Need for an ethics codeI hate the phrase “high or elite class.” The word must be a by-product of authoritarian legacy. Those who wish to feel superior or elite would have had to make the other majority members feel they are vulnerable and in need of the small elite to feed and guide them.
Such a sense of elitism would have been behind the controversial comment made by a former senior education ministry official likening the mass people to dogs and pigs.
Superiority does not just come in handy when wielding power. It can justify their access to various privileges. The reason that they are entitled to prerogatives because of their extra work of leading the crowd. To them, making use of the information and technologies that come with their status and work should be side benefits.
They pardon themselves by claiming the populace cannot put them into use any way. These partialities make up their vested rights.
Greed knows no bounds. Once something is regarded a birthright, it would be foolish not to use it. Making better and broader use of that right would be what such individuals simply term “competence.” Sooner or later, the practice becomes mainstream. But society is no longer black and white. It becomes harder and harder to make the masses, with their diverse opinions and interests, agree with them. One loses conviction. But that does not mean greed becomes restrained. So they stop caring about the broader party and concentrate on defending their vested interests.
A problem occurs when these so-called elites move into the public sector. They would not have public conscience when enjoying all kinds of liberties — sometimes even illegal one — in the private realm, resorting to unauthorized means to make profit in real estate investment and avoid taxes, plagiarize and use fake home addresses for various gains.
Their egos become inflated when they are approached with offers of work in public office. They become so self-absorbed that they forget that they committed minor crimes they took for granted in their private exclusive community.
The new president who had promised to be entirely different and clean by raising the bar on ethical standards for his team and cabinet now cannot find anyone to recruit befitting his tough standards — someone without records of speculation, tax and draft dodging, plagiarism and faked addresses.
He has been ignorant that there is no right and left when it comes to the clan of the elite.
Time has come to draw the line. The private and public realms must be decisively set apart. One aspiring to cross the line must be different. Pardoning someone for the same follies will only breed wishful thinking.
As I had proposed last time, the government must draw up a bill of ethics. There should be an ethics manual for all future aspiring senior public officials that must go through legislative confirmation. Those who do not meet the standards must not wish for the title. Young aspirants could watch themselves as not to dirty their credentials. More and more must be able to confidently bare their cleanness and honorably earn the title as the elites.
Those who had lived prizing high ethics over vested interests and privileges must be able to feel proud when they are rewarded with high position in public office.
Although he was made historiographer to the king and held honorable positions in the age of Louis XIV, satirical poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux did not betray his conviction and dignity of his art to proudly say, “It is a great consolation to a dying poet to have never written anything immoral.”
JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.