[FOUNTAIN]Waiting for the cargo

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[FOUNTAIN]Waiting for the cargo

After World War II ended, the native people living in the numerous islands of the Pacific Ocean began a unique custom. They started to make sloppy runways and control towers, copying the U.S.-built supply bases. Some tribes even patrolled near the runways, wearing coconut helmets and holding wooden rifles in their hands.
Their unusual customs attracted interest from anthropologists and people who studied religion. The native tribes believed that if they made runways like the U.S. troops did, planes loaded with supplies would come to their island. It must have been hard for the people to turn back to their living standards after their sudden affluence that came from U.S. supply boxes that were either airdropped by mistake or swept on to their shore.
The tribes were not an exception to the “Ratchet Effect,” an economics rule which says that it is hard to lower the consumption level once it has increased, even if earnings have decreased.
However, despite their earnest wish, no more supply boxes came to their islands. They had made the error of what people who study logic call, “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.”
They had confused the simple sequential order of events. In short, they thought a specific event was the cause of another event, just because it happened before the other event.
In late 1945, an Australian magazine called “Pacific Islands Monthly” named this custom of the Papua New Guinea tribes the “Cargo-Cult.”
Later, that phrase was used to describe native tribes that copy foreign systems and things without knowing the reason for it. The “Cargo-Cult” later developed to mean “pseudo science” and “shams.” It means things that look similar outwardly but have inferior functions, or studies with no academic essence.
Many of the policies of the current government remind us of a “Cargo-Cult.”
One of them is the argument that the harsh regulation of the capital region will eventually revive local areas.
Another is that the emphasis on polarization will bring a better living standard to poorer people. The government says it will loosen regulation if the big companies invest in local areas to spur economic recovery.
There is no substance or logic in their argument. I hope they are not thinking, like the South Pacific tribes, that a secret method to make the economy recover will drop from the sky if they just imitate the right actions.


by Kim Jong-soo

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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