If you’ve read about one leftist mass murderer, you’ve read about them all. At least that is the excuse I’m giving for not picking up the recent biography Mao: The Real Story. An even better reason is that the new book by Pantsov and Levine whitewashes the man who “was responsible for more deaths” in the twentieth century than any other political leader. That is according to a review in the Wall Street Journal.
Admittedly there is a limit to how much one can take in about mass killings and the ideological insanity of one of history’s “greatest utopians” (as his biographers dub him). I’ve read a great deal about Mao and other dictators over the years. But to return to Andrew Roberts’ articulate commentary:
Twelve years into the 21st century, intelligent and progressive people are already starting to assume that it will see far fewer lives lost in wars and genocide…. It is chilling to recall that those were precisely the assumptions that were made by intelligent and progressive people 12 years into the 20th century, who only two years later saw the start of a whirlwind of violence that was to destroy hundreds of millions of lives by century’s end.
In an exercise of intellectual timidity and opportunism, Pantsov and Levine claim that their job as historians is “neither to praise nor to blame Mao.” Perhaps the most interesting point that Roberts makes is the recurring misogynistic theme (or just plain hypocrisy) when mainstream writers lasciviously detail the “Hugh Heffner-esqe cavorting” of leftist criminals and rapists. Their feminist sensibilities seem to fall by the wayside, along with any sense of human decency, in discussing a “multifaceted figure” like Mao. Just by coincidence, I came across this relevant passage while reading my ubiquitous copy of Epictetus:
“What place, then, say you, will I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.
The moral is, don’t trust people who think they are indispensable to the political system, especially if it means committing countless personal vices in order to promote some nebulous and questionable “public virtue.”