“The Crisis in Korean politics today”

Asia Institute Report

Emanuel Pastreich

 

October 13, 2017

 

 

Months of protests by a broad range of citizens groups and countless individuals, from elementary school students to seniors, resulted not only in the impeachment of a president, the launch of a serious investigation of the tragic sinking of the Sewol Ferry, serious charges brought against numerous individuals engaged in influence peddling and fraud and one of the most transparent presidential elections held in any country.

The ethical commitment of ordinary citizens in Korea has made a tremendous difference and the increasingly corrupt politics of ritual and back-room deals has been brought to the attention of the public in a manner that is both shocking and inspiring. At a time when citizens in the United States or Japan lament that they can do nothing to change their government, Korea has displayed that significant change and reform is possible. Korea not only is inspiring other nations not only through cultural productions like music and film, but also through political action and democratic vitality.

But we have not even started to address the real problems. If Korea seizes the opportunity, it can create a new political culture that will make change possible again and which can not only transform political parties, but also transform government itself, as well as corporations and government. We can create a new participatory society in which we do not merely consume products provided by anonymous corporations and lose ourselves in distracting media entertainment and the worship of idols and celebrities, but rather help each other to create a better society. Korea can be a model that will inspire other nations to evolve as societies and move forward. Already, China has reported about the impeachment proceedings with a degree of detail that is unprecedented. Such a move suggests that many in the Chinese government see the Korean model for government reform as a viable model for China. Other nations in Asia, and around the world, are watching Korea very closely.

This new global role for Korea should give all members of the new democracy movement, Democracy 1.7, a new sense of mission. This movement is not simply about chasing corrupt people out of power, but rather about creating a new culture of mutual support, symbiosis, political accountability and ultimately environmental sustainability, that will be a model not only for future generations of Koreans, but for the entire world.

To make such a shift in our awareness requires a strong sense of history on the part of all members of the candlelight demonstrations. We are not the first people to make this effort. We follow a tradition that can be traced back to common citizens and intellectuals who strove for good government in the Goryo, and before, back to the efforts of King Sejong to establish a truly participatory government that treated the ideals of the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean not merely as inspiring words to encourage students, but a potential for a government devoted to the needs of ordinary people. In a sense King Sejong took the Confucian classics more seriously than the Chinese did and tried to actually realize the democratic potential hidden within them. Nor did that tradition end there. There were those who fought against the restrictions on secondary sons in the 17th century, who fought against the corruption of Youngjo in the 18th century, who fought against the concentration of power in a handful of families in the 19th century, and also who fought against the Japanese occupation and exploitative economic systems in the 20th century. In fact there many who made tremendous sacrifices in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s in order to make it possible for the students to launch the democracy movements of the 1980s.

You should take inspiration from Korea’s unique democratic tradition, but at the same time, you must also have your eyes open to the tremendous challenges we face. Do not be naïve and plan for a long-term effort that will include your helping those younger than you to understand the issues and understand what they can do in the future. This may be an effort that will take decades. I do not say that to discourage you, but rather to suggest how we must address the issues.

But the internationalization of the effort brings a new quality to this effort. Whereas those before you, from King Sejong to the students who fought for direct elections in the 1980s, were working for transformation in Korea, your efforts will have global implications and you may be the people who inspire others whom you have never met. In the sense that the French Revolution brought new hopes for transformation that inspired people around the world in the 18th century, your actions can have such significant impact.

 

What attitude should each of us adopt?

 

You should think that your every act has significance both in terms of historical development of democracy and also in terms of the global evolution of human civilization which goes far beyond your own personal experience. You have a precious duty and it should give every moment of your day new depth and importance. Changing Korea, and then changing the world, will not be a matter of putting bad people in jail and electing politicians who advocate certain policies. Changing Korea means changing how we behave every day towards each other and towards our community. We must understand how our actions can change the unhealthy patterns in thinking that lead people to exploit each other and to think only in terms of short-term benefits for ourselves.

We may want to think that such greed and corruption is limited to Choi Sun-shil’s scandals, but if we look carefully at ourselves we will see that some elements of the extreme actions those people have taken can be found in our daily lives. Without even knowing we were doing it, we have also been seduced by the ruthless consumer culture and sloppy ethical thinking that we see writ larger in the actions of chaebol families and politicians. Only when we start to ask ourselves how does the economy and our society work? and what is our position in that complex tapestry? will we start to find real solutions and start the revolution in culture and habit that is required.

What does that mean for your concrete actions? It means that every time you see someone working to clean the building where you work, or to serve you at a restaurant, or to provide anything that you, or our society benefits from as a whole. You should exchange greetings, as if you were meeting your equal, and you should say “thank YOU.” You should even show such kindness and respect when talking to homeless people, or with those who suffer from mental handicaps. Your simple actions will start to change the fabric that our society is made of and those actions will make as big a difference as political demonstrations do, but at a different level.

 

Or you should do what you can to protect our precious and threatened environment. You should carry a cup with you always and not use plastic or paper cups. You should insist that no plastic wrappings, plastic or paper bags, unnecessary napkins or other wasteful items are consumed, even having the bravery to tell people that we must change such wasteful habits. You should do so constantly, without fear, and with the intention not of going after any individual as a “bad person” but rather transforming our society.

You should also talk with your friends and family about how our economy and our society works, or does not work. That is to say, stop chatting about what delicious cake you ate, or how cute that puppy was, or what the latest song by a hit band is. Start to spend your time talking about where money comes from, and where it goes. How the political system works and how government, corporations, NGOs, as well as families and friendships, are being transformed by the pressures of technology, globalization, finance, and commercialization.

It takes discipline and it takes a real ethical commitment to start to talk that way, and to start focusing your attention on how the world works and what our ethical responsibilities should be, but there is no doubt that you are capable of that shift. If you make that shift, you will inspire others around you to make that same shift. Over time, your actions, and those of others around you, will create a new Korea. We will not need to rely on corporations, or famous professors, or think tanks to tell us how the world works because we will be training ourselves to understand the world ourselves. We will hold ourselves first to high standards, and that will put pressure on those in government and industry to hold themselves to high standards.

What do we need to do? We need to create for ourselves what we want to create in our society as a whole. We must create among ourselves the equivalent of the media by discussing with our friends and family what we think are the critical issues in our society, in our families and in our environment. We need to train ourselves to engage in meaningful discussions that produce real understanding and we must avoid emotional expressions in which we merely exclaim how much we like or dislike some person without making an effort to understand the complete picture. If we want media to engage in real discussions, we must create for ourselves a culture of real debate and alter the habits of all Koreans. Drop by drop by drop, we will bring new vitality into our culture and make the scientific pursuit of truth a part of our daily life, like the air we breathe. The media will simply not be able to continue on in the same manner. Citizens will no longer be able to put up with dishonesty, with distractions, with a focus on trivia and celebrities, in broadcast or newspapers. But citizens will not start to change their expectations and their demands until they start to take control of their own lives and start to modify their habits.

High school students should create their own newspapers and report about their own lives, their schools, their experiences, and their worries like suicide, entrance exams and careers. They should report about issues small and larger in their communities and build up real newspapers on relevant topics that will help their fellow students. They should not do so merely as entertainment, or as a distraction, but as a means of giving themselves control over their destinies and building a sense of community among students where previously their was only ruthless competition.

We also need to create the equivalent of the national assembly and the blue house at the local level as well. We need to introduce ourselves to our neighbors and start to talk to them about what the common needs in our neighborhood are, to learn about their concerns about their children, or parents, are. We need to create, in miniature, our own small form of governance as a community in our apartment complex, and build those exchanges into real long-term commitments. We can build a community in which people do not commit suicide, or despair about their childrens’ future any more. Why? Because their neighbors have sworn that they will do everything they can to help each other.

We need to have regular meetings of the members of our neighborhood to discuss how we can improve our schools, how we can pool our resources, how we can put our money together to buy things together. We can build trust to a degree where we can help raise our children together, help clean up our parks together, help to teach each other’s children together and build a real community that is for the people. As we come together to form villages and cooperatives, as we write down the names of our neighbors and remember them, and keep in mind their needs and concerns, we will create a community that is in a position to make meaningful proposals to local government. If local government offers us funding, we will be able to manage it effectively and make it work for everyone.

As we learn how to work together to identify issues and possible solutions in our neighborhoods, to bring together the wisdom and knowledge of all citizens and to formulate solutions that we can implement on our own, often without the need of government, we will be creating a vital and active form of government in miniature in our own community. If we can make a promise to each other that we will help each other out in difficulty and we will modify our behavior so as to create a healthier society, we will set the foundations for a healthy society in a manner that a politician running for office is incapable.

We will also create small cooperative organizations that provide barter of services between community members (babysitting for each other, sharing tools, or skills, or space) as a means of creating value and economic activity on our own. These cooperative organizations, both small and large, will be the equivalent of corporations at the local level and will offer an alternative model for production and economic activity that will profoundly impact how people think about the term “경제” at every level in Korean society.

Finally, it is essential that we support artists in our local community and encourage, support them, in their efforts to create music, paintings, murals and festivals for our citizens. The local creation of art is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity for a healthy society. Today our children are bombarded with slick images on television, in magazines and in advertisements around them that encourage them to believe that the only way to find happiness and meaningfulness in life is to ruthlessly consume products sold by major corporations. Those artistic productions in commercial advertising, those subtle films and musical songs that surround us day and night determine our behavior patterns and our assumptions, persuading people that only by buying and consuming can they find meaning in life.

But if we support artists, and make their art a central part of community life, we can give citizens images of a society based on cooperation and mutual respect. We can create a society that discusses serious, even tragic issues, and not just lightweight and non-threatening trivia. Local artists can transform how we see ourselves and inspire us to start creating culture with our own hands, rather than having culture given to us by corporations.

These artists are not there to provide things for us to consume. They are not there to distract us or offer up tears or laughs that will distract us for a moment. They are there to offer us new inspirations based on a cooperative culture and to inspire us to exercise our dormant imagination and start to create alternative models for our interactions with each other that can slowly start to change our society as a whole and create bonds between people that will heal the terrible alienation in Korean society that has led to terrible loneliness and even suicide among so many.

So what is the larger significance of creating vital communities in which everyone knows everyone and they work together to help each other and to further the common good? The social benefits of reducing alienation and saving money and resources by sharing is obvious. But there is another benefit which may not be immediately obvious. The source of discontent, alienation and greed in our society is not a single person, or even a group of families. Rather the real structural problem is that the decision makers in the media, in corporations and in government have come to see a system in which the generation of profits through stocks and derivatives, through the domination of sources of capital, and through the encouragement of ruthless and exploitative competition is the only viable model for how a society, or a corporation, or a government can be run. They cannot imagine another kind of society and they feel that they must do everything to increase stock value and short-term profits.

Even if these leaders in politics and corporations are decent and responsible people, they feel obliged to first do everything for the increase of stock values and short term profits. Only once they have done this work can they turn what little attention remains to addressing serious social issues. Sadly, the best men and women are forced to put their energy into supporting activities that cause great pain to society and can only work on activities that are healing to society in their spare time.

But if we create these communities at the local level, we will offer up a viable model for another way in which government and corporations can be run, one based around human relations and communities, as opposed to capital and profits. The more powerful this alternative model becomes in Korean society, the more pressure there will be on the Korean government and on Korean corporations to transform themselves into more human and more participatory organizations. Personally, I think that we can carry out such innovations in government more easily than in industry, but ultimately both government and corporations can be fundamentally transformed if we create enough cooperative structures in Korean society. Conversely, if we do not have cooperative organizations, a cooperative economy as a significant part of Korean society, it will be impossible to pressure government and industry to change because they will assume that there model is the only workable model.

Some people will respond that this proposal is hopelessly naïve and cannot be applied in present-day Korea. They will say that modern Koreans are not interested in forming communities for cooperation in the way that they did fifty years ago. They will say that young Koreans simply do not have the patience to read texts carefully, to write seriously about current affairs, or to discuss complex issues in depth with their friends.

Although it is certainly true that Koreans do not form such close communities these days and that young people have far more trouble focusing on complex topics, or reading long books, we should not assume that this state is a permanent one. The human mind has tremendous flexibility and there exists amazing capacity for transformation. Although it is true that many young people spend their days sending silly short messages to each other over smart phones. It is possible for a small group of people to set out in a different direction for Korean society and create a new culture for Korea in which serious discussion takes place instead of the mere response to stimulating or amusing news stories. We can make careful reading and serious writing an essential part of our society if we set that as a priority.

But we cannot make this progress unless we recognized that merely responding to amusing or emotionally stirring text messages is not the long-term means of carrying out political reform. We must force ourselves to dive deep into the world of policy and economics, and learn how our own neighborhood is run if we want to create a public that can respond in a meaningful manner to the challenges of the current day. Such a community can be built, but we will only do so if we agree that it is as important to create that community, to have regular discussions in our neighborhoods about politics in order to carry out real reform. We must recognize that large scale protests in themselves are critical, but they are only one part of the process.

 

What is politics?

 

We must reform the culture of politics and create a rigorous and vital discourse on policy and the long-term development of communities, cities, provinces and the nation as a whole which is welcoming to citizens and which is directly connected to those who make policy and implement and interpret that policy. Such a reform can only take place if we first look at the systems that have developed in Korea, and to an even greater degree in the United States, over the last three decades—often running counter to the progressive appearance of political leaders. This process will take years and we should spend as much time cultivating and encouraging the next generation who lead after us as we do trying to make political breakthroughs today.

Politics has become a ritual space which is entirely detached from the lives of ordinary people and which seems irrelevant, or inaccessible. Politicians meet other politicians and discuss their needs and interests in an arcane manner which cannot be understood by outsiders. Politicians give speeches for citizens, and engage in ritual activities at official gatherings on a regular basis. But they do more with the intention of giving an impression to those that they meet that they are figures of authority, or that they have a benevolent concern for the community. They take questions and offer their pre-prepared answers, but it is clear in most every case that the purpose of meeting the community it not to learn about that community, or to take advice from the community that will be then be made into policy, but rather to do maintain good public relations and get coverage in the media.

Such an approach is a ritual and it is not politics in the original sense of the word. There is an absolute divide between the community and the politician in terms of priorities and there seems to be no effort made to bridge it. Moreover, although the citizens are often the experts concerning what is happening in their community, and not the politician, fifty years of exposure to a consumer culture has rendered citizens deeply passive. They think of politicians as products that they have a chance to select and then dispose of if they do not do the job that they anticipated them doing. But the citizen must first be aware of his or her ability to propose a solution and make a demand. Politicians are not products like Pepsi Cola or Coca Cola to be bought and consumed through massive advertising campaigns. Rather, they are humans, with strengths and weaknesses, who must be encouraged and guided towards a higher goal by constant interaction with, and pressure from, committed citizens.

Gatherings with citizens are not a way to highlight the politician’s authority or give him a chance to appear in the media in a favorable manner. Such meetings should rather be an essential part of the policy process wherein proposals are initially made and then debated. The critical discussions and decisions in the process of making policy should not be made in committee, or over drinks at exclusive clubs between politicians, businessmen and high ranking bureaucrats. The citizens should consider it an essential part of their lives to be engaged in the debate on policy and to know what plans there are to build new roads or cut the budget for the local schools.

If citizens have that commitment, if they feel that such an awareness and involvement is their responsibility, they will be able to transform politics. A talented politician cannot achieve such a transformation by himself. If citizens are aware of what the issues debated in the national assembly are, if they create their own newspapers and discuss pending laws and budgets as part of their daily activities (as opposed to playing video games or watching TV shows about people eating food) then we will see real change. But this change can only come from a change in Korean culture, in Korean political culture.

In a sense the relationship of citizen to politician can be compared with the relationship of a patient with a doctor. Many patients make no effort to understand the details of the medical procedures that they undergo. Such a passive attitude is widespread and it is fine in many cases. There are, however, patients who make the effort to understand the science behind the procedures that they undergo, and also there are doctors who explain in detail the procedures so as to allow the patient to understand the process. Such an effort can lead to far better treatment both because the patient can offer meaningful responses and participate in the process and also because a relationship of trust can be established. Finally doctors often appreciate that patients have made the effort to learn about the field and thereby show real respect for the doctor’s craft.

In the case of the current political crisis in Korea, President Moon must do his absolute best to avoid the mistakes of President Obama in the United States. President Obama came into office with a mandate for change and control of the congress by the Democratic Party. He focused his efforts on what was easy, and not what was hard. He was a genius concerning image and his own political positioning. He made little effort to achieve any real change in the domination of investment banks over the process of policy formulation in Washington D.C. In fact, he included in his economic team many of the same bankers from the Bush administration who had been responsible for the financial crash.

Of course Obama thought he was being smart. He was not making any waves, and he was reaching out to the Republicans so as to assure he would have smooth sailing and could improve his own image. But the result of not taking a stand on critical issues, not risking becoming unpopular, was that Wall Street increased its political power and Obama was seen as just a progressive face that could be used to distract citizens from the ruthless privatization of the government. The result was a disaster for the country. The watering down of the Democratic Party’s mandate as a result is what made it possible for Donald Trump to become president. Citizens felt increasingly that there was no difference between the two parties and therefore Trump’s ability to stir up nationalistic emotions was successful in that the Democratic Party could no longer present itself as the defender of the ordinary citizen.

Let us look at the history of the Democratic Party in the United States and see if it offers us any insights into current Korean politics. The Democratic Party in the United States lost its long-time support from citizens groups, labor unions (which grew much weaker) and youth in the 1980s. The Democratic Party’s leadership was out of touch with contemporary needs and did not keep up with the concerns of citizens. No matter what terrible things the Republicans did, the Democrats had trouble rallying people to vote for them because the Democratic Party was no longer involved in local affairs and no longer accessible..

The “new Democrats,” lead by Bill Clinton, set out to solve this problem by adopting a new strategy. Clinton articulated certain democratic ideas in his speeches, but he no longer saw support from citizens groups and labor unions as critical. Instead, he sought out the industries that the Republicans had ignored and promised to help them. Whereas the Republicans supported oil companies and defense contractors, the Democrats stood up for entertainment companies and for IT companies. The strategy worked, and it made Clinton a successful politician, but it meant that Democrats ceased to represent citizens and began to represent different factions within the business community. Increasingly, Democratic politicians were captured by investment banks and ceased to listen to their supporters.

Today, many citizens are alienated from the political process and do not see any reason to vote for anyone, or to belong to a political party. I know from my own experience that political parties like the Democratic Party do not take the needs of citizens seriously and just employ some talented speechwriters to write speeches that will whip up some excitement before elections so as to get people to vote democratic, After the election, however, politicians disappear, going back to servicing their corporate clients. There is no democracy, or space for ordinary people, in the process of making policy.

But that was not always how politics worked. The Democratic Party was not always a progressive party, but when it became one in the late 1920s, it was by becoming something more than just an organization supporting politicians. The party became a part of communities, in some cases becoming an organization that people could turn to in hardship. It was a cooperative organization that brought people together regularly, and not only for elections. The Democratic Party was not a perfect organization, but it had a clear role in society on a daily basis. By making itself relevant, the Democratic Party could counter the power that came with the wealth possessed by the conservative Republican Party. It could build networks for mutual aid among ordinary citizens. The Democratic Party, on the base of its powerful organization, was able to successfully take on powerful corporations and force real change.

But that sort of a party no longer exists in the United States or in Korea. We have mainstream parties which are not a part of our daily lives and in which most people do not have deep trust. Some citizens will vote for parties based upon certain issues, but for most the commitment is limited. The result being that even progressive parties gravitate towards money.

We need to seriously rethink what the function of parties should be. If the process of formulating policy is increasingly taken over by political parties, and the consultants and other corporations associated with them,  that shift creates an unconstitutional environment. The government is supposed to carry out the formulation of policy and the implementation of policy. Government should have sufficient means to do so and employ capable people who effectively implement those policies. The role of formulating policy belongs to the people and to government. Political parties can only play a role in that ordinary citizens are involved in that process. If we allow political parties to become large bureaucracies, if we let the political parties make policy, then we will end up having a system for making policy which is unaccountable.

 

Issues for our time

 

There are a tremendous range of issues that we need to address, many of which are being ignored. Some of those problems can be addressed through policies, other problems require different approaches. In any case, we must create a political environment in which complex issues faced by our citizens can be addressed in complex manner.

At present, we have only the options of raising or lowering interest rates, of increasing or decreasing budgets for government organizations. More often than not, we have government organizations which by their very nature are detached from local communities and are incapable of spending their budgets in a manner that would be beneficial. Broadening the range of possible solutions considered and the range of topics that can be discussed, is essential to future success.

For example, the issue of class is central in Korean society but politicians refuse to address it. Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a tiny number of people and they form an elite who can ignore laws and buy special privileges for their families. Koreans are fully aware of this social problem, although Korean do not know what the distortions in the economy are which have allowed this to happen. Concentration of wealth produces class differences and we can already see the manner in which the wealthy treat with distain those who they see as being there only to serve them. That group of lower-class people is increasing.

There is also a course whereby those from wealthy families are given internships and jobs based on their family connections, and admission to university has less to do with ability than with the wealth to send children to elite schools. The problem will get far worse in the years to come and will eventually start to destroy the fabric of society.

So also the question of economics must be taken seriously. The concepts of “gross national product” or “exports” are not the only, or best, way to measure economic growth and increasingly they refer to the profits of a small number of people these days. Sadly we see politicians who claim to represent ordinary citizens who use the terms to describe the economy which are generated by banks.

These politicians can express sympathy for the people, but they cannot put forth any policies that will help ordinary people. Rather they assume that the reality for them is one in which the vast majority of funding goes to major corporations and some of that money will somehow trickle down to the people. But although the intentions may be good, the assumptions are wrong. Politics must cease to be the selection between a limited number of options. Politics should be about defining what our economic priorities should be and being creative in creating an economy focused on the needs of ordinary people. Our highest priority should be investing in our people, all of them, not investing in robots, factories or various financial products for corporate bonds and derivatives.

Increasing trade does not necessarily mean that we will increase the wealth of ordinary citizens. Banks should not be driven by short-term profits but rather focused on long-term goals. It is entirely legitimate to prohibit the vast majority of banks from any speculative activities involving stocks and bonds and have them focus entirely on financing, in a boring, systematic and consistent manner, important national projects. Those projects would be massive in scale, stretching over ten to forty years, and involve the creation of an economy with is entirely renewable, the establishment of local cooperatives that will serve as the primary creators of jobs and the move away from a ruthlessly competitive economy.

Yet politicians have not started to address the question of how the economy works for us, or to propose solutions that involve institutional change. There is a tendency to attack the “bad people” who are greedy, but few proposals to change the system fundamentally or to rally the large numbers of people who are being adversely impacted to as bring real pressure to bear on the problem. For the most part, politicians do not see the poor, or working class, as a group to engage seriously with, and even middle class people are not taken so seriously. The problem is simply that the politicians feel that they must service first elite groups related to the economy and to industry first and then they can address the concerns of ordinary people. The order is backwards.

And then there is the threat of climate change. At present scientists agree that climate change will be the greatest threat to humanity, promising the threat of extinction for many species and perhaps for humans. It will require trillions of dollars in investments to entirely reinvent farming, respond to rising sea levels and ameliorate the spread of deserts. Yet the current administration has not placed a priority on climate change or identified it as a serious threat. Climate change should be explicitly identified as a factor in almost all aspects of domestic policy and made a critical priority in security planning, going far beyond the relatively harmless North Korea.

 

Conclusion

 

We need a government with highly educated and capable people in it who have the confidence and the bravery to take on hard issues like class and climate change, and to effectively regulate industry so as to make sure we have a just society. Corporations have spent an enormous amount of money trying to convince citizens that these crises are not happening at all, or that they are not that important. We have a false understanding of the world in which North Korea’s nuclear weapons seem like the biggest threat and class divisions or climate change, do not exist. The next stage for politics in Korea will be making these topics visible through education, activism and concrete proposals.

That means broad engagement in education, in collaboration and in advocacy of the sort that government or organizations have not done in recent memory. But we should have faith that it is possible to engage in such efforts and that it is our moral obligation. We can give people a taste of education that is not aimed at tests, but rather at helping to empower citizens, a taste of citizens working together to build a better society, not competing with each other ruthlessly for the profit of others. We can give them a taste for a government that works for the people and which takes its interactions with the people seriously. Such an effort cannot be successful overnight, but a few test cases will at least inspire people to strive for more.

Political parties will play an important role in this process, but political parties must do so with the full understanding that their roles will change as Korean society evolves. The ultimate goal is a more transparent and more accountable political culture and economy that is focused on the needs of ordinary people. That process will be painful and it will involve many setbacks and sacrifices, but embracing this directive will give our daily actions new significance and assure that we know we are making a difference.

 

아시아인스티튜트보도서  

 

 

외국인의눈으로바라본한국의정치문화

 

2017 10 13

 

임마누엘페스트라이쉬

 

 

초등학생부터노인까지, 수많은시민과다양한시민단체가참여한시위가수개월간이어진끝에대통령탄핵이이루어졌다. 세월호참사수사가제대로시작됐으며, 부당한영향력을행사하며비리에연루된수많은사람이기소됐고, 가장투명했던선거중하나로기록될대선을통해새로운대통령이탄생했다.

분명히해두자. 이모든변화는깨끗한나라를향한국민의의지가있었기에가능했다. 암암리에행해진비밀거래와부패한정치관행이밝혀진과정은충격적이었지만, 고무적이기도했다. 미국과일본국민이정부를변화시킬힘이없다고한탄하는동안, 한국은국민의힘으로거대한변화와개혁이가능함을몸소보여줬다. 가요나드라마를비롯한한류콘텐트뿐아니라정치운동과민주주의의활력을통해서도타국에귀감이된것이다.

도널드트럼프나아베신조, 블라디미르푸틴등은문재인대통령에게주어진정치권력의정당성을부러워할것이분명하다. 한국은아직진짜 ‘선진국’이아니라고폄하하는사람도있지만, 한국이민주주의국가로서새로운위상을정립했음은부인할수없다. 미국을비롯한소위 ‘선진국’ 다수는무기력에빠졌다. 무기력은민주주의를산채로갉아먹고공들여세운제도를부패시키고있다. 한국의제도는아직미성숙할수있지만, 변화를위한의지가감지된다. 실질적변화를막으려애쓰는기업집단의영향력을벗어나정책구상및이행을추진하는다양한주체를규합하려는의지도분명존재한다.

이기회를잡는다면, 한국은다시한번변화를이루고정당을혁신할뿐아니라정부와기업등의지배구조를혁신하는새로운정치문화를만들어갈수있다. 우리는대기업이만든특색없는제품을소비하고엔터테인먼트콘텐트나미디어에마음을뺏기고아이돌과연예인에열광하는데삶의에너지를쏟기보다서로를도우며더나은세상을만드는 ‘참여사회’를만드는데노력을쏟을수있다. 한국은사회가나아갈길을알려주며다른국가의귀감이될수있다. 중국에서는한국의이번탄핵사태가유례없을정도로자세히보도했다. 중국정부가한국의정치개혁을참고할만한모델로보고있음을암시한다. 아시아와세계각국또한한국을주시하고있다.

세계무대에서한국이새로운역할을부여받았으므로한국의신(新)민주주의운동에참여한시민또한사명감을가져야한다. 적폐청산에만몰두할게아니라함께어울리며살아가고정치인이책임을완수하게만드는동시에지속가능한환경을구축하는데목적을두어야한다. 그래야한국뿐아니라전세계에미래를제시할수있다.

의식의전환을이끌기위해서는촛불혁명참가자모두가강력한역사의식을가져야한다. 한국에서놀라운정치혁명이있었던건이번이처음은아니다. 평범한시민과지식인이힘을합쳐훌륭한지배구조를만들기위해힘썼던전통은고려시대까지거슬러올라간다. 세종대왕집권기에도대학∙중용은학생을격려하기위한이상적철학에그치지않고국민의삶을돌보는정부를위한주요원칙으로다루어졌다. 유학고전의가르침을중국인보다더깊이이해하고받아들여그안에숨은민주적이상을실천하기위해노력한것이다. 이게다가아니다. 17세기에는서얼제도의부당함에맞선싸움이있었고, 18세기에는영조의실책에맞선지성인의저항이있었다. 19세기에는소수외척의권력독점을막으려는싸움이있었고, 20세기에는일제식민정부와경제착취에맞선운동이있었다. 1950, 60, 70년대에도수많은사람이엄청난희생을감수하며싸움을계속했다. 덕분에 1980년대학생들은민주화운동을이끌수있었다.

한국의 민주적 전통은 남다르다. 영감을 받을 수 있지만, 동시에 한국이 넘어야 할 큰 산도 눈 똑바로 뜨고 제대로 바라봐야 한다. 막연히 잘 될 거라 생각하지 말고, 청년층이 필요한 이슈를 이해하고 앞으로 할 일을 정하도록 돕기 위한 장기적 노력을 계획에 포함시켜야 한다. 수십 년은 걸릴 것이다. 의욕을 꺾으려고 하는 말이 아니다. 그보다 현실을 직시하고 문제를 극복할 방법에 대해 제안을 하고 싶다.

비슷한노력이세계적으로전개되고있다는점에서이번싸움은그결이다르다. 세종대왕때부터 1980년대직선제를쟁취하기위한시위까지, 모든노력은결국한국의변혁을위해서였다. 그러나이번싸움은전세계에영향을미칠수있으며, 우리가얼굴을보지도못한많은사람에게영감을줄수있다. 18세기프랑스혁명이전세계시민에게변화를향한새로운열망을안겨주었듯이, 지금한국의변화도그만큼중요한영향을끼칠수있다.

 

우리각자가

우리의모든행동은민주주의의역사적발전과함께, 개인의경험을넘어서는인간문명의세계적진화라는측면에서의미를가진다. 우리에게는소중한의무가있으며, 이것이우리삶의모든순간에새로운깊이와중요성을더한다. 한국과세계를위한변화는죄인을감옥에넣고특정공약을내세운정치인을선출한다고완성되는게아니다. 그보다우리가일상에서서로를대하는태도, 사회에임하는태도를변화시켜야한다. 서로를착취하고눈앞의이익만생각하게만드는건강치못한패턴을우리의행동으로변화시킬수있어야한다.

탐욕과부패를저지른사람은최순실뿐이라고생각하고싶을지모른다. 그러나우리자신을주의깊게들여다본다면, 뉴스에보도된그들의극단적잘못의흔적을우리일상에서도발견할수있다. 우리또한무차별적소비문화와비윤리적사고에경도되어자신도모르게잘못된행동을한적이있다. 재벌이나정치인이저지르면더욱두드러져언론의지탄을받았을뿐, 우리또한비슷한행동에서완전히자유롭지못하다. 한국경제와사회가어떻게돌아가는지, 복잡한사회구조속에서우리의위치가어디인지진지하게물을때비로소우리는진정한해결책을찾고, 문화와습관을바꾸기위해필요한혁명을시작할수있다.

그럼구체적으로뭘해야할까? 우리일터를청소하거나레스토랑에서서비스를제공하는분들, 우리자신과사회가필요로하는일을해주는분을만날때마다무시하지않고 “감사하다”는따뜻한인사를건네는것이다. 노숙자나지적장애를가진분을대할때에도이들을존중하며친절함을보이면좋을것이다. 이런작은행동만으로도사회를구성하는결을바꿀수있다. 다른차원이긴하지만정치시위만큼큰변화를만들어낼수있다.

위험에처한소중한지구를보호하기위해서도할일을해야한다. 항상컵을휴대하며일회용컵사용을줄이거나포장지와비닐봉지, 종이백, 냅킨등기타불필요한낭비를없애도록노력해야한다. 자원을절약하는습관을주변인에게도용기있게권한다면더욱좋다. 사람들의반응을두려워하지말고꾸준한모습을보여줘야한다. 상대를 ‘나쁜사람’으로몰아가기보다우리사회를변화시키고싶은마음을보여준다면이해를끌어낼수있다.

친구나가족과대화를할때사회나경제가어떻게돌아가는지, 혹은왜제대로돌아가지않는지이야기해야한다. 오늘먹은케이크나귀여운강아지, 최신유행가에만열중하지말고, 돈의흐름이어떻게이어지는지도논의해보자. 정치제도구성과기술, 세계화, 금융, 상업화의흐름이가족과친구관계뿐아니라정부와기업, NGO를어떻게변혁시키고있는지도대화를해보자.

세상이어떤지, 우리에게주어진윤리적책임이무엇인지생각하며대화를끌고가려면끈기와인내뿐아니라강한윤리적소명도필요하다. 한국인에게는그런변화를끌고갈역량이있다. 내가변화를시작한다면주변사람도영감을받아같은변화를시작할것이다. 주변사람에게영향을준우리행동은변화를전파하며새로운한국을만들어갈것이다. 대기업이나유명교수, 지식인, 싱크탱크의설명이세상을이해하는유일한통로는아니다. 우리는스스로세상을보는법을깨우칠수있다. 우리자신에게먼저높은기준을적용한다면, 정부와기업도똑같이높은기준을적용하며변화에참여할압박감을느낄것이다.

해야할일은무엇인가? 우리가바라는모습을사회안에서스스로만들어가야한다. 중요한이슈를친구나가족과논의하며언론을만들어보자. 현상을제대로이해하기위한의미있는토론을하도록스스로교육할필요가있다. 전체그림을보지않고특정인에대한호불호를외치며논의를끝내는감정적발산은지양해야한다. 언론에서 ‘진짜토론’을보고싶다면, 우리스스로진짜토론이가능한문화를만들고습관을바꿔야한다. 그렇게노력하다보면, 조금씩한국문화는새로운활력을얻을것이고, 진실을향한객관적탐구는숨쉬는것처럼자연스럽게생활의일부가될것이다. 그럼언론은지금까지의방식을고수할수없게된다. 시민은더이상언론의거짓과직무유기를받아들이지않을것이기때문이다. 방송이나신문에서사소한가십이나연예인이야기에집중하며국민의관심을다른곳으로돌리려는노력도힘들어질것이다. 시민이자신의삶을주체적으로이끌고기존방식을버릴때언론을향한우리의기대와요구수준도진정으로변화할수있다.

고등학생이라면자신의일상이나학교, 자살충동, 대입, 직업등의고민을다루는기사나신문을스스로만들어볼수도있다. 지역사회에서일어나는크고작은사건을기사로작성하고, 친구들의시사상식을도와줄실제신문기사를스크랩해기사를꾸밀수도있다. 무료한시간을보내기위한오락용이아니다. 무차별경쟁에빠져있던학생들사이에서공동체의식을키우고자신의운명을스스로개척하도록돕기위해서다.

지역사회차원에서도국회와청와대역할을하는기구를만들필요가있다. 우리이웃과내가원하는바에대해함께이야기를나누고, 그들이자녀혹은부모님에대해어떤걱정을하는지들어봐야한다. 우리아파트단지내에서정부에상응하는시스템을구축해이웃과이야기를나누고, 이를통해알게된이슈와니즈를장기적으로해결하는실질적노력을기울여야한다. 자살이유일한해결책이아니고, 아이들의미래를걱정하지않아도되는그런사회를만들수있다. 이웃이서로를돕기위해최선을다한다고약속하며노력하는사회라면분명가능하다.

이웃과정기적으로만나학교를개선하고, 자원을모으고, 함께돈을모아필요한자원을공동구매하는법을강구해야한다. 아이를이웃과함께돌보며가르치고공원을함께청소하면서주민을위한진정한사회를만드는신뢰를구축할수있다. 마을과협동조합을함께만들고, 이웃의이름을기억하고, 이들의걱정과소원을알아둔다면, 지역사회를통해지방정부에유의미한제안을할수있다. 지방정부에서예산을지원해주면, 모두를위해자원을배치하는효과적시스템도구축할수있다.

우리동네의문제와이를해결할방안을찾기위해모든주민의지혜와지식을모으고가능한해결책을정부개입없이도찾아내는법을알게된다면, 지역사회내에서생명력을가지고활발히활동하는초소형정부를구성할수있다. 어려움에처한이웃을서로돕겠다고약속하면, 더건강한사회를만들기위해우리행동을바꾸고, 선거만노리는정치인은할수없는방식으로건강한사회를위한토대를마련할수있다.

이웃들사이에서비스(서로의아이봐주기, 공구함께쓰기, 기술이나공간공유하기)를교환하는소규모협동조합을만들어서주체적으로가치를창출하고경제활동을이어갈수있다. 크고작은협동조합은지역사회에서기업의역할을하며한국사회가 ‘경제’에대해생각하는방식을심오하게변화시킬생산및경제대안을제시해줄것이다.

마지막으로, 지역사회에있는예술가를지원하는것이중요하다. 그들이재능을사용해시민을위한음악과그림, 벽화, 축제를만들도록후원해야한다. 지역사회에서예술활동을조직하는건결코사치가아니다. 건강한사회를만들기위해절대적으로필요한행동이다. 우리아이들을보라. TV와잡지, 광고에나오는매끈하고세련된이미지에함몰되어대기업제품을사고소비하는데에서만삶의행복과의미를찾을수있다는메시지에빠져있다. 우리를밤낮으로둘러싼광고속예술콘텐트와은밀하게메시지를전하는영화와음악은우리의행동패턴과마음원칙을결정하고, 물건을구매하고소비해야만인생에의미가생긴다고속삭인다.

그러나우리가예술가를지원해서이들의예술작품이지역사회생활의중심이되도록만든다면, 협력과상호존중에기반한사회이미지를시민에게전달할수있다. 가볍고얄팍한주제뿐아니라심각하고심지어비극적인사안도진지하게논의하는사회를만들수있다. 지역예술가는우리가자신을바라보는방식을변화시키고우리손으로직접문화를만들도록영감을불어넣어줄것이다. 대기업이일방적으로전달한문화를그대로받아들이는모습과는분명다르다.

예술은우리가소비해버릴상품이아니다. 우리를울리거나웃기고, 다른곳에정신을팔도록만드는데목적을두지도않는다. 예술가는협력문화를통해새로운영감을주고, 잠자던우리의상상력을깨워관계를만들어가는대안적모델을제시한다. 그렇게사회전체를천천히변화시켜외로움에힘들고심지어자살까지시도하는한국사회의끔찍한소외문제를해결할연결고리를만들어준다.

모두가서로의존재를알고, 서로를도우며공동의선을달성하기위해노력하는지역사회를만드는임무가중요한이유는무엇일까? 소외를없애고, 공유를통해돈과자원을절약하면사회에도움이된다는점은분명하다. 그러나지금당장은보이지않는이점이하나더있다. 우리사회의불만족과소외, 탐욕의원인이모두최순실에게있는건아니다. 그보다언론과기업, 정부의의사결정권자들이주식과파생상품, 자본자원의장악과서로를착취하는경쟁관계를통해수익을창출해야만사회와기업, 정부가제대로운영된다고믿게만든구조적문제때문이다. 이들은다른유형의사회는상상하지도못하며, 주식가치와단기이익을높이기위해못할짓이없다고생각한다.

정계및재계지도자가품위와책임감을갖춘사람이라도이들에게주어진최고임무는주식가치와단기이익상승이다. 심각한사회문제를해결할여유는이임무를마친후에야얻을수있다. 그때에는이미남은시간과자원이없다. 최고인재들이사회에고통을초래하는활동에온힘을쏟고, 남은시간에만사회치유에신경을쓴다는점이안타까울뿐이다.

그러나우리가지역사회에서긴밀한커뮤니티를만들수있다면, 정부와기업을운영할때자본과수익이아닌인간관계와커뮤니티에기반한대안을제시하게될것이다. 대안적모델이한국사회에서힘을얻는다면, 한국정부와기업또한좀더인간적인조직, 참여를이끄는조직으로변화하라는압박을받을수있다. 개인적으로는이런혁신을용이하게끌어갈주체가기업보다정부라고생각하지만, 결국한국사회에협력구조를정착시키기위해서는정부와기업모두근본적인변혁을거쳐야한다. 반대로, 협력적조직및경제가사회의중심이되지못하면정부와기업의변화를끌어내기도요원하다. 기존모델이유일한방안이라는믿음이강화되기때문이다.

지금까지의주장이말도안되게순진한발상이며, 현상황에적용하기에무리가있다고말할사람도있을것이다. 이들은현재의한국이 50년전과달라서협력을위한지역사회형성에관심이없으며, 한국청년들은시사에대해진지한글을읽거나쓰고친구들과복잡한이슈를논의할인내심도없다고주장한다.

요즘에는긴밀한유대관계를가진지역사회를찾아보기힘들고, 청년들은복잡한주제를분석하거나두꺼운책을읽는데이전보다관심이덜하긴하다. 그러나이런상태가영원히지속된다고단언해서는안된다. 인간의마음은엄청난유연성을가지고있으며, 변신능력도아주뛰어나다. 현재젊은이다수가스마트폰으로의미없는단문메시지를주고받으며시간을보내고는있지만, 소수의사람이모여다른방향으로나아간다면, 자극이나흥미유발에만온힘을쏟는뉴스기사에단순한반응을보내는대신, 진지한논의를할수있는새로운문화를만들어갈수있다. 우선순위를두기만한다면, 진지한독서와글쓰기가우리사회에서중요한비중을차지하도록만들수있다.

그러나이런변화를위해서는흥미혹은자극적반응을유도하는문자메시지에단순히반응하는패턴으로는정치개혁을장기적으로진행할수없음을인지해야한다. 정치와경제의세계로깊이파고들고, 우리가사는동네가어떻게돌아가는지알고자노력을해야한다. 그래야만현대사회의각종문제에의미있는방식으로대응할수있다. 지역사회단위로변화를이끄는건분명가능하다. 그러나이를위해서는대안적지역사회구축이반드시필요하다는데동의하고, 실질적개혁추진을위해동네단위로정치를논의하는자리를정기적으로개최해야한다. 대규모시위도중요하지만, 이는진짜개혁을이끌어가는과정의전체가아니라일부임을깨달아야한다.

 

정치란무엇인가?

우리는정치문화를개혁하고, 정책과함께지역사회와도시, 도, 그리고국가전체의장기적발전을활발히논의해야한다. 시민에게도움이되는담화, 정책을입안∙이행∙해석하는이들이바로반영할수있는담화를해야한다. 이를위해서는먼저지난 30년간한국에서발전한사회구조를면밀히살펴봐야한다. 미국에서발전한사회구조도면밀히살펴본다면도움이될것이다. 아마정치지도자들이진보적외양에역행하는모습을보일때가더많다는걸알게될것이다. 이과정은수년이걸릴수도있다. 정치적돌파구를마련하고자하는지금의노력이끝나고우리사회를이끌어갈다음세대를교육∙지원하는데에도이와비슷하게충분한시간을투자해야한다.

정치는평범한시민의삶과완전히동떨어진요식적공간이되어버렸다. 의미가없고, 접근이가능하지도않다. 정치인은자기들끼리만나외부인은이해할수없는이상한방식으로자신의필요와관심에대해서만논한다. 시민앞에서연설을하고정기적으로공식만남을가지는등형식적행동은한다. 그러나이는자신에게권한이있으며, 권력자로서지역사회를향해선의를가지고있음을보여주기위한것이다. 질문을받고미리준비한답변을하지만, 대부분의경우시민과만나이야기를하는건지역사회상황을알고의견을들어정책으로만들고자함이아니다. 대중홍보용이미지를다듬고언론의조명을받기위해서다.

이는하나의형식으로굳어진요식행위일뿐이며, ‘정치’의원래의미와도맞지않는다. 시민과정치인의우선순위에는큰간극이존재하며, 이를줄이기위한어떤노력도없다. 지역사회에서일어나는일에대해서는정치인이아니라시민들이더잘알지만, 지난 50년간소비문화가맹위를떨치면서시민들은수동적자세가몸에배었다. 정치인은그저고를수있는상품이고, 기대했던업무를제대로수행하지못하면다음선거때폐기하면된다고생각할뿐이다. 그러나해결책을제시하고요구하는능력이자신에게있음을먼저인지해야한다. 정치인은펩시콜라나코카콜라처럼광고를통해접하고구매한다음소비해버리는상품이아니라, 책임의식을가진시민과끊임없이소통하고압박을받으면서더높은목표를향해나아가도록격려하고이끌어야할, 강점과약점을가진사람이다.

‘시민과의만남’은정치인의권위를돋보이게하거나언론에좋은모습으로나오기위한기회가아니다. 정책을제안하고논의하는입안과정에서뺄수없는필수과정이다. 치열한논의와정책입안을위한의사결정은특정위원회안에서비밀스럽게내려지거나정치인, 기업인, 고위관료가특권계층을위한클럽에서만나술을마시며내려져서는안된다. 시민또한이과정을삶의중요한부분으로인식하고참여해야하고, 도로건설이나교육예산삭감계획등을알고있어야한다.

정치참여야말로시민의책임이라는의식과열의가있다면, 정치를개혁할수있다. 아무리재능있는정치인이라도혼자힘으로혁신을이뤄낼수는없다. (먹방동영상이나프로그램을보는대신) 국회에서논의되는이슈가무엇인지시민이알고, 국회에서계류중인법안과예산이무엇인지신문기사를만들만큼일상에서잘따라가고있다면, 진정한변화가일어날수있다. 이는한국문화, 특히정치문화가변할때에만가능하다.

시민과정치인의관계는환자와의사관계에비유할수있다. 환자대부분은자신이받는치료에대해상세하게이해하려는노력을하지않는다. 이런수동적태도는많은경우큰문제가되지않는다. 그러나환자가자신이받는치료의원리와기술을이해하기위해노력하고의사도환자를위해치료과정을자세히설명한다면, 치료결과는훨씬좋아진다. 환자가유의미한반응을보이고과정에참여했기때문이며, 의사와환자간신뢰관계가형성됐기때문이다. 의사또한환자가해당분야를이해하려고노력하며의사의전문성을진심으로존중하는자세를고맙게여기는경우가많다.

한국의정치위기극복과정에서문재인대통령은오바마미대통령의실수를피하기위해최선을다해야한다. 오바마대통령은민주당이의회에서다수당자리를확보하고변화를위한강한열망이있을때변화를이끌라는임무와함께대통령직에취임했다. 그러나그는어려운일이아니라쉬운일에집중했다. 정치적이미지와입지를구축하는데에는놀라운재능이있었다. 그러나투자은행이행정부정책입안과정에과도한영향력을행사하는걸바꾸기위한노력은별로기울이지않았다. 심지어는부시행정부때금융위기를초래했던금융전문가일부를그대로데려와경제팀을구성하기도했다.

물론, 오바마는자신이영리한결정을내렸다고생각했을것이다. 굳이갈등과물의를일으키지않았고, 공화당에손을내밀어무리없이정책을처리하고자신의이미지를개선했다. 그러나중요문제에있어명확한태도를취하지않고, 인기가떨어지는위험을무릅쓰지않았다. 그결과월스트리트는정치적영향력을더욱키웠고, 오바마는금융자본의정부장악을숨기기위해시민의관심을다른곳으로돌릴진보정치의마스코트로전락했다. 결과는재난에가까웠다. 민주당의정치임무가흐려지면서결국도널드트럼프가대통령에당선되는단초를제공했다. 미국시민은민주당이건공화당이건별차이가없다는걸점차느꼈다. 민주당이더이상평범한서민을대변하지않는다는걸유권자가깨달았기때문에미국우선주의로강렬한감정을일깨운트럼프의작전이성공할수있었다.

미국민주당의역사를보면현재한국정치에관해새로운시각을얻을수있다. 1980년대미국민주당은시민과 (힘잃은) 노조, 청년들사이에서지지율이점차떨어지고있었다. 민주당지도부는동시대유권자가무엇을원하는지인식하지못했고, 시민의불안과우려를알지못했다. 공화당에서아무리큰잘못을저질러도민주당은표를받지못했다. 민주당이더이상서민의상황을알지못하고, 함께한다는느낌을주지못했기때문이다.

이때빌클린턴이등장했다. ‘새로운민주당’을표방한그는새로운전략을통해문제를해결하려했다. 연설문에민주적개념과원칙을넣긴했지만, 시민단체와노조의지지가예전처럼선거의승패를좌우하지않는다고생각했다. 그래서그는공화당이그동안무시했던산업에손을내밀어그들을돕겠다고약속했다. 공화당이석유기업이나방산업체를보호했다면, 민주당은엔터테인먼트산업과 IT 기업을위해나선것이다. 전략은효과적이었고, 클린턴은정치인으로승승장구했다. 그러나이는민주당이평범한시민을대변하지않고공화당과영역이다른재계를대변한변화의시작점이었다. 민주당의원들은점차투자은행으로옮겨갔고, 기존지지층의목소리를듣지않았다.

이제는많은시민이정치에서소외되어있다. 이들은어떤후보에도표를줄가치를느끼지못하고, 어떤정당에도당원으로등록하지않았다. 민주당등의정당은시민이원하는바를진지하게고려하지않고선거철이되면표를얻으려고능력있는연설문작가를고용해강렬한감정을일으키는연설문에만집중한다는걸경험상알고있다. 선거가끝나면정치인들은기업고객의이익을대변하는자리로돌아가기위해자취를감출것이다. 정책입안과정에서민주주의는없다. 서민을위한자리도없다.

그러나정치가항상이랬던건아니다. 민주당이처음부터진보당이었던것도아니다. 민주당이정치인을돕는조직이상의정당이된시기는 1920년대말이다. 당시민주당은지역사회의일부가되어국민이어려울때의지할수있는정치조직으로성장했다. 선거철에만나서는것이아니라정기적으로국민을한자리에모으는협력적형태의조직이었다. 완벽한정당은아니었지만, 사회에서분명한역할을맡고있었다. 시민에게의미있는정당이된민주당은보수공화당이소유한부와이것이만들어낸권력에맞설수있었다. 서민의상호지원을돕는네트워크를구축했고, 강력한조직을기반으로권력을가진기업에성공적으로맞서며진정한변화를이끌어낼수있었다.

그러나이런정당은이제미국과한국에서존재하지않는다. 주류정당은있지만, 우리일상과관계가없고국민대부분이깊이신뢰하지도않는다. 특정이슈때문에정당을지지하는유권자가있겠지만, 대부분은참여가제한될것이다. 진보정당조차도돈쪽으로기우는결과가발생했다.

정당의기능이무엇인지심각하게재고해야할때다. 정책입안과정을정당과컨설턴트, 기타이들과관련된기업이장악하면, 헌법에반하는정치환경이만들어진다. 정책입안과정책이행은정부가담당해야한다. 충분한자원을갖추고정책을효과적으로이행할역량있는인재를고용해야한다. 정책입안은정부와국민이해야한다. 정당은일반시민이참여하는과정에서하나의역할만할뿐이다. 정당이거대관료조직처럼되어정책을입안한다면, 정책입안시스템을통해책임을지우기힘든상황이될것이다.

 

시대의이슈

해결할이슈의범위는엄청나게넓지만, 대부분무시받고있다. 문제일부는정책을통해해결가능하지만, 다른해결방식을필요로하는문제도있다. 어떤경우든, 시민의앞에놓인복잡한문제를역시복잡한방식으로해결가능한정치적환경을조성해야한다.

현재우리에겐금리인상혹은인하, 정부조직예산증액혹은감액이라는선택안밖에주어지지않는다. 정부조직은그특성상지역사회와유리되어있어서이들에게도움이되는방식으로예산을집행할능력이없는경우가많다. 잠재적해결책과논의주제의범위를확장하는것이앞으로의성공을위해필수다.

예를들어보자. 계급문제는한국사회의중심이슈지만, 정치인은해결책을강구하지않는다. 소수특권계층에부가집중되고, 이들은엘리트계층이되어법을무시하고가족을위한특권을돈으로산다. 한국민은이런사회문제에관해잘알고있지만, 계급격차를불러온경제구조의왜곡에대해서는잘모른다. 부의집중은계급격차를가져왔고, 부유층이자신에게서비스를제공하는다른사람을어떻게하대하며 ‘갑질’을하는지우리는많은사례를보아왔다. 그렇게하대를받는하위계급이증가하고있다.

부유층자녀는가족의끈을이용해인턴이나일자리를쉽게얻는다. 대학입학또한학생각자의능력보다자녀를엘리트학교로보내는부모의재력이좌우한다. 이문제는앞으로더욱심각해질것이며, 결국사회구조를파괴할것이다.

경제학적문제또한심각하게받아들여야한다. ‘GNP’나 ‘수출’만이경제성장을측정하는유일, 혹은최선의기준이아니다. 요즘이들수치는소수에게집중된부의정도만을보여주고있다. 안타깝게도서민을대표한다고주장하는정치인들은금융기관이이끄는경제를지칭할때이들수치를인용한다.

이들정치인은서민의상황을공감한다고주장하지만, 막상서민의삶을도울정책은만들지못한다. 이들은자금의상당부분이결국대기업으로향하는데도낙수효과를통해서민에게도조금은돌아간다고전제한다. 그러나의도가아무리좋다해도전제자체가잘못됐다. 제한된선택안사이에서억지로결정을내리는것이정치는아니다. 이틀을벗어나야한다. 우리경제에필요한사항을결정하고서민의필요에집중한경제를만드는것이정치가되어야한다. 로봇이나공장, 기업채권과파생상품등각종금융상품이아니라사람, 그것도모든사람을향한투자가우리의최우선순위가되어야한다.

무역이증대된다고반드시서민의부가증가하는건아니다. 은행은단기수익에매몰되지말고장기목표에집중해야한다. 은행이주식∙채권과연관된어떤투기행위도못하도록금지하고, 국가중요프로젝트에관해뻔하지만체계적이고일관된방식으로자금을제공하는업무에집중하도록만드는정책이필요하다. 국가프로젝트의경우규모가크고기간이 10~40년까지늘어날수있으며, 재생가능한경제참여에기여해서지역사회에협동조합을만들고가차없는경쟁을지양하면서일자리를주도적으로창출하도록도울수있다.

그런데정치인은국민을위해경제를새롭게조직하거나제도적변화를통한해결책을제안하지않고있다. 탐욕을부리는 ‘악당’을공격하려는경향은있지만, 체제를근본적으로바꾸거나피해자다수의힘을모아문제를해결하도록압박하기위한노력은거의없다. 대부분정치인은빈곤층이나노동계층과진지하게대화를나누려하지않는다. 중산층도무시하기일쑤다. 사회최상위층에속한경제엘리트나기업의편의를먼저봐주고그다음에야서민으로눈을돌린다. 그러나이순서는반대로바뀌어야한다.

게다가기후변화의위협도있다. 이제과학계는기후변화가인류최대의위협이라는데의견을같이한다. 다수의생물종이멸종하고어쩌면인간도멸종할지모른다. 농업을완전히혁신하고해수면상승에대응하고사막화를늦추기위해서는수조달러의돈을투자해야한다. 그런데도현정부는기후변화를우선과제로삼거나심각한위협으로보지않는다. 기후변화는국내정치의거의모든측면에서하나의요소로확실히고려해야하며, 상대적으로위해가능성이낮은북한을넘어서는요소로안보정책에서중요하게다루어져야한다.

 

결론

뛰어난교육을받은유능한인재가정부에필요하다. 사회계급이나기후변화등의난제를피하지않는자신감과용기를갖추고, 공정한사회를만들어가기위해산업을효과적으로규제할수있는사람들이다. 기업은이들위협이실재하지않거나중요하지않은것처럼만들기위해엄청난돈을지출했다. 그결과북한핵무기만이최대위협이며, 계급격차와기후변화는존재하지않는다는잘못된인식이존재한다. 한국의정치가다음단계로나아가기위해서는교육과정치행동, 구체적제안을통해이들문제가실재함을인식해야한다.

이전과다른방식으로정부혹은각종조직과힘을합치거나이들의목표를알리거나교육하는과정에폭넓게참여하는모습이아직까지보이지않는다. 그래도참여가가능하며, 그것이도덕적의무라는믿음을가져야한다. 시험점수가목f적이아니라시민역량을부여하기위한교육, 다른사람의이익을갈취하기위해치열한경쟁을벌이기보다더나은사회를건설하기위해함께일하는교육을맛보도록해야한다. 그리고국민을위해일하고, 국민과함께일하는걸당연시여기는정부를보여줘야한다. 이런노력은하루아침에결실을이룰수없지만, 조금씩시험적노력을하다보면다른이에게영감을주어진전이일어날것이다.

정당은이과정에서중요한역할을할수있지만, 한국사회가진화함에따라정당의역할도변화한다는걸제대로이해하고나서야한다. 서민의필요에집중하는, 보다투명하고책임있는정치문화및경제가최종목표다. 가는길에는고통스럽고많은좌절과희생이따르겠지만, 목적을이루고자노력한다면일상의행동은새로운의미를가질것이고, 우리가변화를일으키고있음을확신하게될것이다.