This week the world has lost one of its most colorful, revered world leaders and most charismatic despots in the shape of Kim Jong il. I am saddened by the news. Not because I am a fan of tyrannical style, nor because he was human but because he was an inspiration. I suppose I better explain myself.
I was fifty something pages through my first novel when I went to Denmark to visit my god-daughter and her family. I was troubled by the fact that I wasn’t convinced that writing a novel about a fictional dictatorship was a valuable use of a thirty year old man’s time. It wasn’t only that, there was a plot point to consider. I did not want to create a dictator based on someone who existed. I was stretching the boundaries of reality in an attempt to create a leader so unique, that there would be nothing more a reader could do other than believe in him. Due to the nature of this exercise, I remember feeling as if I was trying to hard to make the reality of my fictional country too distorted when my Danish friend pointed me in the direction of an article about Kim Jong il. Suffice to say I have not been able to find the very same article. What I learnt from Kim Jong il if anything was that the shackles of reality only exist to be broken.
There are innumerable legends regarding the life of the great dictator that its near on impossible to separate fact from fiction. The fact is that it is marvelously simple to write an article about the Great Leader because there is almost always absolutely no way to verify the facts. Some of the most famous legends include the fact that he is the best golfer in the world, a fashion icon, a miracle birth, that he has never taken a shit, that he owns 20,000 dvds, that he spends half the gdp of North Korea on cognac, that North Korea won the football world cup and most impressive of all is the fact that he could reputably change the weather by altering his moods. The question which arises is where exactly these rumours come from.
The first thing to consider is the nature of the press. North Korea is a totalitarian state, which means there is no free press. Which immediately means that any press reporting is speculative at best. The second is that what reports there are mainly from dissidents or based more exclusively on translation. The third thing to consider is that Western media never promote any other way of life than ours. Therefore they are almost always more likely to print stories to the detriment of any different system. Which means that we should take each of these stories with a pinch of salt.
Where are the positive stories? How many North Korean banks have been bailed out during the global recession? What is the tax rate? What about the unemployment rate? Is it not troubling that when you google ‘North Korea unemployment statistics’ the very first website it finds is the one belonging to the Central Intelligence Agency?
The much labored point I am trying to make is that we often take reality for granted. Life is easiest when we assume that people all over the world live the same way. When we are confronted by alternative realities rather than examining the ways in which they differ, we prefer to paint them in a barbaric light. We often read about people being enslaved by various systems, yet we never consider that there has to be others who support the same system. Is it more mental to believe that a man can live seventy years without defecating or that giving banks more money to stop a recession caused by banks reckless investing can stabilize the global economy? Among all the smoke and mirrors we rarely catch a glimpse of our true reflections.
The final thought I shall leave you with about the great dictator and leader of North Korea Kim Jong Il is one of the few verifiable facts. Kim Jong Il was born in Russia.