That the North Korean leadership takes American comedy as an act of war is a particular feature of the role information and technology has assumed in 21st century life. Kim Jong-un cannot countenance Seth Rogen and James Franco’s antics in The Interview, however fantastic they may be. But freedom of speech or any other kind is not the only difference between North Korea and the rest of us.
Having created a virtual prison, the Kim family dictatorship has also denied its citizens one of the most valued achievements of 20th century modern society: longevity. Because of innovation in pharmaceuticals, technology, health information and modern sanitation, the rest of us are all living as a matter of course into our 80s, 90s and beyond.
Longevity is a feature of 21st century life across the planet everywhere a shred of freedom - political, economic or social - is allowed. But not for North Koreans, who have an age structure that is at best mid-20th century, with a national population over age 65 that is less than half of most of the rest of us (the OECD average is over 20 percent and growing, but North Korea is under 10 percent and falling).
Mid-20th century lifespans also mean the North Koreans are not experiencing the challenges of modern longevity including Alzheimer’s, which increases dramatically as we live past 65 and with frightening frequency past 85 as in 1 in 2 of us at risk. The North Koreans therefore neither know nor care not a spec that Seth Rogen’s other life - the one outside Hollywood where his compassion and commitment is to fight against Alzheimer’s - is truly making a difference. The kind of commitment and contributions can only be seen where there is a robust private sector and a fully engaged civil society.
Not only has Mr. Rogen dedicated his public persona to the care and cure for Alzheimer’s, he has teamed up with Home Instead Senior Care, an Omaha-based global company, to donate their services to elders and caregivers with Alzheimer’s.
It is a service to help with our greatest fear as we grow old, as recently reported in a study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Staying at home as long as possible with Alzheimer’s is something all of us would want. Of course, since the North Koreans still die young, their leadership has neither the need nor the interest.
Not that the Kim dictatorship would care what people want anyway. Nor, I suspect, do they know about Seth Rogen’s “Hilarity for Charity,” which is dedicated to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and raises funds for the cure of the disease - all made possible because of the money and fame from movies like The Interview.
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