I have been a student of communism and other totalitarian abominations for years. I blame it on the fact that I was born a human shield and spent my first 30 years with Soviet nuclear weapons pointed at my head (youre welcome, but I still have no medal, no pension, no parade). What has always intrigued me is the propaganda, what businesspeople call marketing. The fact is, communists arent terribly good at it. North Korea, for example, just promulgated 310 new patriotic slogans. Most are useless, and the only way to describe some of them is crazy.
To be fair, theres one I think kicks ass, Go beyond the cutting edge! I mean, shouldnt someone in Silicon Valley or maybe in the electric-car industry be using that? I think Training is also a battle, Serve the country and people and Self-reliance is the only way to survive are pretty good, although they do smack of fortune-cookie wisdom (I know, Im mixing cultures with that).
However, most miss the mark. Some are too long-winded to work. Slogans should be short and pithy. Consider if you will, Let us make the laudable traits of taking care of orphaned children, the elderly with no one to support them and people with disabilities a tradition of the country that has become one large family. Now, I dont think anyone really dislikes that idea, but by the time you get to the end of the slogan, those orphaned children will have aged into the elderly demographic.
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Of course, an excess of brevity doesnt help either. For example, Builders is a slogan. Thats it. Just the one word. Coal-miners is another. Maybe I dont follow North Korean soccer closely enough, and those are names of teams. Dodgers, Patriots and Heat count as American slogans I suppose. Still, theres something that doesnt quite work in, Play sports games in an offensive way, the way the anti-Japanese guerrillas did.
Others suggest that there are problems with the way things are now simply because they get mentioned. We have, Establish revolutionary discipline and order and keep the Party, state and military secrets strictly! This seems to suggest there is no revolutionary discipline and order, or it wouldnt need to be established. And keeping secrets strictly is kind of a half-pregnant thing. Either you are keeping secrets, or you arent. This suggests North Korea is a nation of gossips and blabbermouths. The authorities shouldnt imply they are anything less than perfect in a society like North Korea.
Then, theres just Party ass-kissing, which never really works. You dont want to sell the Party (or corporation); you want to sell what it does for people. Instead, we get, Turn your units and areas into places that adjoin the yard of the office of the Party Central Committee, places where the Party’s call, breath and pulse run high and Let us defend the prestige of the Party Central Committee in every way possible through the struggle to implement the Party’s ideas and champion its policies. Its like being told to buy a Mustang to show your appreciation for everything the people at Ford do.
Of course, without an external enemy, no totalitarian state can survive. So, included on the list is, Long live the great victory in the war against Japan. Said war ended 70 years ago, and the Americans were the instrument of victory no Koreans occupied Japan.
Gratitude is in rare supply in North Koreas world view, though. “Let us determinedly thwart the military provocations and schemes of war games by the US and south Korean warmongers, and Let us rise up in the nationwide struggle to drive the US imperialist aggressive forces, the root cause of national misfortune and war, out of south Korea.
All of these pale in comparison, though, to those that I find simply bat-dropping crazy, 11 out of 10 on the Sarah Palin Crazy-o-meter:
Let us turn the whole country into a socialist fairyland by the joint operation of the army and people. And how do you build a fairyland? Let us build a fairyland for the people by dint of science. So, this week-end, I am going to construct a fairyland in my backyard. I just need to arrange for a joint operation between some military pals and civilians, trusting always that Home Depot stocks scientific dint this time of year (is that in the gardening section?). I suppose there are math classes in North Korea that ask, If Kim Jong-un wants to build a fairyland one hectare in area using one kilo of scientific dint, how many soldiers and forced volunteers will he need?
Agriculture comes in for some serious attention (which given the widespread malnutrition it is ironic if not cruel). I give you, Let us beat the world in fruit farming by making it scientific, modern and intensive! If fruit farming were a sport, I guess the Builders or Coalminers could win by playing offensively, like the anti-Japanese guerrillas.
Then, there is this peach of an idea, which violates the rule about mentioning shortcomings, To resolve the food problem of the people and improve their dietary life on a higher level with crop cultivation, animal husbandry and fishing as the main thrusts is the most important task facing our Party at present. A friend of mine had an uncle in Montana who was into animal husbandry, until the authorities caught him at it.
Staying with the food theme, we get, Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country. This is only slightly less funny than letting the strong wind of bovine fertilizer manufacturing blow across the country. Maybe if South Korea were downwind of it …
Finally, there is, Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized. I recall there was a mushroom kingdom in “Super Mario Bros.,” so the idea isnt a new one. And truth be told, there are some mushrooms that make you think you are in a fairyland. A few grams of those and you dont need any scientific dint.
I realize that North Korea is probably the biggest human-rights disaster on the planet, and that things there are beyond horrible. But the one thing that tyrants cant abide, its mockery this is just my way of fighting back.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.