Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Excerpt from Anthony Daniel's Wilder Shores of Marx: A Potemkin Mall in North Korea


Anthony Daniels who usually writes in his nom de plume Theodore Dalrymple paid a visit to North Korea in the late 1980s as the usually discriminating North Koreans mistakenly assumed he was friendly to the regime as he had once with Julius Nyere of Tanzania who was a friend of the despot Kim Song.

He had made several remarkable observations. None more than what was a implicitly a tribute to capitalist society but it end up as an indavertent satire.



I went several times during the festival to Pyongyang Department Store Number 1. This is in the very centre of the city. Its shelves and counters were groaning with locally produced goods, piled into impressive pyramids or in fan-like displays, perfectly arranged, throughout the several floors of the building. On the ground floor was a wide variety of tinned foods, hardware and alcoholic drinks, including a strong Korean liqueur with a whole snake pickled or marinated in the bottle, presumably as an aphrodisiac. Everything glittered with perfection, the tidiness was remarkable.

It didn’t take long to discover that this was no ordinary department store. It was filled with thousands of people, going up and down the escalators, standing at the corners, going in and out of the front entrance in a constant stream both ways – yet nothing was being bought or sold. I checked this by standing at the entrance for half an hour. The people coming out were carrying no more than the people entering. Their shopping bags contained as much, or as little, when they left as when they entered. In some cases, I recognised people coming out as those who had gone in a few minutes before, only to see them re-entering the store almost immediately. And I watched a hardware counter for fifteen minutes. There were perhaps twenty people standing at it; there were two assistants behind the counter, but they paid no attention to the ‘customers’. The latter and the assistants stared past each other in a straight line, neither moving nor speaking.

Eventually, they grew uncomfortably aware that they were under my observation. They began to shuffle their feet and wriggle, as if my regard pinned them like live insects to a board. The assistants too became restless and began to wonder what to do in these unforeseen circumstances. They decided that there was nothing for it but to distribute something under the eyes of this inquisitive foreigner. And so, all of a sudden, they started to hand out plastic wash bowls to the twenty ‘customers’, who took them (without any pretence of payment). Was it their good luck, then? Had they received something for nothing? No, their problems had just begun. What were they to do with their plastic wash bowls? (All of them were brown incidentally, for the assistants did not have sufficient initiative to distribute a variety of goods to give verisimilitude to the performance, not even to the extent of giving out differently coloured bowls.)

They milled around the counter in a bewildered fashion, clutching their bowls in one hand as if they were hats they had just doffed in the presence of a master. Some took them to the counter opposite to hand them in; some just waited until I had gone away. I would have taken a photograph, but I remembered just in time that these people were not participating in this charade from choice, that they were victims, and that – despite their expressionless faces and lack of animation – they were men with chajusong, that is to say creativity and consciousness, and to have photographed them would only have added to their degradation. I left the hardware counter, but returned briefly a little later: the same people were standing at it, sans brown plastic bowls, which were neatly re-piled on the shelf.
I also followed a few people around at random, as discreetly as I could. Some were occupied in ceaselessly going up and down the escalators; others wandered from counter to counter, spending a few minutes at each before moving on. They did not inspect the merchandise; they moved as listlessly as illiterates might, condemned to spend the day among the shelves of a library. I did not know whether to laugh or explode with anger or weep. But I knew I was seeing one of the most extraordinary sights of the twentieth century.

I decided to buy something – a fountain pen. I went to the counter where pens were displayed like the fan of a peacock’s tail. They were no more for sale than the Eiffel Tower. As I handed over my money, a crowd gathered round, for once showing signs of animation. I knew, of course, that I could not be refused: if I were, the game would be given away completely. And so the crowd watched goggle-eyed and disbelieving as this astonishing transaction took place: I gave the assistant a piece of paper and she gave me a pen.
The pen, as it transpired, was of the very worst quality. Its rubber for the ink was so thin that it would have perished immediately on contact with ink. The metal plunger was already rusted; the plastic casing was so brittle that the slightest pressure cracked it. And the box in which it came was of absorbent cardboard, through whose fibres the ink of the printing ran like capillaries on the cheeks of a drunk.
At just before four o’clock, on two occasions, I witnessed the payment of the shoppers. An enormous queue formed at the cosmetics and toiletries counter and there everyone, man and woman, received the same little palette of rouge, despite the great variety of goods on display. Many of them walked away somewhat bemused, examining the rouge uncomprehendingly. At another counter I saw a similar queue receiving a pair of socks, all brown like the plastic bowls. The socks, however, were for keeps. After payment, a new shift of Potemkin shoppers arrived.

The Department Store Number 1 was so extraordinary that I had to talk to someone about it. But the young communist from Glasgow to whom I described it simply exclaimed: ‘So what! Plenty of people go to Harrods without buying anything, just to look.’ Nevertheless, I returned twice to Department Store Number 1 because, in my opinion, it had as many layers of meaning as a great novel, and every time one visited it one realised – as on re-reading Dickens or Tolstoy – that one had missed something from the time before.
Department Store Number 1 was a tacit admission of the desirability of an abundance of material goods, consumption of which was very much a proper goal of mankind. Such an admission of the obvious would not have been in any way remarkable were it not that socialists so frequently deny it, criticising liberal capitalist democracy because of its wastefulness and its inculcation of artificial desires in its citizens, thereby obscuring their ‘true’ interests. By stocking Department Store Number 1 with as many goods as they could find, in order to impress foreign visitors, the North Koreans admitted that material plenty was morally preferable to shortage, and that scarcity was not a sign of abstemious virtue; rather it was proof of economic inefficiency. Choice, even in small matters, gives meaning to life. However well fed, however comfortable modern man might be without it, he demands choice as a right, not because it is economically superior, but as an end in itself. By pretending to offer it, the North Koreans acknowledged as much; and in doing so, recognised that they were consciously committed to the denial of what everyone wants.



But the most sombre reflection occasioned by Department Store Number 1 is that concerning the nature of the power that can command thousands of citizens to take part in a huge and deceitful performance, not once but day after day, without any of the performers ever indicating by even the faintest sign that he is aware of its deceitfulness, though it is impossible that he should not be aware of it. One might almost ascribe a macabre and sadistic sense of humour to the power, insofar as the performance it commands bears the maximum dissimilarity to the real experience and conditions of life of the performers. It is as if the director of a leper colony commanded the enactment of a beauty contest – something one might expect to see in, say, a psychologically depraved surrealist film. But this is no joke, and the humiliation it visits upon the people who take part in it, far from being a drawback, is an essential benefit to the power; for slaves who must participate in their own enslavement by signalling to others the happiness of their condition are so humiliated that they are unlikely to rebel.

21 comments:

  1. If you have a minute, I’d really appreciate it if you took a look at Emily’s Virtual Rocket. This is a serious newsblog which has been taken from serious e-newspapers and e-magazines from around the world, with an emphasis on transgender issues. Also, with his election, I look for articles which critique Donald Trump.

    I hope you enjoy this. Please paste the following:

    Emilysvirtualrocket.blogspot.com

    To comment:

    thoreaugreen@gmail.com

    Emily

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would appreciate if you refrain from spamming random blogs with your agenda without even bother to reading them! True I am critical of Trump but I am certainly not your ideological fellow traveller.

      Regards

      Delete
  2. a social pariah named ysv rao died on 2017 due to demonetization
    lets all celebrate lol..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i offer my 1000rs and 500rs notes as mark of condolence

      Delete

    2. rather shove them up ur ass for now.Later on when capt would rape u from behind,he would be mighty pleased with u,as those notes would come down from inside onto his hands. only homosexuals like u and ur partner capt can celebrate at someone's death,be it fictitious or real!

      Delete
    3. LOL I was skeptical of demonetization but admitted the long term effects could be beneficial though not to the extant of Modi's claims. So I really dont see how the demonetization(whose long term effects are yet to judged) could affect me in any way LOL.
      Unless you are implying I indulge in black money hahahahahaha

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. "BREAKING NEWS"
      A well known Pervert Gay man, known simply as MR?MRS "JAM' committed "suicide"
      after hearing that his partner has died.he was rumored to be Widow of mr?mrs ysv rao. he starred in many gay incest and zoophilia movies . he used to receive payment of rs 1000 and 500 transferred via anal route, to support cashless vision of pm modi

      Delete
    6. SHOCKING
      but true folks mr? mrs JAM was the first person in India to support cashless society vision .
      All the payment he received by acting in GAY porn movies was transferred to his BANK Account via his anal route . now all his CASH WAS TRANSFERRED
      to capt vadkyil for charity according to his last wish . LET US PRAY IN SILENCE TO THIS GREAT VISIONARY .

      Delete
    7. well unless my ghost is sitting in front of my computer,i am still alive even after suicide.which leads us to the bigger question,has capt fucked u bit hard last night,a bit too much maybe,that has deranged ur perception of reality :) ? I always warned u to stay away from capt,he fucks hard like zionists :D

      Delete
    8. com'n now JAM i saw ur Dead body being eaten by dogs. as far capt is concernd i think u have far more experience of getting fucked around than me. u know what i will not react to the dead persons comments anymore

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    9. hey amith mishra, I see you returned to continue your compulsory reading of the captains blog. Right now he is on part 29 "expose" of Shell. hahahahha Enjoy reading your Vedas and Upanishad ie ajitvadakayil.blogspot.com . Best you not read anything else which requires a higher IQ as it will give you a headache.

      Delete
    10. Seems like amith mishra neglected to do his routine masturbating over the photos of the captains man boobs and hence these indecent proposals. Mr Mishra good news for you, being of the libertarian mindset , I believe you are free to pursue whatever perversion you choose. So go for it post haste.

      Delete
    11. shameless people like ysv rao dont die that easy but i heard rumors that this creature (ysv rao ) was dead

      Delete
    12. hey ysv rao why dont u show ur talent by making a video of masturbation to world instead of making a lewd comments about capt followers. i heard rumor that u used to give anal service to capt vadkyl so u shuld have no problem teaching others.

      Delete
  3. YSY, do you think that the 2 Koreas will ever be able to unite??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well in order for that to happen, not just the current regime of North Korea but the entire authoritarian and despotic political system has to be destroyed. Keep in mind, Koreans are notoriously homogenous more so than the Japanese so on a social level reunification will be easy though it will be a challenge on the cultural and economic level. North Koreans have been beated in the ground so much that they may not what democracy is and how to participate in it.

      Delete
    2. Forgot to mention- captain and his deranged fellow travellers would probably prefer that South Korea be annexed to north and the norths socio political system imposed on them LOL

      Delete
  4. Seems like amith mishra neglected to do his routine masturbating over the photos of the captains man boobs and hence these indecent proposals. Mr Mishra good news for you, being of the libertarian mindset , I believe you are free to pursue whatever perversion you choose. So go for it post haste.

    แคมฟรอก

    ReplyDelete