We don’t need no stinking badges

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We don’t need no stinking badges

Yang Zhu, a Chinese philosopher who lived in the Warring States Period (480-221 B.C.), had a brother.

One day, the brother left the house wearing white clothes. On his way home, he was caught in the rain. His clothes were drenched from the downpour, so he changed into a black outfit.

He finally reached his house after a long walk as it was getting dark. When he was about to enter the gate, the dog at his house began to bark at him. After all, he had left the house wearing white in the morning, but was now in black.

As he was soaked to the bone and exhausted by the hardships he encountered just trying to get home, the man fell into a rage. He became filled with anger at his dog, who failed to recognize him as its owner.

It was not long before he grabbed a stick to beat it. At that very moment, Yang Zhu showed up.

Upon hearing the whole story, Yang Zhu tried to reason with his brother, arguing that it wasn’t the dog’s fault. By changing clothes, Yang Zhu said, his brother confused the dog. In addition, he approached the house at dusk and, naturally, the dog barked at a stranger.

This is a fable in the Liezi book. The story points out the tendency we all have of trying to find faults with everyone and everything else when a problem occurs. Although the reasons behind our problems often vary, the point is that we should look within ourselves first to see how we might have contributed to the situation.

The fable recommends that we make a careful examination of our thoughts and feelings as we attempt to solve a problem before us.

True courage is to acknowledge that the fault is in ourselves. The Chinese philosopher Mencius said, “We should shoot an arrow after composing our thoughts.” The modern-day phrases “reflect on oneself” and “shut the door and think about it” before taking action provide us with similar lessons. In other words, look at yourself before assigning blame to others.

The National Assembly secretariat is poised to make changes to the design of lawmakers’ badges. The reason is that the Chinese character “hok” in the middle of the badge implies suspicions of malpractice or scandal.

This is a typical example of finding faults in others. It is deplorable that those in charge fail to reflect on their own conduct and instead focus on something as silly as a badge.

But the distorted behavior of the National Assembly isn’t new. Lawmakers should search their hearts to find the root causes of the mistakes they made.

If they expect that changing the design of a badge will help improve their image, then they are utterly deplorable. In fact, if this way of thinking persists, the public’s view of legislators in this country will surely erode even further.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yoo Kwang-jong [kjyoo@joongang.co.kr]

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