In years past, I watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympics with friends who were awed by the spectacle of precision, cohesion and coordination in China, while mocking the rugged independence and diverse nature of the ceremonies in London.
My friends were impressed by the indistinguishable nature of the Chinese performers, their mass synchronized movements and the highly regulated order, while the individual performers in England, though moving in a general direction forward, still moved apart, dressed dissimilarly and focused on the symbolic importance of human freedom. I tried to make my case to my friends, but matching outfits were too much for them to be convinced. Their captivation with a quasi-socialist state underscores a creeping danger among many on the left, many who are young and many who are in the media.
This past week, CNN and other media outlets were themselves captivated by the sister of communist North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un in ways not seen since Barack Obama sent a tingle down Chris Matthews’ leg. Members of the media were awed by her supposed gracious presence, her smile and her very public status as representative of the Kim family for the Winter Games in South Korea. She was even referred to as “the Ivanka Trump of North Korea.” Additionally, many in the media — and many on the left — are thrilled to see a “unified Korea” participating in the 2018 Games. This comes at a time when a large number of young Americans (and many aged hippies) are pushing for “democratic socialism” under the old lights of those such as Bernie Sanders, and under romantic but fantasy notions of either collective or government-mandated equality.
There are differences between socialism and communism, to be sure. For example, communists seek the state to equalize, while socialists seek a collective equality — which naturally tends toward communism as the state becomes the only true source of mandating that equality. But these are less central than their ends and theoretical mis-assumptions and failures. Neither truly appreciate human nature, and neither truly appreciate human individuality. Their only solution is to imprison or murder anyone, or destroy anything, that goes against the state. So there must be a ruling elite. And ultimately, that is why, as George Orwell wrote in “Animal Farm”: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” This is how the sister of the North Korean dictator has the ability to go and see the Olympics, while the average North Korean farmer may not.
In America (and in ideologically Western countries), broad freedom makes it possible for both the American vice president and the American farmer to have the voluntary ability to travel to see the Olympics. Obviously, neither will attend in the same way, and both have different and crucial roles in the life of their country — but they possess the freedom to attend at their will. “Freedom breeds inequality,” conservative writer William F. Buckley said during the famous 1968 ABC convention debates with liberal Gore Vidal. “Unless you have freedom to be unequal there is no such thing as freedom.” The point is equality of opportunity for elevation and success, not repression and relegation in the name of equality.
And still, it is baffling that so much of the media, and so many of our intellectuals, leaders and citizens will coalesce around a narrative that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian, a fascist and more — and meanwhile, we are supposed to approve of an actual dictator’s sister “stealing the show” and cheering for the sights and sounds of North Korea’s integrated delegation. Foreign visitors to the nascent Soviet Union were duped and manipulated by government-staged sights and sounds, while Stalin and his government covered up the Ukrainian genocide, jailed and murdered opposition and dissidents, carried out mass deportations, violently took control of other countries and repressed and murdered their citizens — and the list of crimes continues on.
North Korea is no better. Remember that in North Korea, unauthorized international phone calls and watching foreign movies are grounds for execution. Professing the Christian faith is grounds for torture and execution. Attempting to flee the country is grounds for imprisonment, torture and execution. Yeonmi Park, a North Korean escapee, once said she would rather kill herself than be sent back. North Korea is a country where concentration camps still exist. North Korea is also a country which brutalized an American college student to death for stealing a sign. And it is the regime and style of government in North Korea that too many Americans are mesmerized by.
Some may argue here that democratic socialism and social Democrats are not of the same mold as socialism or communism, as they do not want the democratic system to be supplanted; and they may also argue that “true” socialism has never actually been tried. It is the romantic intent of equality which proves to be so appealing, from material wealth to matching outfits. Nevertheless, both undeniably have their roots in socialism, both continue to misunderstand human nature and human flaws, and both ultimately tend toward control.
In the late 1990s, Hugo Chavez, an avowed socialist, was democratically elected after he led two failed coups with the expectation that true socialism would be implemented. Today, Venezuelans are eating rabbits to survive and widespread violence is leading to tens of thousands of people trying to flee the country while the socialist government under Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, gathers more power to itself. Venezuela is evidence of applied, democratically decided socialism: humanitarian crisis. Those given power seize control, and the people suffer.
Socialism, communism, “democratic” socialism — whatever it may be called — simply does not work. At one end of the spectrum, it is fiction; at the other end of the spectrum, it is brutality. Those who marvel at North Korea at the Olympics would do well to reflect on history and current events — as well as the human toll of evil in the guise of socialism.