[Outlook]An economic messiahBecause humans can’t even see a minute into the future, they fear natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tidal waves, thunder and lightning. In ancient society, the law of the jungle was dominant and life for human beings was very harsh. When those who rule and those who are being ruled have serious conflicts, the people who are being oppressed long for salvation from the shackles that tie them down. Humankind has long exaggerated the power of supernatural beings and taken refuge behind their power. Why? They feel insecure otherwise.
The more insecure people feel, the stronger the belief that a messiah will come and save them from all hardship and pain. People anticipate the arrival of a savior.
Jews left Ur, a city in Mesopotamia, and wandered through many places, and whenever they hit another hardship they looked forward to meeting the messiah.
When the ardent desire to meet the messiah reaches its peak, the messiah is bound to appear. Throughout history, countless messiahs have appeared in all corners of the world to save people from oppression and pain. Jesus is one of them. As he appeared when people were fervently looking forward to meeting a savior, the messiah was dearly welcomed — at least until people stopped believing that he would rid the world of all evil with his mighty power. Unaware of the deeper meaning of salvation, the masses who sang hosanna suddenly clamored to crucify the messiah and abandoned him. The rule that a messiah is killed is without exception.
Girolamo Savonarola, a leader of Florence in the 15th-century, is one of the messiahs who appeared in a time of confusion and chaos. As people in Florence were in shock and fear of a French invasion, the Italian priest dominated people with mystic prophecies and sermons. He wielded enormous power through his words. However, the hypnotic status of the masses based on religious mysticism was broken after less than three years.
Savonarola was burned at the stake by the same people who once praised him as a savior.
Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion, or the Rebellion of Great Peace, also emerged as a messiah who would save China from misery.
The self-claimed brother of Jesus said he would save his Chinese subjects from hardship and ordeal. After enjoying respect and prosperity for a short while, he was arrested by his former followers and killed.
In the Later Three Kingdoms period, King Gungye claimed to be the reincarnation of Maitreya Buddha, and said he would put an end to the chaos of that period.
But in the end, he was beaten to death in a barley field by the subjects who once praised him as Maitreya Buddha.
It is interesting to note that messiahs emerge in part because of the claims they make on their own behalf and in part because of people’s demand for sacrifices.
The Lee Myung-bak administration was able to be born in great part because of the image of Lee as a messiah for the economy. It can be said that the people, deeply disappointed by the former Roh Moo-hyun administration’s misrule, was looking for a messiah, who materialized as President Lee. His slogan to achieve 7 percent annual growth and a $40,000 national per-capita income to make all people successful excited all people and filled them with rosy anticipation. The economy was expected to flourish immediately thanks to the messiah’s efforts.
However, as soon as the new administration took office, the international economic climate worsened with oil and grain prices soaring, which proved difficult to fight against with only the psychological weapon of being the messiah.
President Lee’s approval rating has fallen sharply due to people’s concerns over U.S. beef imports. But the biggest reason of all is perhaps that excessive anticipations about the president as an economic expert, an image conjured up during his election campaign, are over. The administration has created an illusion that an economy-first policy will save the country and the illusion is coming back at the administration like a boomerang.
Let’s look deep into the core of our society, which is counting on an economic messiah. We might find a sadist tendency lurking beneath. The people are trying to pinpoint the administration’s faults in order to kill the messiah, whom they made together.
There is no messiah. The only way to restore the economy is for both the president and the people to think logically to overcome the current economic crisis.
*The writer is a representative of the Meerae Imagination Institute. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hong Sa-jong