[FOUNTAIN]From ‘Ben Hur,’ a lesson unlearned

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[FOUNTAIN]From ‘Ben Hur,’ a lesson unlearned

The chariot race between Ben Hur and Messala is one of the most spectacular sequences in the film “Ben Hur.” Many filmgoers remember anxiously watching the desperate contest between these former friends who had become enemies.
President Roh Moo-hyun is among those who have said he can never forget that sequence ― not because the race was so exciting, but because he learned something about leadership. In the race, Messala continuously whips the four black horses pulling his chariot to make them run faster.
Ben Hur, however, does not carry a whip. He controls his four horses simply by pulling the reins, and they move fast without being whipped. The difference did not escape Mr. Roh. Later, in his book, “Roh Moo-hyun’s Leadership Story,” he would write about watching the scene:
“I didn’t concentrate on the outcome of the race, but on the difference in ability between the horses that were treated with love and the ones that were given the whip. Even though it was only a movie, and even though they were horses, not people, I learned a great deal about how to treat people from that scene.”
The white horses ran faster, and Ben Hur won the race. From this, Mr. Roh wrote, he learned that “love is more important than a whip.” Love is the same thing as trust, he writes. He argues that “trust is the foundation of an organization,” and that “trust gains trust.”
Just what is trust, exactly? Let’s take a look at the root of the word. It comes from the German word trost, meaning comfort. And so trust comes from comfort. It does not matter whether we are talking about relationships between individuals or between groups; if they are comfortable with each other, they can understand each other. There are no walls blocking their relationship, and their trust can be deep.
These days, Korean society is abuzz over Mr. Roh’s call for a “coalition government.” The Grand National Party and the Millennium Democratic Party are dismissive of the idea. This is because of the high wall of mistrust. From “Ben Hur,” the president realized the importance of trust in leadership. But why does his relationship with other parties face such a crisis? Isn’t it because the president himself has never demonstrated trust in them? Last May at Yonsei University, he said, “To earn trust, we must do as we say we will.” He also said, “We need to create a culture of communication and negotiation.”
Can it be said that he has done what he said he would? If he had, his relationships with the opposition parties would be different. Trust could have developed to such a degree that a “coalition government” would not be a mere dream.


by Lee Sang-il

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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