Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Fix the Whole Wide World, part One

So, North Korea is back in the news, testing missiles, darkly threatening the world with annihilation, sending suspicious freighters hither and yon-- and quite uncharacteristically, freeing two imprisoned American journalists into the custody of ex-President Bill Clinton, acting as a Very Special Envoy. The Big Dog, as he can, made Special Envoying look effortless, securing the journalists' release in an American record few hour's time. Various right-wing sites have wondered darkly about what concessions Clinton gave to the DPRK. The reality is more prosaic: the 6' 2" Clinton, after making nice with a letter to Kim Jong Il, hoisted the 2 journalists to his shoulders and played keep-away with them over the soldiers (average height 5'4") all the way back to the plane. Pausing on the steps, he called out a cheerful "No backsies!", thus frustrating Kim Jong Il's order to recapture before it could even be given. Of course, the mainstream media has suppressed this, but my readers (and you know who you are) can handle the truth. Whatever the particulars, the journalists are now home, or maybe they are still stuck in Burbank Airport, from whence they did their obligatory but certainly heartfelt tearful press conference. While not that crazy about Burbank Airport-- technically the Bob Hope Airport, and thus only the second best airport named after a millionaire right-wing Hollywood icon here in Southern Alta Californgeles-- I can say with near certainty that the food there is better than in North Korea, where the national dish is false hope, lightly grilled. What i would have liked to have seen is the two of them, after their flight with Clinton, taken to-- wait for it!-- North Koreatown for their press conference, but apparently there are no great ironists at the State Department.

And now, Clinton's shrewd use of "No backsies!" thwarting their revenge, the North Korean government is quietly plotting-- well, something, of that one can be sure. They are determined to-- well, mostly continue being just what they are. Unlike Americans, who want to be all they can be, for instance. Can these two cultures ever find an accomodation? I think so, and I have an idea whose time has come.

Some years ago, I read some account of another journalist who had actually gotten permission (Getting permission? Now there's a concept…) to hang in Pyongyang and see the glories of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (first question-- are the People Democratic, or is the Peoples Republic Democratic? Discuss. Their missiles may not work terribly well, but the North Koreans can dangle a modifier with the best of them.). He described an urban moonscape-- being the only guest in a 40 story luxury hotel where the elevators didn't work, wide boulevards devoid of cars or pedestrians, all electric power shutting off at about 9pm. Most haunting was a crew building an automotive and railroad bridge spanning the river-- using only hand tools, because of the scarcity of electric power.

It was this last that got the international peacemaker in me out of his slumber. Building a bridge with hand tools may be a way of life in North Korea-- but it's a basic cable show here in the United States. If we have "Orange County Choppers", why not "Pyongyang Bridge Builders", the story of a crusty, emaciated ace with a rivet bucket, his wayward sons, and the crazy edicts that come down from the Ministry of Bridges or whatever they call it. Right there, you've promoted international understanding and world harmony, etc etc. And then, the part of the plan that I'm most proud of, we can send our "Monster Garage" guys abroad-- "You guys have to design and build a mass transit system in Ouagadougou, using only this donated ski lift and surplus Soviet-era mini-subs-- GO!" to rebuild the Second and Third World one project at a time. A sort of "Pimp My Democratic People's Republic", if you will, and I'm sure you will.

Some of these places are primitive, you say (and by "you" I mean a fictional strawman I can knock down)? We have people with more money than sense who have become experts in the same "primitive technology"-- any primitive technology you could name! We have mead brewers, artisanal pickle makers, constructors of Stirling engines of any size! Why should our Marines have to rebuild what they just knocked down, when we could recruit a volunteer corps of bisexual hipster steampunks who would be only too happy to work with actual Edwardian-era power stations. To arms, bisexual hipster steampunks, you are America's new foreign ambassadors! And let Orange County Choppers open a satellite office in Kabul! Let freedom ring from a thousand robot street sweepers, a Zeppelin bus system, escape pods from sinking island republics, all courtesy of the good old US of A! We can stop being the largest weapons exporter and be the world's largest exporter of retro-cool gearhead geekism. A big step up, if you ask me.

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