Wednesday, 15 January 2014

On North Korea and the Business of 'Truth'

Some nights all it seems to take is one illuminating Frontline documentary to add perspective to one's life. Case in point, an episode last night featuring footage inside North Korea of something other than state-produced propaganda - shot by brave souls who risked death turning cameras on living conditions beyond the lifestyles of the wealthy sycophants of the "supreme leader" to the everyday citizens who are routinely jockeying for food due to chronic shortages and scores of children left abandoned to fend for themselves - with the majority interviewed simply declaring their parents had walked away because caring for them was "too much". Beyond the pageantry of frequent military parades and those who march lock-step to the beat of it all - the state-manipulated news blasting through town squares invariably declaring war with the US 'imminent' are scores of homeless - from my brief observations, many mentally ill or perhaps addicted, roaming through crumbling infrastructure and past the windows of fake department stores full of imported tat where nothing is actually for sale according to the employees - they are simply "on display". North Korean dissidents who were brave or lucky enough to make it across the river to China - landing (in many cases) in South Korea do their best to keep the real story flowing through any means possible - but the consequences of those efforts can have real and fatal consequences for those suspected or implicated in leaking the real story back home - and from what it appears, multiple generations of their families.
What struck home to me in all this is the whole business of freedom of speech, politicians who in the growing absence of a generation of journalists honed in the tradition of telling a story outside of the confines of a political filter, increasingly have a license to create a false reality that bears little resemblance to 'the truth'. And how on a personal level, the facades we increasingly feel pressure to present to the world are so far removed from our own truth, our pursuits for meaning in between all of the mechanisms at our disposal to distance ourselves - dull the pain, remain in our self imposed solitary confinement.
And yet I think of people like journalists Jody Paterson and her partner Paul Willcocks - devoting two years of their lives and much of their own resources as CUSO volunteers in Honduras - stepping so far beyond the apathy that is so often inspired by situations in our global village deemed 'hopeless' or 'incurable' - a reminder to me that the glimmers of truth, of bravery, are all around us - if we are willing to do something more than open our eyes.

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