Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Other North Korea

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Most people lie to themselves.

They lie to survive, to keep their social standing.

They lie to feel comfortable when they're afraid.

But eventually, lies will come back to destroy you.

Because some lies are so big, that they can't be walked back from.

You can tell yourself the world is not on fire, but eventually you're going to be consumed by the flames.

So without further ado, welcome to Albania, the other North Korea.

I think its time this channel talked politics.

Evan, our commenters always say, actually half the time they mistakenly call me Chris.

Chris, our commenters always say, you should talk more about politics.

Now, obviously, Im joking.

I dont think anybody wants me to talk about politics except for me.

But considering over the course of a single episode Ive been called everything from a Nazi sympathizer to a Communist boot licker,

I think its time I set the record straight.

Ive never once licked a boot.

It sounds disgusting.

In university once I drank a beer out of a shoe, but Im not sure that qualifies.

Plus, Im not sure that shoe was communist.

But lets talk about Communism.

Because this is an episode about reality, and there are a few systems we more commonly wrap in falsehood than Communism.

Like Israel and Palestine, its just one of those things where vitriolic jingoism is far more prevalent than sober analysis.

Supporters lie about its glory, detractors lie about its failure.

The nuance of reality has long since been traded for preconceived ideology,

and breaking through that shell is all but impossible.

But in this episode, Im going to try.

Because around the world today, especially in countries where there are two political parties,

you see Communism presented like a bogeyman of anything left of whatever the present situation happens to be.

In the same vein, Fascism is often presented as anything further right.

The world is treated as a duality, and small changes, no matter how slight,

are more often than not used as segues to the worst possible examples.

Venezuela is what happens when you socialize medicine, not Canada.

Nazi Germany is what happens when you control your borders, not Switzerland.

To the ideologically focused, every slope is slippery.

Every gray area is just another shade of black or white.

And because of that lack of nuance, things that genuinely are the extremes of fascism and communism

are treated with the same outrage as things that arent.

And as more of our worlds complexity is dumbed down into partisan tweets, the worse things are becoming.

The more we cry wolf, the more emboldened wolves feel in joining our herd.

When everyones screaming, its hard to listen to a calm voice.

The problems we face as a society cannot be defined by left or right.

Those are just fake categories weve invented for simplicity.

Anyone who dislikes illegal immigration but wants quality healthcare

knows that politics are more complicated than two diametric poles.

No, the real spectre we face is extremism.

And given our current powder keg of a world, its a lesson we all urgently need to learn.

But back to Albania.

Like most countries weve visited with this series, this land comes with some serious baggage.

Its almost like a microcosm of every nations attempts at statehood.

Here, systems come on strong and die hard.

Some last a year, others a generation.

In the last century alone, this tiny country on the Adriatic has seen the rise and fall

of colonialism, capitalism, monarchism, fascism, communism and democracy.

The graveyard of ideology is littered with the corpses of Albanian true believers.

But within that list, arguably the most famous is their attempt at Communism.

In 1944, as Mussolinis war-time fascist colonial government collapsed,

Albanian partisans under the leadership of Enver Hoxha filled the void it left behind.

The country found itself swinging from one extreme to the other, without so much as a breath of fresh air between.

In many ways, the rise of Hoxhas Albania mimics the story of Kim Il Sungs North Korea.

Hence the rather click-baity title of this episode.

Both leaders would take over a war torn country at the bottom of the international indexes.

The foundation of their national economies were in complete ruin.

Farms had been bombed out, cities were rubble, and any pre-existing commerce had long since been crushed by years of war.

Healthcare was virtually non-existent.

Food was virtually non-existent.

To put it simply, at the end of the war there was almost nowhere on this earth worse than North Korea or Albania.

And with so much devastation, there was little reason to imagine things would be better any time soon.

In fact, there was little reason to imagine either country would survive at all.

Both nations had come into the war as colonies, so few would have been surprised to see them leave that way.

Neither were large nor stable enough to defend themselves from their enemies, regardless of their ideology.

Standing up for their independence was as much a danger against their communist allies as it was their capitalist foes.

Yet, they both survived.

And whats more, they thrived.

Because communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships, fascism, they all come with positives.

If they didnt, theyd never make it to power.

The question is whats traded in return.

If we really want to learn from their mistakes, we absolutely need to look at how they got there.

Its disingenuous to only discuss failed societies from a post-collapse perspective.

Hoxhas Albania lasted for nearly fifty years.

The Kim dynasty runs the Hermit Kingdom to this day.

Extremism rises out of disorder.

And for those living in anarchy, totalitarianism can be an attractive solution, right up until the moment it isn't.

And by then, its too late.

If you were in Albania in those early years of communism, chances are youd find reasons to see the silver lining.

The people had been through one of the worst wars of human history, not just as soldiers but as civilians.

Theyd come into the war with little, and left with less.

Those that survived had traded everything to do so.

The people simply had nothing left.

At the outset of Hoxhas Albania, just like Kims North Korea, it was easy to see the promise of communism.

After all, communists had won the war.

And for a people whod spent a decade fending off foreign invasion and internal division,

the enemy on everyones tongues was chaos.

With Stalin at the height of his power, it was easy to imagine that a similar home-grown authoritarian might keep them safe, too.

And for a time, they were proven correct.

One by one, Hoxha met his early promises.

The nation was stabilized and the new government began providing the basic necessities people needed to live.

Industry blossomed.

Food, healthcare, and shelter were treated as guarantees.

A justice system was put in place to stop blood feuding and lower criminality.

Women were given a semblance of equality.

Education became a universal right.

In four years, literacy in Albania went from 15 percent to 70.

When a poll was conducted on Hoxha a few years ago, nearly half of the country spoke positively of his legacy.

Because for all his problems, theres no question that in those first few years

he breathed life back into a nation left for dead.

But theres more to life than being not dead.

The base necessities can only take you so far.

And to explain, Id like to use an example given to me by an Albanian man I talked with while making this episode.

He believes the state is like a house, and the most important part of sustaining that house is a strong foundation.

The four main pillars of the nation are health, shelter, food, and security.

If all four are taken care of, people tend to be able to put up with any leader, in any system.

But eventually, something needs to be built on top of that foundation, and thats where things get complicated.

Because the beauty of building a foundation is that everyone is able to imagine a different house on top.

Concrete and pillars form a simple structure all their own, but they imply a complexity yet to come.

A frame may be sturdy, but it feels incomplete.

And once those walls start going up, its quickly apparent if the architect understood reality.

Because ideology alone cant hold up a roof.

But for a while, Albania prospered.

Building from the ground up, it was able to spend years perfecting its foundation without ever attempting to build further.

Nobody would ask why they werent putting up walls while the base was still under construction.

The future they envisioned would never have to become reality,

so long as the present made it look like it still had the potential to do so.

Hope has a way of blinding us.

And in that bubble of prosperity, it can be easy to overlook whats being traded to make it happen.

The long-term is often sacrificed before the whims of the short.

Its easy to trade democracy for a feeling of security.

Our environment for a feeling of growth.

Its easy to trade our education for prosperity, or our stability for a partisan victory.

We humans are more than willing to harm ourselves so long as it means we can continue believing

the house we imagined around that foundation might actually get built.

But no matter the system, a society treated as a series of short-term solutions is bound to fail.

In Albania, just as in North Korea, with each passing day

it became more clear that the house wasnt going to be what they were promised.

The architects had understood how to lay a foundation, but they knew nothing of walls.

Every step forward meant another step back.

And as the nation reached the natural limits of a centrally planned economy, reality quickly

began taking a backseat to ideology.

Thus began the era of lies.

Massive propaganda campaigns, once extolling the beauty of the future, turned their gaze towards the present.

The more the pillars crumbled, the louder the voices shouted with claims that they still stood.

As the truth died, the Albanian dream died with it.

The once praised parts of the system quickly became its worst atrocities.

Conscript labour, which had rebuilt the nation after the war, became little more than slavery at the point of a gun.

Education, now ubiquitous among all citizens, taught a curriculum

that didnt align with the reality of the world around them.

The drive of independence that had kept them from being recolonized became a paranoid, xenophobic delusion.

The popularity of their leader became a cult that claimed he had superhuman qualities.

The military and police, once a defender of the people, became their executioners.

The more the situation worsened, the more of the otherwise struggling economy was diverted towards the final pillar.

The military.

And meanwhile, for an increasingly large number of citizens there was less food, worse healthcare,

longer hours and a more polluted world.

Life got harder, but by now the government was in far too deep to admit it.

And Im sure that many of you have already realized where Im aiming the conclusion.

Because this was never a story about communism.

Its about extremism.

When chaos reigns, dictators thrive.

And it doesnt matter if youre left or right.

The truth is non-partisan.

When we refuse to repair the pillars of our society, our society falls.

And if you take a hard look at Western society, its falling.

After all, why do we hate North Korea?

Or to a lesser extent, Hoxhas Albania?

Ive seen it framed in a few different ways, but as far as I can tell, theyre hated

because they dont care for their citizens, they spurn international laws,

and create a threatening military that destabilizes the world order.

They have a nepotistic, isolationist government ruled by a paranoid strongman who is above the law.

Their police murder with impunity.

They spy on their citizens, have massive prison work camps, follow their leader in a cult-like fashion,

and have a substantial number of citizens living well below the poverty line.

They enforce this with a massively over-bloated military which they wield in the place of international diplomacy.

They defy the UN, build nukes they dont need, and cultivate a fear of foreign invasion to sustain their power.

They are unquestionably extremists.

But extremism doesn't have one face.

Hoxhas Albania, Kims North Korea, Putins Russia, Dutertes Philippines, Erdogans Turkey,

and Trumps America all wear similar masks.

It doesnt matter if we start on the left and right, we all fall towards the same place.

In the United States today, youre spied on for political purposes.

The government not only allows it, it takes part.

In Albania, the communists had to bug your walls or put a microphone in your table.

But for those of us in modern capitalist societies, all you need is a phone.

Make no mistake: You are being listened to.

You are being watched.

In the United States today, nepotism rules the government.

A Clinton or Bush could be found in every single presidential election since 1981.

The Kennedy family have a political dynasty that has seen a member holding high office

for a quarter of the nations history uninterrupted.

The current presidents staff include his own family, friends, and known business associates,

as well as the family and friends of his political allies.

One of the more common tweets from his supporters promotes his sons as his successors.

In the United States today, isolationism is the new normal.

In the last year, the president has directly insulted his allies in the UK, Canada, Mexico,

South America, Africa, Germany, Brussels, Australia and elsewhere around the world.

And speaking as one of those insulted, I can assure you it hasnt fallen on deaf ears.

Theyve declared economic war on their closest trading partners, and sowed instability among their deepest alliances.

Xenophobia runs rampant.

Hate speech and violence towards minorities is on the rise.

The current president repeatedly lies about rising crime rates, illegal immigration,

and threats from abroad to sustain his power.

Crossing the border has become an invasive and distrustful experience even for citizens of friendly nations.

In the United States today, the leader has a cult of personality.

Objective truth has been cast aside for state propaganda and social media conspiracy theories.

In his first few weeks, over 5% of the current presidents words were a lie.

At the time, that was the highest number to date of any American president.

A year later, and its reaching nearly 10%.

To avoid coming to terms with this reality, true believers have invented an elaborate scheme

by which his ineptitude is a cover for disrupting international pedophilia.

None of it makes sense, but in a cult it doesnt have to.

Reality has no place in ideology.

In the United States today, prison work camps hold more detainees than anywhere else on the planet.

Theyre paid on average around sixty three cents an hour.

Slavery at the point of a gun.

At 4.4 percent of the world's population the United States hosts 22 percent of its prisoners.

More than any communist nation ever attempted.

More than Albania.

More that North Korea.

More than the USSR.

Its a 74 billion dollar industry, and growing.

In the United States today, the military is engaged in seven wars.

Their budget is larger than the next ten nations combined, and its still treated as not enough.

Since 2001, theyve spent 5.6 trillion dollars on war.

Yet, poverty in the country is running rampant.

The nation has the lowest social mobility in the western world.

Over forty six million Americans live below the poverty line.

Two million of those are below the international poverty line.

Thats less than two dollars a day.

Although productivity has seen drastic increases over the last few decades,

real wages have nearly stagnated for half the country.

The bottom tenth have only seen a single percent growth in forty years,

while the top tenth have grown over thirty times that speed.

It took a long time to get here, but this is where we are.

In 1995, Umberto Eco laid out the fourteen signs of fascism.

Each is its own canary in the coalmine.

Just one is enough for concern.

But in the United States today, all fourteen are present.

This is where we are.

We need to acknowledge it.

Extremism wont just go away if we close our eyes.

Certainly, the United States is not North Korea.

The house they built was once the most beautiful mansion on earth, and even as parts fall away,

its easy to treat that old architecture as new.

But the echoes are getting louder.

Albania didnt get there in a day.

Nazi Germany didnt get there in a day.

And if we willingly blind ourselves to our current reality in an attempt to sustain increasingly partisan ideology,

its only going to get worse.

Nobody expects their system to collapse until it does.

But when it does collapse, everyone loses.

The canaries are all dead.

We have to stop mining.

You understand that, right?

This is Rare Earth.

Welcome to Showroom Ron. This is Ergis.

He has showed us around here.

This is probably the coolest place we have seen in Albania.

It is unique.

There is nothing like this.

Not just in this country, but in the whole world.

If you want to come see something truly unique, something you cannot see anywhere else, this is the place to see it.

If you look around, you see all of these motorbikes, all of these mopeds, but also on the wall,

you see the history of communist Albania.

You see war, you see people, you see everything.

In one small space you get a sampling of everything that happened here.

You can even see a typical Albanian household from 40 years ago.

This is really cool.

I've never been here, I'm not paid to say this, this is worth coming to see.

Thank you so much for showing it to us.


By all means, if you get the opportunity, if you're in Tirana, think about coming here.

I'm even told, you could rent this to be driven around for the day, to be guided around the city.

And I don't think you can do anything better than that.

So again, thank you!

Thank you so much!

The Description of The Other North Korea