[FOUNTAIN]Becoming one’s own natural enemy

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[FOUNTAIN]Becoming one’s own natural enemy

“After all, my natural enemy was myself,” wrote poet Cho Byung-hwa. The one-line poem has more meaning than some 1,000-line epic. In Korean, a natural enemy is also called a “life-taker.”
When a person is troubled by the other side of the ego, the struggle can even take away a life.
The term “after all” expresses sentimental remorse. Or it could mean that the poet has finally understood himself. He might be expressing the determination to live his life in full appreciation of the epiphany.
Self-acknowledgement is a difficult matter. Having understood himself, the poet lived a blessed life. Most of us are too busy living to ask ourselves about the true meaning of existence until the last moment.
From the psychoanalytical point of view, a person is a collection of many different aspects. A personality is never monochromatic and is more like a mosaic. Different elements might be contradictory and collide with one another. One might feel superior yet inferior, simple yet complex, and selfish yet altruistic at the same time. Heterogeneity and colorfulness are characteristic of a human nature.
What other people see about a person is merely the tip of an iceberg, a few selective elements of a man’s numerous traits. Depending on the circumstances and relationship, different people would see a different version of the same man. It could make self-identification even harder.
Identity does not remain the same. It is constantly changing. The “me” of the past might be different from the “me” of today. The past and present do not necessarily add up to the future version of oneself. A man’s identity could be found in neither the past nor the present. Maybe one’s identity lies in the dream and hope for the future that leads one’s current life.
Today, some politicians seem to underestimate the complexity of the process of self-identification.
When knowing oneself is so hard, they claim to know others. Some dangerously doubt the incumbent president’s will to respect the constitution. Others, acting against the constitution, dare to encourage the military to disobey the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Meddling with someone else’s identity requires strict self-restraint. If not, after all, you can become your natural enemy.

by Chun Young-gi

The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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