Choosing To Believe

Many North Koreans believe the stories about their leaders – that Kim Il Sung was solely responsible for saving them from the Japanese (the American bombings had nothing to do with it) and that miracles such as a double rainbow signified the birth of Kim Jong Il.

They are told that North Korea is one of the greatest countries in the world and workers everywhere else are brutally exploited.  When Kim Il Sung died, many North Koreans were genuinely distraught.

Guy Delisle’s graphic novel, Pyongyang, details his experience of living and working in North Korea.  He discusses the question of how can so many North Koreans believe that Kim Il Sung was so great and that life in North Korea is so much better than other countries.

There’s a question that has to be burning on the lips of all foreigners here.  A question you refrain from speaking aloud.  But one can’t help asking yourself.  Do they really believe the bullshit that’s being forced down their throats?

For those isolated in the countryside, where a simple trip between two villages requires a visa, the propaganda must be convincing.  But for my companions, it’s different, because they are among the privileged few who are able to leave the country. Every animation contract is an opportunity for some of them to get themselves invited abroad to “start a project.”  In fact, those who visit Paris or Rome are not necessarily the ones who wind up working on the production.  And only married men with children are authorized to travel.  If they’re not fooled, they never let on.

In fact, they live in a state of constant paradox where truth is anything but constant.  It’s like their permanent fear of landing in one of the re-education camps.  Officially they don’t exist, but everyone knows they’re there.  And a Sword of Damocles hangs over every head, waiting for one false move.  Striking both the “guilty” and their entire families.  At a certain level of oppression, truth hardly matters, because the greater the lie, the greater the show of power.  And the greater the terror for all.  A mute, hidden terror.

Almost everything the great leader did, has become the stuff of legend.  All North Korean adults are expected to wear pins with portraits of Kim Il Sung.

Of course people in Australia are far too clever to fall for talk of supposed miracles…

A couple of days after I returned to Australia, Mary Mackillop was canonised as Australia’s first Catholic saint.

… I now think of Mary as a friend. I feel very close to her and the relationship means a great deal to me.”
– Kathleen Evans, the woman who received Mary MacKillop’s second miracle.

“How does a miracle feel? I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to live my life, have a family, have grandchildren, so that’s a miracle.”
– Mary MacKillop’s first miracle, Veronica Hopson, told Seven’s Sunday Night program.

“The entire Australian nation should be celebrating in her canonisation. It’s just an enormous buzz, but it’s a buzz about something real – this woman who lived a life of charity.”
– Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

“I’ve prayed to her and she’s helped me with my problems. That’s why I’m here, I wanted to thank her.”
– Sydney woman Emilia Mourani in Rome.

Tagged with:
4 comments on “Choosing To Believe
  1. It’s maddening. Howard will be next. 🙁

  2. Aidan says:

    Maybe St. Julian will be next. 🙂

  3. Karen M says:

    Ah – the difference is we actually have a choice…
    eg. “All North Korean adults are expected to wear pins with portraits of Kim Il Sung.”
    Yes there has been much hype – but no-one here is forced to buy into the whole Mary McKillop thing..

  4. Aidan says:

    If Tony Abbott had been elected Prime Minister, we would have been forced to pray to Mary McKillop.

Leave a Reply