[TODAY]Still waiting on ‘new’ politicsMan is a political animal. Humans are born with the gift of speech. While they might sound outdated, these are the two definitions of mankind by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Even if you are not the president, the prime minister or an assembly member, all men have political tendencies to a certain degree and speak and behave politically. However, politicians, especially lawmakers, are the closest entities to Aristotle’s definition of humans as a political animal with the gift of speech.
The capability of speech that mankind enjoys is not a mere means of expression through vocalization. Other animals can do as much. The speech of mankind contains their ethics, morality, values and symbolism. These elements must be included in the speech of each person. The more education and the higher a social status you have, the more symbolism and implication your speech has. Oration was the main political tool in ancient Rome, and it is no coincidence that “ratio,” the stem of “oration,” Latin origin “oratio,” means reason. Marcus Tullius Cicero, arguably the greatest Roman orator, politician and philosopher of his time, said that intelligence without oration is politically incompetent, but oration without intelligence is harmful in every way.
Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and the opposition lawmakers staged a scene of oration without intelligence in the interpellation session. Far from the sonorous logical reflection and discretion of “ratio,” the interpellation was full of superficial outbursts that lacked the least amount of substance or any etiquette toward citizens watching the session. Actually, it was more of a disgraceful and anti-political exchange of foul language than a political contest.
An opposition politician, lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo, asked the prime minister if he hadn’t “played around” with a notorious political broker. Instead of using such a vulgar expression, he should have delved into how many times the prime minister had met with the broker in question and how much he had received in political donations. Instead of questioning the amount of the donations the prime minister received from the broker, the politician pathetically offered a chance for the prime minister to shamelessly strike back and bring up his history of having been divested of an assembly seat due to a violation of election law. Who is Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan? We all know that he is a hopeless fighting cock, one of the most bellicose figures in Korean politics who evades acute questions with a menacing look and a cold sneer. The opposition lawmaker and Mr. Lee came down from the podium after exchanging their empty oratory without ratio, at the lowest level imaginable. They wasted four hours of precious public service time and also made a considerable contribution to the regression and distortion of Korean politics.
The seriousness of the problem is that Prime Minister Lee and lawmaker Hong are not the only politicians who speak and behave exceptionally roughly and inconsiderately. While they exchanged their absurd attacks, the lawmakers of the Uri Party and the Grand National Party shouted out statements that were a virtual mockery of the parliamentary democracy of the country. The opposition lawmaker, who questioned the prime minister after Mr. Hong, criticized Mr. Lee for glaring at him and replying as if he were “pecking.” The expression is so inappropriate that it can only be found in the wastebasket of our language. Another opposition lawmaker started a controversy when she referred to former President Kim Dae-jung as an old man with Alzheimer’s disease. I would like to ask them what their mental ages are.
The National Assembly has promised to depart from the politics of old and to pursue new politics. However, the members are so immersed in history that they are indifferent to the self-cleansing of the politicians themselves. I earnestly suggest to the members of the National Assembly that they admit themselves into a training institute for a few days to study the basics of politics again. Refine their sense of speech and educate themselves on ethics. It would greatly help if they invited a Cicero expert like Professor Choi Sang-yong of Korea University to lecture and read a book of Winston Churchill’s parliamentary speeches for benchmarking. Detach from themselves and subjectively look back on their speech and behavior. They cannot go on forever with such things as sexually harassing a female reporter under the influence of alcohol, using violence at a bar and pulling the level of discussion at the National Assembly lower than a student discussion at a mock assembly.
* The writer is an adviser and senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie