I. Eagle or Chicken?
In the last presidential and parliamentary elections, Korean people sternly judged the arrogance and incompetence of the leftists and chose conservatives to lead the nation. The leftists/progressives ruled over the past 10 years but they proved true to the old saying that “power lasts no more than 10 years.” They spewed a lot of splendid words but had few results. They exhibited strong vitality like weeds that bore no grain. The people were disappointed with the leftist governments, which, like the daughters of Danaos in the Greek mythology, poured water into broken jugs and withdrew from their mandate. Korea`s leftists/progressives were thus dismissed but they survived with candle lights that burned vigorously for over four months in protests against U.S. beef imports.
The departure of the leftists does not mean that the people are now satisfied with the new conservative government. The Lee Myung-bak administration`s mistakes in its early days were deplorable. Initial blunders may be excused by the public, but the new government failed to display the resolve and courage necessary to realize a new “zeitgeist” for the nation and a growing number of people came to doubt if it has chosen the right direction for the national community. The failure of the new government can now be seen as the failure of the conservatives in Korea as a whole.
Then, is there anything wrong with the Korean conservatives? After 10 years of waiting for a return to power, are they truly showing signs of a rebirth? If they clinched power without a rebirth, it means there were bubbles in their victory, bubbles in the sense that their win was not by their own merit but by the failures of the leftists/progressives. For their true revival, the conservatives should look at the mirror and ask themselves: “Why aren't we trusted by the people despite being regarded as more competent?”
That they got off to a lousy start may not be entirely their fault. They may simply claim misfortune in facing such a great force of protest over the question of importing U.S. beef. But Machiavelli said: “virtu vince fortuna,” or valor overcomes misfortune. That conservatives were unable to cope wisely with such a misfortune meant that they lacked what Greeks called “arête,” which means virtue or excellence. With their inadequate ability and qualifications, can they wade through the rough waves of a “red ocean,” instead of a blue ocean?
What was clear about Korean conservatives was that they were not able to make a powerful ascent like an eagle flying up with the sun rising in the eastern sky. Why? Were they too hurried, like a debutante ruining her first showing because of nervousness? But I am only reminded of James Aggrey`s eagle “that would not fly.”
A man caught a young eagle and took it home. He put it among his hens and ducks and turkeys, and he gave it chicken food to eat. Five years later a naturalist visited the man, and when he saw the eagle he said, “That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.” “I know,” said the man, “but I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle, even though its wingspan is 15 feet.” The naturalist picked up the eagle, held it high and said, “Eagle, you are an eagle; you belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch out your wings and fly.” The eagle turned this way and that, and then, looking down, saw the chickens eating their food, and jumped down. “There you are,” said the owner, “I told you it was a chicken.”
The naturalist saw the spirit of chicken was hatched in the body of the eagle. After a few unsuccessful tries, he eventually coaxed the eagle into the sky. Will Korean conservatives cast off their chicken spirit and fly like an eagle someday? That is the question.