Sunday, August 11, 2013


A Capital Offence

Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (© 2011; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2013), p. 399:
Then, the Sino-Soviet split ended the intellectual importations from the USSR, and it was conveniently decided that Mao Zedong Thought represented the highest development of Marxist-Leninist philosophy; therefore, in order to fill the ideological vacuum, Mao’s Thought suddenly expanded and acquired polyvalent functions; its study became a reward for the meritorious, a punishment for the criminal, a medicine for the sick; it could answer all questions and solve all problems; it even performed miracles that were duly recorded; its presence was felt everywhere: it was broadcast in the streets and in the fields, it was put to music, it was turned into song and dance; it was inscribed everywhere—on mountain cliffs and on chopsticks, on badges, on bridges, on ashtrays, on dams, on teapots, on locomotives; it was printed on every page of all newspapers. (This, in turn, created some practical problems: in a poor country, where all paper is recycled for a variety of purposes, one had always to be very careful when wrapping groceries or when wiping one’s bottom, not to do it with Mao’s ubiquitous Thought—which would have been a capital offence.)
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