By Konrad Kostecki
So here I am in Australia after almost 10 years in Korea. I am planning to be here at least a few months, depending on the anger and boredom levels. I was most surprised when the Australian customs waved me through without thoroughly riffling through my luggage. A year ago, when I came for a visit, I ran into a real prick equivalent of a female customs officer who decided to go through my luggage with the proverbial fine tooth comb. All this because my reply to her dumb-ass routine question of,
“Did you pack this bag yourself?,” was “Yes,” with a note of sarcasm.
The power drunk trollop proceeded to chastise me about my sense of humour and with a sadistic pleasure went through my wallet, pulling out receipts, looking through the photos on my digital camera and really pissing me off. To top it off, she ran a drug detector swab around my bag, hoping to find residue of some illegal substance. Needless to say, she did not find a single molecule of whatever she was after. Welcome to the police state, I thought. With this experience in mind, I was bracing myself for I’m-scum-cause-I-am-living-in-Korea like treatment but thankfully the reality fell short of my expectations.
I am staying at home with my folks at the moment. It is good to see them again and I gotta say that they seem to be in a relatively good form. I ventured out of the house to see what is different, what is new. My gut told me that this place was going to differ greatly from Korea…No shit Sherlock! A short trip to the Safeway supermarket confirmed my suspicion unequivocally. In place of the made up hotties in high heels were haggard women sporting fashions that should not see the light of day under any circumstances. My god, what a collection of flotsam and jetsam! Overweight women wearing tight “leggings” or loose tracksuit pants. I almost felt like keeling over and vomiting right there on the Safeway floor but I remembered the message of the famous Greek stoic, Epictetus, that rang to the effect of: “Make a correct use of impressions”. In other words, things are not as bad as they are if we put them in a correct perspective. Okay, Epictetus, you are right but let’s put your axiom to the test – do these parading monstrosities affect me in a negative manner, do they affect my mood? Hmmm…YES! Damn right they do! They are spoiling my vista with their human ugliness! I am exposed to their haggard, slovenly appearance and it is depressing the hell out of me!
But on a more serious note, Korea is a bit of an anomaly in this world, as far as the emphasis on appearance goes. Most Korean girls do not dream of leaving the house without a good layer of makeup and while this can be described as shallow by the burn-your-bras-feminist-brigade, it sure as hell is pleasant to look at from a male perspective. Let me say this and I will make no apologies: I am attracted to well groomed, attractive women and I suspect all of the males reading this post are too. Yes, you gentlemen out there, I hope that you are not brainwashed by the feminist propaganda of “internal beauty”. Fuck that! We want our women to be pretty first; we’ll worry about their personality later.
But on a more serious note. There is an interesting passage in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics where he talks about contemptible behaviour. He strays from his train of thought regarding what constitutes a bad moral state and delves into the idea that “Not only the vices of the soul are voluntary, physical defects too, if voluntarily incurred are culpable” [p. 63, Nichomachean Ethics, Penguin, 2004]. According to this line of reasoning, if obesity, not to mention a horrible taste in clothes, is voluntarily incurred, it can and is subject to scorn. Aristotle, you rock man! I bet that besides young men, you also liked an attractive example of the opposite sex. So there we go. Before you start calling me shallow and a prick, take heed of Aristotle’s words.
Nobody should scorn another person for what nature gave him – we are stuck with whatever genes we receive but what we do with them is another matter altogether. While Koreans are absolutely possessed by the Lord of Looking Good, the Aussies are ambivalent and frequently do not give a rat’s ass about how they look on the street or what anybody thinks of them. These are two polar extremes. My sample of Australians does not adequately nor fairly represent the Australian population at large – after all the visual input was collected at a suburban supermarket in the early Saturday afternoon. I know for certain that had the data collection occurred at a popular nightspot, the results would be much different. But my question is this: why dress like a scumbag slob anyway? What possesses people to look like shit in the daytime and only spruce up if there is some “going out” to do? Why should “looking decent” be only an occasional thing? Why can’t we make it an every day, a matter of self-respect thing? Looking decent is not about being shallow – it is about behaving like a civilized human being and having some pride and self-respect. By my reckoning, a large number of Australians do not know the meaning of these words.
Conrad was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1976, the year of the Dragon.
He spent his early childhood climbing trees, playing cowboys and Indians and running amok with other misfit kids around the concrete jungles of his town. In 1987 he was abruptly uprooted from his surroundings by his parents and taken to Italy where he lived for almost two years in a refugee camp in Ostia, just outside of Rome. There he attended the remaining years of elementary school where he learned to speak Italian. After the stint in Italy, his fate took him to Australian shores where he continued his education and mischief. After graduating university and driven by ennui and lack of ideas as to what to do with his life, he came to South Korea to teach. He now is back home continuing his education.