Western intellectuals and the Maoist tyranny

Communist dictatorships, Dalrymple points out,

were at their most popular among Western intellectuals while they still had the courage of their brutality. Once they settled down to grey, everyday oppression and relatively minor acts of violent repression (judged by their own former standards), they ceased to attract the extravagant praises of those intellectuals who, in their own countries, regarded as intolerable even the slightest derogation from their absolute freedom of expression.

It is as if, he says,

not dreams but totalitarian famines and massacres acted as the Freudian wish-fulfilment of these Western intellectuals. They spoke of illimitable freedom, but desired unlimited power.

Mao Zedong, Dalrymple notes,

was the blank page or screen upon which they could project the fantasies that they thought beautiful.

China

was a long way off, its hundreds of millions of peasants inscrutable but known to be impoverished and oppressed by history; its culture was impenetrable to Westerners without many years of dedicated and mind-consuming study.

Western sinologists,

almost to a man, upheld the Maoist version of the world, some of them for fear of losing their access to China if they did not, and thereby created the impression that Maoism was intellectually and morally respectable. And so perfect conditions were laid for the most willing and total suspension of disbelief.

Mao’s Thoughts

— that is to say, clichés, platitudes, and lies — were treated by intelligent and educated people as if they were more profound, and contained more mental and spiritual sustenance, than Pascal’s.

As so often before,

mere reality as experienced by scores of millions of people was of little interest to intellectuals by comparison with the schemata in their minds and their own self-conception. ‘Let the heavens fall so long as I feel good about myself’ was their motto.

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