Finkelstein comments: I recently sent the email below to some friends of mine. I received a reply from a former student of mine. She’s recently from China and was the top student in my class. Her English was astonishing. She was very soft-spoken when we first met. My, my, how she’s changed!
I was on my afternoon jog along Coney Island seashore yesterday when I met three high school students from China.
This conversation ensued:
What do you think of Mao Tse-tung?
[Puzzled looks, then:] The only thing we know is, he was a leader of China a long time ago.
To this ex-Maoist, most sobering:
An unexpected confirmation of the adage,
Youth (my own) is wasted on the young.
My Chinese student’s response:
Can you imagine a Russian high school student saying “… Stalin? Just a leader from a long time ago” or a Cuban student knowing nothing about Castro? Or, a German student having no clue about Hitler?
These students are rich (and presumably smart) enough to attend high schools in New York City, yet have no idea of Chinese history. I blame the Chinese education system.
Maoism is taught from primary school to college, everyone has to learn and take exams on it every year. But just as Mill says, the indoctrination has made it a dogma, no longer a living truth (it’s NOT a truth to begin with, just one person’s opinions). No one really gives a thought to it besides passing the tests.
I remember taking a “Mao Tse-tung Thoughts” exam in college and filled with rage: why am I forced to memorize garbage?? Can you imagine learning Reagan’s (or FDR’s, or whoever’s) works, speeches, the GOP’s interpretations of him, etc. BY ROTE and taking tests on it in order to graduate middle school, high school and college? Can you imagine working 12 hours a day, 28 days a month (one weekend per month) for 3 years (my high school schedule in a rural town), just to learn absolute bullshit like this? No wonder their parents sent them here. At least they can learn there’s more than one party.
I read a great deal of the merits of capitalism, individualism, private property, free market, liberal democracy, etc. in China, out of dissent from the Communist Party. I came here being a capitalist (without capital) and a liberal (Democrat), thought America was the beacon of the free world. Reality quickly proved me wrong.
I now work as a below-minimum wage worker in a restaurant along with other immigrants, exploited by our republican boss, left behind by our government, while risking our lives during a fucking pandemic. Homeless people come in to ask for hot water. Yesterday a guy who had no money on him stole my tip jar (with probably $20 in it) while I was getting him a free sandwich. Some people are racist. Some are rich but never tip. Being on the bottom of the society makes me furious because of the striking, heartbreaking, overwhelming poverty and inequality.