Bullies

Ulman read from Liu’s final statement before being sentenced to 11 years in jail for political incitement, titled, “I have no enemies.”

“And now, I have once again been shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime,” Liu wrote. “But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by [my] convictions. … I have no enemies, and no hatred.”

Hatred, Liu wrote, “can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy.”

Washington Post

Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square

My mom brought home a discarded videotape from work years ago, when I was a freshman in high school.  On the tape was Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square, a documentary short and autobiography of Wong Shui Bo, a Chinese artist who grew up in China from the 60s-80s.

The tape has since been lost in the re-shuffling of our house, and I’ve always thought of looking for it.  I remember being struck by the narrator’s measured cadence, combined with images of his artwork, and stark photographs of Mao’s China.  Half animation, half documentary, it was a beautiful and powerful thing to watch.

Lo and behold, a 2 minute search reveals the film available online in its entirety.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mao Zedong and recent Chinese history, having just finished Jung Chang’s biography.  There’s more to think about here – about how superpowers in general are created, almost inevitably through violence, and how they are sustained.  I’ve been thinking that calling people monsters and evil just lets them off the hook.  And lets everyone else who collaborated with them off the hook too.  How appropriate is retroactive moral judgment?  Some answers, more questions.

Mao

Currently reading an biography of Mao by Jung Chang.  I remember when it first came out in 2005.  I remember thinking that the cover and title seemed a bit sensationalist, but then again, there’s no other way to justly tell the biography of Mao without hyperbole – unexaggerated hyperbole at that.  The man was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese people – apparently still China’s inexhaustible resource.  And the party line to this day is still “Mao was 70% right, 30% wrong.”

Mao’s indisputable monstrosity aside, the authors of the book seem to have a personal vendetta against the regime that makes me not trust its sources.  The tone felt a bit too  Michael Moore-ish, so to speak.  The London Review of Books has a pretty thorough review of the book that points out its weaknesses in detail.

Chinese history is daunting because there’s so much information that is still suppressed.  Transparency, or at least the right to demand it, is such a precious thing.

In any case, this book has created a visceral feeling of repulsion in me for this man – yet also a strange fascination.  We’re transfixed by monsters, aren’t we?  Yet disgusted at the same time.  I really want to read a history of Soviet Russia and Stalin now.