[VIEWPOINT]Living with hatred is no way to liveIt was at a concert hall in Jerusalem in autumn of 2001. World renowned conductor Daniel Barenbohim reached for a microphone after finishing the program. He asked the audience whether his orchestra might play a Richard Wagner piece as an encore. There was commotion in the audience, because the playing of Wagner’s music was taboo in Israel due to the fact that the music was once manipulated by the Nazis for political propaganda purposes.
However, most of the audience welcomed Mr. Barenbohim’s proposal with applause. Still, a small number of agitated people in the audience shouted out, “Remember the Nazi concentration camps!”
Mr. Barenbohim, who is Jewish, appealed to them in Hebrew. “Richard Wagner had nothing to do with Adolf Hitler. You shouldn’t mix up art with politics.” His effort to persuade the audience lasted as long as 40 minutes. Finally, his orchestra, Berlin Staatskapele, played the prelude to Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” The audience responded with a standing ovation.
Through that dramatic success, Mr. Barenbohim wanted to gain reconciliation and peace while discarding resentment and hatred. People who harbor resentment and hatred toward others believe they are always right. That is, they believe they only hate those who deserve to be hated. However, hating someone unconditionally is the same thing as children who swear at the rain that pours down on a picnic.
Wagner died 50 years before Adolf Hitler took power. Hatred does not solve problems. It only harasses people like a loan shark, following them wherever they go. And abhorrence grows like a snowball, because there are entire gangs of people that live on the hatred of others. Originally, Mr. Barenbohim planned to play Wagner’s opera, “The Valkyrie,” at the concert in Jerusalem. The popularity of the opera was so high that the tickets sold out one month beforehand.
However, some Israeli politicians and social organizations vehemently opposed the concert. At last, the repertoire was replaced by Robert Schumann’s “Symphony No. 4” and Igor Stravinsky’s ballet music, “The Rite of Spring.”
The voice of the majority of the Israelis who sought reconciliation and peace was overwhelmed by a small number of politicians and interest groups who harbored resentment and hatred in their heart.
Isn’t that a familiar scene to us? Yes, it is. Our society is exactly in the same situation right now. The dark clouds of hatred that cover the Republic of Korea do not allow the Korean people to have peace of mind, even on Christmas Day.
The president is the first to fan the spread of hatred. He has gained a lot by doing so in the past. He became president by expanding his support base and by encouraging people to be jealous of their wealthier brethren who live in the Gangnam area, Seoul’s rich residential area south of the Han River.
Although they have turned their backs against the president now, those in the governing party are the same people who nurtured hatred in their minds, driving people who do not share the same ideology as them to a corner, calling them “conservative nuts.”
Those in the opposition are not exceptions. Without presenting any policy alternatives, they only aim to fan hatred and ridicule the current administration. And the people who are caught in the turmoil of hatred create the same hatred, just of a different color.
Daniel Barenbohim founded an orchestra that consisted of musicians that have both Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds, and named it that “West-Eastern Divan Orchestra” after a collection of lyrical poems by the German poet Goethe, who had a friendly view toward Eastern culture.
His orchestra played Beethoven’s Sympony No. 5 (Fate) at Ramla, the ancient capital of Palestine, last year. After the concert, it is said that the youths of Israel and Palestine embraced each other with tears.
Reflecting on efforts to achieve reconciliation between the two nations that hated each other for thousands of years, I feel it shameful that we are in a situation where people who shared pain and pleasure for thousands of years now pour out hatred and curses against each other. No one wants to understand each other now. After Nelson Mandela took power in South Africa, he established, first of all, “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” He said the truth is necessary, but that reconciliation was needed first.
There always exist gangs who live on hatred. We should not be swayed by them. Resentment and hatred are their nutrients. We must fill those holes with understanding and love.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “People who do not reconcile with others don’t sleep well.” I sincerely hope that the year 2007 will be a year of reconciliation and coexistence so that we can all sleep well.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom