Wikipedia & Google Can Overcome Despair

Recently I was reading about North Korea and I read something about a siren being sounded at 7am, Midday, and 8pm (or something) – alerts for wake, eat, and sleep. Makes sense when you consider that they have what could be euphemistically described as ‘power shortages’, and it is necessary to ration the use of electricity, and in fact satellite images of the Earth show most of North Korea as black at night, when South Korea is brightly illuminated. But it is also an indication of how pervasive the influence of the ruling regime is on the conduct of the lives of the citizens of this poor, benighted country.

Of course life for me and mine is not as bad as all that, but it sometimes seems like all there is in life is the barest of routine and those diurnal signposts are the significant features each day. Each day is the same, like those mining towns where the a sort of community alarm goes off to get people out of bed and to announce to everyone that a shift has started and so on. I suppose the whole of North Korea is a kind of huge one-employer mining town, in a way.

And yes, it is just whinging to say that every workday is indistinguishable from the last one. It’s just that the differences are outweighed by the similarities. The common elements are like a series of granite monuments, while the differences: moments of emotion or achievement or unexpected happiness or totally unfair and unforseen reversals or moments when you really do, literally, smell the roses and realise that life ain’t so bad are made of plywood in comparison. They last as memories. But only some of those memories of moments when you were moved, for example will shape your personality and outlook. Whereas being treated like crap by your boss every day for three years, as an example, will definitely affect your character in some way. Not that I’m treated like crap, not really – it was just a creative example.

I have some odd interests and these lead me into doing what I am pleased to call ‘research’ whenever I get time enough for it at work, and this is possibly the reason for me thinking about North Korea at the moment. I was following the story of the North Korea leadership succession, and imminent (unless it has already happened by now – not sure) announcement of Kim Jong-Il’s son Kim Jong-un as the next head honcho.[1] This got me reading and re-reading stories about the Pyongyang Metro[2] where tourists are allowed to only get on and off at two stations, presumably so they can’t see ‘real’ North Koreans who are, again presumably, mostly undernourished and neglected, although apparently happy as they have been so thoroughly brainwashed into thinking that things are OK. And they have had nothing to compare their lifestyle with as the state controls all media and criticism is banned in all forms. Apparently many North Koreans die each year when they attempt to rescue portraits of the Great Leader and the Dear Leader from burning buildings, and some sailors were honoured for similar unconscious fanaticism.[3] And I found myself wanting to know more about personality cults, and inevitably wound up reading about Saparmurat Niyazov, the former ruler of Turkmesnistan,[4] and the most brilliant thing ever: a huge golden statue of himself which rotated through 360 degrees during the day, so the sun was always shining on it, sitting atop the Neutrality Arch in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (here’s a pic[5]). The statue is gone now, thus removing any reason to actually travel to Turkmensitan, which is a shame.

We’ve been on a little journey from feeling a bit like life is the same as living in a dictatorial and oppressive place to having a little giggle at just those places. Isn’t the internet wonderful?






Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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