One Night in Pyongyang

I always find myself on the wrong side of a debate. No I’m not talking about quarrels with the wife or even explaining to the kids every single morning why it’s important to go to school. On those few occasions I have participated in a formal debate, I was always nominated to represent the ‘wrong’ side. It was the side that my own ethics opposed. I just had to suck it up and argue the mooted point anyway.

The first such occasion was in the library on Waiheke Island. If I had to guess it was 1989/90 and I was finally a teenager. The proposition was ‘Professional Wrestling has a positive influence on young people’ or something equally daunting. I argued for the affirmative and while I loved wrestling, the idea that I could glean a number of positive influences from the hulking lumps of steroids I watched every Friday night seemed impossible. I was introduced to wrestling at the age of ten which was in truth a golden age for wrestling. Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior and dozens more all graced the ‘squared circle’. It was real entertainment and the idea it was all staged never escaped me. I began with my introduction. ‘In the beginning god said let there be wrestling, and there was…and it was good’ from there my argument was doomed to failure. Twisting the words of the bible was obvious and quite unbelieveable. It was funny though. Of the 51 wrestlers that took part in Wrestlemania VII in 1991, 14 are deceased. That’s 27%!!! Of those who survive, I’m not sure how many are great role models. It was a no win.

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My all-time favourite: The Ultimate Warrior. He’s 53 now!

The next stand out debate was at Western Springs in 1991, my fifth form year. The proposition this time was ‘Nuclear armaments are good for society’ or something  equally daunting. This was a time when the Russians and the Americans had agreed to a reduction in nuclear arms and they were sooo not in fashion.  Again I was lumped in with the affirmative crew and I just had to think of the best argument I could. I decided on the line that nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare for fifty years and so while their potential is known they are nothing more than a deterrent and in that sense it helps to have a large stock pile. It was like a line of chess pieces behind the pawns. While they remain unused and ‘untaken’ they can simply remind the opposition not to bother starting anything. It was the best I could come up with and totally went against my ingrained anti-nuke sentiment. I was systematically destroyed by rebuttal. In a classroom debate the class will always go with what they feel is ethically right and not the strength of the argument. Interestingly if it goes against your own ideals you will struggle to argue for it too.

The pro-nuke debate has been reawakened in my mind since the North Koreans started talking about nuclear threats. It is a country I have little idea about but I would suggest it is hard to trust the intentions of a country that keeps so much hidden from view. The same choreography involved in creating the mass marches and parades is also used to give the Pyongyang CBD the look and feel of a western CBD but, to a degree, it is all arranged. It is clear there is no room for capitalism and communism in the same space but the 330 metre Ryugyong Hotel looks out of place with their traditional philosophy. I certainly hope that all this talk from Kim Jong junior is rhetoric and that he simply believes that rubbish that I was once trying to convince my School Certificate classmates. But whether those nukes are simply shiny powerful statues or something far worse, I can safely say that one night in Pyongyang is one too many.

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