Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Devil Wore Elevator-shoes

It is depressing even to have to think about North Korea, the geopolitical equivalent of anal warts.  But alas, it exists;  and like those annoyances, when extant, it must be attended to, lest the infection spread.

Today’s Los Angeles Times features a fascinating article about the remarkable developments of the last few days, in that wretched land.   Misled by the headline on the homepage of their website,

I almost didn’t click on it,  since it sounded as though it might refer to some laughable lame pale-imitation of Gangnam style among adolescents wearing their hair around a quarter of an inch longer than the Party really prefers -- though even so attenuated a whiff of a Prague Spring would be welcome.   But no:  the term “revolution” is misused here, since the recent events do not involve any substantial segment of the North Korean population, young or otherwise, but are simply a palace coup, a bloody jostling among factions;  but which, given that country’s significant propensity for making mischief, and possession of the nukes to do so, Attention Must Be Paid.
As you are unlikely simply to stumble upon the article (since I read it this morning, the LATimes web team has  -- disgracefully -- demoted or 'defeatured' the article, removing it from the homepage entirely;  you will not find it unless you know it’s there), I here rescue it from oblivion (to the extent that appearing upon the prestigious World of Dr Justice blog  can be described as doing that) by quoting some of the juicier passages:

It is North Korea's version of a youth revolution, and it's making a lot of people nervous.
At 30, Kim Jong Un may well be the world's youngest head of state. His brother, Kim Jong Chul, two years older, is best known as an avid Eric Clapton fan but is also said to keep an eye on the leader's security. And the youngest of the Swiss-educated siblings, 26-year-old sister Kim Yo Jong, is seen frequently as an aide-de-camp to the leader.
With Thursday's execution of their uncle, Jang Song Taek, and the purge of his cronies, this impatient new generation of the Kim family dynasty appears to be kicking out the adults. More executions are expected.
"He had to get rid of the grumpy old men," said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea scholar based in Seoul. "He couldn't be a boss with subordinates who are twice his age, who don't understand him and don't take him seriously."

Arch-traitor and running-dog  Jang Song Taek confesses his guilt

Kim's tactics in some ways are reminiscent of China's Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao Tse-tung in 1966, in which youthful Red Guards terrorized their teachers and other authority figures.

The 67-year-old Jang was for decades a trusted eminence grise, the interlocutor in an otherwise eccentric family.
Jang was appointed the de facto regent before Kim Jong Il died in December 2011, a job that included reining in youthful impulses — something the younger Kim clearly resented.
In a 2,700-word screed released Friday, Jang was accused of doing "serious harm to the youth movement in our country, being part of the group of renegades and traitors in the field of youth work bribed by enemies."
Just two years in power, Kim Jong Un has made a cult of youth the theme of his rule, investing the country's scarce resources in water slides, roller coasters and ski slopes.
The most notable foreign dignitary to visit Pyongyang, the capital, since he took over is the tattooed, body-pierced former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who is supposed to visit again next week.
Along with the charges of plotting a coup, the report by the official Korean Central News Agency detailed petty grievances that Kim clearly had been nursing for the last two years. Among them: When a monument was built to showcase a letter written by Kim to a unit of the People's Internal Security Forces, Jang directed that it be placed in a shady corner rather than in front of the building.
Jang also was accused of showing a lack of enthusiasm when Kim, while his father was leader, was promoted to vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. "He behaved so arrogantly and insolently, as unwillingly standing up from his seat and halfheartedly clapping," the report said.
Since his father died, Kim has fired five of the seven elderly statesmen who walked behind the car carrying the coffin in the funeral procession.
At least two other senior officials who reported to Jang have been executed: Ri Yong Ha and Jang Soo Kil. A defector group in Seoul reported that brother Kim Jong Chul personally held the pistol when the two were arrested because nobody else was brave enough to do it.
Although the story is likely to be apocryphal, it is indicative of the myth Kim is trying to create: he and his two siblings as heroic young warriors defending the Kim bloodline against interlopers.
More executions are anticipated as the purge continues. Unconfirmed reports from Seoul suggest that Kim might be going after another of his mentors: Ri Su Yong, who was appointed ambassador to Switzerland in 1988 and served as Kim's guardian while the boy was attending school in Bern.
In March, for no discernible reason, Pyongyang declared itself to be in a "state of war" with South Korea and threatened the United States with "thermonuclear war." The tantrums prompted a rare public chastisement from Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A more pedestrian worry is who will be running things now. Jang oversaw most of North Korea's trade, maintaining the balance between various military-run companies that sell coal, iron ore and seafood in China and in turn import most of the country's consumer goods.
Beijing is likely to be in a difficult position diplomatically if Jang's underlings, many of whom work in China, attempt to defect to avoid being swept up in the purge.
"Kim Jong Un is young, but so were other heirs of the throne in the ancient kingdoms," Kim said. "Even if an heir is only 10 years old, one still has to uphold the leader.”

Which just goes to show, that one can be expensively educated in Swiss private schools, and still fail to develop into a human being.  (A troubling consideration for theorists of education.)
In view of all that, the case of North Korea must edge toward the world’s already crowded front-burner.   To commemorate the events, we here repost our essay from March.

*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

*     *    

~    { earlier post }     ~

In recognition of the recent, um, summit diplomacy, by the noted historian, statesman, gentleman and scholar Dr. Dennis Rodman, we here repost our earlier squib on arts & entertainment in North Korea.

His excellency the Undersecretary of State for East Asian Affairs

[Footnote:  Equally bizarre has been the (in Europe) headline-grabbing cavorting of the  temperamental actor tax exile Gérard Depardieu, with the torso-baring assassin and dictator Vladimir Putin in Russia.  As a satirist, I won't comment on this, since it comes pre-satirized.]

~    { original post }     ~

Freud … treats political society  not as an artifact  designed  out of fear and prudence  for the purpose of limiting universal egotism, but as the expression of man’s irrational longing for the return of authority. …
Lombroso … subsumed the psychology of the masses under a new science, “criminal anthropology”.
-- Philip Rieff, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), pp. 222, 228

The NPR program “The State We’re In”  had a remarkable episode this weekend, consisting of an interview (in Korean, with translation) with a former “court poet” (not making this up) -- court poet (you heard that right) -- court effing poet  of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.  The segment was titled “I’m Outa Here” (referring to the minstrel’s eventual flight to China, and thence to the South Korean embassy), but it might just as well have been titled “The God-King with feet of clay wore elevator-shoes”, in reference to our jongleur’s rude disillusionment.

Anyhow, our KorCom rhymester churned out verse after verse in praise of the beloved Supreme Ruler -- and this, during a politically-induced famine in which millions were starving.  So appreciated were his prophetic profusions, that eventually the Great Dictator invited the lowly poet (unworthy to lick the muddy footsteps of the Great One) to a private session in the Royal (Dictatorial?) Palace.  Bowing in gratitude, the troubadour was ushered in to the Great One’s presence chamber.
Oddly, the flunky-poet repeatedly referred to Kim Jong Il as “God” (if we can trust the translator).  One had thought that the Communist North Koreans were mere atheists; turns out they are something much worse.  (Better to worship nothing at all, than to worship Satan’s minions on earth.)  
Great was the skald’s anticipation as he awaited --and waited, and waited, for hour after hour -- until the Sun-King might emerge -- like Sol himself -- resplendent in the East, shining forth his godlike face.
At last, the great double-doors opened….And out waddled a short, squat, cursing, farting  mini-monkey of a mannikin, Kim the Lesser -- turdlike offspring of the tyrant Kim Il Sung -- a rare witness to the occasional advisability of abortion.
The lowly scop waited to be noticed, but it was not to be.  The self-licking Leader’s fluttering fancy was instead caught by a giant wall-slogan eulogizing the God-King Kim Jong Il, and inquired what the writing was  made of.  “Animal skin,” he was informed.  (Whether from endangered species was not mentioned in the interview.)   This pleased him; he inquired whether all the many, many Kim-exalting slogans in the land were similarly confected.  No, he was informed, it’s too expensive, compared with gold leaf and whatnot.
Rising to the full extent of his tiny height, the simian God-King commanded that all those slogans should be taken down and replaced with slogans written in animal-fur.  And this, in the midst of a nationwide famine.
Non mais … c’est tout à fait typique…

At this point, our bard began to feel second thoughts stirring in his atrophied brain.  But ‘twas not that that finally broke the bonds of slavish adoration.  It was that he noticed that this homunculus was wearing steep elevator-shoes.
God, he thought, does not wear elevator-shoes.
It is owing to true stories such as that, that I formally withdrew from satire:  no-one can parodically top that.
Moreover, what is of interest here  are not the antics of the miniature monkey-king himself, like Mini-Me in Justin Powers.  For this was not a movie set, this was an entire nation.  A nation that has reveled in slavery for over half a century -- not writhing beneath the boot-heels of a foreign occupying power, but beneath the baseness of their own natures.   They brought this upon themselves, praising themselves lavishly for it the whole while, in the sort of robotic fulsome prose unique to North Korea.   And not one single person in the entire country, over all that time, has had the gumption to sink a pair of chopsticks into the eye-sockets of their puppet-master.  One can only conclude, as history has repeatedly shown:  The Broad Masses beloved of the Stalinoids, like Ur-horde of Freud’s nightmare imagination,  are natural slaves.
The radio program segue’d from segment to segment via interludes of those whiney, nasal, sing-song musicoidal noises that pass for music in the Orient.  This, doubtless with a view to cultural enrichment and sensitizing to Diversity.  But in context, it evoked only a shudder of disgust.

Gustav Le Bon (whose beard you may admire in the photo above) is an endless source of epigrams on the subject of servility:
"On domine plus facilement les peuples en excitant leurs passions qu’en s’occupant de leurs intérêts."
"On rencontre beaucoup d'hommes parlant de libertés, mais on en voit très peu dont la vie n'ait pas été principalement consacrée à se forger des chaînes."
Le Bon influenced Freud, who quotes him at length in Massenpsychologie.

~  Posthumous Endorsement ~
"If I were alive today, and in the mood for a mystery,
this is what I'd be reading: "
(Ich bin Sigmund Freud, and I approved this message.)
~         ~
In the West, during this period of autophagous capitalism and social decline, our recent trajectory is different.  In the ultimate Consumer Culture (divorced from all thought of Production), rather than masses of henodemonist starvelings, worshipping the Lider Máximo, we have clutches and niches of pampered fatties, worshipping themselves.  
In a technological mass society, Freud’s erotic leader requires a build-up.  The participating audiences at the modern theatricals of power  require more and more door prizes before they will the accept the enthusiasms constantly being manufactured for them.
-- Philip Rieff, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), p. 238

Two different approaches to the Society of the Spectacle.

[Appendix] For a dramatization of the theme people-as-sheep, see "The Prisoner", episode 12:

[Update 25 June 2014]  This just in!  A movie not to miss!!

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