Sat, 27 Jul 1996

Criticism goes unheeded

The following is a story about Hori Hidemasa -- an aide to Toyotomi Hideyoshi -- who lived during Japan's warring period.

One day someone posted a large placard in front of Hidemasa's castle listing the shortcomings of the government for all to see. The castle officials held a meeting to discuss the affront, eventually showing the placard to Hidemasa with the words: "We must arrest and execute the person who wrote this without delay."

Hidemasa carefully studied what was written on the placard. To the amazement of all present, he put on his most formal attire, ceremoniously rinsed his mouth and hands and raised the placard above his head in reverence. "No one has ever given me advice like this," he said. "I regard this placard as a gift from heaven and I will keep it among my family treasures." He then got down to business with his officials, discussed each grievance listed, and set about reforming the government accordingly.

In our society people tend to keep criticism and bad news away from their leaders. They reason that if criticism and bad news make the leaders mad, why not make the leaders happy with flattery and good news instead. Those who do not share the same views with the leaders and openly voice their criticism will easily be indicted as makar (attempting to topple the government). These people are called names -- that change with time -- such as kontrev (counter revolutionary) in the early 1960s and "leftist" or "new-leftist" today.

No wonder that with such an attitude -- refusing to listen to criticism and bad news -- the leaders never have enough information about the way things are going. The leaders are not prepared to face tough problems and much needed action may never be taken.