[Viewpoint] Seven pillars of wisdom

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[Viewpoint] Seven pillars of wisdom

Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was addressed as “Mahatma,” or spiritual leader, by India’s beloved poet Rabindranath Tagore, cited seven deadly sins that can be perilous to humanity and place a state in danger.

The sins are: politics without principle, commerce without morality, wealth without work, knowledge without character, science without humanity, pleasure without conscience and worship without sacrifice.

Politics with justice, economy with ethics, society with conscientious dignity, learning combined with good character and religion devoted to neighbors and society - if any one of these areas are ignored or twisted, a healthy community cannot be sustained.

If one of these areas of virtues fails, the rest will topple like dominoes. And together they comprise the foundation of a healthy social community that has a future.

Fairness, legality and order are the roots of politics. In a state with respect for law and order, dictatorship and corruption cannot grow. The ethics of peaceful and prosperous cohabitation should be the bedrock of an economy. If all are faithfully committed to the cause of co-prosperity, there should be no need to worry over inequalities in wealth.

The essence of teaching and learning should be to build righteous minds. Schools that merely stress functional ability and accomplishments or classrooms preaching one-sided ideologies are factories of apathy and fail to build up virtue in young minds.

Those turning a blind eye to North Korean brutalities are now talking about human rights for our students in the hope of reigniting the candlelight vigil fervor of a few years ago.

Parents should make an effort to decipher the purpose of the student rights activists, and decide whether it is aimed at improving their children’s educational environment or to exploit young students as political instruments. And they should decide whether they want to see their children racing down to the streets with candles in their hands instead of books.

The essence of science is a rational and humble understanding of nature and life. Unethical experiments on humans or embryos in the name of science cannot be justified in any way.

Life’s mysteries exist beyond the level of cells and genes. Science without deferring to values and morals can be deranged and abused like the Devil’s tool. Adolf Hitler was not alone in his Holocaust crimes against humanity. He had scientists as accomplices.

The spirit of faith is self-denial in respect to our maker. The paths to various gods may differ, but the ultimate goal of all religions should be complete self-renunciation and sacrifice.

Today’s faith, which is motivated by secular contentment and security without any sacrifice, is no more than idolatry, self-indulgence and greed. No spiritual reward can come from such faith.

We come back to law and order. The foundation of law and order is the Constitution. Our Constitution is in tatters from the scars and abuses inflicted upon it during its 64-year history.

If the Constitution happens to be the cause of political discomfort for some people, the political circumstances should be changed to adhere to the Constitution and not the other way around. But our politicians have been toying with the Constitution to satisfy their aspirations for power.

Politicians yet again talk of Constitutional reform as if they are obliged to do so. They unabashedly raised the issue publicly on Constitution Day. The zeitgeist should always be in synch with the soul of the Constitution, and not attempt to abolish foundational laws.

The Constitution is a culmination of the blood, sweat and tears wrung from historical upheavals and struggles. The emblem of our people’s survival and triumph through a tumultuous history.

Is the country in such a mess because of the Constitution? The people are to be blamed, not the Constitution. The Chinese character “convenience” is written with the character of change next to that for human.

The people should change in order for the country to be free from care. Before they fix the system, politicians must see if their own minds need mending. Solving the sources of conflict and confrontation should be done before attacking the entire structure of the state.

We must brood on the seven virtues preached by Gandhi and return to basics and to our foundation. We live in a state where talk of rewriting the Constitution dominates Constitution Day. It is like scorning and questioning one’s own existence on your birthday. We risk becoming an insolent and contemptuous people.

*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is a partner at Hwang Mok Park and former head of Seoul Central District Court.

By Lee Woo-keun
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