North Korean Beach Vacations May Be Reason Enough to Disarm: The Bear and The Two Compatriots

What is or will be the actual, practical, lived outcome of the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-Un? While the long (or even short) term results are not yet clear, I offer this bit of insight, straight from the 17th century? 

Two compatriots, in a hurry for some money, sold their neighbor, a fur merchant, the skin of a living bear. They’d kill the bear shortly, or so they said.  

The animal was the king of all bears, according to the would-be hunters. The furrier was going to make a fortune from the pelt. The fur of this special bear would protect from the bitterest cold. In fact, one could probably make not just one, but two coats. Rabelais’ sheep-besotted merchant, Dindenant, couldn’t possibly prize his sheep more than these two promoters did their bear. For the animal was theirs already, from their point of view. The bear’s perspective was another thing.  

The sellers guaranteed delivery within two days, agreed on the price and set out on their quest. Found the bear coming their way at a trot.  

Here our two men are struck dumb with terror. The deal was over. They needed out. Not another word about any bear. 

One of men climbed a tree. The other, frozen to marble with fear, pitched forward on his nose, played dead and held his breath. He’d heard somewhere that a bear is unlikely to attack a dead body that doesn’t move or breathe.

Sir Bear, not the brightest bulb, walks onto the scene. Sees the body lying on the ground and takes it for dead. But, for fear of being tricked, he flips the body over and over again, brings his muzzle close enough to sniff at the body’s breath.

The bear says: This is definitely a cadaver. What a stink. I’ve got to get out here. 

At these words, the bear went off into the forest.

The would-be bearskin merchant in the tree came down and ran to his friend. Congratulated him on the marvel that the worst he’d suffered was a bad scare and nothing more.  

The tree-climbing friend added: So? Where will we find a bearskin now? And, what did the bear whisper to you? I saw him get that close to you when he was turning you over with his giant paw. 

His prone friend said: He told me never to sell the skin of a bear that you haven’t yet bested.  

North Korean nuclear disarmament is just one of many bearskins we’re being marketed by Trump, in his hurry to bank a bit of legacy. But advance promotion doesn’t mean an event will happen. I want it to be true that North Korea is, as I write this, beginning the process of dismantling its nuclear capability. Full disclosure, I’d be happy for everyone to dismantle that particular capacity. Mutually assured destruction has never felt, to me, like a great foreign policy strategy. Rather it seems, as its acronym suggests, mad, as in, crazy.

I am fine with Trump making promises to withdraw military presence from the Korean peninsula. Why shouldn’t the US exchange some of its armed might for full nuclear disarmament? Am I placing too much faith in those two bloviators? Maybe, but the danger is not more than it was before. We feared that Trump would inadvertently or intentionally light Kim Jong-Un’s fuse. He hasn’t yet, despite the cadaverous stench that comes out of his mouth every time he speaks. Maybe the bear is smarter than we thought, leaving the hunters alone before they recover their wits? Maybe Trump, for all his confrontational and sensationalist nature, understands, like the prone friend, that bringing home a bearskin is not the best solution. He is, after all, a businessman, or at least he’s played one on television.

So that brings me to the notorious video portraying an affluent, oceanfront consumer paradise—why not? Let’s not be naïve. Why try to kill a bear? The skin can only be sold once, even if it can be used for two coats. We will do so much better if we train the bear to sing and dance the same consumer society tunes we enjoy. Will more human rights flow with the influx of investment? Yes. Not as quickly as we’d like, to be sure. There will be missteps. We will discover appalling cases of companies averting their eyes to make a buck. We already do that in our own countries, if we’re honest with ourselves.

Instead of trying to best the bear and sell its skin, which we can’t do anyhow, let’s marvel at the fact that the worst we’ve suffered so far is a bad scare. There’s a better chance of progress with North Korea now than there’s ever been. Can we set aside our knee-jerk responses to Trump and enjoy that for a moment?

What are these Fableogs?

Fable en Français




Be the first to get new writing and news, as well as hear about latest happenings. 

Thanks so much for joining our community!