i) They say that I don’t smile. Almost every person I know looks at my empty face and asks why I’m looking at them like I want to kill them.
I took a look at my face in the mirror the other day, nay – I stared deeply into my eyes and saw that indeed, I wasn’t smiling. My lips were pursed, my mouth was closed. I conveyed neither disapproval nor distaste; I was completely neutral of emotion. Maybe then, you can see me through my eyes. What is it that they say about eyes? That they’re the windows into the soul? Maybe it’s my voice. It’s expressive but meanwhile horribly deceiving.
The truth is that sometimes I wear my emotions on my coat like badges or flashes of color for all to see, but I can also suppress them, like a lid on a pot of boiling water. So perhaps I’ve been too suppressive of my emotions lately? Is that why people keep saying that to me? Continue reading
To state the obvious, movies are all Hollywood glam. People devote their entire lives to creating story lines and movie sets, spending millions for every production. The actors spend hours in costume and makeup, making sure every blemish is concealed correctly, and that every hair is in place.
Reality is nothing like that. There’s no clear direction in which your life is going, you have very little people that will be there with you every step of the way, and no one is going to prep you to look your best every morning.
But you already knew that, didn’t you? As soon as we emerge from the idealistic period of childhood, we’ll have a little less faith in the truth claims of movies. We’ll learn to be more skeptical of perfect couples and happy endings, and of flawless skin and thigh gaps.
I figured today that especially for high schoolers, a lot of drama and change takes place inside of the head. Of course, we go out and have fun, and we spend time with people we enjoy. But rarely are our lives entirely partying and action; more often than not, we do homework and write papers and stress about college. The majority of that stress and personal change happens inside of the head, and movies just have a hard time depicting that.
Even if they could, that would be a really boring movie, because the main character would just sit on their computer or lie in bed with a strained look on their face, and go out only on weekends, like the average kid does.
There is no compromise. Once we deviate from the norm of reality, we sacrifice its authentic element. That’s essential to differentiating real life from the movies.
That’s my little epiphany of the day.
We don’t have to deal with reality much longer
There’s this world out there, in here that everyone knows
Yet it can be entirely ours
Untouched, crafted down to the most detailed details
There’s this world where we can be ourselves
And watch the food roll by in their carts
Perfectly assembled, on display for all eternity
For all to long for, for all to ogle at
The waves will crash in perfect rhythm
Day after day, year after year
We can ride that same swing into the sea
Time and time again
Everyone will have brightly knit sweaters
Perfectly pressed suits
Perfectly tied shoes
No ripped hems or frayed edges
Those don’t belong here
The words – encouraging and piquing
They float around in the air
For just us to see
And yet everyone has read them
At one point or another
They assert vague statements
This is life!
Life goes on!
Onward we march!
March 4th – the only day that is also a call to action.
So what do they mean?
What do we do with them?
Do we smile and look away
And the thought immediately flees our minds
Do we grimace and take it in stride
Stand up and search for its meanings?
The lighting – spot on, day or night
Filtered immaculately, to tickle our buds
To satisfy our criteria
Words on photos,
Photos on words.
Here in this paradise,
We are welcomed.
We are strangers.
Yet we are all family.
Yet every day is a new revelation.
(Just curious, does anyone have any clue what I am writing about? Hope it’s not too obvious.)
Note to readers: I am not North Korean. I’m not even South Korean. I’m Chinese. Cool? Okay cool.
A summary about the status quo of North Korea
North Korea is commonly believed to have the most oppressive dictatorship on the planet. If you question government legitimacy, you will be denied every basic right, and will either be sent to a prison camp or publicly executed. You are not allowed to leave the country without permission from the state.
These prison camps? They’ve been around for five times as long as Nazi camps and twice as long as Soviet camps. There are often no reasonable justifications for being sent to one of these camps; you might be sent simply because you are related to someone who committed a political crime.
The government has attempted to create an information blockade – no radios, no Internet access, no international calls. North Korea has been isolated from the rest of the world for decades.
The people are starving – the agricultural policies are sub par, the climate conditions are brutal, and food imports are limited. Malnutrition is a commonplace.
The refugee crisis
People leave North Korea for a myriad of reasons. They might be desperate for food, medicine, or money. They might hear from outsiders about the world that exists outside of North Korea – they might want to experience it for themselves. They will want to escape economic hardship, political and religious persecution, and the lack of basic, fundamental freedoms.
A scanty number of those who attempt to escape to China will actually make it. Over half of the women who succeed will become prostitutes. Those who get caught? Beatings, torture, prison camps, or execution. Take. Your. Pick.
Hope for the future?
A quote from the LiNK website that answers this question perfectly:
“North Korea is changing. Significant grassroots changes have been happening since the late 1990s, driven by the people themselves, and these developments and trends have the potential to lead, eventually, to a radically transformed and better North Korea.
However, there has not been enough focus on these changes happening at the people-level, and the issue of North Korea is not associated with dynamism or change. This is because, traditionally, the focus of the international community has been on the level of international politics and nuclear weapons.
If the world knew of the dynamism and resilience of the North Korean people in the face of extraordinary challenges, and could see that underneath this Cold War style stalemate, there is a far more interesting story of hope for change, we believe many more people would be motivated to help the North Korean people.”
What exactly is going on that we need to so badly encourage?
After a devastating famine, the North Korean people established illegal markets to obtain food. These markets are primarily female-dominated, and the regime has failed to break up these illegal activities. Simply put, “the markets are here to stay.”
There’s also more communication with the outside world. These illegal markets have triggered food imports from China, a country that is significantly more democratized and liberated than North Korea. Through these activities, the citizens realize that neighboring countries are very, very much advanced.
Even if trade with China were to stop, a leap in access to outside information has truly impacted the mentality of the North Korean people. We’ve got phones, TV’s, radios, and foreign media to help them learn about the reality of the outside world.
“All signs are that this ‘education in reality’ will only continue, and will further empower the North Korean people to push for the change they want inside the country.”
That means that the people are growing increasingly suspicious of the government. No longer are they completely oblivious and brainwashed about reality; there has been less tattletaling on people who are questioning regime legitimacy.
“Ultimately this could result in the emergence of a growing civil space for the people, who are breaking off from the state not just at an individual level but increasingly at a community level.”
And like all social movements, no matter where they originate, the driving force behind this sort of progressive change is young people. I’m talking, people in their 20s and 30s, who have not yet accepted the traditional ideologies of the past, who have not yet condoned the omniscient supremacy. These are the people who will be the make-or-break factors in the push for change.
We don’t want your pity
I don’t want you (the reader) to fall prey to compassion fatigue. I know that we see desolate pictures of North Koreans suffering very often. At first, it seems like something to pity, something that you, as an ethical human being, should do something about. But then you see pictures of starving African children, and then women in the Middle East who have been raped, as well as homeless children in upstate New York, and then you hesitate to take action. The media constantly bombards us with images that attempt to call us to action, to make a change, raise awareness, or donate money to some cause. The result of this is compassion fatigue, when we can no longer put up with all these ethical obligations. Only then do funny memes get created and the idea which originally was intended to arouse guilt and compassion starts to mock the subject of the photos, which backfires on the point of these images.
I don’t intend this to happen with this post. The point of my writing about this is not to evoke pity in you. It is to shed light on the flawed lens through which we have been observing North Korea as a regime, a country, a military power, a nation led by a “madman,” and as a group of individuals – citizens that are starting to squirm under the oppression of a tyrannical ruler. We shouldn’t just realize the difference and feel bad about their unfortunate situation. Rather, we should raise awareness. Some sort of revolution/governmental overthrow might happen, and the success of such a movement largely depends on the support that the North Korean citizens could potentially receive from the outside world. We need to know about the humans rights crisis. We need to something about it. But this post is just the first of many others, to shed light on the inequality in North Korea, and to demonstrate how we might do something about it. This first post was just to illustrate what exactly is happening right now.
(quotes are from the LiNK website, linked above)