[VIEWPOINT]Machiavelli would have to laugh

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[VIEWPOINT]Machiavelli would have to laugh

The time-worn strategy of control by putting out and repeating the "big lie" is usually associated with Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th century Italian politician. To dismiss Machiavelli's political philosophy, as represented in his political tutorial "The Prince," as nothing but downright amoral scheming would be wrong. There is more to Machiavelli than the vilified words, "The end justifies the means," which are attributed to him. There is, however, a certain willingness to misinterpret "The Prince" among politicians who have been more than willing to adopt it for ruse and demagoguery. The repetition of the "big lie" has been a popular tactic used by politicians throughout history, not the least by Adolf Hitler, who coined the very words "big lie."

Needless to say, "big lies" are the offspring of leadership gone awry. Demagoguery and schemes to incriminate the innocent have pervaded dictatorial governments; true democratic leaders sacrifice themselves rather than bow to falsehoods.

Unfortunately, the Kim Dae-jung administration has stooped to lying and petty finger-pointing in efforts of self-preservation in face of its present crisis. On the very day that the allegations of President Kim's son Hong-gul being involved in a bribery was reported, Sul Hoon, legislator of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, fired off his own accusation that Lee Hoi-chang had also accepted bribes from Choi Gyu-seon, the businessman at the center of the scandal.

However, Mr. Sul has yet to produce the witness or the tape recording he cited as the basis of the evidence for his claims. Mr. Sul's adherence to his claims despite lack of any evidence could be seen as the repetition of a big lie to the public. Mr. Sul is not even a well-made Machiavelli because his words show neither the valor of a lion nor the craftiness of a fox that the Italian strategist prescribed to his pupils.

It is common opinion that Mr. Sul's move was awkward. However, with his poorly crafted move, Mr. Sul has added fuel to an already raging scandal. With things as they are, the situation was made worse by the prosecutors office repeating what Mr. Sul said in a "someone said that someone said" announcement as if it were vital proof. As the anonymous saying goes, "One man tells a falsehood, a hundred repeat it as true."

The prosecutors office cannot escape the criticism that it reproduced and heightened the impact of Mr. Sul's words. The prosecutors, who should have maintained their objectivity and fairness, served as perpetrators of a political fight. Coming from an office led by the much-heralded Prosecutor General Lee Myung-jae, the disappointment is doubled.

Like Mr, Sul's "big lie," the swaying of the prosecutors office is President Kim's responsibility in the end. It is almost pitiful to see the president unable to stand up straight because of his sons' plight. The two public apologies Mr. Kim announced over the involvement of his sons in scandal would have been better off not released. They only served to further provoke the public demand for explanations.

The Blue House statement calling for an end to political strife over ongoing issues, including investigation into alleged wrongdoing, seems to go unheeded. Now that Pandora's box has been opened, there is no way to recan the furies of the political strife that have been unleashed. If political strife began over the president's sons involvement in scandals, the only way to solve this is for the prosecutors to stick to a cool-headed investigation and act according to the law.

It is not hard to understand President Kim Dae-jung's special parental attachment to his sons who had suffered along with their father in his fight for democracy against decades of military governments. Nevertheless, personal sentiments must be kept outside of state affairs. It is the duty of a leader to separate the private from the public; this differentiates him or her from mere followers.

How leaders set their priorities can have serious consequences for their country. The ruling class of the Joseon Dynasty ignored mu, or the military, in their pursuit of the mun, or the scholarly, and Japanese samurais took over the country. Will the modern leaders of Korea ruin our country by letting their patriarchal feelings take over their patriotism?

While it would be hard for anyone to follow the example of General Gyebaek of the Baekjae Kingdom who said, "It is better to be dead than to become the slaves of the enemy," and cut off his family's heads rather than have them taken by the Silla army, a moral can be extracted here.

Don't let the love for your family blind you to the reality of your country.


The writer is a professor of political science at Kookmin University.

by Kim Young-jak

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