Seeing their lack of freedom leads you to value yours more — and that you have to maintain it
Compare your freedom to a North Korean’s. Does your greater freedom bring you reward and happiness? If you consider freedom essential to happiness and you aren’t much happier than most North Koreans what are you doing wrong? What are you misunderstanding?
The Occupy Wall Street movement is rising as I write this. People are outraged at, among other things, the lack of accountability in people who contributed to a global financial meltdown, many knowingly, many enriching themselves at others’ expenses, likely illegally, certainly violating the golden rule of “do to others as you would have them do to you” from anyone’s perspective.
However justified their outrage, they have much to celebrate. They can protest. The can form communities. Others amplify their voices. They have reasonable expectations of effecting change.
I guess many of the protesters understand this message based on the celebratory mood of the protests, at least during my visit. Still, you don’t have to lose something to know its value. You can work to improve things and still enjoy what you have. Seeing what others don’t have helps you appreciate what you do.
You also realize you have to work to protect your freedom. People can profit from preventing you from doing what you want and then charging you to get it. I’d like a world where no one needed to boycott buses in Birmingham or break the law to evaporate sea salt and sell it in Dandi, India, but even well-intentioned people create monopolies and other systems that hurt others. Working to maintain it is a part of freedom. Like the exercise necessary for health, we can enjoy that work.
Expectations are about yourself, experiences are about you and them
Everybody, I found in talking about it, has an opinion on North Korea. Tell an American about North Korea and they will tell you something about North Koreans. Or so they think.
But they aren’t. They are telling your their expectations and beliefs, which is about themselves.
I realized this when I saw how much North Korea differed from my expectations. Faced with the inaccuracy of my expectations, I realized that my expectations and beliefs are about me, not the subjects of my beliefs. Same with everyone. My expectations were similar to everyone else’s.
I remember realizing this point a long time ago when I realized that when people insult someone, they tend to express something about themselves, often an insecurity, more than about the person they’re insulting.
My family likes adventure
Almost everyone I told about visiting North Korea before going expressed concern or even fear. Though curious, most said they wouldn’t go. One or two friends among the dozens I told said they’d love to go. I think several people who told Jordan they wanted to go canceled.
My mom and dad both responded to hearing about the trip with interest and encouragement. Their responses didn’t surprise me. Many times I’ve gotten emails from them or my siblings with the subject “I’m okay,” which always meant some violence happened where they were living at the time. Typically if my father emailed “I’m okay” it meant he was in Ahmedabad and they’re rioting. My sister sent a couple when she lived in Lebanon and Syria. I forget the rest.
Anyway, I like that my family likes adventure and realizes how much people overblow risks in traveling.
I recommend visiting!
I’m sure you can tell this from all my posts. The more different a place and culture, the more you learn about yourself. Can you think of a place further on the frontier than North Korea? And unlike a safari in Africa or climbing Mount Everest, messing up North Korea’s system probably agrees with you. If you haven’t read Nineteen Eight-four or Animal Farm, I recommend reading them first.
Tomorrow, more themes.
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