North Korea is a special place. As the last example of a cult-of-personality utopia, such as the Soviet Union brand under Stalin or China under Mao, the Kim family leaders are worshiped not just as heroes but as gods. Those in the marketing industry would refer to this as a “controlled brand environment.”
I’ve lived in New York since 1979. It was a place that they gave you your anonymity. And not just if you were famous. New Yorkers nodded at you. New Yorkers smiled at you at the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. New Yorkers would make a terse comment to you. “Big fan,” they’d say. “Loved you in Streetcar,” they’d say. They signaled their appreciation of you very politely. To be a New Yorker meant you gave everybody five feet. You gave everybody their privacy. I recall how, in a big city, many people had to play out private moments in public: a woman sobbing at a pay phone (remember pay phones?), someone studying their paperwork, undisturbed, at the Oyster Bar, before catching the train. We allowed people privacy, we left them alone. And now we don’t leave each other alone. Now we live in a digital arena, like some Roman Colosseum, with our thumbs up or thumbs down.