Monday, April 02, 2012

Little Kim's Reign of Terror


Bam’s reading Escape from Camp 14 and relating to me the story of Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only person ever known to have escaped the brutal North Korean labor camps. Born in the gulag, he wasn’t even aware of the outside world until he met a knew inmate who told him about it – in a scene I imagine like that old dude in Count of Monte Cristo who told the hero about hidden treasure. 
Too bad, unlike Count of Monte Cristo, Dong-Hyuk isn’t able to exact any revenge. In the camps, he was raised to snitch and witness regular executions, including those of his mother and brother. He endured torture with coals, a finger chopped off, starvation and it’s all just so intensely hectic. I like this word, hectic. South Africans use it in place of awful or unbearable. “Did you hear Josh was murdered?” one might tell another and the response, “Hectic!” which to me spins an atrocity into something almost surmountable – a quality that people used to facing atrocities must always possess. 

So I haven’t read this book because it all just makes me angry. Angry that this goes on, and angry that we so often think we know what evil looks like, that it wears a hoodie, a swastika or hides in a swamp. When most of the time, it lurks in your kindly-looking, chubby Asian great-aunt Kim Jong-Il. 

Curiously, when this totalitarian tyranny began with Jong-Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung, he fashioned a new religion. In the early 50’s, he borrowed Christian metaphors for himself and then banned Christianity so there was no competition. Their calendar starts on the day of his birth (they are now in year "Juche 101"), as our calendar starts on the year of Christ’s birth. Together with his son and successor, they are “father and son” and children are indoctrinated from nursery school to worship this divine duo (check out this curriculum!). Their new cult even rips off “original sin”.

And check out this Sunday School-ish propaganda:
Jesus Kims love the little children!
I wonder how much of this people actually believe? Just as you can never underestimate the stupidity of the American voting public, you can never underestimate the ability for otherwise intelligent people to be easily, readily, often joyfully conned. Some man (because it’s always a man) says “I’m the prophet” “I am God” “There were golden tablets, I swear!” and people bow down before L Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ. And Kim Jong-Il? It's not far-fetched because it's all far-fetched!

Sure it's different in North Korea because if you admit to unbelieving, you get tossed in a work camp and same goes for the rest of your family. There are over 200,000 people living, starving and dying in these camps, (have you google-earthed them?) If only North Korea had oil we would have crashed that party long ago. Speaking of evil regimes, maybe there is a hell? Can you imagine dying and having your heart donated to one Dick Cheney!? Who else is reconsidering organ donation? 

Rachel Maddow’ has a book out – “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” which talks about how the founding fathers cautioned against unnecessary war, that it would be the downfall of the nation, and yet how the USA today has come to be at peace with perpetual war. I suppose constant war is a reflex of fear, as is religion, and both exploit fear to great effect. 

So how do you liberate concentration camps while combatting fear and war and self-appointed gods? If nothing else, you can talk about it, write about it, make people aware about it. Because while silence gives a free pass to free reign, exposure makes it just a little bit harder for hectic things to thrive.   

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