[VIEWPOINT]Current politicians mirror mitesThe world is full of people who are always looking around, seemingly shifty-eyed, to see which side of a debate they should take. The members of the Millennium Democratic Party's disgruntled faction, opposed to the party's presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun, have decided to postpone bolting the party to study what Mr. Roh's ratings might be. Meanwhile, they'll try to figure out the ratings of the nonpartisan candidate Chung Mong-joon, whom the disgruntled ones are expected to join if they should bolt.
In everyday life, the major a student chooses when entering college is often decided not by what the student really wants to do but by the entrance application competition rate. While a television broadcaster could not very well ignore audience ratings, why must even public television dance to the tune of ratings? In higher education, research grants are never given to fundamental studies but to "popular" fields being studied abroad, fields that Koreans too often copy laboriously.
Instead of trying to change things, we are merely busy lining up where bigger dividends might be expected. Instead of running around like cheetahs or lions after their prey, we wait around for the carcasses, like hyenas or vultures.
The representative animal of our society showing such behavior is the politician. He shows no consideration for the opinions of the public that elected him. The politician doesn't seem to think it's his duty to ask the voters whether it is all right if he moves to a different party with different ideologies and goals. What about the people who voted for the party and not the individual? Why must they see their votes disappear?
Some time ago the media started calling these politicians "migratory birds". As a student of animal behavior, I must lodge a protest. The intensity of flight might be the same, but comparing migratory birds, who must embark on a long journey risking their lives for survival, with politicians who hop to another party solely for selfish interests is a great insult to the birds.
On these difficult journeys that were not chosen of their free will, many of these migratory birds lose their lives. The only danger Korean politicians face in their transient passages is the risk that their chauffeurs might not be able to locate their bosses' new offices the next day.
Moreover, I protest because "migratory birds" sounds too romantic for these politicians. The words bring to mind the image of a flock of geese flying peacefully against the backdrop of a sunset. These politicians do not deserve such a noble name. A suggestion to journalists: From now on, these politicians should be called "mites." As someone who fervently believes that all life forms are beautiful, I feel bad for degrading mites, but I want to propose this name in hopes that the politicians become ashamed of themselves.
Mites belong to the class Arachnida, and a considerable number of them live off other animals or plants. Mites living off the body of other life forms are not exactly creatures to be praised, but at least they have integrity. The mites I particularly have in mind when thinking about our politicians are the mites that live only for themselves until they attach themselves to another animal in order to travel to a better place to live.
Because mobility is needed, these mites usually attach themselves to insects or birds rather than land animals. Due to their minuscule size, these mites sometimes climb onto the backs of bigger mites. Think of it as taking a taxi to the airport.
There are so many politicians who are moving from party to party these days that the types vary. There are those who move by themselves and those who move by hiding behind others.
It's really amazing how similar politicians are to mites. Then again, mites move because they have to survive. Our politicians likely have desperate reasons of their own. Only when these "mites" are stamped out can genuine politics in this country triumph. The task of stamping out political mites truly belongs to the voters.
The writer is a professor of biology at Seoul National University.
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