In case you haven’t seen the news, no, the title is not a joke. The last word, however, is probably illegal now in North Korea (not that I worry much that this post is making it through the Hermit Kingdom’s web filters).
First, a little background. North Korea’s government, as we all know, displays two consistent tendencies: (1) it likes Dennis Rodman and (2) it doesn’t cotton to criticism, and its leaders aren’t shy about responding in ways that would make Draco blush. The North Korean people, on the other hand, still seem to show at least some vestige of the human urge to be smart alecks. North Korea’s government and state media (but I repeat myself) has a much-mocked habit of blaming the country’s legion of woes on outsiders, particularly the United States.
Not that I know much about smart-aleck behavior (pro tip for Kim Jong Un: that’s a sarcastic comment—now, come and get me), but it seems some North Koreans have picked it as an indirect way of criticizing the state’s failures. For instance, if something goes wrong—and it often does north of the DMZ—North Koreans have reportedly taken to ironic expressions of, “Oh, it must be America’s fault.” Word must have filtered up to the top levels in Pyongyang, and the powers-that-be realized that people were having a little fun at the government’s expense.
North Korea being a place that indulges just one, rather than fifty, shades of gray, the state apparatus dispatched teams far and wide for mass meetings to declare that the fun must stop. No sarcasm, no irony—the state will permit only genuine, gushing adoration and yes, the state is deadly serious (emphasis on deadly). In a truly tragic turn of events, I guess Seinfeld can write off any chance of ever winning widespread syndication in the People’s Republic.
Not to downplay the beastly elements of the story, but I have to say that sarcasm and irony are one of life’s pleasures and just another pleasure that the North Korean government wants to stamp out. We see it in our jobs, and especially in mine as an employment lawyer. Sarcasm run amok is certainly a problem for any business, but I confess to laughing at it—even admiring it—when it shows up in a matter I’m handling.
So, let’s celebrate sarcasm in the comments. To get us started with an HR focus, here are some of the great sarcastic comments I’ve run across from real employee performance reviews (note: none of these occurred in cases in which I or my firm were involved):
- “This employee has reached rock bottom and continues to dig.”
- “He would argue with a Stop sign.”
- “I would like to take this employee hunting sometime.”
- “Has a full six pack, but lacks the little plastic thing that holds it all together.”
- “The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.”
- “The lights are on upstairs, but no one’s home.”
What say you, Dear Reader? (See what I did there?)