The link between North Korea and Brexit.

North Korea is the most fascinating political landscape that exists currently. It’s so alien to me, living in the west, to think that there are people living under a communist- dictatorship on the same planet at the same time as me. Communism seems so outdated and even in China we see a communist-style regime that has fused with capitalism. This makes North Korea seem even more interesting.

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North Korea and Brexit share one surprising similarity.

It’s so hard to be able to explain the politics of North Korea; mainly because the people themselves don’t appear to understand them and so it becomes near impossible for an outside source. We hear fractured stories from disgusting human rights abuses to trivial tourist reports without really knowing anything about the country. Where is the money for it’s lavish water parks coming from? If there are no human rights abuses why is the country locked down? All we really know is the form of politics being pumped through North Korea is labelled ‘Juche’ but no one in North Korea or the west seems to really know what that means. This is seen so clearly in Álvaro Longoria’s ‘The Propaganda Game’ (an amazing, impartial documentary- it’s on Netflix). But the only thing that is really obvious through the uncertain landscape of North Korea is manipulation and misinformation.

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yet misinformation and propaganda aren’t exclusive to North Korea.

Many people like me, who have grown up in the west, instantly think of propaganda when we hear the words ‘North Korea’. We recall images and videos of men and women sobbing and wailing at the death of Kim Jong-il and massive golden statues with huge parades saluting them. Yet, then we have to question why we see this. How much of this footage is twisted or accompanied with exaggerated claims by the western media. In a sense we have a propaganda war. North Koreans still believe it was the USA who initiated the Korean War and in the west we are led to believe Kim Jong-un watched as his uncle was executed by vicious dogs. Both of these examples are untrue. Both highlight the strange, warped propaganda war we are currently living in. I honestly don’t know what’s going on. Is North Korea as bad as we are led to believe? I think it probably is. But then when we are faced with constant manipulation from all sides it becomes harder to take any news we receive about North Korea seriously.

While this may be a specific example focusing on North Korea, this highlights such an important issue that relates back to British politics too. We, as a public, are not taught to be critical of mainstream media, leadership figures or politicians. It became so evident during ‘Brexit’ that we were fed manipulated facts and even lies (cough cough NHS claim) by both sides of the campaign. We need to fix this and what is even more frustrating is that it’s so easy to fix.

Question why.

Question why somebody in a position of power, whether that be politics or media, says what they do. What do they gain by saying this? How does it make them appear? These really basic questions expose motives and consequently stop us from being fed propaganda and false information.

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the west must begin to fully utilise the freedom of speech we have.

In the west we are lucky to have education that isn’t influenced directly by the state in the way it is in North Korea. We are not indoctrinated from a young age. We must use this privilege to expose propaganda. Question everything. Maybe we can even begin to help the people of North Korea who are often forgotten behind the worlds political fascination.

Community.

Community is inherent to survival. We constantly look to surround ourselves with others, we want love and companionship and someone to look after us. At its core this is community. Community comes in many different forms and on varying scales but perhaps the most prevalent in the political landscape is the communities that are founded by location. Neighbourhoods of people who connect because they share a post code or street name, or importantly for politicians, a constituency.

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the view from the house I grew up in.

My personal experience of community is diverse but limited. I’ve lived in two places in my life. One being a small market town around 45 minutes outside of London and the other being its polar opposite: London. In the small town I grew up in you would expect to see at least 5 people you knew on any given visit to the town centre. In London it’s felt like some miracle feat the 3 times I’ve bumped into someone I know. In this small town there was a sense of community but it wasn’t exactly friendly. It was built on superficiality and judgement of what car you were driving; what you were wearing; even what time your neighbours saw you open your curtains at. It’s so weird but I have very vivid memories of being maybe 6 years old and my mum or dad setting an alarm at 8am to get out of bed, go downstairs and open the curtains, only to then return to bed and sleep until 11am. This epitomises the town I grew up in. It’s predominately white, middle-class and rightwing and I never felt comfortable of everyone being so critical of everybody else. London, however, is the complete opposite. I could walk to the shops in my pyjamas and no one would care. Yet, because of this, London can feel really lonely at times- mainly because the reason no one is judging you is because they don’t care about you and we, as humans, like to be cared about. This is why healthy, safe communities are so important and I believe politics and politicians are at the heart of shaping them.

Gentrification, crime and ‘politics of fear’ are 3 major causes why communities are fracturing at the moment. Gentrification sees the import of wealthy foreign investors who force house prices up and displace the current residents; crime causes residents to distrust their neighbours; and the ‘politics of fear’ mentality that has been spread (especially since Brexit) has led to a huge increase in hate crimes in communities of different cultures. I think all of these causes must be fixed by politicians to avoid the continued dispersion of communities and I will voice my opinions on how to fix them specifically in later blog posts.

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MP’s must drive communities back together.

However, at the core of all of these reasons is the fact communities are fracturing because of differences.

Frequently people are quick to judge and ignore anyone who thinks or is different to them. But look at the role models we have. Too often in parliament we see politicians refusing to listen and admit when they are wrong. We see two sides of politics divided and we, as a public, begin to reflect those differences in our society. Politicians must be the ones to change this. Politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn try to bring a kinder, fairer politics into the House of Commons and while I admire him for doing so it must be utilized further. How can we expect to create tolerant, understanding and diverse communities without politicians demonstrating this themselves. Even looking internally into political parties I see fractions. Politicians looking to sabotage and degrade other politicians when we should be showing the world of politics parties which have  wide, varied ranges of people and views that can work harmoniously and can unite. This is what the political parties and communities in London and beyond absolutely must have in common: people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, political leanings, who unite over the basic impulse to create a better, fairer, more united society. In the EU referendum, massive divides were seen between rich and poor and young and old[1]. Only by showing communities that we are similar can we begin to unite them. Every human wants affordable rent and public transport; every human wants access to free healthcare; every human wants to live in a safe, secure community. Yet only by highlighting these similarities can we begin to achieve this and unite communities.

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cheeky nandos anyone?

And yet there is still a miscommunication between politicians and communities. We see politicians only involving in our communities for photo opportunities and to gain support or on the other hand, we don’t see them at all. Not only do we need politicians to show us examples of community within their own environments, we need them to extend this into their constituencies. I want to see my local MP in my local Nandos. I want to talk to my local MP in the queue at Sainsbury’s. I want to feel like I live in the same community as my MP. This is crucial to making a lonely city or a judgemental town feel welcoming, safe and like home. Once this example is set we can encourage residents to be proud and to care about their neighbourhood, we can create neighbours who watch out for potential intrusions instead of judging the time some curtains are opened. We can create communities. Our MP’s must be supportive and modelling of this though, after all, we are them.

[1] Lord Ashcroft Polls. 2016. How Britain Voted. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/LR-by-demographics.jpg. [Accessed 15 September 2016].