Dunn - The Independence Institute
Matt Dunn is a managing
editor of ColoradoSenate.com. The Independence Institute is
a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank.
With Chairman Mao
Depotism and terror as trendy and chic...
[Matt Dunn] 4/27/04
"But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
you ain't gonna make it with anyone, anyhow."
--John Lennon, from "Revolution"
Some months ago, in Denver's trendy Cherry Creek enclave, a
$2 million restaurant opened with a startling retro-chic theme
- to wit, the glorification of the late Chinese communist dictator,
Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976).
inside "Mao," you
find two huge portraits of the Chairman, a custom-made Mao
bust, and slick menus fashioned
after the Little Red Book. A hagiographic essay on the menu's
back page sanitizes the Chairman's bloody legacy:
was a visionary, a long-distance swimmer whose simple words
throughout China's culture... He floated
over history. What came natural for him set trends for others.
Witness the recent revival of his signature high-collared jacket."
Though we might have expected an ounce of controversy around
such homage to one of the world's foremost mass-murderers, the
scandal that hit the Denver papers at the grand opening had nothing
to do with genocide, and everything to do with pornography. Seems
the restaurateurs thought it would be clever to run soft-porn
films on the video screens at the bar - thus irritating sundry
patrons, and thus undermining their ethical free pass.
Amidst the trivial talk of pornography, swimming and high-collared
jackets, not much was mentioned about the true nature of Mao's
rule, which marks a profoundly pathological 'float over history.'
If even John Lennon was able to see through the Chairman as far
back as the White Album, we should ask how it can be possible
that, some 35 years of research down the road, our avant-garde
has yet to do the same.
Mao's "visionary" qualities, Thomas Sowell
sums them up by aligning Mao with his proper bedfellows: "Lenin,
Hitler and Mao were the pre-eminent 20th Century examples of
leaders who sought to adjust people to visions, even when that
entailed the deaths of millions of human beings."
So, could Lenin and Hitler be next in line for eponymous Cherry
toll of Mao's visionary land reforms, leaps forward, political
re-education programs and wayward cultural
revolutions has "been exceeded only once," says Mao
biographer Philip Short, and that was "by all the dead in
the Second World War." Though the actual number of Mao's
victims remains incalculable, the tally may exceed 60 million.
Such horrors assume an additional pallor when considering the
brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, involving the deaths of 800,000
Tibetans, and noting China's official sponsorship of Pol Pot,
the communist tyrant who killed off one-third of the Cambodian
closer to home on the realization that, without Mao's support
comrade Kim Il Sung's plans to attack the South,
there would not have been a Korean War. When Kim later encountered
a crusty Douglas MacArthur, Mao was obliged to intervene, explaining
his game plan to Stalin in 1951: "After we have consumed
hundreds of thousands of American lives in a few years, the Americans
will be forced to retreat, and the Korean problem will be settled."
One can only imagine the extent of Mao's disappointment when
but 34,000 American soldiers were killed, and a free, democratic
South Korea went on to become an economic powerhouse.
To put the
Chairman's overall death toll statistics in perspective, the "Mao" restaurant,
which seats 220, would have to be filled to capacity every
night for over 700 years to account
for all of his victims.
The perspective could be enhanced by adding in the millions
sent by Mao into his ghastly prison camps, and, further, by adding
in much of the rest of the Chinese population, which, though
not formally imprisoned, lived in a society so refined in its
techniques of terror and thought control that Orwell himself
would have been amazed.
As Bill Buckley
observed in 1978: "Under Mao the Chinese
achieved the total suppression of every liberty catalogued in
our own Bill of Rights: none to practice one's religion, to speak
out, to read, to educate oneself, to travel, to own land or a
home, to be tried by due process." Ironically, on the culinary
front, Buckley added in 1983: "There were ten thousand restaurants
in Shanghai when Mao took over, fewer than one thousand today."
Defenders of Mao might argue that he held China together, against
the odds, and forged it into something of a superpower. They
might point out that Mao ended the humiliations suffered at the
hands of the colonials and the Japanese, and managed to restore
a general sense of Chinese national pride - at least for those
who survived his rule.
I would concede a thin sliver of truth to such contentions.
But it wears ever thinner in light of the economic success story
of Taiwan, as administered by General Chiang Kai-Shek, who lost
out to Mao's communists in 1949. Under Chiang's leadership, Taiwan's
per capita GNP soared ahead multi-fold, while the Mainland sputtered
China's per capita level of food consumption, by the end of
Mao's rule in the 1970s, remained at the same substandard level
as in the 1930s. In between these benchmarks, the apocalyptic
Chinese famine of 1959 to 1961 - resulting from Mao's agricultural
policies - remains the single largest man-made disaster in recorded
history. Twenty-five million starved to death.
Had Chiang prevailed in the Chinese civil war, chances are he
would have accomplished a good deal more than Mao, in a far shorter
time frame - minus the multiple catastrophes.
Creek's "Mao" is
splendidly designed and serves first-rate Asian cuisine, the
of Mao as a mascot should give us all an attack of gastritis.
But perhaps we should raise some sort of toast, anyhow, to an
upscale free-market American restaurant glorifying the communist
trendsetter who brought swimming, high-collars and genocidal
fervor into fashion. CRO
Matt Dunn is a managing
editor of ColoradoSenate.com.
Copyright 2004 The Independence Institute www.independenceinstitute.org