23 July 2013

Miserere nobis, Domine

Just to be clear, gentle readers, the following (courtesy of Mark Shea) is a propaganda video from North Korea, a horrid Stalinist regime which deserves (and indeed gets) no sympathy whatsoever. But when their descriptions of Anglo-American celebrity culture, consumerism, neo-colonialism, militarism, violent entertainment, Brave New World-esque distraction and deliberate cultivation of ignorance and apathy strike so close to home, and the disastrous effects of the culture of death on such basic human experiences as friendship, love and family are so profoundly distinguished and diagnosed, Mark has it absolutely right that the proper response ought to be one of reflection and repentance, not of kneejerk tu quoques. Please be forewarned, parts of this video contain extreme violence (both animated and real) and are not safe for work.

Now, colour me sceptical that the North Korean government published this video with anything but ill intents toward the Anglo-American West in mind. And of course the remedies the North Korean government holds forth, of rabid nationalism and state control over all aspects of life, are as bad if not worse than the disease they describe. But the fact that these critiques strike so close to home on a whole host of issues, political, economic and cultural, should be enough to give us pause. Have mercy upon us, Lord.


  1. Very interesting. I think many people in the West, and particularly in the United States, assume that so long as the negative aspects of our culture are not imposed from above by the State, then complaining about them is somewhat pointless. You can simply choose to reject and avoid the bad aspects of the culture, for example, by refusing to watch trash television.

    Unfortunately, the neoliberal capitalist culture is hegemonic and it is very hard to avoid dealing with the culture. I suppose you could decide to live some kind of alternative lifestyle but I am not so sure how feasible that is for most people and ultimately that sort of thinking does not change anything, it just becomes a kind of individualistic lifestylism.

  2. Thanks, John, for the comment!

    Yes, I'm kind of guilty of that sort of lifestylism myself. I really don't watch television at all except that which I actively go hunting down on the Internet - shows like The Daily Show and Russell Howard's Good News. But you're right that such things don't count for much in a society where we're already too isolated from each other (not only physically but intellectually and emotionally as well) for such exemplary influence to have that great an impact.

    But yes, on Mark's comment box on Facebook he got quite a few comments to the effect of, 'well, sure it's bad, but I'll take USA Freedom(TM) any day of the week over North Korean tyranny' - which seemed to be precisely the attitude he himself was critiquing. It's all well and good to follow the Gandhian (ergo distributist) credo of 'if we could change ourselves', but if such attitudes as that one have a critical mass, in the end I agree that it probably won't be enough.

  3. Hi Matthew,

    I am also guilty of lifestylism. I try to avoid television as much as possible, but there is a lot of pressure to be integrated into the culture, so I try to stay somewhat connected to what is going on in pop culture, even if it is often just to criticize it!