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Utopia and Terror are Inevitably Linked. North Korea is Proof.

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Do you have an idea about what constitutes the “perfect society?” As you imagine your utopia, you’ll realize that there is one absolutely mandatory ingredient: Universal Compliance.

Aye, there’s the rub.

From time immemorial, all attempts at Utopia have required terror to put down dissent, whether active or passive. You can get a grasp of the history and the scope of all of this in a superb series of lectures called “Utopia and Terror in the Twentieth Century,” by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius. They’re available from The Great Courses, and are engaging and filled with astonishing connections in human history.

My take is this: As long as human beings are unique, as long as even one of them thinks independently of others, Utopia is a total pipe dream. Compliance must be forced. Or human beings must cease to be human by giving up their uniqueness. Either way, what you end up with is something that always morphs into dystopia.

In a dystopia people usually take one of two routes: 1) They are unsettled and self-censoring as they battle “living within the Lie,” as Vaclav Havel wrote. Or 2) they simply become automated and content to live a machine-like existence. Nothing utopian about either alternative. So the whole idea of utopia is self-refuting. At least for humans.

Which brings us to a regime like North Korea. Just look a little bit at the video above in which its citizens wept hysterically over the announcement of Kim Jong-Il’s death three years ago. What does this tell you? Its citizens are utterly dependent upon the government and have psychologically succumbed to the Cult of Personality. Out of fear and conformity and compliance, they ape one another in their grief, which is in one sense real and in another sense not real — not natural –at all. It suggests total psychological isolation of people who cannot freely associate. Slaves. I’m especially amazed watching from 1:19-1:25, two youth are standing behind the man who is in paroxysms of wailing. They aren’t sure what to do, but looking around they realize they are *supposed* to get down on their knees. So they do.

Earlier this week Sony bowed to that regime’s pressure not to release the movie “The Interview” because it was offensive to Kim Jong-Un’s regime. Setting aside the whole issue of cowardice on the part of Sony, let’s focus on why North Korea would go so far as to conduct a cyberwar to get Sony to back down.

Suggesting the Supreme Leader could be assassinated? Well, yeah, there’s that. But it goes even deeper. The movie (which doesn’t look to be a very good one, anyway) disrupts the North Korean narrative that it’s achieved Perfection rather than the institutionalized slavery of all of its people. Such regimes are always subject to any straw that could break their back since their whole existence is built on a lie that will collapse under its own weight.

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