I think that the factor of indignity and shame, of the sort manifested in the anecdote above, makes a more satisfactory initial explanation. And one of the cheering and reassuring things about dictatorship is the way that it consistently fails to understand this element of the equation. How gratifying it is that all such regimes go on making the same obvious mistakes. None of them ever seems to master a few simple survival techniques: Don't let the supreme leader's extended family go on shopping sprees; don't publicly spoil some firstborn as if the people can't wait for him, too, to be proclaimed from the balcony; don't display your personal photograph all over the landscape; don't claim more than, say, 75 percent of the vote in any "election" you put on. And don't try to shut down social media: It will instantly alert even the most somnolent citizen to the fact that you are losing, or have lost, your grip.Is North Korea the exotic Oriental exception to this rule? Or has the DPRK regime been successful in fusing the natural desire for dignity that Hitchens mentions with the dignity of the state (nation/regime/race) in a way that other despotic regimes can only envy?
People do not like to be treated like fools, or backward infants, or extras in some parade. There is a natural and inborn resistance to such tutelage, for the simple-enough reasons that young people want to be regarded as adults, and parents can't bear to be humiliated in front of their children.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
HITCH ON DICTATORSHIPS
He's focusing on Egypt and the Arab authoritarian states in the Middle East, but might the same concepts be applied to North Korea?