[FOUNTAIN] Beyond the Seventh Circle of HellA premier under Ren Zong, the fourth emperor of Song Dynasty of China, searched throughout the country for people to recommend for government posts. One day, the premier was having a dinner with senior government officials, and food was stuck on his beard.
A government official, whom the premier had recommended, jumped out and cleaned off the food from the beard politely with his sleeve.
People recalled the episode later when criticizing the servile attitude of a shameless flatterer.
An English expression, "lick the dust," is somewhat similar.
Another episode about an even more shameless flatterer was handed down from the old time. During the Tang Dynasty of China, a government official visited his senior who was sick in bed. Although his fellow officials visited the sick man together in a group, he privately inquired after the sick person by himself. Then, he requested that some body waste of the sick man be brought to him and tasted the feces.
He set the senior official at ease by saying: "Sir, fortunately it tastes bitter. I am sure that you will get well soon." What an extremely shameless flatterer he was!
Sweet words for other people are compliments, while sweet words uttered for one's own purposes are flattery. Although the more compliments the better it gets, it is the opposite for the flattery: the less the better.
Tachitus, a historian of Rome, said that a flatterer is the most fatal enemy. Hsun Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, said "Someone giving me lots of soft soap will eventually harm me." Socrates said that a hunter catches a rabbit with a dog, while a flatterer catches a stupid person with a compliment. Napoleon gave the advice that someone who is good at flattering will also be good at defaming others. It is human nature to be vulnerable to lip service.
A lawmaker of an opposition party who called his party president "the prospective king" is under attack from people nowadays. The lawmaker commented that although the nation is currently in great chaos, the opposition party president would become the "king" by December next year, resolving all the national hardships.
We can not help laughing at his shameless lip service.
Some may argue that politics is, in fact, a form of flattery targeting the populace. And yet, I still have to ask a question.
Dante, the Italian writer of the Renaissance period, in his great work "The Divine Comedy" reserved the seventh circle of hell for despots and murderers. Now, let us guess. Who would go to the eighth circle of hell?
by Bae Myung-bok