Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monopoly rules, taxation without representation, and I ate dog soup

Last week I spotted Monopoly in Young's office. Since then I think I've played 7 games. I forgot how great monopoly is. I won't let this launch into a tirade about how people these days can't appreciate a board game because they've been playing Halo for so long. Really, board games (especially Monopoly) are serious fun. I wish I had a miniature Monopoly set so I could play with the person next to me on the way back to the US(11 hours out of a 22 hour trip). It'd probably be easier to play Monopoly on a laptop instead of a board (OK, playing on a board would be impossible in economy class). Too bad my laptop doesn't last that long. I've won 3 of the last 4 games I played. Buying and building up Boardwalk and Park Place takes some luck and certainly some risk, but it almost always pays off. This last game I didn't get them and lost. There's a lot of chance involved, but skill is required also.

I've been getting involved in the student politics of Handong as of late. HGU has some very deficient areas in their global program that some international students are trying to fix- a International Student Union has been founded, a consitution ratified, etc- people are serious about this. I want to do everything I can to make the Handong experience good for the exchange students coming after me, and for the international students remaining here long term. Handong may call itself Handong Global University, but the attitudes on campus as very Korean, not global. Handong tends to like to think that they're global when in fact their school isn't as international-friendly as they'd like you to believe. I won't say it's bad, but it definitely needs change. A common Korean attitude is that one will automatically defer one's desires and needs to the convenience or whims of someone older or sitting in an office chair. This works fine if you were raised to think of someone a day older than you as infinitely superior to yourself and don't see any problem in giving up and dropping everything to suit someone's most unimportant detail. It's a very "do as you're told" system. Don't let this discourage you if you're thinking of coming to Handong, this really won't affect you that much unless you're trying to buck the trend as I am.

Anyway- Today was round two of student government voting here at Handong. There were originally four candidates and the winner must get 51% of the vote. Four candidates. 51% required. This makes no sense, but whatever. The first election just served to have the two losingest candidates concede the election, even though it's not intended as an elimination round. Fortunately the two awful candidates conceded and we were left with one candidate who actually cared(#2) and one who looks good on a poster and promised everyone everything under the sun(#1). I went to a debate aimed at international issues and between the two it seemed to me like #1 just wanted to figure out what people wanted to hear and say it, while #2 actually got it that the 'G' in 'HGU' means nothing right now(in the context of either "God's" or "Global") and was sincerely committed to doing everything to change that. Obviously all the international students were gunning for #2 because he's very much in favor of helping out the international students. I went to vote at both the elimination round and the sudden death round and both times I was refused. The first time I didn't really know what was going on, and when I got a second chance with the sudden death round I actually knew I was going to be refused and what I was going to say about it. I won't include all the details here, but essentially it amounted to the people running the election telling me that it didn't have voting rights because I was and exchange student and I didn't matter.

Now here's the thing- I paid 50 kilowon in various student government fees. It's not the money- the vote is worth more to me than the 50 kilowon going to Korean student government or to ISU. What matters is the legitimacy that taking my money implies. What they're saying is that I'm legitimate enough for them to take my money, but not legitimate enough for them to give them anything in return. That, my friends, is bull. I continued to get the runaround from student government people who were awed that I wasn't automatically willing to be screwed over and smile about it. It hasn't amounted to anything yet. The guy I spoke with last took my email(and to his credit, did empathize a bit with me that I was getting hosed) and promised to look into it for me. He was clear, though, that there was nothing he could do for me at that moment or in the near future. I was equally clear that the only future I had at Handong was the near future- but I can't expect the guy to change the whole system overnight. So what you can take away from this story is that the student government took my fees, refused to let me vote, and isn't going to do anything about it.

Things brings us to the most controversial issue of this blog post, and one that I'm sure will make some people think less of me. I ate some dog. Yes, I did. I know you like your dog. I like your dog too. Dogs are wonderful and can be great companions and pets. At the end of the day, though- I'm sorry, but dogs are still animals. Americans and much of the world may think of dogs as something more, but let this be perfectly clear: a commonly held ideal does not constitute a natural law regardless of how passionately people feel about it. People in the western world are passionate about dogs, and that's fine. Many people in Asia simply do not adhere to western ideals, specifically this one. It's not a matter of right or wrong- there is no absolute right or wrong in the decision of which animals are good to eat and which are not. To fill this gap, we have only a giant clump of emotion. While you're thinking how inconsiderate/inhumane/sickening/wrong it is to eat dog, have you ever though about how a Hindu would feel about you eating beef? A delicious cow to you is a sacred being to them. And do you know what? Neither you nor the Hindu is more right than the other. It's just a matter of personal and cultural convictions, not absolute truth. So yes, I ate dog. I know that many will think this is 'just plain wrong', but well- the truth is that this is governed only by feelings and faraway wishes. Do you know what you get when you govern only by feelings and faraway wishes? France.

Anyway, 12 of us went to a local restaurant in lieu of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal and we all agreed to stretch our boundaries and have something we'd not had before. It was a fun time and we all enjoyed it. Here's a pic of the group:

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