Sunday, May 15, 2016

The murderous insanity that began fifty years ago

I lucked out with having the radio on when this program was aired.  It was a re-broadcast of a two-decades old interview with the Chinese activist Harry Wu. He died recently at age 79.  I listened to it.  I started tearing up.  Do not read the transcript there--listen to the interview and you, too, will get emotional.

The interview ends with Wu saying this:
My parents, my brother, they are still over there and many, many of my inmates, my friends they are over there. I cannot stop thinking about them. The nightmares always come back to me. I am lucky. I survive. I want to enjoy my life in a peaceful land. I'm a very normal person. I want to be loved. I want to love. But I cannot turn back on these people, these nameless, voiceless, faceless people. Forget means betraying. I cannot do that.
Chairman Mao was one of the worst humans ever in recent memory.  He killed his own people by the millions.  He starved to death tens of millions.  And crushed the spirits of many who lived. 
Fifty years ago, on May 16, Mao Zedong unleashed an attack aimed at smashing his own Communist Party apparatus from top to bottom, having concluded that it was going capitalist. “Bombard the headquarters!” he urged the masses in a famous People’s Daily article. Millions of young zealots responded, becoming Mao’s Red Guards, his fanatical foot-soldiers. Thus began China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a period of murderous insanity that ended only with Mao’s death a decade later, in 1976. 
One of Mao's crazy plans was to "rusticate" the Chinese youth.  The "cultural revolution" features in this essay, whose author, Sheng Yun, is the only child of parents who were sent to the countryside:
Once at a family dinner, my parents were reminiscing about their time among the farmers: six or seven years in my mother’s case, around two in my father’s. I had just read The Lost Generation: The Rustication of China’s Educated Youth (1968-80) by Michel Bonnin. I interrupted: ‘You were sent to the countryside because there were too many of you in the city, and there weren’t enough jobs for you.’ I still remember the expression of shock, disappointment and hurt on their faces.
How do people not get angry at such things?  Am I the only person walking around with a great deal of corked-up anger?  Why don't people yell and scream "fuck you" at Mao's giant portrait at Tianamen Square?  Oh, yeah, that's right--they can't!

The author narrates a part of the family history:
My maternal grandfather was a literary critic and actor. In the 1930s and 1940s he went underground as a member of the Communist Party, writing in support of the cause. He had seen the corruption of the Kuomintang regime, and believed that Mao was the saviour of the Chinese people. In 1954, the famous poet Hu Feng wrote a 300,000-word letter to the Bureau of the Central Committee, describing the difficulties writers faced. Mao saw this as defiance on the part of the intellectuals, and a literary argument rapidly turned into a political purge. More than two thousand people were punished, 78 of whom were described as members of the Hu Feng Counter-Revolution Group, including my grandfather. He was sent to Jia Bian Gou (the labour camp in Wang Bing’s 2010 film, The Ditch), located in the remote province of Gansu. Jia Bian Gou, sometimes called the Chinese Gulag, was probably the worst of the labour camps for dissidents. While he was not close to Hu Feng, and had only met him a few times, he had remained an admirer. 
After 25 years in the Chinese Gulag, the grandfather returned home.  
His mother opened the door to a hump-backed, pigeon-chested old man whom she failed for a moment to recognise as the handsome young man she’d last seen in the 1950s.
Seriously, how come people aren't angrily shouting "fuck you" and defacing Mao's portrait?  Oh, yeah, that's right--they can't!  Especially when the current leader embraces Mao's radical legacy:
China’s current leader, Mr. Xi, will not stand to see Mao denigrated, even though his own father, Xi Zhongxun, one of Mao’s top lieutenants, was purged in the Cultural Revolution and a half-sister killed herself. Mr. Xi himself was one of 18 million urban youths banished to the countryside to learn from the peasants.
He has declared that it is just as unacceptable to negate Mao’s 30 years in power as it is to speak critically of the 30 years that followed under Deng. He has set side-by-side, on equal footing, a period marked by spasms of mass killing and destruction and an overwhelmingly peaceful era that saw the greatest economic progress in human history.
Xi is on a mission:
Mr. Xi’s “China Dream” depends to a large degree on silence, secrecy and propaganda about the Cultural Revolution, which traumatized some 100 million Chinese. Authorities won’t allow open discussion of that era for fear that it would discredit Mao and undermine the party’s legitimacy.
That Wall Street Journal report ends on this note:
The Cultural Revolution lives on.

How awful!

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