Scrapbook of the Revolution
March 29, 2003 3:38 AM   Subscribe

Scrapbook of the Revolution: Interpreting the Mao Era
posted by hama7 (10 comments total)
[via nsop]
posted by hama7 at 3:39 AM on March 29, 2003

Cool. I love found art, and it's particularly interesting to see out-of-context images that come from cultures I know little to nothing about.

I visited the USSR with my parents back in 1967, and just recently discovered a similar cache of small photos in souvenir packs that my mother had stashed away. They're all captioned in Cyrillic text, so I have no recollection of where we purchased them, or what they represent. The mystery is more fun than the knowing.
posted by MrBaliHai at 4:58 AM on March 29, 2003

Hama - Thanks. Your post - about the past refracted through found objects - jogged free a certain memory I'd forgotten. Then Google beneficently filled in the frayed spots in my synaptic connections.

It seems to me that the "Scrapbook" of your post has 'Rashamon'- like potential, with many divergent or clashing historical commentaries melding into a kaleidoscope pattern, or a chiaroscoru. Would truth then emerge in the spaces between?

But (here's an odd question): if, as seems to be the case, a large minority of russians look fondly back on Stalin's rule (forgetting, intentionally or not, the scope, scale and brutality of the purges....or so, too, in China's recent past)...what of the mass forgetting, the wilfull distortion, or even the intential erasure of the past?

I have run across a term for this, in an essay by Loren Eisely which I somehow can never find in my collection of his books, regardless of how many times I thumb through the pages: The "damnatio memoriae", the wilfull erasure of the past.........sometimes the obliteration of all traces and references, the razing of the battlements, the reduction to rubble and then - by wind and weather - to dust stil leaves us with legend, mythic narrative or at least a few cryptic references by ancient chroniclers of Egyptian history, anomalous road signs pointing to an intentionally erased reign of a blasphemously montheistic pharoah....

But, sometimes we are given nothing but a shard of pottery, a bit of bone, a fragment of indecipherable text, some etchings in stone, an inexplicable obelisk.......
posted by troutfishing at 7:30 AM on March 29, 2003

Fascinating. Thanks (once again), hama. However, the woman who found these seems to be an idiot: "As Deng Xiao Peng [sic] said following Mao's death, the Chairman was '70% right.' [sick!]" And I think she's promoting them oddly; they don't seem to me to be particularly Maocentric or related to the Cultural Revolution, they're just photo albums compiled during that time. In fact, some of the photos of people in traditional clothes (e.g. Album 1, page 5) or of ancient-looking buildings could have gotten their possessor in trouble during CultRev days ("worshipping the old and despising the new"). But it's always fun to look through other people's albums (as long as they're not standing over your shoulder telling you about that time Aunt Tillie came over for dinner and kept complaining about the food).
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2003

languagehat, I'm confused...why does the woman who found these seem (to you) to be an idiot?
posted by Snyder at 8:53 AM on March 29, 2003

Snyder: Anybody who thinks Mao was 70% right seems to me to be an idiot (or, of course, a hard-line Chinese Communist, but she doesn't seem to be that). If you want background on why I think that, let me know and I'll send you some links on the 1942 Yenan party conclave, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and his attitude toward nuclear war (China can afford to lose 100,000,000 people, there's plenty more where they came from).
posted by languagehat at 9:37 AM on March 29, 2003

This is great, hama7. Truly fascinating window into a -deeply- disturbing period of history.
In the Sixties, young people in the West marched for 'peace and love'; in countries from Czechoslovakia to Mexico, they campaigned for democracy in freedom. Yet the biggest youthquake of all was in China - when young Red Guards zealously participated in one of the greatest, darkest repressions of the twentieth century. A reminder that idealism can be twisted for evil purposes.
posted by plep at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2003

(China can afford to lose 100,000,000 people, there's plenty more where they came from).

That idiotic part made me really queasy too, languagehat. No question about it. There's plenty of information about the cultural revolution and its wildly destructive and murderous horrors, like the way the government under Mao "eliminated" venereal disease: forced examinations and all infected people executed. Just the tip of the iceberg.

Ha Jin's Waiting is a novel about the era, I'm sure everyone's seen Farewell My Concubine, but both are stories which took place during those times.

An Eye on China Jay Nordlinger, and Virus terror from China. by Michael Ledeen. other views of the evils of the Cultural Revolution and Chinese Communism.

I thought the found pictures were interesting though.
posted by hama7 at 4:44 PM on March 29, 2003

the wilfull erasure of the past

Interesting perspective, troutfishing, but I think it's a little early for China to erase the past because it's not over yet, and the Chinese thugocracy lives on.
posted by hama7 at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2003

languagehat: Sorry, I just misunderstood your quote, I thought she had simply quoted Deng Xiao Peng as saying Mao was 70% right, not that she was seeming to agree with him. That's what I get, not looking deeply enough into the site beyond the pictures. I was under the silly impression that you disputed the Deng quote in question, thanks for the explanation.

Nice post, hama7, by the way.
posted by Snyder at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2003

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