Friday, December 17

Cults of Personality

Quotes from the Economist
DPRK (North Korea)
Chaperones escort foreign visitors everywhere, lying constantly. "This shop is empty because it's a holiday." "The lights have gone off because it makes a more romantic atmosphere for dinner." "The Americans started the Korean war." And so on. A Chinese diplomat in Pyongyang once begged your correspondent to linger for tea, explaining that, bored witless, he had to talk to someone who would not keep praising the Kims for the sunshine.
When the Chinese get tired of hearing your propaganda, you've gone a bit overboard. The worse part is that these people don't believe they're lies. They have lost all sense of what the truth is.
Presidents-for-life are passé in most places, but not in North Korea, where the Dear Leader's father, the country's founding tyrant, was declared "eternal president" after his death in 1994.
North Korea is the ultimate socialist system. The state has even replaced God!
they proclaimed a uniquely Korean ideology of juche, or self-reliance
Ha, that's a rich one. Twenty-five percent of the DPRK's population survives solely on foreign aid.
In the camps, prisoners have to memorise rules such as "Adore Kim Jong Il with all your heart," and informers report disloyal sleep-talk, which is punishable by death.
What a sick society! It can't be much longer before that house of cards collapses, and if it doesn't, we should give it a push.
Nationalism can elide into that other powerful emotion, hatred, and despots like the Kims make sure to push it that way. A foreign enemy makes it easier to demand unity and obedience. That is why, in maths classes, North Korean children are taught to add and subtract by totting up, and taking away, numbers of dead American soldiers.
That speaks for itself.
His other strategy is to seek nuclear weapons, presumably in the hope that foreigners will take him seriously and buy him off. But that will not protect him from his own people, who will surely demand one day to join the other, richer, freer Korea to the south, just as the East Germans wanted to rejoin West Germany. For now, no one wants to be the first to drop the charade of Dear Leader-worship. But as Nicolae Ceausescu discovered in Romania, the first jeer can swiftly become a revolution.
Kim must have forgoten. The President of the United States is George Bush. He won't be making any deals to pay off the DPRK.

Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan, a country of 5m people in Central Asia, is not as shackled as North Korea, but the locks are clicking. It used to be a Soviet vassal state, ruled by a Moscow stooge called Saparmurat Niyazov. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr Niyazov deftly reinvented himself as a Turkmen patriot, the "Turkmenbashi" or father of all Turkmen. He banned all opposition, declared himself president-for-life and erected golden statues of himself everywhere, including one in Ashgabat, the capital, which revolves with the sun.
...
Mr Niyazov has renamed months of the calendar after members of his family,
The greatest sin in every religion: Pride
A collection of his thoughts on philosophy, ethics and Turkmen culture, the “Rukhnama” (“Book of the Soul”), forms the basis of the school curriculum. Even to pass a driving test, his subjects must show their knowledge of this “sacred” text.
...
[Mr Niyazov] keeps mosques under state control and puts a copy of the "Rukhnama" next to the Koran in every one.
OBL should take his jihad there. Talk about breaking the tenants of Islam. This guy is making himself a God.

Togo
Togo's ruler, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, is the least revolting of the three, but has been around the longest. A former wrestling champion, Mr Eyadéma seized power in a coup in 1967, when he was 29. He has held on to it through a mixture of guile, force and French support.
The French supported a dictator? That's never happened before.
Be reassured, Eyadéma,
You were crowned by God!
Be reassured, Eyadéma,
The people are behind you!

He sings that to himself every night. I'm sure.