Putting the dictator in the ground where some think he belongs


Kim Jong-il funeral: A portrait of Kim Jong Il is carried during his funeral procession A portrait of Kim Jong-il is carried during his funeral procession through the snowy streets of Pyongyang. The funeral was delayed for several hours after more than 5cm of snow fell in the North Korean capital overnight.  Associated Press, Guardian, 12-28-11

Today the North Koreans are burying Kim Jong-il, but not the dictatorship his father created.  The dictatorship will continue under his son – and possible his uncle a few army generals.  The transition is as peaceful as one of our presidential changes, no violence, no protests just a parade (if one can call a funeral procession a parade) and a speach or two.  “The king is dead, long live the king.”

Several days ago I posted some thoughts on dictatorships; I tried to make an argument for the potential of a safer life, maybe even a happier and better life, under a dictator.  Look at the alternatives as Syria, Iraq and Libya are bathing in blood.   I wonder how many people would want the old system and the old leaders back?  Of course, I can not imagine such a system here, or moving to live under a dictator in some other place; but, if faced with a the possibility of real civil war to rid us of a dictator would I choose safety and security over liberty and freedom?  You might not think it could happen here, but, many people believed the Roosevelt might have become one if he had lived long enough and certainly people on left worried that Bush and Cheney were taking the first steps to a military rule.

My real purpose in writing the blog was to explore the ideas and possibly get other people to do the same.  It worked.  Here is a response from a friend who has experienced a dictatorship and knows what choice she would make.

Ken,

This is a response to your last blog…which troubled me.  I agree with your conclusions about the U.S. and its involvement in other countries, but I have trouble with the way you got to your conclusion…

My closest and most intimate experience with people who grew up in a dictatorial society, occurred when I was working in a long term project in a post soviet country.  They were, at the time, just ten years away from the fall of the Communist regime and many of the people I met bemoaned the loss of their security as they struggled financially and politically to build their futures.

 As I got to know these people, I realized the effects of growing up in a political system that gave them security without freedom.  The most striking aspect, for me, was that though these people were SO SMART and capable, their problem-solving skills were extremely under-developed.  When faced with a problem, they tended to say, “that’s the way it is” and walk away rather than to try to think of a solution to the problem.  I came to realize that this attitude was the result of feeling powerless to make change or to influence outcomes.

 Related to this was their distrust of everything and everybody.  If I had to have a title for their lifestyle, I would call it “Let’s Make a Deal”…I guess when you grow up in a society where there is little to go around and where you have to sneak around to get what you want, this becomes the way you think about the processes involved for survival in the system.  It seems ironic that a socialist regime was composed of people who knew, that to survive, every person had to be for himself and only for himself.  The people I worked with had no experience working in groups.  They had never done that before – had no idea of how to share ideas, help one another think through a problem, etc. 

The apartment blocks I saw had fallen into a state of disrepair.  I was told that under the old regime, everything was taken care of…somebody mowed the grass, somebody else changed the light bulbs, etc…but that now they had no idea of how to work together in  what had essentially become condominium living.  Why should I help fix the roof if it’s not leaking water into my apartment?  They had no idea of how to work together to create an environment that was beneficial to all.

 So, why do I have trouble with the notion that a strong arm of a dictator can protect the weak?   The quality of life, the mind set of people who are “safe” but without self determination produces a lifestyle, that to my mind, is perhaps worse than the tumult and chaos that exists when that way of life is overthrown… The rate of alcoholism in soviet dominated countries was much higher than in democratic nations – which to my mind, represents the individual’s attempt to step outside – for a moment in time – a world that deprives him of the opportunity to exert his own power to make things different, to make things better.  When you ask…Would you like to have your city torn apart by violence and political divide?  No, if it had no purpose…Yes, if it meant a change to the dreary life and the unrelenting monotony that a dictatorship – even a benevolent dictatorship, if there is such a thing, had imposed on me.

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