So I asked the congregation, "What do we know about the people of North Korea?" We came to a consensus. They are poor, unhappy, oppressed. That was what I thought too until an interesting NPR program raised serious doubts. Bradley Martin is a journalist covering North Korea for over 25 years and he asserts that the people are indoctrinated so that even though they undergo great hardship and oppression many accept the message of the regime, whilst others are too afraid to show dissent. Many believe that the North Korean project as expounded by the regime is meaningful, and so they remain loyal. This contradicts our assumptions because we cannot understand people being content unless they profess our "indoctrination", namely that material good, comfort, and the freedom to pursue them will bring contentment.
Three thoughts suggest themselves to me. First, I tend to underestimate the power of an ideology to harness the human spirit. Secondly, I should not assume that people are not content to hold the ideology which holds them, whether it be some form of totalitarianism or consumerism. Thirdly, I wonder whether there is any way to judge between ideologies which so claim the allegiance of human beings?
I hold the belief that the human heart truly knows no peace until the human being desires to live into the image of God, the image of love, planted within us, and empowered by the passion, resurrection and Spirit of Jesus Christ. How do I test this assertion? How do I encourage others to explore it? What is the difference between what I hold and what the totalitarian or the consumerist hold?
One thing is clear. The assumed priority of consumerism is debunked if those living in an oppressive society can draw inspiration from an oppressive regime in the midst of abject poverty. The consumer model is at best on option among many, and given the environmental disaster impending upon us, we should abandon that idea as soon as possible for the love of humanity, if not for the love of God.