zeppelin: (Default)
Petrus Camper's "facial angle" was superseded by the "cephalic index" (the proportion of the length to breadth of the head) devised by Aretzius in 1840. More importantly, the increasing demands for a regularized methodology were paralleled by moves towards the notion of inherent racial characteristics. The rise of the sciences of anthropology and ethnology further fixed the idea of ‘race’ as a natural category by which to differentiate and rank ‘types’ of humans, invariably placing the white, Anglo-Saxon male at the pinnacle of intellectual, moral and physical development.

...The increasing prominence of discussions on ‘race’ from the late 1850s was also strongly influenced by two major colonial rebellions, in India (in 1857) and in Jamaica( in 1865), which aroused deeply antagonistic feelings in Britain over issues of race, slavery and colonial control.


Jan. 10th, 2010 04:17 am
zeppelin: (Default)
Reading this column, my first reaction was to question the author's style. This is not just a matter of taste; anyone who calls himself "pithy" is not writing in expectation of serious disagreement--and hence, no expectation of serious discussion. The labored, self-congratulatory pileup that passes for a second paragraph confirms this. Someone who brags about how "politically incorrect" he is isn't thinking about the grace of God, but about how best to give a complacent audience their weekly sneer.

The next thing I noticed was that his source is rubbish. Note I said source: he only has one. A single, solitary biography of Mao. If that doesn't raise red flags (ha!), then here are the names of the authors: Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

You probably don't know who they are; certainly Mr Zmirak doesn't (he cannot consistently spell Chang's name). Well, having read more than one (1) book, I do. Jung Chang is the Red Guard daughter of a VERY high level Communist cadre. She eventually she moved to the West, where she discovered that Mao-hating is a multimillion dollar industry. Her husband, Halliday, is more than willing to ride the cash train. The two have falsified and misquoted sources, flatly ignored eyewitness and other testimony, conducted hundreds of interviews nobody else has access to (hmm!), spewed so much libel their book isn't even publishable in Taiwan (that famous bastion of Mao-coddling), and just plain made shit up in order to milk ever more money out of an eagerly gullible audience.

Reception among people who know which end of China is not Tibet has been unfavorable. Particularly delicious examples can be found on the Wikipedia article; I especially like "the 'facts' in The Da Vinci Code are about as reliable as those to be found in...Mao: The Unknown Story." Translated from the academic? This book is bullshit.

Unfortunately, that means that this column is also bullshit. A brief rundown of two lies that Zmirak parrots:

George Marshall [forced] Chiang Kai-Shek [Jiang Jieshi] to stop attacking Mao's guerillas when victory was still possible.

This is libel. Marshall got there in 1947; victory was impossible for Jiang since at least 1937, when a foreign army invaded his country and HE DID NOTHING. On the other hand, the Communists engaged in a skillful takeover of the northeastern part of the country through their campaign to redistribute land and, you know, fight the giant fucking army that had conquered the place.

Oh, yeah, and far be it from me to say anything good about Jiang Jieshi, but the authors lie about him, too. Jiang did not deliberately let Mao go at the beginning of the Long March; the Communists escaped because Jiang was an incompetent. There was no evil conspiracy of Americans and Soviets (in fact the Soviets weren't too fond of him) and Nationalists to let Mao win: he won because the support of the majority of the Chinese people was behind him, period, end of story. That is the real thing that a certain school of rightist in the US cannot bear to hear, but it is true.

- Mao had already racked up most of his estimated 70 million deaths

The seventy million figure is a commonly repeated but unverifiable one. Simply put, the method we have for calculating the statistics of the deaths that happened as a result of the Great Leap Forward is screwy; some academics even contest the 20 million minimum figure. Most, though, put the figure at 30 million. Taking into account more than the GLF, I'd say it's 40 million, but the simple fact is we don't know. Someone who doesn't acknowledge that they're just pulling numbers out of their ass isn't being honest. The other thing important about this figure--which is extraordinarily high even taking into account the ass-pulling--is that those deaths were by and large not deliberately planned. Mao's communism is not like Pol Pot's or Stalin's: those millions of deaths happened because of incompetence, bad policies, and overenthusiastic red guards and cadres, not deliberate malice. This is important for a variety of reasons, in this case to emphasize that Maoism is distinct from other forms of left-wing totalitarianism.

So this column is a blindly accepting summary of an offensively inaccurate book. The only contributions Zmirak makes are how he frames it: his "politically incorrect" metaphor for God's grace and a few telling transitions.

Here's one instance of the latter. Having said that "Mao's system organized committees to micromanage the public, private, and sexual lives of millions at the point of a bayonet," he also says that Mao's "ethical core -- which could have been cribbed from the writings of the Marquis de Sade -- was precisely what the New Left was peddling, in the form of 'free love' and the Dionysian frenzies of drug-fueled musical orgies such as Woodstock."

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Maoism is not American leftism. Maoism is a very puritanical form of Communism. I read one account of Red Guards who beat an exhibitionist to death because they didn't know what else to do with a penis; while I doubt that this was common, repeating that anecdote is a concise way to summarize the attitudes among the 1960s Chinese youth. Not Woodstock, in other words (and anyway, on what aged planet is Woodstock still the epitome of American leftism?). Maoism is, more to the point, a very popular/democratic form of Communism--one that would NEVER take place in the US. You know how I said that Chang was the daughter of a Communist cadre? Well, the reason she got so pissed off at Mao is that he turned the masses against the party. If Mao had been more of a Soviet-style Communist, or more like the American left (which has a VERY elitist ideology), he would never have allowed the masses to criticize Party officials, particularly such high up ones as Chang's father.

But the fact he and his commenters smash the two together tells us exactly what his point is. The evilest man in history, of all people, is apparently fullheartedly endorsed by or/and the same as our political enemies in the United States. This is certainly the point the commeters take away: it isn't about Mao, but about the faceless legions of "politically correct" Americans who apparently want to implement Maoism here. Obama, queer theorists, and Mao are all exactly the same...waitwat.

While that's a common point, it is not thoughtful or intellectually honest. I could point out that spreading lies about your opponents isn't a good or intelligent political move to make, nor is it the right way to conduct academic inquiry or casual discussion. But that's irrelevant; Zmirak's not a political columnist, he's an allegedly Catholic one. The fact is, what is not true or honest cannot be Christian, and does not belong on a Catholic website. I said, initially, that his "politically incorrect" metaphor about British gunboats (which, by the way: you want to know who's to blame for Mao? Look to the Victorians!) was not about the grace of God.

It's not. This column isn't insightful commentary connecting contemporary problems to Christian teaching; it's "oh look at how evil people who disagree with me are." But the thing about Christianity--the terrifying thing--is that it's not about other people. You cannot stand before Christ on the day of judgement and say "oh but I wasn't a Democrat, I never agreed with TEH EVILIZT PEEPS ON TEH PLANETORS EVAR." In a truly frightening way, it is all about you.

How rotten you are, how vulnerable, how conceited, silly, and weak you are. How you need to challenge yourself, shake yourself out of complacency, how you need to maintain constant vigilance lest you get exactly what you deserve. You're going to hell. Unless...unless...the British gunboats come sailing up the river to save your silly native ass?

Uh, yeah, that makes no sense.

If he'd been thinking more of Catholic teaching and less of clever ways to brag about how "politically incorrect" he is (and thus cement his solidarity with and confirm the biases of his own collective), Zmirak might have chosen a metaphor thought up by a far more adequate essayist:

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory-that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

I'll take Lewis one step further. Far from being the ex-colonies at risk of corruption that Zmirak envisages, we are already fully corrupt. We are not only living in rebel territory, we are rebels. We eat, talk, and think like rebels (and yes, this "I'm so right and other people who are not like me are so wrong, nyah nyah nyah" column is an example of rebelthink). We have rebel friends and family. We have rebel interests, passions, pursuits, and careers. We are already traitors. Until we have fully and finally acknowledged the rightful king and accepted his offer to turn us into resistance fighters, it is not our place to discuss who is the mostest evilest person ever. Besides, I suspect that Christian thought would understand "successfully evil" as nonsense.


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