Thursday, May 19, 2016

50th Anniversary of a Horror

Helen Raleigh is a Chinese woman who lived through China's "Cultural Revolution" in the late 1960s and currently resides in the United States. Ms. Raleigh describes some of her personal experiences of the Revolution in a short essay at The Federalist.

Her story is not only one of pathos, tragedy and human cruelty, it's also a cautionary tale about what lies in store for a people whose government erases all individual freedom, all civil rights, and subordinates everything to the state. It describes the logical endpoint of the leftist, statist dream of total centralized control of every aspect of life.

She begins with this:
May 16 marked the 50-year anniversary of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, a movement that was probably the darkest chapter in China’s history. The name Cultural Revolution is very misleading. It should be called “Cultural Destruction,” as it aimed to control every aspect of an individual’s life: how much one could eat; what, if any, education one could get; whom one could work for; where one could live; what entertainment one could have; what thoughts one could have.

The Cultural Revolution brought ordinary people nothing but suffering. There was a shortage of everything: food, cooking oil, cloth, bicycles, and so on. Everything was rationed via stamps. For instance, every person, adult or child, received an allotment of three ounces of cooking oil each month. Meat was hard to come by. Families who were fortunate to get hold of some pork would use the pig lard to supplement cooking oil.
She goes on to describe some of the personal suffering and horrors her family faced during these years. It's a brief but gripping account which I hope you'll read.

If you do, keep in mind that political leaders in this country are not immune to the totalitarian virus which infected the Maoists in the communist Chinese government and drove them to perpetrate the horrors Raleigh recounts. The desire to squelch freedom is manifest in every bureaucratic edict from Washington and every executive order which by-passes the legislature and defies the will of the people. Every negotiation based on lies (like the Obamacare bill and the Iranian nuclear accord), every economic statistic which distorts the truth (like the unemployment numbers released by the White House), every speaker who's shouted down on university campuses, every governmental sanction placed on what you can say and do, and every speech by a political leader which presents just one side of the complete story, every instance of any of these is another step, if even just a small one, toward totalitarianism.

The temptation to arrogate power to oneself and to control others is powerful, and a supine, uniformed, apathetic citizenry which only cares about receiving more and more benefits and free stuff from the state makes it all the easier for the totalitarians on the ideological left to realize their dreams.

That's why it would be marvelous if George Orwell's novels were more widely read, especially in schools, than they are. Studying Animal Farm and 1984 would go a long way toward immunizing a citizenry against the machinations of the statists who think they can "transform the country" and engineer a utopia if only they managed to acquire sufficient control over the people.

Indeed, the corpses of one hundred million persons murdered in the twentieth century in pursuit of the totalitarian ideal in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, Cuba and elsewhere give silent testimony to the futility and blasphemy of their dream, yet they remain undeterred. They're determined to succeed no matter the human cost, nodding in agreement with Vladimir Lenin who declared that if you're going to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs, but everywhere these men have tried to build their totalitarian paradise they've created instead a hell. It will happen again if we let it.