Some people are just crazy. Not crazy like they get down from time to time and find solace in speaking to a counsellor. Not even crazy like serial killers get branded whenever they lodge themselves into the public consciousness. No, genuinely, absolutely, unmistakably batshit fucking crazy. The kind of people who go to 24 hour supermarkets in the middle of the night in order to eat their own hands and scream “traitor” at a selection of sandwich meats. The kind of people who sit, naked, in an ill lit corner of a car park telling anyone who’ll listen that clothes are the easiest way to get caught by “the brainsuckers”. These people are undoubtedly to be pitied and offered every assistance in order to help them deal with whatever illness lead them to this point. But what do we do when an entire country ends up nutjob mental?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve given up nearly all hope of our species doing much beyond consistently fucking each other until we end ourselves and whatever planet(s) we happen to be living on at the time but are enjoying the undeniably gripping show until it gets there. If so then I must recommend casting a voyeuristic glance towards some of these countries. I mean, it feels kind of weird at first, like standing outside the gates of a leper colony and pointing while making disgusted facial expressions and inappropriate comments about the “skinless monsters” inside but once you get past any handicap of morals and principles observing these cuckoo states becomes almost a hobby.
We all know the obvious ones, the ones where the narcotic of power has lead to an almighty paranoid struggle to maintain it at the expense of most of the actual country. We’re all familiar with the likes of Zimbabwe, Burma and the USA. But what when it’s not just the leaders, what if a whole country goes that way?
In the week when it has been revealed that Kim Jung Il, the world’s most prolific and dangerous mentalist of a world leader has begun more openly pushing his 28 year old son towards the role that he will vacate upon his death (or, perhaps, like his father, it will be reported in North Korea that he hasn’t actually died but simply become some form of immortal superhero-deity crossbreed). So it seems that the country might well be in for a bit longer of collective lunacy.
The great thing about North Korea is that there’s so little we know about it. With almost any other country in the world when I get curious about life there (and I do, because that’s the kind of demonstrably geeky thought that fills my head every day. Things like “I wonder what the busses are like in Ulan Bator” or “What time do you reckon people usually have an evening meal in Senegal?”) I can pop online and read about it from someone who’s been there or someone who lives there. And then if my curiosity is peaked, as it often is, I can go there and wander around for myself and get on a Mongolian bus and think “hmmm, not as rickety as I’d imagined”. But with North Korea I can’t do any of that. The country is closed. There are no bloggers, because there is no internet available for all but a few very high ranking military personnel. There are no visas available to enter the country without being chaperoned at all times by 2 official guides expertly trained in propaganda so bizarre you wonder how they keep a straight face. Us mental-state watchers are left with remarkably little to go on and so every new piece of footage or defector’s report is quickly and desperately consumed like a recently noticed chocolate bar in a marijuana smoker’s kitchen cupboard.
One thing that does appear to be consistent throughout many reports is how effective the internal propaganda of this state has been. Despite the undeniable poverty the vast majority of the country finds themselves in, the brainwashing has been going on for so long that from many accounts a huge majority of the population seem convinced of its truth. This is a scary thought. A whole nation of people who genuinely believe in Kim Jong Il’s superhuman abilities and their own country’s pseudo-Cold War era belief in its own superiority. In Lisa Ling’s “Inside North Korea” documentary she shows patient after patient having undergone successful eye surgery ignoring the doctor that performed it in favour of thanking a painting of the Dear Leader for their eyesight. That kind of closed minded obedience and worship takes decades to cultivate in a population and, in a newly interconnected world, it might be the last time we see it. Some may argue that this is a logical extension of the Stalinist bastardisation of the communist ideal, personally I just see it as being what happens when you deny a country internet porn.
But What should we, as an international community, do when we see our neighbours going slowly crazy like this? To my mind, just like the naked man in the car park we all know what we should be doing. We should be throwing our coat around them, attempting to calm them down and getting them the help they need to get better. But I suspect, just as most of us would in the car park, we’ll abandon what we should do instead of giggling to ourselves over their self destructive insanity, and continue to treat other people’s misery as a small and occasionally entertaining distraction from our own lives.