The risks of being a real hotshot

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The risks of being a real hotshot

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In “The Catcher in the Rye,” J.D. Salinger wrote, “You take a very handsome guy, or a guy that thinks he’s a real hotshot, and they’re always asking you to do them a big favor. Just because they’re crazy about themselves, they think you’re crazy about them, too, and that you’re just dying to do them a favor.”

As Holden Caulfield pointed out, these guys are used to receiving special favors. But they’re not so good at returning them. This tendency is not limited to Western society.

Yang Zhu, a Chinese philosopher during the Warring States Period, once stayed at an inn during a trip. The innkeeper had two wives, one who was very beautiful, the other rather plain. But the husband was very fond of the plain wife and ignored the beautiful one. When Yang Zhu asked him why he favored the ugly one, he said, “The beautiful one thinks herself beautiful, and I do not notice her beauty. The ugly one thinks herself ugly, and I do not notice her ugliness.”

In a similar way, citizens have been ignoring the National Assembly, though it is a forum for the smart and the righteous. The assembly is full of people who are superior, who believe themselves to be superior and want to be seen as superior. They will kneel down to ask for votes, but once elected, they claim to have won because of their greatness.

In the meantime, they are off pursuing their own interests. They may fight with one another, but if their own interests are threatened, they will unite, regardless of party affiliation or ideology. They have nothing but self-interest on their minds, so you cannot have a conversation with them unless your interests collide.

It’s not news that politicians are overbearing, but lately they’re looking especially hideous. They’re like robots who don’t know that their fate is to be abandoned. They may not lose their jobs right away, but if they were aware of the risks of becoming mere instruments of the vote, they wouldn’t do citizens such a disservice by giving them so much attitude.

These self-righteous politicians are not as wise as the innkeeper was, and they should fear the public’s growing distrust of the utility of the National Assembly before worrying about seizing or losing power.

As T.S. Eliot wrote in his play “The Cocktail Party,” “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.” The risk to these people is even greater if they think they’re hotshots.

*The writer is the culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Lee Hoon-beom
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