I've been catching up on my reading, and at Kris' recommendation (sort of) I've been reading Red Scarf Girl, a firsthand account of a girl who grew up during Mao's revolution in China at the mid-20th century.
I'm about halfway through, and I'm more affected by it than I thought I would be. In the sweep of revolutionary fervor that cherished everything Mao said to his people, they cast out ideas and store signs and even clothes, gathered in mobs to take from the rich and from the middle class, and placed more value on people who were mediocre and unsuccessful in life, while casting out those who were achievers.
That's Mao's socialism - destroy the old ideas, the old culture, the old customs, and the old habits. Which in itself sounds innocuous and even healthy. Except that it was extended to include thought control. All for one and one for all. No wealth, no ambition, no ego, no self.
Here on my blog and in public, I can say anything that I choose and no one can stop me. I can aspire to be anything in life that I choose and no one will stop me. My family's history and class status doesn't mark me - I'm independent of my ancestors' lives and choices.
Makes me very thankful for America.
ETC: I finished the book late last night. Anyone who idolizes Mao or the reform that he brought is a dangerous fool. To use children in the way that they did and to make people choose between their family and the state over simple matters of freedom of speech and choice in friendships is utter tyranny.
At the tail end of the book, the author, Ji-Li Jiang, speaks of the freedom that we in America enjoy. I was already feeling that way in the middle of the book, but by the end of the book, her way of talking of the joy in a simple parade where no one was concerned about what said or how they acted was refreshing. I think too many people in America don't fathom the greatness of what we have, or why others in similarly restrictive regimes, like Mao's, crave these freedoms as well.
Thanks Kris for mentioning this book. My kids are now interested in reading it, by the way :)