Power, the Root of All Evil

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Power, the Root of All Evil

Power is around us everywhere. It lurks not only in politics, but also in money and the media. It prowls even in science, religion and literature, those areas which look alien to power. This is why conflicts never end, and the country is ceaselessly embroiled in controversies.

In the Korean language, the predicate verb "wriggling" often accompanies the word "power," sometimes with a treacherous connotation. We do not have to resort to the aphorisms of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu or the Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud to confirm that power is the product of "social unconsciousness" and of "unconscious greed."

It was in the same vein that German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche referred to power as the "essence of being." Herein also sprung his famous phrase, "the will to power." It was by a similar logic that the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who had fathomed the true attributes of power that penetrate every nook and cranny of life (including the physical body), proclaimed the concept of power being inherent to every living organism.

Although it sounds impressive and complex at first glance, the message expounded by these sages was quite simple: Power comes from a greed that does not easily reveal its true colors, and it is portrayed through a will of its own. No matter how hard we try to suppress it, power manages to wriggle out, because it exists in the realm of the unconscious.

If this is so, perhaps we can dub this "power within the heart." This expression rings true when we observe the crippled operation of the National Assembly and the medical sector still continuing to flounder without a solution in sight. The same is true of the Hanvit Bank loan scandal. All the incidents took place because the power lurking within the hearts of those involved had burst forth to trespass the limits set down by the social system.

This would be easier to understand if we use the innumerable administrative regulations, one of the chronic ills of our society, as a case in point. The previous Kim Young-sam administration went so far as to operate a monthly monitoring system, declaring that the life or death of the so-called "new economy" depended on easing the nation's myriad regulations. Not surprisingly, the current Kim Dae-jung administration also regarded this issue as the key to revitalizing the economy, and recently proclaimed that it has either abolished or eased 7,841 regulations, or 70.5 percent of the entire administrative regulations which previously numbered 11,125.

The public, however, remains skeptical. This is because it has already seen through the true designs of the bureaucrats. The bureaucrats usually end up creating a new, stronger regulation in the place of several trivial ones. When they don't do that, they furtively fill the newly created vacuum with "black power" - power of questionable intentions.

This resembles the "illusory leg" syndrome psychologists talk about. A person who has lost a leg often suffers in his sleep from the illusion that his leg is growing again. Actually, whenever power pokes its head out of every available crack, we are all bent on slashing it away, but to what avail?

As Foucault said, power existed yesterday and will undoubtedly continue to exist tomorrow. It is difficult for us, except perhaps those dreaming of anarchy, to totally deny power itself. We can only repeatedly despair at the way power veers to the wrong tracks following the beckoning of twisted hearts.

This is why we wish to call on everyone to "kill the power within the heart." Actually, this would amount to the "liberation of self." One could mock this as a futile call, but it can be done. Park Won-soon, a prominent civic organization leader and lawyer, decided on two principles as the keys to killing the power within his heart while staying true to his convictions. One is the pledge to live in poverty, and the other is to trample on other people's expectations of him. To trample on them as brutally as possible.

Through such actions, we would be able to nip our greed in its bud. Following the death of the "power within the heart," the power outside would also begin to crumble. We would then be able to hear the sound of power toppling from all around us. Thump! Thump! Thump!

by Huh Eui-do

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