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  • Most people lie to themselves.

  • They lie to survive, to keep their social standing.

  • They lie to feel comfortable when they're afraid.

  • But eventually, lies will come back to destroy you.

  • Because some lies are so big, that they can't be walked back from.

  • You can tell yourself the world is not on fire, but eventually you're going to be consumed by the flames.

  • So without further ado, welcome to Albania, the other North Korea.

  • I think it's time this channel talked politics.

  • Evan, our commenters always say, actually half the time they mistakenly call me Chris.

  • Chris, our commenters always say, you should talk more about politics.

  • Now, obviously, I'm joking.

  • I don't think anybody wants me to talk about politics except for me.

  • But considering over the course of a single episode I've been called everything from a Nazi sympathizer to a Communist boot licker,

  • I think it's time I set the record straight.

  • I've never once licked a boot.

  • It sounds disgusting.

  • In university once I drank a beer out of a shoe, but I'm not sure that qualifies.

  • Plus, I'm not sure that shoe was communist.

  • But let's talk about Communism.

  • Because this is an episode about reality, and there are a few systems we more commonly wrap in falsehood than Communism.

  • Like Israel and Palestine, it's just one of those things where vitriolic jingoism is far more prevalent than sober analysis.

  • Supporters lie about its glory, detractors lie about its failure.

  • The nuance of reality has long since been traded for preconceived ideology,

  • and breaking through that shell is all but impossible.

  • But in this episode, I'm going to try.

  • Because around the world today, especially in countries where there are two political parties,

  • you see Communism presented like a bogeyman of anything left of whatever the present situation happens to be.

  • In the same vein, Fascism is often presented as anything further right.

  • The world is treated as a duality, and small changes, no matter how slight,

  • are more often than not used as segues to the worst possible examples.

  • Venezuela is what happens when you socialize medicine, not Canada.

  • Nazi Germany is what happens when you control your borders, not Switzerland.

  • To the ideologically focused, every slope is slippery.

  • Every gray area is just another shade of black or white.

  • And because of that lack of nuance, things that genuinely are the extremes of fascism and communism

  • are treated with the same outrage as things that aren't.

  • And as more of our world's complexity is dumbed down into partisan tweets, the worse things are becoming.

  • The more we cry wolf, the more emboldened wolves feel in joining our herd.

  • When everyone's screaming, it's hard to listen to a calm voice.

  • The problems we face as a society cannot be defined by left or right.

  • Those are just fake categories we've invented for simplicity.

  • Anyone who dislikes illegal immigration but wants quality healthcare

  • knows that politics are more complicated than two diametric poles.

  • No, the real spectre we face is extremism.

  • And given our current powder keg of a world, it's a lesson we all urgently need to learn.

  • But back to Albania.

  • Like most countries we've visited with this series, this land comes with some serious baggage.

  • It's almost like a microcosm of every nation's attempts at statehood.

  • Here, systems come on strong and die hard.

  • Some last a year, others a generation.

  • In the last century alone, this tiny country on the Adriatic has seen the rise and fall

  • of colonialism, capitalism, monarchism, fascism, communism and democracy.

  • The graveyard of ideology is littered with the corpses of Albanian true believers.

  • But within that list, arguably the most famous is their attempt at Communism.

  • In 1944, as Mussolini's war-time fascist colonial government collapsed,

  • Albanian partisans under the leadership of Enver Hoxha filled the void it left behind.

  • The country found itself swinging from one extreme to the other, without so much as a breath of fresh air between.

  • In many ways, the rise of Hoxha's Albania mimics the story of Kim Il Sung's North Korea.

  • Hence the rather click-baity title of this episode.

  • Both leaders would take over a war torn country at the bottom of the international indexes.

  • The foundation of their national economies were in complete ruin.

  • Farms had been bombed out, cities were rubble, and any pre-existing commerce had long since been crushed by years of war.

  • Healthcare was virtually non-existent.

  • Food was virtually non-existent.

  • To put it simply, at the end of the war there was almost nowhere on this earth worse than North Korea or Albania.

  • And with so much devastation, there was little reason to imagine things would be better any time soon.

  • In fact, there was little reason to imagine either country would survive at all.

  • Both nations had come into the war as colonies, so few would have been surprised to see them leave that way.

  • Neither were large nor stable enough to defend themselves from their enemies, regardless of their ideology.

  • Standing up for their independence was as much a danger against their communist allies as it was their capitalist foes.

  • Yet, they both survived.

  • And what's more, they thrived.

  • Because communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships, fascism, they all come with positives.

  • If they didn't, they'd never make it to power.

  • The question is what's traded in return.

  • If we really want to learn from their mistakes, we absolutely need to look at how they got there.

  • It's disingenuous to only discuss failed societies from a post-collapse perspective.

  • Hoxha's Albania lasted for nearly fifty years.

  • The Kim dynasty runs the Hermit Kingdom to this day.

  • Extremism rises out of disorder.

  • And for those living in anarchy, totalitarianism can be an attractive solution, right up until the moment it isn't.

  • And by then, it's too late.

  • If you were in Albania in those early years of communism, chances are you'd find reasons to see the silver lining.

  • The people had been through one of the worst wars of human history, not just as soldiers but as civilians.

  • They'd come into the war with little, and left with less.

  • Those that survived had traded everything to do so.

  • The people simply had nothing left.

  • At the outset of Hoxha's Albania, just like Kim's North Korea, it was easy to see the promise of communism.

  • After all, communists had won the war.

  • And for a people who'd spent a decade fending off foreign invasion and internal division,

  • the enemy on everyone's tongues was chaos.

  • With Stalin at the height of his power, it was easy to imagine that a similar home-grown authoritarian might keep them safe, too.

  • And for a time, they were proven correct.

  • One by one, Hoxha met his early promises.

  • The nation was stabilized and the new government began providing the basic necessities people needed to live.

  • Industry blossomed.

  • Food, healthcare, and shelter were treated as guarantees.

  • A justice system was put in place to stop blood feuding and lower criminality.

  • Women were given a semblance of equality.

  • Education became a universal right.

  • In four years, literacy in Albania went from 15 percent to 70.

  • When a poll was conducted on Hoxha a few years ago, nearly half of the country spoke positively of his legacy.

  • Because for all his problems, there's no question that in those first few years

  • he breathed life back into a nation left for dead.

  • But there's more to life than being not dead.

  • The base necessities can only take you so far.

  • And to explain, I'd like to use an example given to me by an Albanian man I talked with while making this episode.

  • He believes the state is like a house, and the most important part of sustaining that house is a strong foundation.

  • The four main pillars of the nation are health, shelter, food, and security.

  • If all four are taken care of, people tend to be able to put up with any leader, in any system.

  • But eventually, something needs to be built on top of that foundation, and that's where things get complicated.

  • Because the beauty of building a foundation is that everyone is able to imagine a different house on top.

  • Concrete and pillars form a simple structure all their own, but they imply a complexity yet to come.

  • A frame may be sturdy, but it feels incomplete.

  • And once those walls start going up, it's quickly apparent if the architect understood reality.

  • Because ideology alone can't hold up a roof.

  • But for a while, Albania prospered.

  • Building from the ground up, it was able to spend years perfecting its foundation without ever attempting to build further.

  • Nobody would ask why they weren't putting up walls while the base was still under construction.

  • The future they envisioned would never have to become reality,

  • so long as the present made it look like it still had the potential to do so.

  • Hope has a way of blinding us.

  • And in that bubble of prosperity, it can be easy to overlook what's being traded to make it happen.

  • The long-term is often sacrificed before the whims of the short.

  • It's easy to trade democracy for a feeling of security.

  • Our environment for a feeling of growth.

  • It's easy to trade our education for prosperity, or our stability for a partisan victory.

  • We humans are more than willing to harm ourselves so long as it means we can continue believing

  • the house we imagined around that foundation might actually get built.

  • But no matter the system, a society treated as a series of short-term solutions is bound to fail.

  • In Albania, just as in North Korea, with each passing day

  • it became more clear that the house wasn't going to be what they were promised.

  • The architects had understood how to lay a foundation, but they knew nothing of walls.

  • Every step forward meant another step back.

  • And as the nation reached the natural limits of a centrally planned economy, reality quickly

  • began taking a backseat to ideology.

  • Thus began the era of lies.

  • Massive propaganda campaigns, once extolling the beauty of the future, turned their gaze towards the present.

  • The more the pillars crumbled, the louder the voices shouted with claims that they still stood.

  • As the truth died, the Albanian dream died with it.

  • The once praised parts of the system quickly became its worst atrocities.

  • Conscript labour, which had rebuilt the nation after the war, became little more than slavery at the point of a gun.

  • Education, now ubiquitous among all citizens, taught a curriculum

  • that didn't align with the reality of the world around them.

  • The drive of independence that had kept them from being recolonized became a paranoid, xenophobic delusion.

  • The popularity of their leader became a cult that claimed he had superhuman qualities.

  • The military and police, once a defender of the people, became their executioners.

  • The more the situation worsened, the more of the otherwise struggling economy was diverted towards the final pillar.

  • The military.

  • And meanwhile, for an increasingly large number of citizens there was less food, worse healthcare,

  • longer hours and a more polluted world.

  • Life got harder, but by now the government was in far too deep to admit it.

  • And I'm sure that many of you have already realized where I'm aiming the conclusion.

  • Because this was never a story about communism.

  • It's about extremism.

  • When chaos reigns, dictators thrive.

  • And it doesn't matter if you're left or right.

  • The truth is non-partisan.

  • When we refuse to repair the pillars of our society, our society falls.

  • And if you take a hard look at Western society, it's falling.

  • After all, why do we hate North Korea?

  • Or to a lesser extent, Hoxha's Albania?

  • I've seen it framed in a few different ways, but as far as I can tell, they're hated

  • because they don't care for their citizens, they spurn international laws,

  • and create a threatening military that destabilizes the world order.

  • They have a nepotistic, isolationist government ruled by a paranoid strongman who is above the law.

  • Their police murder with impunity.

  • They spy on their citizens, have massive prison work camps, follow their leader in a cult-like fashion,

  • and have a substantial number of citizens living well below the poverty line.

  • They enforce this with a massively over-bloated military which they wield in the place of international diplomacy.

  • They defy the UN, build nukes they don't need, and cultivate a fear of foreign invasion to sustain their power.

  • They are unquestionably extremists.

  • But extremism doesn't have one face.

  • Hoxha's Albania, Kim's North Korea, Putin's Russia, Duterte's Philippines, Erdogan's Turkey,

  • and Trump's America all wear similar masks.

  • It doesn't matter if we start on the left and right, we all fall towards the same place.

  • In the United States today, you're spied on for political purposes.

  • The government not only allows it, it takes part.

  • In Albania, the communists had to bug your walls or put a microphone in your table.

  • But for those of us in modern capitalist societies, all you need is a phone.

  • Make no mistake: You are being listened to.

  • You are being watched.

  • In the United States today, nepotism rules the government.

  • A Clinton or Bush could be found in every single presidential election since 1981.

  • The Kennedy family have a political dynasty that has seen a member holding high office

  • for a quarter of the nation's history uninterrupted.

  • The current president's staff include his own family, friends, and known business associates,

  • as well as the family and friends of his political allies.

  • One of the more common tweets from his supporters promotes his sons as his successors.

  • In the United States today, isolationism is the new normal.

  • In the last year, the president has directly insulted his allies in the UK, Canada, Mexico,

  • South America, Africa, Germany, Brussels, Australia and elsewhere around the world.

  • And speaking as one of those insulted, I can assure you it hasn't fallen on deaf ears.

  • They've declared economic war on their closest trading partners, and sowed instability among their deepest alliances.

  • Xenophobia runs rampant.

  • Hate speech and violence towards minorities is on the rise.

  • The current president repeatedly lies about rising crime rates, illegal immigration,

  • and threats from abroad to sustain his power.

  • Crossing the border has become an invasive and distrustful experience even for citizens of friendly nations.

  • In the United States today, the leader has a cult of personality.

  • Objective truth has been cast aside for state propaganda and social media conspiracy theories.

  • In his first few weeks, over 5% of the current president's words were a lie.

  • At the time, that was the highest number to date of any American president.

  • A year later, and it's reaching nearly 10%.

  • To avoid coming to terms with this reality, true believers have invented an elaborate scheme

  • by which his ineptitude is a cover for disrupting international pedophilia.

  • None of it makes sense, but in a cult it doesn't have to.

  • Reality has no place in ideology.

  • In the United States today, prison work camps hold more detainees than anywhere else on the planet.

  • They're paid on average around sixty three cents an hour.

  • Slavery at the point of a gun.

  • At 4.4 percent of the world's population the United States hosts 22 percent of its prisoners.

  • More than any communist nation ever attempted.

  • More than Albania.

  • More that North Korea.

  • More than the USSR.

  • It's a 74 billion dollar industry, and growing.

  • In the United States today, the military is engaged in seven wars.

  • Their budget is larger than the next ten nations combined, and it's still treated as not enough.

  • Since 2001, they've spent 5.6 trillion dollars on war.

  • Yet, poverty in the country is running rampant.

  • The nation has the lowest social mobility in the western world.

  • Over forty six million Americans live below the poverty line.

  • Two million of those are below the international poverty line.

  • That's less than two dollars a day.

  • Although productivity has seen drastic increases over the last few decades,

  • real wages have nearly stagnated for half the country.

  • The bottom tenth have only seen a single percent growth in forty years,

  • while the top tenth have grown over thirty times that speed.

  • It took a long time to get here, but this is where we are.

  • In 1995, Umberto Eco laid out the fourteen signs of fascism.

  • Each is its