… going to title this “all hail the true metal warriors”, in a private joke for myself, which I think came from some forum that was slagging off Nu Metal, and I somehow remember or made that line up or associate it with that… so I did a search and funny the first thing that came up is all hail the true metal warriors, because when i saw this picture, Emile was the first person I thought of.
…but I didn’t, because I thought it was slightly at the edge of offensive, the ‘hail’ and ‘warriors’ and living in Germany… even though Adolf does look fetching as a perfect Phil Lynott. Strange that here I hold myself back a little, overtaken by seriousness. Yet looking at Chairman Mao made up as Gene Simmons, I think probably in China I saw a work if not identical, then with similar sentiment, and the difference between the two, one regarded with the humourless perhaps even ashamed didacticism of never forgetting, the other, far more embedded still within the society, reduced not infrequently to an object of kitsch.
Says Martha Graham, back then in in Texas “All great dance stems from the lonely place”. Asks a student “Where is that?”. Replies Martha Graham : “Between your thighs. Next question.”
Moving on to insulting China:
Personally, I prefer my Guizhou sour fish soup to be loaded with opium.
Chairman Mao joins the Kiss Army:
There is always something despicable about tourists who collect Mao memorabilia or wear Great Helmsman badges. For me it is no different than neo-nazi skinheads wearing swastikas. The ignorance people seem to possess is in tandem with a covert racism which implies it’s ok to appropriate Mao in a kind of stupid bastardisation of post-modern irony precisely because he isn’t European. It’s even more offensive from someone whose been in China for a while. Here, there’s no excuse.
I have a friend who is doing her thesis in communication theory. She wears a Mao t-shirt with 中华人民共和国万岁 – ‘Long Live the People’s Republic of China’ underneath, which appears at the gates of the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square. She asks people in the street what they think about her t-shirt. While in some ways, it’s an interesting project, for me I’d rather see her with a photo of Mao with a bullet between his eyes or lynched from a telephone pole. Which would probably get her arrested pretty quick. The issue though is never calling a spade a spade. Or simply put, Mao is one of the greatest despots in history and deserves nothing more than Orwell’s boot grinding into his face for all eternity, which is all he ever gave China.
Jung Chang, who wrote Wild Swans that everyone went silly over about 12 years ago though left me cold, has with her husband just published Mao: the Unknown Story. Forgetting for a minute the hubris of the title, the momentum behind these authors over their new book might make Mao the Da Vinci Code of Chinese recent history. It might also be a really bad thing for Mao memorabilia.
Millions of Chinese know enough about Mao to be glad he is dead. More than 20 years ago the Party itself held Mao chiefly responsible for the Cultural Revolution, “the greatest disaster” since 1949, although it also insisted that his good points greatly outweighed the bad. One of his former secretaries, Li Rui, has written that Mao “did not care how many he killed” and others have long-since pulled the veil away from Chou En-lai. In the West, the opium story has been published, as has much of Mao’s reckless self-serving behaviour on the Long March, Chou En-lai’s grovelling, and how Nixon and Kissinger crawled. There are excellent biographies of Mao. In a very short one, Mao, based on already published materials, Jonathan Spence of Yale wrote that Mao’s rule “was hopelessly enmeshed with violence and fear”. Harvard’s Stuart Schram, an early biographer, has published his multi-volume Mao’s Road to Power, a collection of every existing scrap of paper Mao wrote up to 1949, which shows his ruthlessness. In the late 1970s, Lucian Pye of the Massachusetts Institute of Technologylaid out Mao’s psychopathology, at a time when this was regarded as over the top. Harvard’s Roderick MacFarquhar’s three volumes, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, compares Mao to Stalin and describes his eating well even while his policies were creating “the worst man-made famine in history”. The Private Life of Chairman Mao, by Mao’s doctor, Li Zhisui, displays the patient as monster.
Asialink is presenting the premiere screening in Melbourne next week of 八九点钟的太阳 bajiudian de taiyan – Morning Sun, on Tuesday at the Asialink Centre. Director Geremie Barme, Professor in the School of Pacific and Asian History at ANU and author of numerous books including ‘Shades of Mao: The Posthumous Cult of the Great Leader’ and the award winning documentary ‘The Gate of Heavenly Peace’ will be in attendance for the screening.
The film Morning Sun attempts in the space of a two-hour documentary film to create an inner history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (c.1964-1976). It provides a multi-perspective view of a tumultuous period as seen through the eyesand reflected in the hearts and mindsof members of the high-school generation that was born around the time of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, and that came of age in the 1960s. Others join them in creating in the films conversation about the period and the psycho-emotional topography of high-Maoist China, as well as the enduring legacy of that period.
Morning Sun is not a comprehensive or chronological history of the Cultural Revolution as such; nor is it a study of elite politics or of student factionalism. The film essays rather a psychological history. It attempts a cinematic account of experiences and emotions as reflected on by historical actors who themselves were enacting a history that they had learned and wished to recreate in their own lives. It is also a film about the cultures and convictions, as well as the historical events, that created the impetus, language, style and content of the periodthe films and plays, the music and ideas, the rhetoric and ideologies, the education and the aspirations, the frustrations and fantasies, as well as the realities and ardor, that a new revolution that attempted to remake revolution itself entailed.
I’ve just finished reading Hungry Ghosts – Mao’s Sectre Famine which documents the atrocity of the Great Leap Forward, and like no other book explains simply and lucidly how and why the 文化大革命 Cultural Revolution is a continuation of this. The resurgence of Mao’s dominance during this period was a merciless annihilation of the leaders who had opposed him and saved the country at the end of the Great Leap Forward. This book leaves no doubt that Mao was a megalomanic whose entire leadership until his death was based on the genocide of China. Maybe the last word should go to him, from the winter of 1959:
Even if there’s a collapse, that’ll be alright. The worst that will happen is that the whole world will get a big laugh out of it.