Thursday, March 15, 2012

Not as Funny

Now that Bo Xilai has been removed as Party Secretary of Chongqing, some bozo has meme-ified it and written a Goldman Sachs-style resignation letter from his perspective.

Unfortunately, the analogy in the meme is broken. It's not really appropriate to point to the "Cultural Revolution" as the "golden old days" in this parody. You could argue that the Party has lost its original ideals since 1949, but virtually no one (in China at least) wants to return to the horror and chaos of Mao's campaigns in the 1960s.

The Goldman Sachs piece argues for principled action and privileging clients above one's own short-term profits. That culture was something actually in place. It was successful and could rightfully be celebrated. While the Cultural Revolution warped ideals in a millenarian fashion, it was not just and it was not benign. No one in their right mind would laud it today.

Maybe I shouldn't take this "meme" so seriously, as it's just for entertainment, but it really irks me. The critiques of the Party are certainly valid -- but the supposed “solution” of bringing back the Cultural Revolution is far worse. That's obviously not a fix, and the author knows it -- yet persists in using it as if parodic tool. Not only does the meme's author fail to suggest a real salve to China's problems, he makes light of an episode of immense human suffering. Overall it's just ... inaccurate. If you're going to make a meme, at least construct it properly.

The problems in China are real and immense, and there might be real dissenters in the Party. This irresponsible joking does them a disservice. You are devaluing complaints against the CCP and the abandonment of its purported founding ideals by associating contemporary opposition with insane calls for total Cultural Revolution. It simultaneously twists the Goldman letter into a demand for rigid and violent ideological purity, when it's actually a call for ethics and balance in corporate conduct.

This meme plays straight into the Party's narrative that if we don't control everyone and restrain the masses, then the Cultural Revolution will be repeated: Chaos and disorder will reign, and more people will die. Oh, plus you won't get rich anymore. Everything China has gained since Reform and Opening will be lost!

A real Goldman Sachs-type letter out of the Communist Party could have the same shocking effect and cause some national soul-searching. (Or is that too hopeful? Maybe everyone who joins the party is a cynic these days. But then at very least it could lay bare the utter hypocrisy permeating every trembling, ecstatic breath extolling China's wonderful socialist model.)

Instead of providing a guerrilla act of dissent, this meme trivializes China and its history, just for a cheap laugh. Classy, just classy.

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