Read 2253 times

  • matieu
  • Veteran

    • 83

    • November 01, 2010, 01:21:24 pm
    • Geoje Do
Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« on: December 15, 2011, 12:01:32 pm »
I was on my usual morning commute by bus to work when I saw the aftermath of a collision between a motorbike and a truck! The motor cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet either, I've always been rather disturbed by how many people I see on the roads with no helmets. Unfortunately the bus had to slow down to a grind allowing everybody to see the graphic details, without going into details I'm pretty certain the motorcyclist was dying as we passed. That image has been imprinted on my mind and made me seriously consider getting back on my bike! I was amazed at how un phased everybody on the bus was though, there were a few gasps of shock and then a few seconds later everyone was back texting away and playing games on their cellphones! It reminded me of how a few months ago when one of my students lost their father in a road traffic accident and was back in school the next day. I know that the concept of and response to death differs greatly across cultures but I was still shocked by how unphased people were in both these incidents which I've experienced since I've been in the country. Do you think this stems from the high road traffic rates here or the suicide rates which maybe de sensitize people somewhat or is it more of a cultural thing? Sorry for the depressing post but I guess I just needed to get some understanding on this. Also for all the bikers, please wear your helmets!

Re: Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2011, 12:29:20 pm »
To be honest, I think you're over-reading it.

Ignoring something awful right in front of you is a defense mechanism. It's horrible to look at and brings up all sorts of feelings: fear of death, anxiety, phobias of blood or maybe even traffic accidents, memories of loved ones who've passed away, frustration at being able to do nothing to help the dying person in front of you, etc.  Most people don't want to deal with those kinds of feelings at any time, never mind on their morning commute. It's much easier to push it out of your mind and move on with the immediate. We do it all the time and probably aren't even always aware of it. For example, have you ever passed by a street beggar without giving them money? If you go to Seoul you're surrounded by maimed, mentally ill, and blind people begging. How many "brothels" or "sexy bars" have you walked past here without ever wondering about whether the women there are trafficked sex slaves? The fact is, we're surrounded by really really awful stuff, everywhere we go. We actively choose to avoid looking at it, experiencing and meeting it, and learning about it. Why? Because its awful, difficult to do something about, and very easy to avoid. Before being shocked at the apathy of others, we should look closely at our own.

As for the student that came to school, sticking to regularity and schedule can be very helpful for someone dealing with grief, especially for children. I have thankfully never lost a loved one, but I know that the first stage of grief (according to psychologists) is shock and denial. If it was just the day after his father died, his family may have sent him to school in hopes that it would help him handle his shock and grief. Korean funeral/wake ceremonies are long and difficult. Maybe they thought it would spare him to be around his friends and in a familiar environment.

  • AC_in_Korea
  • Super Waygook

    • 263

    • July 30, 2010, 11:25:33 am
    • Miryang, South Korea
Re: Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2011, 02:05:35 pm »
I understand where peasgoodnonsuch is coming from, but I interpreted your message differently.  I think you need some acknowledgement for your feelings about what you saw.  I completely understand what you mean, and it is disturbing to see something like that, and then over and over again, as you can't erase it from your mind.  This could happen anywhere in the world, it is not specific to Korea. 
Though, your feelings would be more quickly 'justified' in a Western culture, because we are a society that shows how we feel.  Korea is not.  More than likely, the people that went back to texting were texting other people about what they saw, and when they get home, they might even tell their family - but they probably are seeing the same image over and over again - they are just 'trained' or conditioned not to 'feel' much about it.
I have witnessed a few disturbing things as well, and they do play over and over.  It's not a good feeling - I know, and I am not sure if it's a good thing or not, but with time, it dissipates.  It doesn't disappear fully though - (I still hear the exact sound of a woman's head hitting the concrete after being pushed by a drunk man) - but the feeling attached to it has lessened.  Sometimes the worst part, is that there is nothing we can do.  Sometimes trying only causes more problems.
I am sorry that you experienced this, it sucks!  But you've done what you can - you posted a message of safety for others - please wear your helmets, and be extra cautious on the roads!
Be the change you want to see in the world.

Re: Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2011, 02:18:46 pm »
That is bad news and I'm sorry you had to see that.

However, Koreans aren't desensitized... My coteacher learned to drive in the last year and a half, and every time we go somewhere she gets really nervous about driving and always tells me about how horrifying it is for her to drive in Korea because of the traffic and accidents she's seen and those things... And she's mentioned more than a few friends who have been traumatized by witnessing accidents involving helmetless motorcyclists and something bigger.

You're in a unique position because of the nature of public transportation. A bunch of strangers crammed together. What else are you supposed to do? I would be right there with them trying to sort out my feelings to someone I knew via text/call instead of a random, even if we did share the same experience.

Re: Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2011, 02:55:35 pm »
Well what do you expect people to do to show you they care?  Should they be ballin' their eyes out?  Should they be jumping up and down like crazy monkeys?  Should they all just go home and mourn for the day out of respect?  I don't think people are desensitized at all.  It is a sad fact of life that we tend to just want to ignore it and put it out of our minds because we can't let every bad thing we see in life bring us down, otherwise we'd just all go crazy and depressed.

You should ask yourself what you did right after you saw it too.  I bet you never thought about looking at from that point of view and the answer would probably be no different from anyone else on that bus.  Probably a few gasps, a few murmurs of omg, then u sat down and texted someone what u just saw or put ur music back in ur ears.   From the outside, it would look like you didn't care just as much as the next person in the bus even though inside, you were really sympathetic, heartbroken, or mounful for that person.

If you want a better example, go to youtube and checkout all the car accidents filmed in china and see that even upon a person getting runned over by a car, no cars stop to help...they just swirve around the body and keep driving.  At least a whole bus with dozens of busy people needing to get somewhere stopped to take a look and then move on.  It's very hard to judge these kind of things.

"There are many things you can point to as proof that the human is not smart, but my personal favorite would have to be that we needed to invent the helmet. What was happening, apparently, was that we were involved in a lot of activities that were cracking our heads. We chose not to avoid doing those activities but, instead, to come up with some sort of device to help us enjoy our head-cracking lifestyles." Jerry Seinfeld
« Last Edit: December 15, 2011, 03:06:57 pm by cornflakes »

Re: Witnessed a terrible accident on my way too work this morning
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2011, 03:26:39 pm »
Hey again,

I just went back and reread your post and my response. I realize I probably came off as harsh and scolding. I'm sorry! My knee-jerk reaction was not a sensitive one. First of all, let me say that you have done nothing wrong by being deeply disturbed. It's actually a very good thing that you are sensitive to things.

May I make a guess? Are you perhaps in your first year in Korea? When you are in a new country and culture a couple of different things can effect your reading of a situation like this. For starters, new foreigners in any country tend to chalk everything they experience up to culture or people. It kind of makes sense. We're trying to get a handle on a very unfamiliar culture, maybe we don't even know anything about it at first. At the same time, we begin to forget our own culture's status quo for a variety of situations. Everything can seem special (in both the good and bad way), significant, and meaningful. We're caught in a big blank white space and have to rebuild our construction of the world around us, often without anyone to guide us. So, in this state it's easy to say, "maybe their culture doesn't value death or react to it the same way we do". It just so happens to be incorrect in this case, but if you've been here for less than a year I can understand how you could draw that conclusion.

The other thing is that your emotions tend to be heightened in a new place, especially around the holidays (assuming you celebrate them). You may be more sensitive and also more greatly desire a connection to the people around you. The fact is, you shared a disturbing experience with people and it seems like you would have liked people to openly acknowledge that it was shared. The thing is, open acknowledgement of other people in public is simply uncommon in most modern, developed societies. We've mastered the ability to create a private space in public. As someone mentioned earlier, Koreans in particular do not show emotion publicly as much as most Westerners. They're even less likely to show a negative emotion publicly. In fact, some feel it is everyone's duty to preserve the communal 기분 or mood.  One could argue that they were being more respectful and polite to the motorcyclist and each other by maintaining a silence.

Anyway, I hope this and others' comments help you get a grasp on it and I hope the memory fades for you.