Thursday, October 26, 2006

Maoists in our midst? You'd better believe it!

An opinion piece in The Age by Dr Trevor Hay, faculty of education, University of Melbourne, caught my eye. I've become alert & alarmed at the growing tendency of Howard's new orthodoxy toward Chairman Mao-like 'command and control'. Following is an excerpt:

"Federal Minister for Education Julie Bishop has apparently stepped back from her comment about Maoists in our midst, but, as a person who has studied and written on Chinese education for 30 years, I feel she should stick to her guns. There are indeed some defensible parallels between our present ideological environment and that of the Mao era.

In the first place, all public discourse was conducted by means of slogans and campaigns, not debate and reason. Mao often made some striking, media-friendly phrase or gesture and then entrusted his loyal supporters to conduct a denunciation and persecution of those who disagreed, rather than entering into argument himself. He often let his supporters know what they were supposed to think and do by means of informal, folksy declarations that could mean almost anything, leading to chaotic battles between factions, the weakening of his opposition and the reinforcement of his own unassailable authority over the surviving clique.

As far as education is concerned, perhaps the most pervasive and dynamic idea of the Cultural Revolution was his statement of May 7, 1966, in which he declared that the "domination of schools by bourgeois intellectuals should by no means be allowed to continue". That is, the old elites, who thought they had a superior education to that of his supporters, should be overthrown by the "masses" of right-thinking people, who could demonstrate that they were right-thinking, not by fancy clever-dick argument and reason and evidence, but by their hatred and intolerance of the elite.

Then there was the concentration of the media and entertainment in the hands of Mao's wife and the chief of the army, leading to the exclusive presentation of a handful of entertainments that clearly showed who were the goodies, who the baddies, and how decent folks should simply love their leaders and trust the People's Army and its commander-in-chief.

And of course the constitution was discarded, there were arbitrary arrests, torture enjoyed a resurgence, dissenters were branded with labels that were impossible to shake off in the face of strident public condemnation by a handful of demagogues, and certain books were destroyed because it was too dangerous even to have them in a university library.

The great leader Mao himself had an uncanny instinct for photo opportunities, and once demonstrated his ageless energy and vigour by taking a dip in the Yangtze and having pictures of his exploit splashed all over the state-owned media."

Tonight's TV news will figure Howard putting his 'deeply troubled' face on while he listens to the hardships faced by farmers, and the photo opportunities are excellent!

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