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Samizdata quote of the day

“Sometimes life in the West seems hard. The trains don’t run on time, the rent is too damn high and One Direction are everywhere. Then a story comes comes out of North Korea that makes you think, “Holy crap, I’m glad I don’t live there…””

Tim Stanley

In my recent item about Nelson Mandela, one commenter, clearly enamoured of the apartheid system, claimed that East Asia, unlike Africa, is so much better off due in part to the superior IQs of its residents. Oh well, I am sure the lazer-like brainpower of North Korea is working out wonderfully. I mean, they all march along in perfect unison.

(Sarcasm alert)

22 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • staghounds

    Couldn’t happen to a better man.

  • Molly

    why is this categorised under “hippos”? sometimes even a prankster like me gets baffled by samizdata’s obscure references 😀

  • Molly, it means JP forgot to add a category and when he checks his article after having posted it, he will see it says “Hippos” then go “Ah! I forgot to add a category” 😉

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Molly, sorry about this. Our blog-fuhrer has this obsession with the blighters.

  • Jake Haye

    After watching a few vids about hippos on YouTube, I came away with the distinct impression that they are all raving mad.

  • John K

    I hope this spells the beginning of the end for the Kim dictatorship. When the tyrant starts whacking his own family, the politburo have got to realise they are all expendable at his whim. If they don’t get their act together and get rid of him, he will eventually get rid of them. Mind you, I am not suggesting that any replacement will be better, but until North Korea is rid of its bizarre hereditary Communist tyranny, its chances of any sort of progress are zero.

  • Rob

    There’s a strange undercurrent of sympathy in parts of the media for the liquidated party. This is weird, as he was a senior member of the regime, not the nut job’s amiable old gardener. His hands will have been steeped deep enough in blood.

    One fewer in the world. Minor good news I would have thought.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    John K,

    I hope so too, but I am not optimistic. History offers many examples of mad kings and emperors enlivening many a dull afternoon by knocking off their nearest and dearest yet staying in power for ages. On a far lesser scale of tyranny, Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Maduro of Venezuela have been on their last legs for ages now.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    John K
    December 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I hope this spells the beginning of the end for the Kim dictatorship. When the tyrant starts whacking his own family, the politburo have got to realise they are all expendable at his whim.

    From your lips to God’s ear: but don’t expect much, the same logic should have informed the Germans after Hitler did Roehm in… and history is replete with murderous Kings like Henry VIII, Belgium’s Leopold II, and Chaka, who prospered greatly thereby.

  • Mr Ed

    Just glad I haven’t bought my nephews their Xmas presents yet. Seems that nepotal affection needs to be cultivated.

  • Paul Marks

    As if every old role player knows…..

    There is a difference between intelligence and wisdom – they are not the same thing.

    The Chinese (and East Asians generally) may indeed have higher intelligence than Westerners.

    However, they have repeatedly shown lack of wisdom – when dynasty after dynasty has tried to take over civil society.

    No matter how clever (intelligent) the rulers are – they can not “run the country” (take over civil society – and do it better than civil interaction itself does).

    This the Taoist tradition of Chinese thought seems to understand – but it has rarely been influential (and it makes the mistake of sometimes recommending inaction to ordinary people – not just restraint to rulers).

    Of course the West has also lost its wisdom.

    People such as Frederick the Great were clever (intelligent) – but not wise.

  • Lee Moore

    On this rare occasion I think I’m going to raise a quizzical eyebrow at PM’s remarks. I’m not sure that you can infer from economic stagnation that a ruler is unwise to control civil society. For the ruler, benefits derive from preventing insurrection and disorder that might threaten his rule, the fun of great personal wealth and the right to acquire anything nice that somebody else happens to have, unlimited access to nookie, and loads of worship by minions.
    The economic wellbeing and happiness of your subjects is of almost no importance. You can, particularly in the modern world, acquire the benefits of modern technology for yourself by importing it. The only real downside with a woeful economy is that you put yourself at risk of being too weak to resist foreign invasion. But once you’ve got nukes you’re pretty safe from that. History indicates that keeping your foot on the neck of the peasants is an excellent tactic for remaining top dog.

    Limited government may be good for the plebs, but it’s no good for the ruling class or the absolute monarch. And as far as leaving your genetic imprint on the future is concerned, there’s strictly no contest. Democracy is hopeless. Absolute monarchy is the only way.

  • Vinegar Joe

    North Korea was a big supporter of Mandela and the ANC.


    “North Korea on Saturday sent its condolences to South Africa over the death of Nelson Mandela, praising his “struggle against racism and for democracy” in the country.

    Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly (parliament), sent a message of sympathy to South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).”


  • Paul Marks

    Lee Moore – I do not doubt what you say.

    But the worst rulers are often sincere – utterly and completely.

    They really are not in it for the money and the sex – or even the thrill of power.

    They believe in collectivism.

    And why should they not?

    After all it is taught in most schools and universities in the world – and faithfully reflected in the media.

    Including much ancient literature.

    Poverty is caused by wealth – by the greed of the wealthy. If only some hero of the people would arise – and lead them to strike down the greedy…..

    All would be well in the hunter gatherer pack…. (which is where this “morality” of “fair shares” is really from – hat tip to Hayek).

    All people like Lenin do is try and put theory into practice…..

    And some ancient Chinese Emperors tried to do so – many centuries ago.

  • guy herbert

    Great item on BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent” this week, had journo Lucy Williams in booming Chinese/DPRK border town (Chinese side of the border, of course), interviewing all the N Koreans she could find. Waitress says: the difference between Koreans and Chinese is mental. Koreans all think alike; the Chinese are individuals.

    Our brains wherever we live are affected by politics. What do we dare think? What do we know we can dare think? I may lack an internal censor, but that just makes me more conscious of the pressure of received opinions in every group I’m a part of.

  • Mr Ed

    Slightly peipheral to NK but on aggressive socialism, Radio 4 had an interesting dramatised reconstruction of UK Civil Servants wargaming a UK War Cabinet responding to a Soviet invasion of Western Europe in 1981. What is striking is how the expectation of how the UK’s militant Left rise on cue to commit sabotage or sow fear in the population, from disruption in hospitals to sabotage in docks. I imagine that the South Koreans have similar anxieties today. (UK servers only methinks).


  • Johnathan Pearce

    Vinegar Joe, North Korea could use someone of Mandela’s wisdom and willingness to learn.

  • Pardone

    I’d take the UK civil servants war-gaming with a ton of salt, frankly.

    Bare in mind that UK Civil Servants are by and large simple-minded parasites with an elitist mind-set that would likely see things through a prism of upper middle class paranoia.

    Also, the fact that exaggerating dangers means they get more taxpayer’s money funneled to them, is their prime motivating factor.

  • Mike Giles

    If you’re going to go stepping out on your old lady, make sure she doesn’t have a relative who can have you shot.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Guy – it is not really racial.

    Under Mao the Chinese all seemed to think alike also – because anyone who let out their private thoughts was horribly murdered (indeed sometimes used as food) Mr Heath and Mr Nixon both knew that Mao was the largest scale mass murderer in human history – yet they both cheered him to the skies.

    However, the objective of the PRC government has not changed – they have just come to understand that TOTAL collectivism does not suit their purpose.

    Their aim remains the same – to make China the dominant power of the world (not just in “soft power” – but in hard power, very hard power), the desire for domination (including Han Chinese racism) is very strong.

    But 100% collectivism (North Korean style) actually UNDERMINES that objective – they (the government of the PRC) understand that now.

    So they allow private enterprise and individual creativity – as long as it serves the purpose of national (and ethnic) greatness.

    It is rather like Nazi Germany in the 1930s – but on a vastly larger scale, and with a much weaker West (yes weaker – people who believe 80 years of propaganda do not understand that the relative strength of British manufacturing industry was much STRONGER in the 1930s than it is now).

  • Vinegar Joe

    Johnathan Pearce, I think Kim is learning from Mandela. He’s already gotten Dennis Rodman over for a visit. Doubtless, he’ll soon have Bono, Annie Lennox and Sean Penn singing his praises. And in 50 years the BBC will be spewing tripe about Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Jong-un, the elder statesman of East Asia.

    And speaking of Rodman, he’s going back for another visit.

    “Mr. Rodman, who won five N.B.A. championships with the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday and plans to travel to North Korea on Thursday with a documentary film crew, Rory Scott, a spokesman for the company, Paddy Power of Dublin, said in a telephone interview from Beijing. Mr. Scott said they would leave North Korea on Monday.”


  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Vinegar, getting in the “celebs” (and frankly, Dennis Rodman is a pretty lousy example) doesn’t compare. The thug in charge of NK hasn’t spent nearly three decades in jail after trying to overthrow a vile, repressive regime (maybe he did and we haven’t heard about it). And he hasn’t set up a truth and reconciliation regime, or made nice with old opponents. Also, I don’t recall Mr Mandela defying international arms treaties by firing rockets in the direction of other countries, or detonating nuclear devices.

    Look, I get the desire to put Mandela in a balanced context. It is a bit sickening to read some of the fawning coverage and the lack of balance to it. But people who try to go over the top on the other side are equally deserving of scorn.