I have watched with some interest the news reports about North Korea and the death of their latest tyrant. Most fascinating to me is that so many people are weeping uncontrollably and completely devastated by his death. WHY AREN'T THEY CELEBRATING IN THE STREETS? I know that many of the mourners are just going along to avoid catching the eye of an evil regime but some, according to first hand reports, are truly broken up that this jerk is dead.
This brings me around to something I've commented on before; why do people do things that are obviously not in their own best interest? But first, some background information about North Korea. The following is from BBC correspondents reporting from North Korea:
North Koreans have been taught from an early age to express devotion to both Kim Il-sung, the so-called Great Leader who died in 1994, and the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il.
At the university's foreign language department I asked the students how they had managed to learn such good English. "Thanks to the Great Leader," one young man replied, "we are allowed to watch English and American films, like The Sound of Music." When asked which world leaders - other than the Dear Leader - he admired, he quickly answered "Stalin and Mao Zedong!" However, the students had not heard of Nelson Mandela.
Kim Il-sung died 16 years ago but he's still the country's president, and there are more than 500 statues of him.
No wonder the 3,000 or so North Koreans who escape this, the most isolated and secretive country in the world, and arrive in South Korea every year feel as though they have landed on another planet.
North Korean TV only broadcasts hagiographies of the two leaders and pictures celebrating the country's army, model farms, model villages etc. Our minders had probably never seen any other kinds of news item or documentary about their country or the rest of the world.
They were not allowed to, and they could not, because no-one has access to the internet in North Korea. Instead, the North Koreans have a special internal intranet which I was shown at Pyongyang University.
A postgraduate metallurgy student who spoke good English explained that he could not compare his research with a fellow student in say, London or Los Angeles, because the system would not let him. But, he added brightly, "the Dear leader has kindly put all we need to know on our intranet system".
BBC Correspondent Sue Lloyd Roberts, June 2010
We all live in insulated bubbles to some degree. North Korea is an extreme example, but it shows what can happen to basically good people who have no other source of knowledge than what the system provides.
Personality cult is extremely dangerous and incredibly easy to develop when you start with a group of people who basically agree to follow you and then give up their right to critically challenge and examine.
Any organization that does not allow open dialog, fact checking, challenging of assumptions, and that fosters personality cult worship of its leaders, should be avoided.