Over the last few days I’ve been reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, which recounts the events in the life of Jung Chang and her mother and grandmother in 20th century China. It’s very dense. It never lets up. On one page the Japanese invade China, and a few pages later they’ve been driven out and replaced by Soviet soldiers. There are little vignettes packed into a couple of paragraphs which might have been developed into entire books.
In one surreal story, the Japanese used to have condemned prisoners garotted with a rope by a Chinese executioner, and then put in wooden coffins and taken to a tip where the bodies would be eaten by wild dogs. The executioner didn’t like his job and used to get drunk before performing executions. However the Japanese who usually attended the executions didn’t always show up, or left before the prisoners were dead. It was suggested to him that on such occasions he should release the garotte when the Japanese had departed. The ‘corpses’ were then put in coffins and taken to the tip as usual, with the cart driver talking to them as he took them there. In this manner an unknown number of prisoners managed to escape. There were a sufficient number of them after the war to reward their ‘executioner’ with a house and some land.
In another, the start of top down state mind control was described:
The new campaign had been triggered by Mao’s reaction to the behaviour of some Communist writers, notably the prominent author Hu Feng. They did not necessarily disagree with Mao ideologically, but they betrayed an element of independence and an ability to think for themselves which he found unacceptable. He feared that any independent thinking might lead to less than total obedience to him. He insisted that the new China had to act and think as one, and that stringent measures were needed to hold the country together, or it might disintegrate. He had a number of leading authors arrested and labelled them a ‘counter-revolutionary conspiracy’, a terrifying accusation, as ‘counter-revolutionary’ activity carried the harshest punishment, including the death sentence.
This signalled the beginning of the end of individual expression in China. All the media had been taken over by the Party when the Communists came to power. From now on it was the minds of the entire nation that were placed under ever tighter control. (chapter 10)
I couldn’t help thinking that ‘political correctness’ is a sort of mind control, and how all these media campaigns against smoking, alcohol, food, carbon dioxide, etc, are setting out to create a uniform mentality, and that the only difference between the UK and China is that in the UK mind control is being exerted very gradually.
And one day you may find that that this writer (the most dangerous activity, according to Jung Chang) has been arrested as part of a ‘counter-revolutionary conspiracy’ is being ‘re-educated’:
She was kept in detention for six months. During this period she had to attend several mass rallies at which ‘enemy agents’ were paraded, denounced, sentenced, handcuffed, and led away to prison – amidst thunderous shouting of slogans and raising of fists by tens of thousands of people. There were also ‘counter-revolutionaries’ who had ‘confessed’ and therefore been given ‘lenient punishment’ – which meant not being sent to prison…
My mother was taken to these rallies to ‘receive a lesson’. But, being a strong character, she was not crushed by fear, like so many, or confused by the deceptive logic and coaxing of the interrogations. (chapter 10)
I don’t watch them, but perhaps the popular Big Brother TV shows are a new sort of ‘mass rally’ or ‘struggle meeting’ in which prisoners are ‘interrogated’ before being released as a form of ‘lenient punishment’.
We may be a lot nearer this dystopia than we might like to think.