Nature Writer Points to Mao as Source of Wisdom
Are there any circumstances in which it would be appropriate to honor Chairman Mao as a source of wisdom?
In “The unlikely wisdom of Chairman Mao,” Nature reporter Colin Macilwain acknowledged that many in the West see Mao as a “monster.” That is understandable, since the Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the greatest mass murderer in history. “But,” Macilwain continued, “he had at least one good idea — and it’s one that those who speak for science should pick up on, and fast.” That’s the wisdom of self-criticism, “a virtue seldom possessed by men, and never by the leaders of Western science.”
It may seem odd for a science reporter to speak of the “virtue” of a totalitarian dictator who murdered millions, starved millions, tortured dissidents, imposed the pseudoscience of Lysenko on the population of China with devastating results, threatened the world with hydrogen bombs, and left a whole generation impoverished while he himself lived a lavish, wanton lifestyle. If there’s “virtue” in a man like that, it needs to be considered in context.
What attracted Macilwain was a supposed “doctrine” of “self-criticism” that Chairman Mao proposed. It is indeed strange that Macilwain could not find another proponent of self-criticism to point to. If Mao was self-critical, he didn’t exhibit it very well. He never criticized himself for the vast swath of death and devastation he caused. Instead, he was sorry he didn’t impose more misery on his country. Macilwain conveniently left out any reference to Mao’s mass murders of some 77 million people (see 11/30/2005).
Clue for Colin Macilwain: one does not ever use Chairman Mao as an example of “virtue” under any circumstances. Nor does one use Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Kim family of North Korea, or any of the other despicable despots of mass murder (all Darwinians) who left the 20th century stained with blood like no other. What would happen, Mr. Macilwain, if you had pointed out some supposed virtue of Hitler? Wouldn’t you have hell to pay? How, then, can you find something good in a tyrant who left 10 times as many dead from state-sponsored democide?
It is inconceivable Colin would write this. Why not point to the Apostle Paul or some other truly virtuous person as a proponent of self-criticism? Given what Mao did, there is nothing good one can say. Macilwain has written some good material in the past, but this piece is way out of line. The only worse thing is that Nature’s editors did not reject it out of hand. Another telling part of this story is that many Nature readers who left comments agreed with Macilwain! One reader, though, had a pointed criticism worth reading:
With all due respect, you do not know Mao Zedong and China at all.
Mao was the biggest hypocrite. He asked Chinese intellectuals to criticize the communist party and the government, only to have them branded rightists and sent down to the countryside for re-education through labor.
Mao called for self-criticism, but never admitted his own mistakes in creating some of twentieth centuries worst disasters (the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, to name a couple) which claimed tens of millions of lives.
To use Mao as an example of a man capably [sic] of self-criticism is an insult to the memories of those people.