Series (History): The Cultural Revolution

Introduction to The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao

This is the first installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao. This will be somewhere around a 40-part series that will be posted about every other day, except those times when I’m on a vacation, hiding out from the law, or otherwise distracted. It will likely carry us into October. I know, it’s history, which is nothing more than old news, but I hope I’ve brushed off enough dust to keep it interesting for everyone.

The Peace Sign was designed in 1958, for the British nuclear disarmament movement. It was adopted by anti-war hippies in the Sixties.

I grew up in the Sixties, an era of peace, love, and flower children. I was pretty young, so I didn’t get a chance to participate in all the protesting going on. I had no draft card to burn, I wasn’t allowed to grow my hair long, and I was scared to death to drop acid, smoke a joint, or do any other kind of drugs. Not that I had an opportunity.

But there was that time I helped my siblings harbor a couple of Vietnam War deserters. They hid out in our garage loft, and my mother never had a clue. We thought that was far out. And yes, I did learn all those corny cool slogans, like “far out,” “groovy,” and, well, “cool.”

There was a lot of shit going down in the Sixties. It was a youthquake. Young people were rebelling against the establishment like never before. Hippies were living in communes, smoking joints, and turning into Jesus freaks. Old stodgy attitudes were on their way out, and being replaced by fresh new ideas that promoted free love and free thought. It was a revolution, in a sense. A cultural revolution.

Well, we weren’t the only ones. Because while we were getting in the groove in America, more than 7,000 miles away another cultural revolution was taking place in the People’s Republic of China. And it was actually called the “Cultural Revolution.” But unlike the peace, love, and flowers in our hair that we got to experience, their Cultural Revolution was some heavy shit.

It was downright scary for many people. And for good reason, because a lot of folks died.

We didn’t have much of an idea what was really happening in China at that time. Some thought that whatever it was, it must be wonderful since it was tagged with such a high-minded label: “Cultural Revolution.” Some hippies even imagined that they liked Chairman Mao, and they carried around pictures of him. But nobody had any idea what Mao was really like.

For most of us, the details of the Cultural Revolution were sketchy. And in many ways, it remains a mystery. Books have covered it, but very few have been written by those who bore the brunt of it. And the Chinese government refuses to allow access to its archives, so that investigative journalists can answer many of the questions the world has wondered about.

But in spite of this, some information has escaped. And for those diligent enough to research this strange era of Chinese history, much of the mystery can be resolved.

Some information can be found on the internet. I know, because I’ve been googling and reading. I’ve been grabbing bits of info here, and dabs of it there, analyzing it, throwing out that which seems too suspect to believe, and then putting the rest together to form the best picture I can.

I got interested in the Cultural Revolution while watching the news, and growing alarmed at all the bullshit that’s been going on lately. I’m no longer the young, rebel-at-heart of the Sixties. Now I’m in my sixties, and a long-standing member of the establishment. Now when I see people marching, rioting, burning, and looting, I get downright unsettled. I don’t mind the marching, but the rioting, burning, and looting kind of puts me in survival mode.

I’ve noticed some parallels between the 1960s and 2020. Young people are marching and calling for change. They’re demanding justice and equality. And they’re calling the police the same vile names, like “pigs” and “bacon.”

But there are some differences. For instance, the cops seem to be using a lot more restraint these days, than they used on the hippies in the days of yore. The media coverage seems to also be much kinder on protesters. And members of the establishment seem to be rolling over like never before, throwing their support behind outrageous demands, such as the call to defund police departments.

It feels a bit unnerving for old guys like me. And what’s even more unnerving is that those who dare speak anything even slightly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, run the risk of losing their careers, or being targeted for violence. In fact, to say something as seemingly anodyne as “All Lives Matter” is to invite a level of censure and condemnation that borders on hysteria.

And I don’t remember the iconoclasm we’re witnessing these days. The toppling of statues, including those of Grant and Lincoln, is foreign to my memory of the Sixties. It makes no sense. It seems like madness.

But then again, so did the Cultural Revolution of China. This is why I’ve turned to if for answers. I’m seeing sinister parallels. I’m seeing political correctness taken to the point of persecutorial nitpickiness. I’m seeing intolerance on the part of those who demand tolerance. I’m seeing the opposite of peace, love, and flowers, yet in the name of peace, love, and flowers.

It’s piqued my curiosity. And so I’ve turned to China’s past to learn about our potential future.

So far, I think we can feel grateful we’ve never experienced a movement nearly as dangerous and deadly as China’s Cultural Revolution. Although we seem to be heading down that road, thankfully we’ve only made it a short distance.

I’ve written a long series of posts about the Cultural Revolution. About as long as one of Marco Polo’s famous journeys. Yeah, I guess maybe I got a little carried away. In fact I got so carried away that I went all the way back to the birth of Mao Zedong, in 1893, and to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

We’re going to learn a thing or two, not just about the Cultural Revolution, but also about the life of Mao Zedong, the Chinese Civil War, China in general, and much more.

I’ll be posting my series every few days over the next few months. I hope the reader will see what I mean, when I draw parallels from what happened in China to what’s starting to happen now in the U.S.A. We seem to be going through a bit of our own Cultural Revolution, and I want us to learn from China’s tragedy.

I believe that no matter how wonderful the message and cause may seem, there is danger in any movement. The ideals of today can quickly morph into disasters tomorrow. I think that regardless of how much we may admire a cause, it’s important to remain wary, lest we get so caught up in the crusade that we do things we regret later.

It can be easy to harm others in the passionate heat of the “greater good.” And it’s common for people to create monsters that turn on them and devour them. We must be careful.

The Cultural Revolution stands as a prime example of the dangers of any social movement. As our country continues through its current era of turmoil, I hope people will be circumspect enough to learn from history, and avoid taking things too far. Only then can we make progress without wounds, scars, and backlash erasing every benefit activists may struggle so hard to achieve.

Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Preface: Millions?

83 replies »

  1. This is why I keep coming back, Tippy. For insightful sentences like: “I’m seeing political correctness taken to the point of persecutorial nitpickiness.” That is so on-point that I’m simultaneously mounting my high horse and peeing my pants laughing. I’ll be interested to see how events in the USA parallel the cultural revolution in China. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have me intrigued. I agree about the sentence that Joan pointed out! I also really liked the ” I am seeing the opposite of peace, love and flowers, yet in the name of peace, love and flowers.”
    Wow! How long did the Vietnam war deserters hang out in your garage?
    I do hope America wakes up before we go down a road like China! Perhaps you should send a copy of your series to the White House!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. looking forward to reading the rest of your book on the Cultural Revolution. I also like reading your perspective on the issues of the day; you seem to have a reasonable attitude about things. I’m a bleeding heart liberal/socialist, but I’m not a fan of the looting and destruction that often takes place along with the protests that are happening these days. Seems counter-productive…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. I don’t know what I am. I like to cherry-pick what I think is best from both sides. I think I can be best described as a progressive moderate with conservative tendencies.
      The demonstrators only shoot their cause in the foot every time someone loots or vandalizes something. I think many demonstrators realize that, and wish they could keep things nonviolent, but somehow they can’t stop those few bad apples.

      Liked by 2 people

        • Very true. There are crazies on both sides. For a long time it seemed the liberals were doing a good job of keeping their extremists at bay, but not lately. I would love to hear Biden and Pelosi strongly condemn the violence taking place, but so far it seems they haven’t. That leaves me feeling worried.

          Liked by 2 people

            • It feels kind of scary when I see the violence in the news. I don’t know if Pelosi and Biden have forgotten that most liberals like law and order, just like most conservatives, but I think they’re taking a real chance in the election if they don’t take a strong stand soon.


              • I have had the same feelings! Why couldn’t we get any better candidates?? I mean really! We are a rather large country and Biden and Trump are our best candidates?? Oh wait Kanye said he is running now…..Yeah, that makes me feel a lot better.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Oh yeah, Kanye. Whoopie!

                  Six months ago I would have never imagined I would vote for Trump. Now I’m wavering. But I think if I don’t vote for Biden, I’ll vote third party. Or better yet, if I have to vote for an idiot, I’ll write my own name in.

                  Liked by 1 person

          • I used to be a pretty solid Republican and I didn’t figure that I would ever vote for a Democrat. But about 15-20 years ago the fiscal conservatives began to lose sway in the Republican Party and the willfully ignorant science deniers and racists began to run the thing. I remember seeing Huckabee going after Mitt Romney because he is Mormon one evening in 2008 and thinking “what the hell is happening to this party.” It’s been a downhill shit-show from there culminating in Donald Trump. Texas has contributed to this disaster with the likes of Ted Cruz, for which I would like to offer my apologies.

            I’ll be happy to vote for Biden in November. Trump’s recent independence day speech was a bit too “ein volk, ein reich, ein fuhrer” for me and I am frankly scarred of the imbecile.

            Liked by 2 people

            • I was a Republican back in the 90’s. Then I switched to nonpartisan, and pretty much split my votes between Republicans and Democrats.

              Then, about the same time you became disaffected with Republicans, I did too, and for pretty much the same reasons. The Iraq war was also part of it.

              I’ve voted mostly Democrat, since. But lately I’ve been having second thoughts about the Dems. So I don’t know who the hell I’m going to vote for this November.

              Liked by 1 person

                  • I voted for whomever the third guy on the ballot was last time. It was an act of desperation and a statement to the Texas Republican Party that they don’t own my vote. A lot of good that did.

                    I don’t know what Trump would have to do to lose Texas at this point. I know people crazy about him and in fact am closely related to some of them. I just don’t get it. There is nothing stupid enough for him to do to lose their support.

                    He suggested that people ingest disinfectant to cure COVID19. Really! And, we are to believe he was just joking because he said it with a straight face and one always jokes about a serious crisis with heavy fatalities. It’s like living in a poorly written comedy movie.

                    The rest of the world leaders are just befuddled at how stupid our president is. They don’t know what to say. Amazingly bad. Sigh.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • I know the feeling about being surrounded by those who love Trump! Pa is pretty big on Trump too and especially the area we live in. I know many who support him and it is truly mind boggling. You begin thinking you must be the one going crazy for why can’t others see the obvious problems with Trump, are they that blind??

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • From what I understand, Biden is currently ahead of Trump in Texas. But it’s early yet.
                      The support for Trump is hard to figure. Although he’s mainly stupid, I’d say he’s pretty smart at conning people. And he’s a damn good campaigner.
                      This upcoming election is so strange, I can’t figure out who will win, or whether or not it will be close or a landslide.

                      Liked by 1 person

            • My Dad was a Republican for years but changed years ago after becomimg so frustrated with the Republican party. He took a lot of crap from others too about changing. But he is used to being the “black sheep” in his family!

              Liked by 2 people

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