[FOUNTAIN]Amateurs and dilettantesA person who is clumsy or unskilled at something is often called an amateur. As a synonym, Europeans habitually use the word “dilettante.” That word did not originally have a negative connotation; it originated from an Italian term, dilettare, which means “to enjoy.” The Italian word indicated an artist or an art enthusiast who was not professionally trained. In the mid-19th century, the meaning of the word dilettante evolved to denote an artist of limited talent or a professional with a shallow base of knowledge. These days, the word has a very critical meaning.
One European politician who is often labeled a dilettante is the chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder. The opposition and the media frequently use that expression to describe Mr. Schroeder, who stubbornly opposes a war against Iraq.
The opposition parties and the media concede that Mr. Schroeder is justified in his opposition to war, because he is reflecting popular opinion in Germany. But, they say, anti-war propaganda without proposing options is dilettantism.
The German media called on Mr. Schroeder to learn from President Jacques Chirac of France. The German media praise Mr. Chirac these days and say that although he and Mr. Schroeder share anti-war beliefs, Mr. Chirac’s stand is principled.
Although Mr. Chirac opposes a war, he never asserted that war should not be an option. He has left open the possibility of participating in one, although saying it should be the final option. As cross-Atlantic tensions grew into emotional confrontation and the U.S. media criticized France, Mr. Chirac tried to appease the American press. In an interview with Time magazine this week, Mr. Chirac said he loves the United States. Unexpectedly, Mr. Chirac said France’s participation in a war against Iraq is possible and might be necessary.
Then does Mr. Chirac not have the courage to stand firm? Not true. Mr. Chirac told Eastern European governments to shut up when they took sides with the United States on the issue. He said those words to Time all for France’s national interests. He knew that conflicts with the United States have no benefits.
A leader’s ideas should be flexible. A fundamentalist would not defend a country’s national interests. That’s the difference between a dilettante, or amateur, and a professional. This should say something to the incoming government, which is already being labeled as amateur.
by Yoo Jae-sik
The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.