Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Apocalypse Mao: The Cultural Revolution

This is a short reflection on the nature of social revolution from part of my larger study of the Cultural Revolution in China. I started to undertake that effort to understand it after listening to my friend Ang's constant sorrow and cynicism after having lived through and participated in the Young Pioneers during that period. I wrote an article called "Apocalypse Mao" back in December 2003 on the nature of the Cultural Revolution while I was living near the Chinese border in India. Only parts of it have ever been discussed. I wrote it on Mao's birthday, December 26, and would like to share the central question of statist political violence it raises with you.

In order to understand the mechanics of the Cultural Revolution, it is important to understand Mao's conception of the dynamic "new state." This ideal was made up of "workers, peasants and the lower masses of Chinese society, who through their own struggle had risen up to achieve a modern state through self-reliance and communal effort." This was not a normal social revolution as we understand it in the west, or in any sense of the word. In April 1968 while American teens were dreaming of "Strawberry Fields Forever," young Chinese people were not. In her excellent analysis called "Mao's Killing Quota's" Li Changyu defines the mechanics of how this worked, how many people died.... and she and Jeremy Brown discuss how this relates to terrorism today:



And the site Morning Sun can help you understand some of the dynamic of the social revolution that occurred during this period in Chinese history:


The only pertinent question I have seen asked of Mao's program in Marxist literature blatantly took (or had the same thought as I did) the title of my 2003 paper "Apocalypse Mao," and applied it to a web article in 2005 (of course as a libertarian I do not care) but the fact is it makes an important point that the young author is not sure who had more people killed in their name Mao Tse Tung or Jesus Christ? From a comfortable position at Harvard Law School one can only guess it is an easy question to ask and answer, and in the end he finally settles that the followers of Jesus can own the title of the "world's greatest killers" for the simple reason that, "Of course, Christ and his progeny have had two millenia to make mischief; the Maoists, barely a few generations." :


I find it profoundly interesting that in the global academic culture, that such diversity of thought is allowed and encouraged; and that while it is increasingly regulated in our global market it is not disallowed. In order for us to fully understand events we see today, I find it crucial for us to have a clear understanding of them in their historical context, and that requires both the freedom of intellectual inquiry and freedom of moral conscience to make pronouncements about them. As well as the freedom to have it critically evaluated by others- who can tell us we are full of shit, if we are.

In my estimation, no question is more important than understanding the mechanics of how violence and "overkill" in violence are created in human society in order to help humanity build a more peaceful future....Love him, hate him- no one was better at bringing out these contradictions in human nature then Mao Tse Tung....the following discussion about overkill bring out a western understanding of how hyperviolence is used in human society. John Lennon said it best, " You say you'll change the constitution Well, you know We all want to change your head You tell me it's the institution Well, you know You better free you mind instead But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow Don't you know it's gonna be all right..." One can only hope.


I encourage you to read and check out the above links to understand why an event that seems so far away from us in time and space from us in America, still affects the lives of a majority of earth's population today. And, in addition, this movement helps to explain the dramatic rise of China, how it has propelled itself forward into a global world that is often brutal and the incredible veracity and diversity of its people. This short post will never do justice to the complex topic or explain my friend's deep sorrow, maybe some of articles below which are critical will do a little bit to explain it. Hopefully it will go some way at defining the reality of the human aftermath of violence and terror for people unacquainted with these phenomena, and perhaps this will help you understand why dreams of utopia always lead to violence and sorrow and why "realistic" 'idealism always leads to cynicism'":




In the end is the goal of perfection in a Utopian sense worth the violence used to achieve it? And a question for the neo-conservatives, if idealism and Utopian democracy are spattered with the blood of innocents is it a worthy goal?

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