[Viewpoint]Give the shamed some mercy

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[Viewpoint]Give the shamed some mercy

This is one of Aesop’s Fables. A crow sat on a tree with a chunk of meat in his beak. A fox approached the crow and said, “Hello, Mr. Crow! Please sing with your lovely voice.” Flattered by the compliment, the crow began singing in a high pitch. When he opened his beak, though, he dropped the meat. The fox seized the prize and said, “You silly crow, you should have eaten the meat before singing.”
While Aesop wrote many stories with morals, his own conduct was not always so wise. When he went to Delphi, people were greatly moved by his fables. However, they treated one of them, about a slave storyteller, with contempt. So he laughed at the people for being foolish. The people of Delphi got furious and put sacred vessels from a temple in his bag without his knowledge. Aesop was framed for theft, then punished by being thrown off a cliff, according to legend.
It is only human for someone to have a strict standard for others and a more generous yardstick for himself. That tendency is often found among the elite of our society. On the outside, they pretend to have serious social discussions and express concern for others, but on the inside, they shrewdly pursue their interests and are more corrupt than others. They make the world darker and shadier, and they are shameless.
Many of these corrupt social elites must be sorry about their conduct these days. They must sigh after hanging up the phone. President-elect Lee Myung-bak is reportedly having a hard time choosing potential candidates for prime minister and other members of his cabinet.
There are not many suitable candidates. In a country in which people are the only resource, he is having trouble finding figures to serve as ministers.
The pool of conservatives has run out during the past decade of the leftist administrations, but more importantly, so many candidates have been screened out in the simplest verification process. Many failed to pass the test in terms of the most obvious categories, such as how they accumulated their wealth, whether they fulfilled their military duty and whether their educational backgrounds are credible.
Those who passed the initial screening have been investigated more thoroughly, weeding out even more people.
With the help of related agencies, candidates’ tax, real estate, residence registry and criminal records are being carefully examined, and in the case of scholars, their papers are being reviewed for possible plagiarism.
The president-elect has found very few with no skeletons in their closet. When asked for permission to inquire about their records, more than 60 percent of the potential candidates have declined. They regret that they have to turn down the honor because of past indiscretions. Even out of the ones who agreed to have their records reviewed, more than half have failed to pass. If the president-elect started with 100 candidates, he has ended up with less than 10 after the screening, so he has little room to take ability into account. With the few people remaining, only God knows what kind of problems will arise in the course of the appointment hearing or media questioning.
So why don’t we give everyone grand pardons?
Why don’t we, for once, look past tolerable mistakes made in the heat of the moment, but not shameless crimes such as professional speculation or habitual tax evasion?
Most citizens, who have lived their whole lives honestly, might feel it’s unfair, but mercy is a privilege of the honest.
Why don’t we show consideration this time and use the opportunity to draw the line?
How about giving the talented a chance to display their abilities and look past their faults, just as we did for the president-elect? We can give them a mop to wipe society clean and make a better world. We can let them clean up their own faults as well. By giving people with problems the job of cleaning up, we can sever ties with the dusty past and create a transparent society where the honest don’t have to suffer.
Casting stones is Aesop’s folly. Perhaps, we too have looked over all kinds of irrationalities in the name of custom and convention. While they have enjoyed benefits from irregularities, we might have done the same thing given the opportunity.
The crow lost his meal and was embarrassed, but if it were an oriole sitting on a tree, it would not have been a bad idea to let it sing. It is a pity that we don’t have material to fill the ministerial positions.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom
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