Day 2A: Heavenly People

More myth.

At the beginning the world did not exist. A deity named Yul-ryeo 율려(律呂) and a goddess named Mago 마고(麻姑) appeared . Yul-ryeo then died. Mago in turn gave birth to two goddesses: Gung-hee 궁희(穹姬) and So-hee 소희(巢姬). They in turn each gave birth to two Men of Heaven 천인(天人) and two Women of Heaven 천녀(天女).  After the appearance of the Heavenly People, Yul-ryeo 율려 is revived and through her rebirth heaven, earth, and the oceans were created, along with Chi (soul) 기(氣), fire 불(火), water 물(水), and earth 흙(土). These four elements in turn mixed and became herbs and plants, birds and animals.

Mago 마고(麻姑) decides to stay with Yul-ryeo, whose body had now become the world, and the Heavenly People ruled all living things from their heavenly fortress named Magoseong 마고성(麻姑城) in honor of the goddess.

Day 2 was what I often fear most: a press event.  It hits all of my buttons.  Images and sound bites rarely capture the complexity of anything, let alone what I’m a part of organizationally.  

The day started well, however, because I finally had breakfast!  I’ll spare you the details but the protein did quite well by me and I felt a surge of energy as we left the hotel and walked a short distance to the Franciscan Education Center that was only a few doors down from the KCTU office building.  

Inside, we were guided to a room similar to a high school classroom.  Tables and chairs were set up in front for us delegates and we quickly moved to our places.  As we settled, more press came in and I started to get flustered.  Typically, I am accustomed to young press from lefty news organizations or older independent guys who run their own shop.  I don’t get into mainstream press at all, and that’s been just fine.  Here we were joined by outlets from all over the globe, including AP and the large news outlets in South Korea.  Cameras constantly snapping, flashes loud and close to my face… it was a lot to deal with and for a moment I had a rare look into the lives of my delegation partners with some fame/infamy.  I wondered how difficult it must be to deal with this kind of uncontrolled attention.

We were asked to prepare statements ahead of time to be translated, including a brief two-sentence blurb.  I submitted:

Weapons of war aren’t what American workers need to produce in a world being shaped by climate change. THAAD represents a reinvestment in a declining industry that union workers can no longer afford.

The first response I got back from the team was actually the first question I was asked by foreign press as well as my delegation comrades.  People were confused by the idea that workers cared about anything but money, additionally asking:

Why do you call the weapons industry a declining industry?

While the question was translated I hammered out some bullets quickly so I wouldn’t stumble.  Cameras trained on my face quickly as I took on the question directly while simultaneously rejecting the premise.  

The reality is that we support weapons manufacturing in a way that we wouldn’t subsidize anything else.  When business is good we rationalize bigger purchases even when we don’t need them and when business isn’t as good we give them away or sell them to governments we claim to despise.  Plans for spending are made years before any money is appropriated in many cases.  This creates a cycle where we spend the money because we claim we have no choice, having already paid for an item that may have tripled in cost to make simply because we said we would.  To add insult to injury, what we have produced often has limited to zero practical use outside of warfare so unless we find a way to use it for that singular purpose, it’s likely that it will sit waiting for a target.  In no other situation would you call an industry with an undesirable product that needs nearly 100 percent subsidy to survive thriving, but that’s exactly what we do with the military-industrial complex.

I ended by saying that climate change is being seen more and more by workers in these industries as the real threat we need to face.  Profit can’t begin to counterbalance the need for solutions in a world desperate for climate justice.  Workers, when given an actual choice, usually decide a livable Earth is a better investment.

When our press conference was concluded, I was told many times that not only was what I was saying provocative but that they’d never thought about the question that way.  They’d never thought that American workers would ever value anything but profit.  I was quick to remind them that if we continue to define profit and success as things solely quantifiable in dollars, we will miss out on new allies in unfamiliar places.

I’m back to writing and I’ll continue to post every day.  Check the Resource Page as I’ll be adding new things as well as a new pinned post full of pictures from the trip.

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