The Western world is understandably horrified at the UN’s recent and very thorough report on the unparalleled human rights abuses taking place in North Korea, including widespread forced abortions and infanticide. We ought to be. It is horrific. It is evil. It causes any person with a remnant of empathy and moral sensibility cry out “how can a human being do this to another human?”
It’s a question that ought to cause deep introspection in our civilized culture, because at the root of every good or evil deed is a thought process, a worldview, an ideology, that drives a person to act. Dear America, can I plead with you to examine our own beliefs and consider, are we not far behind?
What is taking place in North Korea is made possible by a mindset and a belief system that deadens the conscience of the actors, that makes them believe they are justified and right in what they are doing, despite the undeniable suffering taking place right before their eyes. Changing the mindset and ideology is the only way to cause such a large group of people (be it soldier or citizen) to accept what is taking place as being necessary, or even right. Necessary or right, for one of three reasons:
- Some other greater good is being accomplished. Perhaps a more stable society, perhaps more security, perhaps the development of needed medicines, or means of defense. Whatever the “goal” is, the benefit produced outweighs the cost of reaching that goal.
- Someone else’s needs or rights have higher priority. Maybe due to the benefit the other person give to society, maybe by virtue of their intellect, cognition, age, or strength. For whatever reason, the actor merits more consideration than the victim.
- The victim has a status of less than, or is not, a human person. Possibly because of societal status, possibly because of illness, injury, age, lack of capacity. Whatever the rationale, what is done to the victim is permissible, even if the same action would not be permitted against someone else, on the basis that the victim is a non-person, and the other party is.
Dear America, do you hear the ideas that have lead to today’s North Korea? Do they sound familiar?
Because that is us. We may not yet have “off the record” medical facilities where people are taken for experimentation, but we are using people for medical research. We may revile the state of the North Korean hospitals, but when we grant medical licenses to “doctors” who have advocated for using some of society’s most defenseless as a source for organs and tissue, and have even gone so far as to harvest organs from living human beings, we become merely a more sterilized version of the DPRK.
We may act horrified at the murder of a newborn, but when we place articles advocating for the ability to kill infants in prominent places in academic journals, because it represents an academically and morally permissible viewpoint worth considering, we give credence to the worldview that allows such atrocities to persist. We may not embrace the actions of the North Korean guards, but when tenure and revere professors argue for using the mentally-handicapped as science experiments, we embrace their ideas.
Dear America, we already slaughter our citizens. We do it with chemicals. We do it with knives. We do it by suffocating them. We already burn the corpses of the victims, and the smoke from their bodies rises. And we say it is alright, even good. We say it is necessary.
We say the mother’s needs or rights are of more value than her unborn child’s. And increasingly, we fully acknowledge that the baby is a human life, we just assuage our consciences by saying they “aren’t a person”.
We are able to be horrified at North Korea because right now, we are living in a world full of moral inconsistency. One where we cannot yet bring ourselves to fully act upon the beliefs we espouse, yet because we persist in them, we are powerless to stop the oncoming storm. We believe it will “never be us,” except that it already is.
In the pages of the UN Report, we meet Kim Jong-un and his regime. But Kim is not the enemy. Not really. The enemy is the worldview, the mindset, the ideology, that perpetuates and allows such rampant evil to occur. Perhaps today, America will be willing to examine that deeper foundation. Perhaps America will do so, and take a look in the mirror. Because if we do, we must acknowledge, as the famous quote goes, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”