[OUTLOOK]Green monkeys and metal auraIt’s already fifteen days into the new year, but next week will be New Year’s Day again ― in the lunar calendar. This year, the solar and the lunar year begin in the same solar month, although that is not always the case.
This year will be a gapsin year according to the traditional 60-year cycle ordering of years. This year, according to the wise prognosticators, is the year of the Green Monkey. Gap symbolizes “a tree” and it represents the color green, while sin is the symbol for a monkey.
According to the traditional philosophy of o-haeng, or the five basic elements, the color green stands for challenge, for enterprise and for volition.
Therefore, the gapsin year will come in the form of clever monkeys flying about with great energy and green monkeys squabbling among themselves about who’s better than whom. As a matter of fact, legislative elections will be held this year as well.
The gapsin year is also compared to a situation in which trees will put their roots down into the earth with a strong aura of metal. Moreover, this aura of metal will work to trim the outer branches of the trees. Translation: Change and reform are inevitable.
In many ways, it seems that this gapsin year will not be an easy one. So what can we, or our politics to be more specific, do to survive this year of green monkeys flaunting themselves and auras of metal trimming tree branches? How should we spend this year of many predicted changes, the gapsin year 2004, so that we can have a better tomorrow?
The first thing our politics must do is to avoid extremes. The Konglish word “all-in” has become a favorite with certain politicians these days. This word is used to mean that one is staking everything. One will stake the presidency; stake the future of the party and even the future of the country. Yet, as the wise have predicted, this year’s general elections will come in the shape of crafty monkeys doing their crafty monkey things, and there is no absolute victory or defeat in monkey business.
An attitude of “all or nothing” or “if not, leave it” should be avoided. Politics gone extreme always causes trouble. If only our politicians avoid extreme words and deeds, our people will suffer much less. So, let’s try to avoid extremes.
Second, let’s try a politics of co-existence with our opponents. Couldn’t progressivism and conservatism live side by side? Korean politics have fast become diversified since the end of the “three Kims” era. Let go of the ideological and regional conflicts and think about coexistence.
Political power is becoming dispersed in any event. Absolute power as was found in the past doesn’t and can’t exist anymore. It’s inevitable that diverse political forces live with one another. If politicians want to survive, they must learn how to coexist. That is what the people want. The people want solutions and co-existence from their political representatives, not monkey fights.
Third, let’s have some positive politics. Korean politics are often characterized by its negativity. Since the last presidential election, politics has been all about cutting down the opposite side in order to secure one’s own position. Our politicians have been playing a sort of Russian roulette with words. Unfortunately, this game ends up killing everyone, including oneself.
Politics is about partnership. Too often, we forget the simple truth that we exist because our opposite exists. Balance of power and timely constraint are the basic principles of democratic politics. In order to exercise these principles, we must acknowledge our opposite. Only a politics of positivity will be able to change our country.
Fourth, politics should inspire people. As the legislative elections approach, one sees all these politicians trying to appeal to the voters. Dying their graying hair black and cutting it short to look like schoolboys and girls are some of their cuter efforts. But would that move the hearts of the people? Moving hearts works in ripples. It starts from the center and moves outward. Small acts of inspiration go far. So, try inspiring those around yourself first. Politics without inspiration is an anomaly that has become all too normal in Korean politics.
True politics, in a nutshell, is the art of inspiration.
Fifth, we need politics of praise. “Even whales dance when praised” is a wise saying that was also used as the title of a popular book recently. Sometimes, it seems that the word “praise” has become obsolete in Korean society. But it’s never too late to start praising.
Don’t pounce on what others have to say or criticize what they do as if that were all you were waiting to do. Try to find something you can praise as well. You just might find something if you try very, very hard ― even in Korean politics. Politicians should be like nice grandparents. They should be ever-ready to praise, full of words of encouragement and wise in age.
It’s a gapsin year, a year when green monkeys play and auras of metal cut down tree branches. It’s a year sure to be full of changes and uncertainties. All the more reason politicians should heed and practice the five principles of politics listed above to reduce the uncertainty in our politics.
Here is a final prophesy. When uncertainties are reduced in politics, the economy will revive and the people will smile again.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong