The cure and the misery

I recently watched a documentary film about a group of blind people in North Korea, who were being treated by a visiting medical staff from a western country. Many of the people in the film were blinded long time ago due to their extremely poor living conditions. The only reason why these people didn’t enjoy a normal sight for long years was their government’s inability to provide a minor medical operation for them, which the visiting doctors were there to do.

The film cast visits and interviews some of these blind people before they do the operation. Many of them say that the only reason they want to get their sight back is to see the ‘great leader’ of their country!

One might think that they were told to say so, but for some reason I believed them. I think anyone would’ve seen their sincerity in what they say just as I did.

Even at the moments when the doctors removed the eye patches and the patients see for the first time in years, the first thing most of them do is look for the picture of the leader hanged on the wall, run to it, bow to the floor in front of it, and praise and thank their leader for all the bliss that he gave them!!

I was shocked at these scenes, because these people obviously truly revered their leader, and were grateful to him for everything. Despite their misery, these people were thankful for him because they were brainwashed to believe that it’s not the leader or the regime to blame for what they don’t have, it’s the exact opposite. They seem to believe that their misery is the fault of imperialism, and the regime is struggling against imperialism to provide them with whatever minimum they can manage to have.

It was surreal; it was physically painful for me to watch the human nature so severely butchered! To see people revere their oppressor is something that always brings a deep pain in me!

Now one might think that brainwashing a whole nation to this extent is relatively easy given the extreme isolation, and the iron fist with which North Korea is ruled. But the truth is, brainwashing is the same everywhere, and it can happen to anyone, or any nation. All you need to do is convince people that the solution to their problems is in fact the cause for tem, and that their cure is actually their pain. Consequently, people will willingly choose to avoid being cured, and fight to remain in their misery, or even to dig themselves deeper into it.

We’ve seen similar scenarios in some of the recent revolutions in the Arab world, where the poorest layer of society fights for the system that put them there, in exchange for a single meal! But dictatorships are not the only place where this could happen. Just a look at the recent history can show that incidents like this took place even in the most democratic countries in the world, though with less severity and nakedness.

A recent example is the defeat of the Democratic Party in the congressional elections in the United States few months ago. They lost the majority because the Republicans managed to convince the American people that it is the Democrats to blame for not being able to pull America out of the recession that a Republican president dragged them into, in the first place! As a result, Americans gave Republicans the majority.

Not too far away from there, a Prime Minister, who’s actions repeatedly proved his utmost disregard to democratic values and civil liberties while having a minority government just won a majority government in a democratic elections in Canada!

All of the above means that it’s not even a matter of what is wrong and what is right anymore; it’s only a matter of who is more shameless to claim the exact opposite of truth to be truth, and fiercely argue for it, and who ultimately have the loudest voice of all.

With enough noise, you can make (at least enough) people think anything you want them to think, and this posses a real threat on the long term interest of people in countries where the public opinion shapes policy of the government.

In my opinion free and responsible media is the guardian of democracy, and the biggest threat to this freedom is not the obvious limitations that governments impose on media or on other forms of expression, because these are relatively easy to identify and overcome; it is those who exploit freedom of speech to manipulate the public opinion, and convince people that what is bad is actually good, and what is wrong is actually right. And this puts a huge question mark on the effectiveness of democracy in its current form.

In order for humanity to continue to enjoy its freedom, honest intellectual people must begin to think about an effective cure to this cancer that is beginning to eat democracies from within. And while doing so, people need to be careful not to allow anyone to convince them that their cure is yet another misery.

 

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