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Korea: thy goalpost shall be my goalpost

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — sorry, medical events slowed this one down a bit, hope it’s still of interest ]
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The revised pitch

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Navigating spaces where the two become one / the one blossoms into two, we run into the basic problem of nouns or pronouns matching verbs, singular or plural. This is the Korean conundrum in a nutshell (or koan). Let’s take a flier at another version, then zero in on ground zero, the DMZ.

My mind had turned to goalposts, which plenty of people have said are moving, or have been moved, and I thought I discerned a pattern in which two sets of goalposts were one and the same — yet opposite.

Thy goalposts shall be my goalposts

From which I slipped gears and came to “thy goalposts shall be my goalposts” as a formula for success in our negotiations with Kim Jong Un — and that came from a very similar rhythm or cadence — a blueprint, almost — in the Old Testament / Tanakh book of Ruth.

But Ruth replied:

Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.

It doesn’t much matter if you know the context, or care or don’t care for religious writings, or just older forms of the lanuagee. In this paragraph, the two are inseparables — one, by will and love.

Will and love matter, as in their lsser ways do rhythms, cadences, and blueprints.

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The goal is / the goalposts are: denuclearization.

At opposite ends of the field — or are they back to back, in the very heart of the DMZ? — the Koreans would no doubt like the shadow of American nukes off the peninsular. And playing the exact same game, going after the exact same goalposts, the US would clearly like Pyongyang to cease and desist all efforts towards maintaining or strengthening North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability.

Hey, both sides want denuclearization, right? Denuclearization equals denuclearization, right? Easy?

Let’s just pray denuclearization and denuclearization don’t cancel out in a mutual holocaust, eh?

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C’mon, there’s only twone goalpost, aren’t there?

Through a glass, darkly

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

[ by Emlyn Cameron — On North Korea: a retrospective as preemptive strike ]
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Charles Cameron’s introduction: Regular readers may know my son Emlyn from previous contributions on Zenpundit [1, 2]. Here he wages a war of miniturization on the Korean fiefdom of Kim Jong-Un.

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Snow falls on Kim Jong-Il‘s funeral cortege

Reflecting on the Nuclear staring contest now ongoing between the United States and North Korea, I confront mixed feelings: Obviously one must consider different strategies and engage in a pragmatic calculus; One must consider the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and the numerous lives which might be ended or fail ever to be lived as a consequence of any policy. It is, I need not say, a very complex issue. Worse still, it is an issue of severe import to many whose lives hang in the balance.

But I find myself grappling with a less practical question and coming away irresolute: If North Korea’s brand of surreal statism could be overthrown without bloodshed or tragedy, how would I feel? Would I be proud? Pleased? Grateful? Somehow, I can’t convince myself that I would be entirely satisfied. I feel certain that any pride, pleasure, or gratitude would be alloyed with something else. And this in spite of my knowledge that such a coup would be, well, a coup, and of the welcome it would justifiably receive.

“The bloodless anticlimax to an Orwellian police state?” I hear the likely refrain, “Terrific!”

“A peaceful end to a regime which embraced not only Stalinist propagandism, but De Facto Monarchy? Still better!” The voices continue.

“And a conclusion to tantrums and ICBM rattle throwing? Who could hope for more?” Comes the triumphal call.

And yet, I am unconvinced in the recesses of my heart. That might be strange to many people, even a tad immoral, but it’s how things stand.

In order that such a stance might make more sense, I’ll admit that I have a strange affection for the turbulent little state and its Emperor’s New Jumpsuits. This probably extends from more general conflicted feelings about overt dictatorships: I am someone who deeply loves enlightenment philosophy, and cherishes my personal freedoms. I am, all the same, a morbid person, prone to fatalism, and I harbor dark anticipations about the future of humanity. Somewhere in the middle I developed a great relish for bleak wit. For these reasons, it should come as no shock that I am a great admirer of George Orwell and a fan of his writings. Perhaps like others who count themselves among his readers, I find myself emotionally torn while reading Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm; The dystopias he presents disturb me, and yet, (in spite of my philosophical leanings) a small part of me is always tugged at by a desire to relinquish the struggle of self determination, and to escape the paradox of choice by giving in to such an oppression. The terrible certainties, even of state assigned conclusions and death, speak to some tired part in me, which recognizes strain from the ongoing alertness required of anyone who wants to be the arbiter of their own affairs.

North Korea, likewise, is a natural antagonist to the individualism I hold dear, but, perhaps because of its total conviction and flagrance in opposing my worldview, I am captivated by its iconography and insular existence. I have always been fascinated by the ludicrous spectacle, the stark imagery, and the total devotion of totalitarian nations, though I revile their premises. Having one around, therefore, leaves me in rather a strange position: I desire the grip of the North Korean state on its people broken as a matter of principle, while simultaneously fearing the death of a kind of dangerous endangered species; I am struck by the feeling that the end of the North Korean state would be a victory for my values, and the loss of one of the world’s great curiosities.

A friend recently called North Korea “an Eighth Wonder of the World”, and I agree. It is a tragic wonder, dangerous rather than glorious, but a wonder none the less.

My grandfather, a conservative philosopher, referred to himself as a “sentimental monarchist”. If a peaceful end came to the militaristic regime in North Korea, my relief would be tinged with a similar kind of sentimental loss; Something interesting would be gone, and I would feel a nostalgic pang for the missing strangeness. I fancy that I would rather keep the aggressive little power, not on a map, but on a shelf. I should like to keep it in a snow globe, I think (the state already more or less frozen as it is).

I’d like a little magnified globe, not unlike the coral paperweight in Orwell’s book, in which would be held the repressive slice of 1950’s authoritarianism: Marches and missiles behind safety glass. Occasionally, on a quiet night, I might chance to hear a soft, televised threat to my safety, or a report on bountiful rations; If I felt a stab of longing for the atmosphere of suspended aggression from my parents and grand parents age, I could go to the mantle and wind the little state up by hand (rather than by tweet) and hear a tinkling anthem that takes me back; I’d like to visit the trinket now and again and watch snow fallout from a nuclear winter after I shake it, or watch tiny jackboots and smiling, slightly condescending diplomats go about their days work. Maybe the mandatorily grateful workers would even build a cardboard city for my benefit, to give an impression of plenty. And once I had seen the last settling flakes fall, I would place it back above the fire place with a feeling of having harmlessly revisited my childhood, glad of a souvenir to solidify the bittersweet memory. After all, a snow globe can cast nothing else from the mantle to the floor, nor launch beyond its translucent border.

Then again, just because I’d have the terror held safely under glass, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t continue in earnest within.

All Muslims all think alike, yeah?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — not so ]
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On the one hand you have Sheikh Wael Al-Ghitawi..

— and on the other, Prof Aisha Ahmad

Alhamdulillah!

Apocalypse: waves and mountains

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — with delighted appreciation to historian Damien Kempf ]
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Damien Kempf asks, “So… what’s the apocalypse really going to be like?” and tweets 15 signs of the end times, in images from the 16th century Bodleian MS, Douce 134:

Now you see them — the waves, I mean —

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— and now you don’t!

Oops!

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As I wrote in Theory and Practice, Ideal and Real, War and Peace a while back:

There are two distinct scenarions that I try to bear in mind, in one of which an archipelago of islands is seen in a seascape, while the other shows a number of lakes in a landscape of mountains, hills and valleys.

The only difference between them, as I envision them, is the water level.

Raise the water level, and the lakes join to become a sea in which the isolated remaining hill and mountain tops have become islands — lower the water level, and the islands become the hills and mountain tops of a landscape, with the sea now diminished to a congeries of lakes and pools in its valleys.

Your thoughts?


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