No, this is not some nasty joke. No, I didn’t lose my sanity due to overstudying. And no, definitely, this is not another American movie. This is the story of the most secret country on Earth, the Democratic (stressing on the term “democratic”) People’s Republic of Korea.
Having finished Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, in my previous post I argued that we are closer to a softer, genetically engineered form of totalitarianism and that Orwell’s hard and brutal controlled state is a unattainable fantastic vision. A BBC video I watched today shocked me and made me think that maybe Orwell was a relative to Nostradamus in some distant way.
The BBC reporter’s visit to North Korea portrayed terrible revelations. The planned economy claims to produce enough to feed the population, yet 1/3 of the people do not receive a proper diet, the army has privilege over any food, power shortages are a common everyday, and many citizens live in primitivity and misery. People believe their Great Leader, the founder of the state, is immortal God and rules even from the after life. His son, the Dear Leader, is in charge of running things in this life.
I believe that the Dear Leader indeed has Orwell’s 1984 on a special place in his library because he has thoroughly applied all the methods of planned economy and brutal totalitarian control in North Korea. Powerful propaganda has taught people to be submissive and content with their life. In the military museum one recognizes Orwell’s model of rewriting history. Common people believe that the Dear Leader has provided modern houses and farm mechanization, yet citizens live in primitive and poor conditions and the only tractor one sees is given from the EU. The government has ingeniously realized the need of a hateful enemy to keep people scary and under control. In this case, the “bad guys” are of course the USA. Similarly to Orwell’s model, any access to the outside world is strictly forbidden. The population has its own form of intranet, with information the leader believe they should possess. None of them have heard of the World Wide Web or Google. The only leaders citizens admire (after the semi-God, immortal, or whatever Great Leader and his son the Dear Leader) are Stalin and Mao. And the most “real reality” they are exposed to is the US movie The Sound of Music. Great source of reality, indeed…
Judging North Korean people’s naivety and ignorance is out of the question. How are they supposed to know if no one told them? How are they supposed to know there is a life outside this planned and controlled state, when they are not allowed to leave the country? As scary as Orwell’s novel appeared to me when I read it, I never believed it could actually be realized in our contemporary world. North Korea seems to be part of the 21st century, but it poses a threat to the safety and values of the rest of the countries.
Even children, the most innocent human beings, are under the powerful propaganda as they are made to sing songs about how happy they are with their current life and how they do not envy the West for anything. But how could they envy something they haven’t seen or experienced?
The battle between Orwell’s hard brutality and Huxley’s soft promiscuity continues. I don’t know who the winner will be yet but I am terrified if those are our only options for the future – horror, subordination, and control, or sex, drugs, and blissful unawareness. As Huxley said “You pays your money and you takes your choice”.