Many times daily in North Korea you see someone crouching doing nothing but passing time. Usually they’re alone, but sometimes in a group. I kept meaning to take pictures, but it feels funny to take a picture of someone doing nothing. I found the two below on the web. As best you can tell they’ve been squatting all day and will be for a while longer.
They’ll be in a park or on a street corner. Not far away someone else may crouch alone doing nothing too. I don’t see them complaining. I didn’t see any police telling them to move along or other people asking them to join an activity.
It got me thinking about government, systems, and motivation.
I don’t know the cause of these people’s idleness. I presume no business is happening that could employ them, nor can they find any opportunity to start their own projects. When a nation is not productive, life seems boring, with no escape.
When you have no chance to succeed, what else can you do? You get futility. I can only imagine the situation demoralizes you. What more fundamental role can a leader have than to make sure people have ways to improve their lives?
It’s hard not to think about things going too far the other way: everybody working hard producing nothing of value. I think about the over-the-top advertising of Times Square, overdone yet more in many neighborhoods here in Shanghai, not to mention many other large Asian cities. Or America’s strip malls, making the areas from city to city homogenous across the country. Or the waste of the overproduction our markets require or of luxury goods.
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