July 23, 2008

“Every woman adores a Fascist”

Filed under: China,culture,politics — Kim @ 10:52 am

is a line from a famous and provocative poem by Psychopoet Sylvia Plath. The poem’s name is “Daddy” and it equates her daddy, her husband, and male authority figures in general with Nazis and with vampires who suck the life force out of their female victims. Sylvia Plath committed suicide three months after she had written this poem.

But since a lot of the poem is actually attacking “daddy”, is the famous line better interpreted as being ironic? Maybe…but there is also a well documented type of trauma that results from physical as well as psychological abuse from husbands and fathers due to the strong and irrational feelings of love the victims foster for the perpetrators.

And the line, and the ones that follow it, and the connotations of the type of trauma described above, all made me think of Mao.

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

When I think about Mao, one of the things that baffles me about his ongoing popularity amongst the CHINESE is that this was the guy who was responsible for the unnecessary death and suffering and humiliation of millions and millions of CHINESE. He didn’t inflict much suffering on other countries, it was his own nation of CHINA who bore the brunt of Mao’s murderous madness. And CHINESE culture didn’t fare too well under Mao either. Let’s face it, his reign was an almost unmitigated disaster for CHINA and it was only after he died, and after Deng XiaoPing managed to get rid of Mao’s legacy, that CHINA could start to thrive and prosper again.

So why would any proud CHINESE who loves CHINA have any fond feelings (let alone love) for a man who wrecked the country they love and killed the compatriots they love?

Well, I guess one reason is because whatever else Mao wanted, he certainly wanted a great and powerful China. He wanted China to be a world power, of course, and everything he did, every sacrifice he made, was in the name of that cause. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, or without starving millions of your countrymen, or without starting a cultural revolution that closes all the universities, or without…etc etc.

And I suppose another reason is because younger Chinese don’t know what villainy Mao got up to because it’s all been airbrushed out and all that’s left are portraits of a chubby uncle with a ruddy friendly face and a big smile. “Our founding Father who fought off the Japanese and established a new free China! Hurray for Mao! And hurray for the CCP!”

And these reasons make sense to me, and I find they help explain his popularity. But those lines of Sylvia Plath’s also come to mind and they unsettle me and suggest a darker, more troubling, but also – it must be said – slightly less convincing reason.

How many of those who have been brutalized by a strong male authority figure really do end up trying to pardon him and find love in his actions? It’s kind of pre-modern “old testament” stuff, I guess, though probably quite a common psychic tic amongst females in strict Islamic cultures.

But it doesn’t really ring true. In much the same way as the Plath quote isn’t really trying to be “true” either, it’s trying to grab our attention by shockingly overstating the case.

And in China I don’t see such a big gender split. It’s definitely a sexist country in many ways, but not a profoundly sexist one. Women don’t have much power in the public realm here, but at least they don’t get overtly discriminated against, and at least there are some female business leaders and politicians. And the situation is getting better because Chinese women are not prepared to put up with it so much anymore.

But what the lines also point to is a love of power. A big fascist daddy is a power figure, and a lot of Chinese do seem very hung up on power. “I like the US because it is a strong country”. “One day China will be number 1” are comments I have heard more than once. And I suspect that some of the Chinese love for Mao is a love for and fascination with power. And the fact that he massively abused that power seems neither here nor there!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting all idealistic here. We will never be able to extract power from the equation…it’s part of the psychic air we breath, as the following quote from the French philosophe Foucault nicely captures

“The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”

But fascism is power manifested in a particularly nasty and mean spirited way, and it needs to be rebelled against. And Plath’s poem has a strong, sassy, and liberating ending to it…

And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

The day the Chinese are through with that bastard Mao will usher in better times. Dancing and stamping on the old waxwork in Tiananmen would be cool. And the day that citizens all around the world can get through with power worship in general will be a very happy day. May it happen soon. World peace, dudes.

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