Cultural Revolution

I’ve been reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, with its shocking account of the cultural self-destruction unleashed during China’s Cultural Revolution, which saw temples and artworks smashed, libraries torched, schoolteachers humiliated by their pupils, the whole world turned upside down.

Here Jung Chang, who was herself a Red Guard, reflects on the death of Mao, who she had once idolised:

In the days after Mao’s death, I did a lot of thinking. I knew he was considered a philosopher, and tried to think what his ‘philosophy’ really was. It seemed to me that its central principle was the need – or the desire? – for perpetual conflict. The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history, and that in order to make history ‘class enemies’ had to be continuously created en masse. I wondered whether there were any other philosophers whose theories had led to the suffering and death of so many. I thought of the terror and misery to which the Chinese population had been subjected. For what?

But Mao’s theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other. In doing so he got ordinary Chinese to carry out many of the tasks undertaken in other dictatorships by professional elites. Mao had managed to turn the people into the ultimate weapon of dictatorship. That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China. There was no need. In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred. But how much individual responsibility ordinary people should share, I could not decide.

The other hallmark of Maoism, it seemed to me, was the reign of ignorance. Because of his calculation that the cultured class were an easy target for a population that was largely illiterate, because of his own deep resentment of formal education and the educated, because of his megalomania, which led to his scorn for the great figures of Chinese culture, and because of his contempt for the areas of Chinese civilization that he did not understand, such as architecture, art, and music, Mao destroyed much of the country’s cultural heritage. He left behind not only a brutalized nation, but also an ugly land with little of its past glory remaining or appreciated. (Wild Swans, Chapter 28)

Mao seems to have been a creature of his era, and to have shared many of the characteristics of the other dictators who immediately preceded him in Russia and Germany. And these in their turn owed much of their thinking to Marx ( ‘the class struggle’) and Darwin (‘the war of nature’). It seems that all concerned shared a nightmare vision of life as incessant conflict.

I couldn’t help but think that the war on smoking (and therefore on smokers) was another example of a ‘class war’ which had got people to hate each other. And it’s also a class war in which the propagandised people are the principal weapon – as pub landlords are turned into policemen in their own pubs, and friends force friends to smoke outside their own homes. The role of Tobacco Control, after all, is not that of a KGB enforcement agency, but rather of a propaganda bureau, fashioning and broadcasting simple repetitive messages – e.g. Smoking Kills – for the masses to absorb.

Equally, isn’t our era also characterised by ‘the reign of ignorance’? Aside from the general ‘dumbing down’ of society, while there may be high levels of literacy, there isn’t a corresponding high level of numeracy. And this makes it easy to ‘blind people with science’ or fool them with statistics. Most people simply don’t have the skills to deconstruct research papers. All that’s needed is for ‘experts’ to say something is true, and for their findings to be broadcast on TV, and more or less everyone will believe every word they’re told.

And is it entirely irrelevant that the EU’s Manuel Barroso was once a Maoist, or that Richard Doll was once a Communist? Isn’t there a sense in which: once a communist always a communist, once a maoist always a maoist, once anything always that thing? The ripples and waves of these distant storms are felt on our shores also.

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23 Responses to Cultural Revolution

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    It matters not if they are uneducated or well educated power corrupts absolutely with anyone.

    Only One man ever walked away from total power and he could have even been made a King had he so desired but instead chose to turn down all these offers of power and to simply return home and be a retired gentleman……….George Washington

    But this was not to be,infighting and envy and fear abounded withing the colonies with no central man to lead. Only Washington could fit the bill of needs the country he had created so he became the first president and let it be known how he despised party politics and how it could destroy the very fabric of what had just been won…………

    Its easy to see why Franklin wrote after the signing of the constitution when he stated we give you a country now if only you can keep it……………………The great experiment had only just begun and Washington and Franklin as well as many others were proven right. Party politics has destroyed the fabric of American freedom and its foundation stones the constitution that guaranteed rights and liberties for all.

    As its always been parties try and control thru power and care not about a republic or rights or even liberties and the voters they don’t care either especially when they discovered they could vote for people who would give them free stuff…………Today that free stuff has bankrupted the country and its liberties along with its ability to create innovation and new business.

    We have a government that’s not only Maoist its also about anything in history you care to call it.

    Compared to King George the 3rd, we had it made. But poor England even suffers Americas plights.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    Doctors warn air pollution in Newcastle equivalent to smoking ‘almost a cigarette a day’

    Posted about an hour ago

    A group of doctors say air pollution in parts of Newcastle is now at a level equal to smoking almost a cigarette a day.
    Photo: A group of doctors say air pollution in parts of Newcastle is now at a level equal to smoking almost a cigarette a day. (AAP)

    Map: Newcastle 2300

    A group of doctors say air pollution in parts of Newcastle is now at a level equal to smoking almost a cigarette a day.

    After a year of operation, three out of six of the Environment Protection Authority’s new air quality monitors in Newcastle recorded fine particulate matter above the advisory standard of 8 micrograms per cubic metre.

    More than 20 doctors have written to the state’s Health and Environment Ministers seeking a meeting to discuss their concerns.

    Local GP and epidemiologist at the University of Newcastle, Dr Ben Ewald said the issue of air quality needs to be a priority for government.

    “This came from some work in America where they looked at the affects of air pollution in people’s risk of dying from alternate causes,” he said.

    “Air pollution at the level of 8 micrograms per cubic metre was about the same as smoking three quarters of a cigarette a day.

    “Now I’m not saying that it’s the same amount of particles in the air, but it’s the same impacts on people’s risk of dying.”

    The monitors show the average reading for Carrington was 8-point-2, 9 in Stockton and 8-point-5 in central Newcastle.

    Dr Ewald said air pollution is at worrying levels.

    “For the first time we’ve got annual average levels of air pollution for Carrington and Stockton and Mayfield and the results are not as good as we would wish for,” he said.

    “They wrote a letter to the environment minister and the health minister and I think 28 of them signed that in the end.

    “We sent them off to the Minister to try and get a meeting.”

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Air pollution at the level of 8 micrograms per cubic metre was about the same as smoking three quarters of a cigarette a day.


      The EPA standard is to be used for OUTSIDE ambient air quality and it is the average over a period of 3 years.

      The proper standard to compare to is the OSHA standard for indoor air quality for respirable particulate (not otherwise specified) for nuisance dusts and smoke. That standard is 5000 ug/m3 on a time-weighted average (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) and is intended to be protective of health over an average working life of 30 years!

    • garyk30 says:

      The State of California has established ambient air quality standards for PM. These standards define the maximum amount of particles that can be present in outdoor air without threatening the public’s health. In June of 2002, the California ARB adopted new, revised PM standards for outdoor air, lowering the annual PM10 standard from 30 µg/m3 to 20 µg/m3 and establishing a new annual standard for PM2.5 of 12 µg/m3.

      12 ug(micrograms)/m3 is 50percent higher than they measured.

      Not stating the standard is propaganda, not science.

    • slugbop007 says:

      I read an article recently that said jogging every day in the city was the equivalent to two, or more, cigarettes a day.

  3. harleyrider1978 says:

    Irish Cancer Society wants smoking details included in identifier

    Data on lifestyle choices, social background and smoking could be recorded, says society

  4. Some French bloke says:

    is it entirely irrelevant that […] Richard Doll was once a Communist?

    It should be reminded that he also has been a smoker, for twenty years (throughout the 1930s and 40s). Perhaps that’s why he wouldn’t endorse the SHS myth, even 50 years after the first- hand smoking scare had been launched?

  5. roobeedoo2 says:

    Don’t know if this is of interest – it perhaps demonstrates the dangers of a government working in cahoots with pharmacologists:

  6. garyk30 says:

    Perhaps Mao was just a charming psychopath.

  7. slugbop007 says:

    Sounds a lot like Public Health.

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    This danger is heightened when they are in the confined space of a car and can’t escape the fumes.

    He added: “There is evidence that even with windows open, the level of toxic chemicals remains high.”

    Every time a child breathes in smoke, they are subjected to thousands of chemicals putting them at risk of serious conditions including meningitis, cancer, bronchitis and pneumonia, while making any asthma conditions worse.

    Read more:

  9. harleyrider1978 says:

    There’s A Mobile Rave Right Now In Sydney, Protesting Nanny State Laws

    This is how Sydney rolls. Moving from one end of the city to another, quite literally on wheels, is a mobile party to protest the death of Sydney nigh…\

  10. harleyrider1978 says:

    Court moves smoking ban to front burner

    Total repeal of ordinance a possibility

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