Communist North Korea vs. Democratic United States Happiness: Myth or Reality?

Catherine Gasper- Period 3- Honorbound

Happiness is the most indescribable idea and feeling that is the center of human life, but how does one reach happiness? In Aristotle’s famous text, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “happiness is believed to be the most desirable thing in the world” and “happiness is something final and self-sufficing, and is the end of all that man does”[1]. Happiness in other words is when your “life fulfills your needs” [2]. Happiness is thought to be the sense of contemplation and speculation. Through Aristotle’s view on happiness we understand that happiness depends upon virtue and in order to maintain this one must have balance between two excesses. Happiness overall is not a temporary state, but rather the final end goal for man.

According to the global happiness index (which refers to the government official’s happiness index in every country), North Korea is one of the happiness places in the world. But what makes it a happy place to live? In a country ruled by one man dictatorship where the leader is referred to as “the son of God” you would think that the country is under great despair and stress. Despite their extreme isolation and government control, North Korea is raked the second happiest place to live in world, right behind China. Many people believe that since this poll was put together by North Korean researcher believe that the statistics found and concluded from this poll are inconclusive. Researchers did this in order to hide the problems being faced in communist North Korea.

In North Korea the Communist movement emerged in the early 20th century. The role of communism was very small in pre-war politics, but the division of communist North Korea and anti-communist South Korea dominated political life post-World War II. In South Korea communism is illegal, while in North Korea communism in the central power that dominates the country. In North Korea communism was founded during a secret meeting in Seoul in 1925. The leaders of the party were Kim Yong-bom and Pak Hon-yong. North Korea might be one of the last Communist regimes left in the world. Juche is the North Korean communist system that is a mixture of nationalism, central planning and economic independence. They have attempted to produce all of their needs domestically and because of this they have become one of the poorest countries in the world. North Koreans are isolated from the rest of the world and until recently they had barley any technology, so what makes this country so happy from the rest of the world? The North Korean government owns everything including the hearts and the minds of the citizens. There are five methods of maintaining power that Kim uses: brainwashing, isolation, elaborate classification system, controlling access to resources, and fear through political prison camps. Since birth North Koreans are fed lies of propaganda in order to believe that they live in paradise and that they are far better off than the rest of the world. A country under such strict government control can only be fed lies of their happiness; therefore, North Koreans have a fabricated sense of happiness they can only be experienced inside North Korea.

On the contrary, the United States is ranked dead last in the global happiness index. American’s ideals differ greatly from those of North Korea. The Declaration of Independence is the central ideal in the United States and it is what Americans follow in order to prosper. Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence starts of by proclaiming “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness” [3]. In this famous text, these words are what mean the most to the citizens of the United States. Man today in the United States embraces these words whole heartedly and interprets these words to follow their dreams. Americans are granted such great freedom to do what they want with their life, but how does a country with such great freedom rank almost last in the global happiness index? Because the United States is under such great freedom people have the choice to develop their own values and ideals without criticism or revolt from the government. But in America the accumulation of personal wealth and success is the central ideal that is even greater than reaching happiness. As Americans we take these ideals and interpret them into different meanings, but as Americans we are all more focused on our own personal gain that we forget about the happiness. Americans are so wrapped up in their own lives that they forget to put others in front of them and that is happiness thrives on, the idea of love and support from others-strangers perhaps. With Americans lack of community, is it no wonder we are also struggling with the idea and concept of happiness.

“Each man can form a judgement about what he knows, and is called “a good judge,” this meaning that man only knowing information on one subject matter can only be a good judge for that certain subject matter [4]. The same falls in place for the North Korean study of happiness. The study and conclusion behind the global happiness index study came from North Koreans who are trying to hide the real problems that lie underneath the surface in North Korea. A man is apt to be sawed by his feelings, and as stated by Aristotle “he will derive no benefit from a study whose aim is not speculative but practical” [5]. This perfectly explains North Koreans study of the global happiness index because the study was put together and done by North Koreans who were most likely forced to fabricate the information or have been so manipulated and brain washed that they actually believe that North Korea is the second happiness place in the world.

Since North Korea is so brain washed and under such strict government control we must take their information with a grain of salt. But the real question is would Aristotle agree with their idea of happiness or would he agree more with the United States’ idea and concept of happiness? Aristotle does state that “we must start from what is known to us,” but starting and ending with that is known in us is not the conclusive end of all just means [6]. Starting with what is known to us is a good place to start, but we cannot end at the same place we started or we will never go anywhere. This logic applies to the North Koreans idea of their happiness. All that is known to them is their society and their world. They have never been outside of their country, so they have no way to compare their style and way of living to other countries. But contradicting this matter, why does one need to compare their happiness with others? A man’s happiness is personal and not subjective to others; therefore, Aristotle would agree with North Koreans way and idea of happiness because it is the only happiness known to them and you cannot know what is unknown. On the other hand, the United States idea of happiness is something much larger because the United States is not sheltered and protected like North Korea. Rather the United States is very public with their way of living and their overall happiness as a country. Even though these countries differ greatly from one another, Aristotle would have to agree with both of their ways to happiness. Overall the idea of happiness does not depend on the fact of personal wealth or success, but rather the overall well-being and contemplation of the person.



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