From reading the Human Acts and learning more about the Gwangju uprising, I found the idea of the separation between the physical body and self very interesting. This got me thinking about what really marks death? If our physical body is the only factor to consider when classifying someone as dead or alive, then those who are on life support are technically classified as alive. However, they have lost their ability to think and lost their individuality as their body is no different to someone else’s, I personally would consider that as being dead. Flesh is different to our self, as flesh does not make anyone different from one another, but our mind does.
Another idea that I find very significant in the Human Acts is about remembering. The old quote that says more or less ‘you only truly die when no one remembers you’ is quite relevant to this book. I guess the idea of ‘true death’ looks beyond the biological death of someone and further implies that our life is beyond the physical flesh that ‘hosts’ our individual selves. I think memory is what sets us apart from other animals, although other animals can also remember things, its purpose is mostly to steer them away from danger, or towards food sources etc – solely for survival. However, humans can recall instances, not necessarily gaining any ‘useful’ knowledge out of them. We are born to remember, and we associate memories with emotions. Human Acts is a book all about remembering the Gwangju uprising, and it appeals to its audience by evoking a visceral sense of disgust and discomfort. These emotions make us remember, and the whole purpose of the book is essentially to remind us of what has happened. If the Gwangju uprising is forgotten, all the sacrifices that people made to fight for democracy will be forgotten as well. The progress has been made but the process is equally important as it teaches people about not conforming and to fight for their rights.
Reading about the Gwangju uprising made me think of how the Chinese government censored the protest at Tiananmen square on June 4th, 1989. I know about this because my mother remembers the event, but the kids of today probably have no idea it even happened as their parents would not have been old enough to remember anything about it. History should never be erased, although it probably has been (many times) in the past and we wouldn’t even know. Intentionally erasing a part of history makes me feel like the government is tearing away parts of my identity as a Chinese citizen and it makes me shameful to know that our government does not recognise what has happened and basically turned a blind eye on it, on everyone’s behalf. History should always be addressed, because it is through history that we avoid making the same mistakes, and learn lessons about the morale of our people which people will remember and carry on to allow the society to progress.