Monday, October 16, 2006

Kim Jong Il and J.R.R. Tolkien

The Times of London has a disturbing report from North Korea based on its infamous eugenics program, consisting of the murder of all disabled children. More than this, the regime is imbued with a sense of racial superiority, and there is a concerted effort, King Herod style, to kill the babies born to Korean women and Chinese men. The details are utterly appalling, with stories of babies thrown in baskets and left to die. Should this surprise us? If you think about it, not really. The society of North Korea is based upon a man-made ideology. Instead of God, we are presented with the deification of Kim Jong Il, underpinned by the notion of racial superiority.

What has Tolkien to do with this? Well, in a little gem of a book, Sanctifying Myth, Bradley Birzer argues that in Tolkien's world, everything that God (Illuvatar) creates is good, and that attempts of evil to create result in a "perverse mockery of Illuvatar's creation". The most prominent example are the Orcs, a hideous race created by Morgoth and Sauron (fallen angels on Tolkien's mythology) that are really corrupted Elves. Of course, since only God can create from nothing, the creation of evil is always a distortion of what is good. There is a core lesson Tolkien's writing for all of us. When human beings create their own "religions", based on ideologies that place humanity at the center, they serve only as a perverse mockery of the good that God has created. Thus communism was founded as a utopian desire to foster the betterment of the working classes, but ended up trying to control the lives and thoughts of its subjects, all the while denying the dignity of the individual. Hitlerism and Kimism are no different, creating a race-based religion, casually sliding into mass murder.

1 comment:

kalle anka said...

Not that I really disagree with what MM puts forth, but nonetheless, I'm a bit disturbed by a sense of naivity and black-and-whitishism. So only God can create from scratch. Fair enough, why not. But in that case, we do need to accept that God has not created pure good, but has given all living beings a choice of being good or evil. Hitler was chosen by his people, if only by remaining silent and not resisting (bar the few brave souls). And the same can be said for Mr. Kim.

Now to bridge this with some other postings on this site, this can be taken as another reason for awarding the Nobel Peace Price to Professor Yunus and his bank. It's nice for us sitting in airconditioned offices to muse about choices between good and evil. It's a different kettle of fish (or probably only fishbones) if you're only concern is feeding your family this evening. You can argue that there is little choice or at least little time to ponder about those grand choices. And it is in such circumstances that totalitarism can rise (unless you have religious opium, which of course is just another version of the same). Nazi Germany and North Koreal are no exception here. People concerned about daily survival do not have the luxury to question their leaders who make great (if empty) promises of improving livelihoods.

Yes, in the words of Tucholsky, "Every people has the government it deserves." Or to quote another weird thinker, Thoreau, "The only just place in an unjust country is the prison." But you'd be so lucky to have that choice. Professor Yunus has helped people get closer to that luxury.