If anyone in the world needs cheer this Christmas, it is the North Korean citizen. They are spending their eleven days of complete black-out of any form of laughter and fun… it is not just laughing that is banned, but also celebrating birthdays, drinking, and even mourning their dead! Banning ‘leisure activities’ obviously includes the usual punishable action of falling asleep during a meeting (a former defense minister was executed in 2015).
A ban, as many of us already know, is just a few steps ahead of ‘don’t do this’, ‘stop it now’, ‘not today (or tonight)’, ‘do not ask for explanations – just follow instructions’, ‘step off this or that’, ‘no photography’, and ‘not allowed’ to mention a few… there are the usual meme-worthy speed-breakers like prohibition. We have our own breed of self-righteous bands of goons appearing suddenly to ask girls not to wear jeans or skirts above a certain length, stop eating Maggi noodles, or refrain from reading a certain book or singing a certain song. I was pleasantly surprised to read in OpIndia that ‘anybody found violating the order of this despotic and equally whimsical communist ruler, will be severely punished’ – so they do believe that banning goes hand-in-hand with despotic rulers.
However, our own desi-banthusiastic bands must know that North Korea has beaten us hollow in the banning contest. These guys are known to have banned people buying leather jackets to resemble their leader Kim Jong-un, or to have their hair styled in any other way than the eighteen that have been prescribed! These poor souls cannot keep pet dogs and even their profession unless being declared an ‘ideological criminal’ is in their scheme of planning for the future.
While on this new ban on laughter in North Korea, let me add here that news bits inform me about even grocery shopping being banned on 17 December 2011, the day Kim Jong II died. For the unaware, this ban for eleven days is because this is the tenth year of his death anniversary. By the way, North Korean bans do not just exist on hoardings and full-page adverts in newspapers and are quite unlike our own brand of bans where traffic violators, for instance, generally have the option to take a short walk with the cop to hand him some hot-n-crispy bank notes before driving away with a smirk. No, this cannot happen in North Korea… this is a country where you can be whisked away never to reappear! Just a month back one entertainment-seeker there was overcome by emotions when he watched Squid Game and thought it was okay to share with those who could pay him some extra cash… and was awarded with a death sentence. These North Korean policymakers are unbeatable – I am sure they spend all their time thinking up of things they want to ban next and yet gracefully allow the award to go to ‘strict economic measures’ that works tirelessly to alleviate poverty in the nation.
But let me come back to Christmas cheer and new year bashes… Oops! even we in India are not going to have any this year. I believe this feverish race to ban a whole cache of activities is a global phenomenon now… and affects restaurants, hotels, travel plans, and even a bit of rumbunctious evening-out with friends. I sometimes think of human eagerness to ban far worse than that single-celled virus going around now with Omicron as the name on his passport. No one has actually mentioned this, but the fact that we are not the only ones to be caught in the middle of this ban muddle is what is keeping us sane. At least for now, there are similar bans affecting our neighbors beyond our western border. And elsewhere. Yes, yes, even those looters of Indian wealth, the Britishers, are in for some nasty ban-bumps.
Do not believe, even for a moment, that this post is a tirade against a peace-loving word called BAN, because it is the intent behind its implementation that must be blamed. There are plenty of bans that the entire world loves. Have you forgotten plastics, child labor, and child pornography? And no, I have no wish to pull in Chinese apps into this noble list. No, not even diesel cars older than fifteen years. There are issues that need a better solution. And professional andolankaris are not really the right sort of answer to any issue that needs a resolution. Until then, we can do nothing but imagine North Koreans laughing hysterically once this ban is lifted.
24 December 2021