Journalist Peter Hitchens remonstrates with ‘the West’ about its attitude to North Korea, portraying a bankrupt, starving statelet as a major power and adopting a high moral tone in dealings with it:
“I have been there, and can report that this bankrupt, starving statelet is so poor it cannot even warm its own government buildings and must have used up much of its petrol reserves to stage the funeral of its deceased leader.
“Its rulers are trapped in their palace. If they show weakness, they will be torn to pieces by their hungry, disillusioned subjects.
“Above all, they need a way out. If we do not help provide one they will, in the end, have to collapse into the arms of China.”
Technologically less advanced societies found solutions. There was a ritualised control of conflict: in an unpublished manuscript, the late Judith Dawes recalled reading about ‘safety valve mechanisms’ described by anthropologist Ruth Finnegan in Ted Dunn’s symposium, Foundations of Peace and Freedom. Examples quoted were Eskimo song duels and ritual buffeting, and the East African Limba villages in which long speeches set out the cause for anger which was addressed in similarly long speeches by a group of counsellors.
In Highland Scotland, before their society was brutally broken up by the clearances, clan loyalty was enhanced by fostering; children (including the Chief’s) were exchanged and brought up among different families. This fostering practice was also used to ensure peaceful relations with neighbouring clans.
This intelligent and civilised mode of problem solving by so-called primitive people has recently been publicised and was reported on Australian radio; a long-running land dispute was settled between two villages on Tanna island by giving a child from one village to a family in another as part of a reconciliation ceremony – a custom practised there through the ages.
In practice it is ceremonial, the child can stay with the other family or his own or can move between the two – a bridge-building practice.
Returning to the subject of North Korea, Hitchens concludes that the country could still do harm: “But it is much more likely to do so if we maintain our current policy”.
TIME FOR CHANGE