Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Leaders, Two Stories

It's odd that Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il died on the same day, because if you had asked me on Saturday to name the greatest leader still alive, and the worst, it would be those two.

I don't believe philosopher-kings work in the real world, but Havel was the closest we ever had.  It's rare enough an artist has intelligent politics, much less the bravery and ability to act on them, but Havel was a talented writer who was both courageous enough to take on totalitarians at a time when it seemed like they would always be in charge, and smart enough to run his country when the times demanded it. (My friend Matt Welch, who I believe lived in Prague for a while, has written well about Havel.  Here's an example.)

On the other hand, it's hard to say anything harsh enough about Kim Jong Il, who ran his country like a prison.  The entire nation was built around praising him, and any slight amount of freedom the people enjoyed was sought out by the authorities and targeted for destruction.  I can only hope some major change will come about with his death, but that is probably wishful thinking. (A reader commented a couple days ago that it's too bad Henry Kissinger outlived Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens wrote movingly about the disaster that is North Korea, and I'm sorry that he didn't hold on for another week to see this villain go.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There may be some major changes. The question is will they be positive?

3:03 AM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Its odd that Kim Jong Il (or in the words, of Jesse Helms "Kim Jong the 2d" or occasionally the 3d) is getting much bigger press than Havel (well I guess there's that whole nuclear threat and all)- As a human, Havel had far greater impact on the world- without leaders such as him and even Walesa, we might have seen Central Europe come out of communism only to slip back into authoritarianism. Kim was the inevitable placeholder tyrant descended from a tyrant.- yes they say they are communists and yes communism has been responsible for tyranny but the Kim family seems well beyond that into their own weird version of emperor worship no matter what political jargon they are using. It is hard to see without violent revolution or a big opening up to the outside (which I don't see), hard to think life will be any better under the Young'un takes over- its too far gone. Hopefully their war can happen without us.

5:17 AM, December 19, 2011  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

For what it's worth, I believe I had Kim Jong Il dying or being deposed in my predictions for 2011. Just under the buzzer I guess.

8:21 AM, December 19, 2011  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Soon it'll be time for both looking back at last year's predictions and making new predictions.

11:17 AM, December 19, 2011  

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