[FOUNTAIN]Dignity and criticismDuring the religious reformation in the 16th century, Erasmus, the humanist philosopher, did not care how harshly he was criticized. One day, he sat still even as others insulted him. A friend, witnessing the scene, asked Erasmus, “Aren’t you angry at these words?”
Erasmus answered, “The more the fools speak ill of you, the wiser you are. Why would there be a reason for me to be angry? I’d rather consider it an honor.”
Erasmus’s masterpieces such as “The Praise of Folly,” which made biting remarks about the church’s hypocrisy and corruption back then, were probably possible thanks to this state of mind. If he was afraid of criticism, it would have been hard for Erasmus to write such a book.
When living in this world, people are criticized and they also criticize others. It is because human beings are an emotional species. What is important is how one behaves when one is criticized, or criticizes others.
Let’s take the case of Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae. A few days ago, he spit out abusive words while drinking with some reporters. Aiming at some controversial columnists who criticize President Roh Moo-hyun and the participatory government, he said, “[Expletive], four of them are writing absurd columns and jeering the president. In the old days, [such columnists] would be in prison by now.”
The columns that Minister Chun criticized could have been wrong in parts. It would be natural to be angry for being falsely accused. He could have sworn without being aware of it after some drinking. When this incident made a stir, he apologized. However, it is a pity that he was unable to behave like Erasmus. If the government is doing well with national administration as he remarked, he could have behaved better. Criticism depends on one’s thoughts. There is a saying, “Criticism is gold.” If one knows why one is being criticized and examines oneself, criticism can be good medicine.
There is dignity even in criticism. There are criticisms that do not even seem like criticism, but some words are so vulgar that one wants to wash one’s ears. Wasn’t it the latter that Mr. Chun used? Swearing is only harmful to oneself, since curses come back home. It reveals the dignity of the person who uses that language. Maxim Gorky, the famous Russian writer of the book “Mother,” remarked, “The person who loses the most for criticizing is the one who criticizes.” For this reason, it is better not to criticize except with good intention. Even when you do criticize, try to avoid vulgar words ― if you want to maintain your dignity.
by Lee Sang-il
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.