Monday, 19 December 2011

Koreas Advice

Castro being a revisionist and a splitter, I am now even older than the world's last Stalinist Head of State.

As is an erstwhile housemate of mine who is now the Head of Research for the Labour Party. Many moons ago, when he was still in his pre-Euston Manifesto life, he was once commended by George Galloway for having given "the speech of the night", and he once rallied the troops with, "The ideology of the State of Israel is Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer". In October 2001, he told me that he longed to see a picture of the collapsing Twin Towers under the headline, "We Are All Palestinians Now".

Anyway, he also once proposed a motion at a meeting of his Junior Common Room, "To create a Koreas Officer to liaise with North and South Korea, and to report back to the JCR". I do not know if the post was ever created, or if it still exists. But I hope that it was, and I hope that it does. That Officer could explain, not least to the Euston Manifesto lot, that there is nothing faked, or even at all surprising, about the outpourings of grief in North Korea today. Wrong. But entirely genuine. And entirely to be expected.

Life for those permitted to live in Pyongyang is not bad by Second World standards. It is essentially that of Eastern European capital cities before 1989. In any case, those benefiting from it do not know any better, whereas they do know an awful lot worse. They are people who have stuck by the Kim dynasty and the Communist Party. The Kims and the Communists have stuck by them. Most people in North Korea are nothing like so fortunate. But the people weeping on the television truly are.

Of course there were large numbers of people who fought for Saddam. Of course there were large numbers of people who fought for Gaddafi. And of course there are large numbers of people who mourn Kim Jong-il. Call them wrong if you like. In the last case, at least, I certainly do, although the earlier two cases do stand as terrifying reminders of how anything else might be even worse.

But those who are taken aback by the existence of such fighters or mourners, or who are convinced that such fighting or mourning must be coerced or otherwise insincere, or who imagined that Western intervention would have improved matters in Iraq or Libya, or who imagine that it would do so in North Korea, plainly and simply need to grow up.

20 comments:

  1. You shared a house with Tom Hamilton? A far less orthodox Durham theologian than you. But it is a mark of how far to the right anyone must have moved when one of the people left behind on his left is David Lindsay.

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  2. I have not seen Tom for not far off 10 years, and I hope that he is doing well. It seems that he is.

    But within a few months of my having had to talk him into voting Labour in 2001 (not very full-heartedly myself), and within even fewer months of his post-9/11 remark, he was telling me that war against Iraq would remove the then regime as if that were a good in itself.

    Before long, he had signed the Euston Manifesto, joined the Labour Party, and ... well, the story is far from concluded, is it?

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  3. Durham contemporary20 December 2011 01:16

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Er, you do know that

    A) Galloway did say that, because Tom was in the same side as him. But Tom said that stuff because he was, um, on the same side during a public debate. That's kind of the point of it. It doesn't mean he believed it any mor than arguing for, say, the abolition of the UN

    B) the Koreas officer thing is a gag? A pun? A play on words with 'careers officer'? And nothing to do with Korea....

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  4. He certainly did believe that sort of thing in those days. The Galloway speech, the Israel speech and the 9/11 remark were three separate occasions, among many that could be cited. Up to his graduation, not as BA, but as PhD, he was known as "Ethno Tom".

    Then he went and joined Labour for all the reasons that I had left it, and now that the present Leader is in post he presumably stays in it only because it employs him. No one can deny that he has had a remarkably swift rise. One cannot help wondering if that would have happened if his theological work had resembled a bit more the working-class Catholic or the temperance Methodist roots of the Labour Movement.

    Still, it is a pity that he never did that post-doctoral synthesis of conservative Christian and feminist objections to pornography. Someone really should, if they haven't already.

    But then, you can only be a neocon if you started out as a Leftist. All Blairites come out of the New Left. Perhaps people in those two categories do not now have to be in their fifties and above after all?

    As for the Koreas Officer gag, well, you clearly have trouble reading to the end of a post.

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  5. I understand -- I know for a fact, because I am on the various mailing lists -- that there are several projects of yours in which this high flyer might be invited to participate. Their nature is such that that participation would confirm beyond question his authentic conversion from student sectarian Leftism to the Great Tradition of True Labour.

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  6. Tom said that stuff because he was, um, on the same side during a public debate. That's kind of the point of it. It doesn't mean he believed it

    We have found his level, then. No wonder he has turned New Labour.

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  7. Another Durham contemporary20 December 2011 02:01

    One of the things that really used to annoy a lot of us was the lack of proper speakers and the use of Union hacks who could as just as easily have been on the other side.

    No effort whatsoever seemed to be made to bring in the sort of people we had paid all that money to hear, and certain insiders seemed to be on every other week. In one case even after he had left and moved 100 miles away, I wouldn't be surprised if he was still there two or three times each term.

    And why the hell should the only forum like that at Durham, complete with the use of two university buildings, be some public school Tory boys' drinking club? That would have been bad enough even if they could have been bothered to do what they had those buildings for.

    It would all have changed if you had become President, so they made sure you never did.

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  8. Don't be mean about Simon mollan

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  9. Perish the thought! The man who spoke for the third time that term at Durham on the night that Edinburgh had Hans Blix. A living legend.

    On topic, please.

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  10. Tell us more about the plans you have with Tom?

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  11. None.

    But he knows where I am if he wants to get involved in things that are going to happen anyway. Mind you, he had better get a move on if he does.

    As was put by the comment at 1:42, which could have come from any of scores of people, that participation would put paid to any lingering ideological doubt about him as a recent recruit, and prove that he really had "come home to Labour" rather than being any sort of entryist.

    As to party membership, I myself am probably now a Groucho Marxist.

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  12. "Life for those permitted to live in Pyongyang is not bad by Second World standards. It is essentially that of Eastern European capital cities before 1989."

    If you really believe that, that a country with verified extra judicial killings by the thousands and persistent and state sponsored famine is just like Eastern Europe per 89, then you are not only stupid and offensive but dangerously so.

    Not posting this won't change that. I have taken a screen grab of this post and it will be shown further and wider if and when your book appears. You are a foolish man, and this is your comeuppance

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  13. Are you saying that there were not these things in Eastern Europe during the Soviet period? Once a member of Straight Left...

    That is why you are so revolted by the sight of people who, essentially, still are members of Straight Left: the wrong, but entirely sincere, weepers and wailers in North Korea.

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  14. "Are you saying that there were not these things in Eastern Europe during the Soviet period?"

    Are you saying that there were these things [extra judicial killings by the thousands and persistent and state sponsored famine] in Eastern Europe during the Soviet period?

    If so, then your airy dismissal of life in NK as "not bad" seems to be based on a very idiosyncratic definition of "not bad".

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  15. I said in Pyongyang, not in the entire country. And I said "by Second World standards".

    Their only frames of reference are the rest of the country even now, and the entire Peninsula during and before the Japanese Occupation. Of course they feel better off, and of course they feel grateful to the family and party that made them so.

    They have never met anyone from today's South Korea, so the comparison would be meaningless to them.

    You cannot get out of this one: letting your roots show, a common failing as middle age draws on, you said that Eastern Europe before 1989 was just fine and dandy.

    And letting your roots show, a common failing as middle age draws on, you expressed your horror at an unusual glimpse of the people whom you left behind in your past life.

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  16. Of course, if Tom really is Labour staff then he won't be allowed to speak publicly on any of this stuff or put his name to anything, whether he agrees with you or not.

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  17. That'd be news to an awful lot of them. They manage to get appointed to safe seats over the heads of more experienced, less Blairy local candidates often enough. But it might very well be what, strictly speaking, his contract says.

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  18. You can't be a head of research with a doctorate and not be allowed to publish your opinions. What the Sam Hill would be the point of that?

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  19. What the Sam Hill has his doctorate got to do with anything?

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  20. Research degree, research position, you would have thought that he was not only allowed to publish but required to. Is that not what he is paid for?

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