The Airless Spectacle of Political Onanism
The title of this post is a quote, not about Australia’s Liberal and National party leadership (though it could be – more about that later), but from an article about China’s official 60th birthday celebrations.
David Burchell, writing in The Australian, points out that there is something obscene about the massive self-congratulation going on in China.
A society that can only survive with the repression of minority religious and ethnic groups, constant and severe censorship of news and internet access, and the control of every part of its citizens’ lives, has no business congratulating itself on anything.
And then, 36 million Chinese died in the famine of 1959-61. This was not a natural disaster, but the result of deliberate and violently enforced policy to coerce millions out of traditional farming and small scale village industry into collective farms and factories. There is no acknowledgement of this man made disaster in official Chinese literature, or of other lives lost in similarly destructive and similarly enforced policies. Well, of course not. That would spoil the party.
What makes David Burchell’s article worth reading is not that he points these things out – they have been pointed out many times before – but this:
Imagining ourselves to be polite, we Westerners avert our eyes from it all. Yet this peculiar, tasteless spectacle of official China locked in joyless self-communion suits us fine. For in truth we’re no more inclined to be confronted with China’s dirty historical laundry than is the Chinese Communist Party itself.
We’re co-dependents, as the psychoanalysts might say. We belong on the same couch.