North Koreans’ Fear of Freedom

“Could freedom turn into a burden that makes some of us choose to relinquish it, and instead lead a life of submission?”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

North Koreans cry, over the death of their leader Kim Jung Il, in front of the Statue of the Sun in Pyongyang

On watching the huge funeral procession of leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang, while thousands of people who had gathered on the snow-bound streets to observe the procession could be heard wailing as the hearse passed, I suddenly realized that the real problem of North Korea lies not in its unmonitored nuclear capabilities, but rather in its people and in their ostensible fear of freedom.

Those Koreans, as they hysterically wept, were not mourning the leader Kim Jong-Il, but they were shedding real tears and expressing genuine feelings of insecurity, loneliness and vulnerability. And people with such psychological profile could well prove more dangerous than nuclear warheads, for nuclear weapons could be deactivated or dumped, but how could we rehabilitate millions who regard the pledge to die for their semi-god leader, the noblest cause they could live for.

Could freedom turn into a burden that makes some of us choose to relinquish it, and instead lead a life of submission?

The Fear of Freedom

Erich Fromm

The world renowned psychologist, sociologist and philosopher, Erich Fromm, sees right to the heart of our contradictory needs for community and for freedom like no other writer before or since. In his book ‘Fear of Freedom’, Fromm warns that the price of community is indeed high, and it is the individual who pays. Fascism and authoritarianism may seem like receding shadows for some, but are cruel realities for many.

Freedom, argues Fromm, became an important issue in the 20th century, being seen as something to be fought for and defended. However, it has not always occupied such a prominent place in people’s thinking and, as an experience, is not necessarily something that is unambiguously enjoyable.

The psychological reading into Kim Jong-Il’s funeral lament

The basic entity of the social process is the individual, his desires and fears, his passions and reason, his propensities for good and for evil. To understand the dynamics of the social process we must understand the dynamics of the psychological processes operating within the individual, just as to understand the individual we must see him in the context of culture that moulds him.

In his book” The Fear of Freedom” Fromm argues that modern man, freed from the bonds of pre-individualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self; that is the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous potentialities.

Freedom though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of this freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon uniqueness and individuality of man. Although Fromm’s book is a diagnosis rather than a prognosis- an analysis rather than a solution- its results have a bearing on our source of action.

For, the understanding of the reasons for the totalitarian flight from freedom, as in the case of North Koreans, is a premise for any action aimed at the victory over the totalitarian forces.


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