Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sex Education and Media Literacy

Need for media literacy is heard since the media often gives us what they want us to believe and do. We need the tools to  think critically on what is presented, understand how the messages shape our culture and society, recognize the bias, spin, lies, omissions and evaluate the messages according to our beliefs and values and what we know to be true.

An article in the Catholic Peace Weekly on sex education and the way the media presents sex requires Christians to discern and make proper judgements on what they see and hear. Discernment is a big order and necessary for a life well lived. Philippians 4:6  gives us a good starting point: "fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor,and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of  praise."

The article introduces us to a young woman, a nurse and health educator. Her words give the readers her impressions after a training course she took on media literacy.

I am a nurse and a health teacher. I am teaching sex education programs and find it difficult. In nursing college I learned all about anatomy, genitals and the sexually generated diseases but little about the understanding of sexuality in society and culture, making me unprepared to teach a course in sexuality. I did take a course in media literacy and sex education which opened my eyes and gave me a lot of confidence in what I was meant to teach.

I never realized how blind I was before taking the  course. When I was a teenager and listening to pop music and musical videos I never realized what was happening to me. Why was I so ignorant?  I  was  brainwashed to see sex as a game and once this began to sink in I could see it clearly in the media. I was brought up and fed this understanding of sex. I learned in middle school what it meant to be sexy watching dancing in musical videos mimicking the sexual act, although as a middle school student  it was only vague.

Students that I am now teaching are exposed to what I grew up with. There is a need for me to examine myself and the society in which these young people have to live. I need a correct understanding of sex, the words, thoughts and  actions to match what I am trying to convey.

 During my college years I was free in the way I lived my sex life with my boy friends. I enjoyed it—life and responsibility never entered in. I took contraceptive medicine; I will not be pregnant. Most of my girl friends had no problem with this way of life.They weren't frivolous but living a proper social life: this is what is to be done, there was no big worries on the way we were living. During the training program at the beginning I took issue with much that was said, sex is a personal matter, a person's taste, nothing was wrong with the way I lived was my strong feeling.

However, half way thru the course my thinking changed. Each one of the boy friends left with mutual scars from our encounter. I began to see society as going in the wrong direction. I began to feel guilty and saw a need to recover a sense of responsibility. I began to see the need for a 'butterfly effect' in the way I was to teach.

Before the training I considered the royal road to sex education was contraception. We don't talk about contraception, the reason why we have children in their teens pregnant and abortion—contraception is a simple solution. 

We have forgotten the place of love, creation of life, responsibility in sexuality. When I reflect on the past, I am embarrassed at my ignorance. As an educator with a new moral sense I am ready to explain the meaning of sex to the young people who have been exposed to a wrongheaded cultural understanding of sex and this came from a course in media literacy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Learning from Addiction

Embarrassingly, a professor of moral theology mentions how he was addicted to gaming when in Germany for studies after a period as an assistant priest in Korea. He writes about it in Bible & Life. He had finished the busy life in parish work and with the change he found great pleasure in gaming. After Mass in the morning he would be gaming, excepting meals, until evening.

Addiction is a kind of neurosis on which we depend. Up until the second part of the 20th century addiction was expressed mostly by a dependence on alcohol and drugs while now it is gambling, sex, eating, and the like which are included. Authorities now see it as addiction to substances and activities. The common element of the two—with desire and obsession one loses freedom and even with the knowledge of the evil effects one continues in their use and action.

In Korean society mentioned is often made of addiction to alcohol, gambling, drugs, and gaming. Proposals were made in efforts to curb the harm of these addictions but when it came to gaming, many scholars opposed the consideration of gaming as a disorder. This year the world health organization WHO was planning to include gaming as a problem but scholars say there is not enough proof of being a disorder. He mentions in Korea we have seen the results of gaming on families and individuals to know that it can have deleterious effects on the citizens. Of course the gaming itself is not a vice but can be.

Monkeys, in an experiment on addiction, shown two colors one was rewarded with the same amount of juice and the second color would at times give little juice and at times a great deal of juice. This was repeated three times with the same results. The color that gave the great amount of juice with the danger of getting little juice was chosen overwhelmingly over the one that gave the same amount each time. The ecstasy that came with great amount of juice would erase all the losses. The scientist see this as the reason for addiction to gambling and the other addictions. Even if the head says one thing the chance for the ecstasy takes away freedom.

With few exception we desire freedom. We need to examine this issue with great seriousness. When do we really experience freedom? Is it at the market where we can select what we want?  Or is it rather when we buy only what we need and use the money saved to help others.

Expressing it differently it's not when we can do what we want, when we want but when our wills are able to select the greatest good that we are really free. This is the way we should live and addiction takes away this freedom.

The writer reminds us of the incident on Mount Tabor where Peter in ecstasy wanted to build three tents and Jesus takes him by the hand to descend the mountain and return to  the others who were waiting at the bottom.

He concludes the article, reminiscing on his experience with addiction. Although embarrassing he learned a great deal; it helped him to enter his studies with enthusiasm, complete them successfully, and now sees the experience positively.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bad Money Drives Out Good Money

Bad money drives out good money is called the Gresham's law. Gresham T. (1519~1569) was not the first to acknowledge this truth: if a shilling is made of pure silver and other coins are made from silver and cooper the pure silver will disappear and the cooper-silver will remain.

This is generally applied to the economic sector but a columnist in the Catholic Peace Weekly reminds us that this is true also in everyday life. Examples: bad rumors spread much faster than the good ones, wrong words, bad deeds, gossip, slander are more prevalent. A good story impresses but the influence and impact of a bad story is greater.

A common example is fake news and malicious comments that are plentiful on the Internet. The influence of fake news spreading in real time goes way beyond what we can imagine. Recently the '#Me Too' movement spread widely in society— victims who confessed suffered harm from their words. According to a survey 72 percent who spoke out about abuse had to quit their jobs due to bullying.

Fake news is not something that happened yesterday but is a fact of life. Jesus, though the times and situations are different also suffered fake news that caused his death. Jesus testified to the truth, proclaimed justice, taught mercy and love and showed this in his life but the fake news caused his death.

Evil comments and replies will not disappear but we know the evil that has resulted from the bullying and lack of wisdom in the use of comments in SNS. A movement to bring positive comments to cyberspace has been in existence for 12 years, they have an aim of 10 million positive comments and a million students involved.

When we have some extraordinary event in society the number of evil comments far exceed the good comments and are faster to appear.

In the 'Church and Internet' a document that came out in 2002 the Church presents some virtues to practice: Prudence is necessary in order clearly to see the implications—the potential for good and evil—in this new medium and to respond to its challenges and opportunities. Justice is needed, especially justice in working to close the digital divide—the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor in today's world. This requires a commitment to the international common good. Fortitude is necessary standing up for truth in the face of religious and moral relativism, for altruism and generosity in the face of individualist consumerism and decency in the face of sensuality. Temperance is needed and self discipline to use this remarkable technology and use it only for good.
To overcome the evil effects of fake news and disparaging comments we need the above virtues in our lives. We need to participate in movements to renew the media that has become infested with so much negativity—not necessary, and hurtful to many.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dealing with Betrayal

Betrayal is part of life. Difficult to accept when experienced. Portrayed in literature in all the many cultures of the world and frequently in the Christian  Scriptures. Jesus is the telling example in the New Testament and it wasn't only Judas. This was despite his words of warning  and after each one, in turn, asked: "Surely it's not I?"

The Korean 'Me Too' movement has to do with a betrayal of friendship in most cases. The president of the bishops' conference apologized for this betrayal even among priests. A priest in a diocesan bulletin deals with the issue. He doesn't know how this movement will change society.

Of course many are not happy about the 'Me Too' movement and many support the movement with their: 'With you' response. What was buried in society has finally come out in the open? Gender inequality no longer is a hidden agenda. The movement was waiting to explode within society. Feelings against the power of money in society have always been there: resentment of the weak towards  power was bound to explode. The uncomfortableness between man the powerful one and woman the weak one comes to a head. We are in the midst of change.

The Church is in society and the priest is a part of society. When the clergy and religious are guilty of such behavior the outrage is great. Society is shocked. We should be thankful, says the writer that this is still the case. The public still has greater expectations from the clergy and religious.

The apostles we know lived very close to Jesus for three years. They ate with him, laughed, cried, and underwent many hardships with him but they couldn't give up their desire for power. How much more difficult in the society in which we live to feel the presence of Jesus in our lives. Judas was not able to overcome the feeling of guilt he experienced from the betrayal and killed himself.

Peter who denied Jesus three times a betrayal for which he repented with great sorrow and gave his life for his Lord, became a great disciple. This is an example for all of us. We are prone to make mistakes (which we hope will not happen) but when they do we don't give up.

We don't deny or make excuses for what was done but after great reflection, ask forgiveness from God and the person hurt. Make the necessary compensation to the victim and satisfaction for what was done and go along with our lives.

We can lose the cow from the barn.This can happen to anyone and for a religious person, it should be a step to a more mature life but also the need to fix the barn.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fine Dust Problems in Korea

Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem which makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. This is not a recent phenomenon and one that continues to grow. China was blamed for a great deal of the problem with the yellow dust from the Gobi desert but in recent years the domestic factors are an equal problem. Korea, China and Japan do meet to discus ways of decreasing the pollution in their countries.

The dust storms that have been a part of the history of the area have been recorded from time immemorial, however, with the industrialization we have an influx of pollutants mixed in with the dust more harmful than in the past. This is true mostly during the spring time of the year. Wearing of masks is now a common sight on the streets of Korea.

President Moon has made clean air one of his important targets. Local sources of pollution include vehicle emissions, industrial sites and power plants, areas where something can be done while foreign sources are beyond Korean control. The government is working to shut down the polluting coal plants and fine dust alerts are sent out to the residents on the dangerous days.

Seoul pushes 'odd-even' number plate anti-pollution car rationing.The Metropolitan Government wants to make an odd-even vehicle number plate use ban mandatory to counter worsening air pollution. Under the ban, vehicles with odd-number plates must not be driven on even-numbered dates and vice-versa. All kinds of ideas have been proffered and the public is concerned in trying to lower the pollution.

The Catholic Peace Weekly in two interviews on the fine dust issue makes clear we  dealing with a disaster and wants the government to help the citizens to breathe freely. At present only the government workers are asked to follow the odd-even number plates ban. This has little to show for results and the free rides on public transportation on the high pollution days is of little help. They do know that back in 2002 when it was mandatory they did see a decrease in pollution.

In one of the largest areas of Seoul about 900 are working in common to decrease the pollution. They promised in 10 different ways to decrease the pollution: use of public transportation, decrease the dust at the construction and industrial sites, plant trees in vacant lots and around homes etc.; they agreed to come together to discuss the results of their efforts.

They take responsibility to water down and clean the roads near the 30 or so construction sites within their district. Their target is to decrease the fine dust to zero. They are working to do the impossible. In the whole district there are over 100 large construction sites. Last year they inspected 370 sites and they exposed 22 sites which were in violation of regulations. Four of them were in great violation and  were charged with a crime. This year they will concentrate on the gases emitted from cars and have a center, free to help discover polluting cars.

The interviewer agrees that it is healthy and a good sign to see the citizens involved in the efforts to clean the city but if force is felt, there is a danger of revolt which will be counter productive and has to be watched.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trials And Spiritual Growth

Trauma is a word we hear often. Traumatized, traumatization, traumatic all forms of a word that originally intended to mean a wound on the outside of the body, an external injury but now often used to indicate a psychological shock, wound of the heart and soul caused by some horrible experience.

A diocesan bulletin reminds the readers of the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds that we are exposed to in our lives. In Korea where we have serious accidents happening and leaving many people with scars that take time to heal. Trauma is a word we use frequently.  Incidents that cause trauma are diverse: natural disasters (floods, and earthquakes),  war, fire, physical assault, torture, sexual assault,  automobile accidents etc. Trauma often causes mental symptoms: anxiety, phobias, depression, alcohol and drug dependence, but fortunately, most of it disappears over time.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that may follow some horrible event, experiencing,  or witnessing it.  It is a long-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder and may need professional help. The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association recommends those who have been traumatized communicate with others, talk about their emotions, rest, do not rely on alcohol, harmful medicines and take care of their bodies and minds.

Pain is normal and to use all the natural means available to find peace is the search for healing. This has always been a part of our society. However, it is true that many who go through horrible experiences are able to go on with their lives without serious problems: shown to be true for certain nations who have experienced war but without the PTSD.

In the Bible, we have examples of those who have been traumatized: Saul traumatized others but was himself traumatized by the many atrocities he experienced and caused. We are often told the spirit of God left him. David the warrior king also experienced many horrible things and was not left untouched. St. Ignatius of Loyola may very well have experienced PTSD from his experience of war. We are all possible victims of PTSD.

Spirituality is the way of seeing life that acknowledges God presence here and now. His love accepted and responded to makes all the difference. God always makes the first steps towards us and not us to God. This is a truth often forgotten or not understood. Some believe we are not necessarily programmed to be unwilling victims. In the past, we often heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Certainly true if one believes in God and has a mature spirituality. Growth can be a result of the stress if we believe in its possibility.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Changes in the Constitution of Korea

In the Eye of the Believer's column of the Catholic Times, a lawyer asks the readers since I bought some land on which a magnolia tree grows, does the tree belong to me?  

He begins the article reminiscing about his childhood of 50 years ago. Everyone who lived in a two-story house was rich. He had kimchi, small fish and tempura side dishes, but the friend from the two-story house had a sausage in his lunch box. Even though we were not rich all the houses had a little flower garden that bloomed with their seasonal flowers.

At in the evening we would go to the alley and play hide and seek, tag, and sing. Compared to the average income of those days we have increased it hundreds of times. The alley playground, the flower gardens, and the singing have all disappeared. Instead of the flower garden, we wanted to extend the house, and instead of singing myself I go to watch the singing and dancing of others.This is all because of money. Capitalism has eaten away at the flower beds, the songs, and the games.

A discussion is in full swing to revise the constitution. What has that to do with me? Many have these thoughts running through their heads. In Korean, we hear often a person is such that he can live without laws. Yes, there are many such people. Law does not only deal, however, with criminal offenses but also helps us to live a fuller life. Law determines a great deal of the way we live.

When you make a law to redevelop the neighborhood the benefits should go to all the inhabitants who pay the taxes. Whether the minimum wage is 5,000 won or 10,000 won the concern of the workers and the employers are different. Whether large co-operations will be able to make a fish cake or tofu and sell them and regulations of store hours for department stores, means a great deal to the merchants within that community.

The constitution is the basis for the laws of the country that coordinates the many interests of the people. The Constitution is our life and needed to protect all the citizens. One of the disputed points is the possession of land: those who hold for the absolute ownership of land. In Korea up until the Chosen dynasty land was own by the country. This is the way it is in China we build on the land and have the right to its use, to live and build on it.

The Second Vatican Council section 69  of the Pastoral Constitution answers: "God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people. Thus, as all men follow justice and unite in charity, created goods should abound for them on a reasonable basis." Also, we have in the same paragraph: "In using them, therefore, a man should regard his lawful possessions not merely as his own but also as common property in the sense that they should accrue to the benefit of not only himself but of others."

This kind of talk is often hard to accept and this is also true of Christians. This land and its magnificence, registered in my name, is mine within the limits of the common good. We should be happy to see a change that will benefit everyone.