Of all the celebrities to die this year, Fidel Castro has to be the most controversial. Why am I calling Castro a celebrity? For all the coverage in much of the western press he might as well have been. In this post-cold war age of re-evaluating an American bias towards history, Castro can often be seen as a sort of David to America’s Goliath. On the day of his death several people not least British Labour Party leader (lol) Jeremy Corbyn came out and named him a great figure of social justice in the world.
Ah yes brilliant. What an excellent way to make that socialist pill easier for the general public to swallow. We think Castro was a pretty swell guy! Ignoring all the totalitarianism, political executions, censorship, and of course the million or so Cubans that left the Island. I will admit there is a certain mystique around his character that many of find attractive, however when you strip away all the mythology I wouldn’t want him running my country.
And this is the problem. Figures such as Castro are viewed with a left-wing brand of Orientalism. He is this mysterious left-wing hero who somehow makes communism work in far off tropical lands. Where is the left going? Is it so out of touch that it admires the theory and ideas behind someone like Castro but ignores the human cost?
I have seen first hand what it is to live in a communist state.
As a child in China I attended a Chinese state school for a few years. The Chinese education system was very rigorous and heavily based upon the memorization of facts. One figure loomed over the whole thing. Mao Ze Dong (or Mao Tse Tung depending on how you pronounce it). His picture was in every classroom and the red and yellow of the Chinese flag flew over every school and public place. In the centre of the town where I lived there was a giant statue of the great Leader himself, proclaiming hope and glory over the city. Vast and imposing, he was there, a statement of the power and authority of the Chinese Government in the region.
Guess what? Mao was a pretty awesome socialist leader too! John McDonnell, a high ranking Labour minister, produced his own copy of Mao’s Little Red Book (quotations from Mao Tse Dong, a symbol of the cultural revolution) earlier this year in parliament. The Great Leap Forward? Oh yea that great work of socialist engineering! What an awesome guy. Never mind the tens of millions of people who died! Mao was a pretty decent chap!
Every Monday morning at my old school we would have to dress up in school uniform and line up in the playground. We would face the flag flying high and salute as the Chinese national anthem was sung by all the students. The children of Communist Party leaders were of course the ones at the front doing the honours of the flag raising. When that was done, a student would read out a speech about which class had done the best at their studies and who was to receive a red ribbon for their efforts. They might as well have been awarding factory workers for producing more coal.
A system of informing was ingrained into kids early on. Telling on kids who did not do their homework or grassing on a naughty child was encouraged. Being a general tattle tale was not something that was viewed as socially unacceptable, in fact it could make you climb the ranks of social status in the school. It took me a while to get out of this mentality myself after I left.
My point is this, be very careful who or what we trivialize. To all our liberal leaders: understand what exactly communism is before you evoke it in some way. Bashing American political figures over cold war propaganda is fine, but lets remember the Soviet Union wasn’t exactly a paradise. The west seems to have a strange fascination for North Korea like one would have for a weird caged animal, of course ignoring the medieval regime. Albeit relatively benign, I’ve had a little taste of a communist state myself. It is not something to be trivialised.
Figures such as Castro and Mao should not be treated lightly. The left needs to be very careful with who it chooses as it’s main figures. Castro and Mao are not celebrities. They are not trivial stock characters.
The reason I say this is because of this…
Some figurines of the Chairman in an oriental curiosity shop in North London. Little figurines of a great socialist leader for every North London household. Perfect for all the family. A little symbol of oppression for your own living room.
The Mao statues are surrounded by skulls, Buddhas, and crocodiles, left-wing Orientalism indeed.
Liberals and socialists… we need to tread very carefully…