The suppression of information is an issue which has affected millions of people throughout history. The war with Iraq was supported by many citizens in the UK and America because we were fed misinformation and access to truth was suppressed by those hungry for power, at massive cost to life.

Today, this issue continues, as a report is published by the UN Human Rights Council about abuses in North Korea comprised of evidence from defectors. Michael Kirkby, UN commissioner says “At the end of the Second World War so many people said ‘if only we had known… if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces'” The reference to the Second World War is significant here because Cole’s novel draws upon the argument of the number ‘six million’ in relation to the Holocaust used as a silencing device to stop all conversations about human rights violations in Palestine. In an interview with the BBC News, Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer, said: “But of course, it’s unremarkable in the sense that those of us who have worked on North Korea human rights for many, many years are aware of the sheer evidence coming out of North Korea over decades now…And so the real question is, what now?”

The word “unremarkable” here is striking and interesting in relation to Teju Cole’s novel Open City which portrays they way in which injustice in the the world is often treated as “unremarkable”. “All death is suffering[…]and that is history: suffering” (Cole, 2011: 123)

One way to read Teju Cole’s novel Open City is through the lens of seeing everyone other than the self as a “monster”, as Teju Cole (@tejucole) tweeted at 11:10 PM on Wed, Feb 05, 2014:
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. The important thing to remember is that people who aren’t you are monsters.” The character of Julius has serious problems making close relationships, and he views the world as a place where suffering which cannot be overcome. There is no sense if transformative justice or meaning presented in the novel.

Jared Genser’s question “what now?” is very pertinent, and will continue to be answered in the coming days.

For a full look at the UN’s North Korea report:

Beth Lunn

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