While Time Remains - Yeonmi Park
Yeonmi Park recalls something her father told her, that people should read to learn common sense. This is exactly what this book is trying to accomplish. Despite the death threats she received, and the attempts to have her silenced for talking about her life, Yeonmi showed incredible bravery and published it anyway. This is more than a wake-up call. It's a commonsense insight into how the woke movement is destroying modern society and oppressing people without them even knowing they're oppressed.
Yeonmi Park is a North Korean defector who escaped Kim Jong-un's tyranny when she was 13 years old. She fled to China with her mother but found herself trafficked and went through unspeakable horrors that you can read about in her previous book In Order to Live. Later on, she moved to the United States and enrolled at Columbia University. There, the new immigrant who spoke broken English was shocked to discover the sad truth about American society, which was under a different type of tyranny and oppression... the woke movement.
In a country that was supposed to be free, she found an ideologically driven culture of divisiveness and intolerance. In this academic world, the ideas of free speech and open debate were tightly controlled not only by the staff but by the students. The social issues modern society has been struggling to resolve have been transformed into simplistic and one-dimensional narratives.
Yeonmi Park describes the way the professor made her feel when she said she loves the novels of Jane Austen. How could she possibly be reading the works of a woman who "promoted" class structure and antifeminism, the idea that women wished to marry, have children, and lead uneventful lives? This is only one example of how the woke movement sweeps under the rug important cultural and historical figures and events.
This culture of entitlement is detrimental to the growth and development of societies and individuals. Yeonmi Park shows how it tends to divide people, rather than unite them. She shows how it relies on shallow displays of support when it comes to various causes such as racism and homosexuality, rather than taking action to solve underlying issues, virtually doing nothing to effect change and amplifying conflicts. It severely oversimplifies every form of social inequality, making it much harder to resolve it.
In a world where everyone is offended by everything, the word "woke" (= alert to racial prejudice and discrimination) lost its meaning. It created a culture of victims who feel they are oppressed. The movement doesn't empower them as it should, it eradicates personal responsibility and the fundamental principle of individual freedom.
While it was well-intentioned at first (we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions), today it promotes a divisive "us vs. them", and the idea that individuals are judged solely by their membership in a particular social group, rather than as individuals with unique backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately, this already led to discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping, working against the fight for an equitable and just society. Dissenting opinions are silenced and labeled as "bigoted" or "racist" creating fear of being targeted by the woke mob.
Yeonmi Park became a target of the cancel culture, received death threats, been called a bigot. And when this didn't work, she was accused of embellishing her story for publicity or of being a pawn of anti-North Korean propaganda. Interestingly, the woke society didn't see her as a victim of abuse and didn't care if she was an activist, a working woman, or an Asian immigrant trying to integrate into a Western country. They scream about women's empowerment and how all women must have the same choices and opportunities as men but attack her for getting plastic surgery and for divorcing. Double standards are the invisible enemy of true democracy, said Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
While Time Remains raises a warning for Americans (and the rest of the world) by bringing attention to the perilous double standards and authoritarian behaviors that hide behind the guise of wokeness and social justice. Her experience, from the point of view of a person who was truly oppressed, shows how people in power proclaim concern for the disadvantaged, but ignore those who express individuality. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Threshold Editions (February 14, 2023)
Hardcover: 224 pages