anyone who would listen, I found out that there is usually at least one elderly officer in each precinct who is hired to deal with situations just like this; “The Elder Whisperer.”
“What are we suppose to take from this?” Everything, nothing, I don’t know. The thing that dissapoints me when thinking about this is that the elderly are not using their powers here for anything grand. There are no extremely exclusive elderly parties that can never be shut down, no elderly streaking contests, and no random slapping-people-on-the-street “just for funzies.” All I’m saying is that if you are looking for me in my twilight years, I will be in Korea, running the show properly.
Adventures in Konglish:
What’s wrong with this one? Not much until you learn that it is between the two urinals in the men’s bathroom at work. That’s right, every single day, I am right there, watering the “Love Tree.” And, in case you were wondering about my affections for you…well, they grow like a tree each day, that is why I love you more tomorrow than I do today…but sometimes I get nervous that you might leave. I’m glad you are in my life, and I don’t know what I would do without you, so please don’t ever turn me into a “Love Stump.”