A World Where Books Don’t Exist
North Korea totally creeps me out.
One of the ways in which the country controls ( i.e. brainwashes) its people is by controlling what they read.
Adam Johnson recently wrote a fabulous piece for The Daily Beast about his experience in North Korea–including their control over art, which basically means the country has no art.
For over six decades, every movie has paid homage to the goals of the Korean Worker’s Party, all operas extolled the virtues of Juche theory and Songun policy, all the paintings in the Korean Art Gallery Pyongyang had to depict either Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il or waves of dutiful peasants sacrificing for their Dear and Great Leaders.
Imagine a world in which no writer has written a literary novel in sixty years. Imagine a place where not a single person has read a book that is truly about the character at its center.
How sad is that? The fake, fraudulence of it all? How easy it is to take for granted how, in our world, everything from The Bible to Lolita is easily purchased online or at a local bookstore.
In America, we believe that each person is the central character in his or her own story. In the stories we tell ourselves, characters’ deep-seated desires and motivations send us on trajectories toward what we strive to attain. Along the way, there are complications and conflicts that challenge us and invite us to look inward, but in the end, our characters change, grow and understand.
In North Korea, however, there is one narrative, written almost exclusively by the Kim family. The twenty-three million other people in North Korea have been conscripted to play secondary characters in a national script that starred only Kim Jong-il. These masses had to forego their own yearnings and aspirations in order to play their assigned roles. Failure to do so could result in imprisonment. For an entire populace, change, growth, and spontaneity were dangerous. Acting upon a personal desire, whispering a hidden longing, revealing your true feelings—all the human actions we think of as essential to a character—had be censored by the self lest they be punished by the state.
It’s sad to think of a world without real books. When you’re under a dictatorship like that, when you’ve been told your entire life that black is white and the sky is yellow, then you’ll grow up thinking the sky is yellow.
North Korea is an entire country without art, which is understandable since art is essentially the expressing of human emotion. In North Korea, emotion will get you executed.
Can you imagine a world without art, without books?
(Image: Via Americaninnorthkorea.com)