Monday, December 19, 2011

A National Case of Stockholm Syndrome

By now, about the only people who have not been deluged by the coverage of Kim Jong Il's death, would be those in comas, or lost in a remote part of the planet without access to a cell phone. I was moved to let the news settle in and observe the reactions in North Korea as well as the global speculation that seemed to treat his demise with much more attention that an absolute ruler of 24 million people deserves. That said, when one adds in nuclear weapons, and an unproven heir then prudent minds would move up the scale of preparation for the worst, and hope for the best.

Kim Jong's death moves the dynasty cycle to a point that follows the old Chinese proverb about dynasties or even successful families, that says, "Wealth only lasts three generations. The first generation builds it up, the second consolidates it, and the third squanders it."

This proverb is a metaphor for the rise and fall of dynasties down through the ages. The dynasties start when a charismatic visionary leader comes to power, and is followed by less talented and motivated leaders until the dynasty falls and chaos reins until another leader emerges to repeat the cycle. Most nations have moved beyond that cycle today. Even China, the source of the proverb, is moving forward with succeeding generations of leaders that unlike preceding dynasties, mirror institutions that have learned to seek new charismatic leadership, instead of relying on a family blood line that invites decadence to the point of being endemic.

Where does this leave people of North Korea? Listening to the mass wailing and demonstrations of grief as if each family had lost their beloved children, the thought that crossed my mind was that the entire country was a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome were the nation had their sense of esteem so suppressed that they actually came to love their masters. This seems preposterous to most people in the Western world who scoff at the idea of sacrificing their lives for government power. In casting around the web, I happened on this post from  that took that exact line of thought and said it perfectly.
North Koreans are mass victim of the Symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome! Definitely, all this public expression of grief and howling cannot be made up. 99.99999999 percent are definitely weeping and uncontrollably lamenting!
In order for Stockholm syndrome to occur in any given situation, at least three traits must be present:
A severely uneven power relationship in which the captor dictates what the prisoner can and cannot do.
The threat of death or physical injury to the prisoner at the hands of the captor.
A self-preservation instinct on the part of the prisoner.
Read more:
Kim Jong-Un's North Korea - Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!

To add more to this line of thought. My wife's parents now retired, were caught up in the maelstrom that was China in 1966-69 when the Cultural Revolution was in in full bloom. I learned of their experience from my wife who related that because they were professors of western languages, they were sent to work in the fields and deprived of many basic needs for three long years. My father in-law saw his health broken when he went without food so that his wife and my wife's older sister had enough. They survived, and eventually returned to teaching. When I asked my wife if they were troubled and how it shaped their lives, she replied that they never wanted to speak of those times, and to this day, remain silent on the subject. My wife learned about her father's hardship when he fell ill in his early forties, and her mother, on a promise never to ask her father, told her of his great devotion to the family. I get the same stoic reply when I ask my wife about the events of 1989 when she was a student. People faced with the three Stockholm conditions on a national scale, make mental adjustments to survive, and in turn bury the worst memories deep in their souls as long as there is any chance of it occurring again. My father and mother in-law in their silent reaction; saw both daughters educated in foreign languages, and then encouraged them to find their future outside of China.