Friday, December 23, 2011

Remembering Mao's Death

The death of the dictator of North Korea Kim Jong-Il triggered a wave of show of grief in that isolated country.  To many informed, Kim Jong-Il was a ruthless and heartless ruler who brought his people to calamities after calamities.  Yet, his people mourned his passing.

I suspect that their sorrow demonstrated in the pictures above is largely genuine.  It's not like they are stupid but they are deceived.

The power of propaganda and brain-wash cannot be underestimated.

The pictures above reminded me what happened in China, when their Chairman Mao Zedong died in September 1976.

Many people cried as if the world came to an end and as if they indeed had lost a most caring father, despite the fact that Mao's long reign had been very destructive and oppressive, which could only be topped by the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  Some historical pictures showed how Chinese people showed their collective grief.


I was very young and just started my school. The overwhelming showing off grieve by the adults made a great impression on me, with mixture of fear and joy.  It was the kind joy when a calamity we had often prayed for, say before an unprepared final exam, miraculously materialized.

However, I knew that such joy was not to be revealed.  At the time, I was not aware of the evilness of Mao therefore didn't harbor any hatred against him yet.

On the national mourning day, we were herded to some room lying between our make-shift classroom, rented in residential area by local government due to lacking classrooms in schools, and my home for a memorial service.  The grim atmosphere in the dark room again was impressive and if anyone in my class cried, I suspect it was mostly due to fear or hallucination.  But I didn't witness any because we had to bow our heads and look at our feet.  Or others' feet.  I heard a rumor that a girl spat on her cloth shoes to make them wet as if soaked by tears.  I suspected that this was just malicious gossip, but couldn't dismiss it with absolute confidence.  We first-graders were capable of playing many tricks to score over others, in order to wangle some praises from our teachers.

When I returned home, I rested in the hallway before I entered our flat, to ensure that any trace of schadenfreude smile be erased from my face.  Before I finished hiding my glee, my mother suddenly came out of our flat and startled me.  I must looked unnatural due to my inexperience and not having mastered the requisite art of deception.  She insisted on interpreting my abashment as the result of my being caught weeping out of grief and felt embarrassed by that and heaped upon me with extravagant praises which I tried to evade in vain.  She would not or refused to understand my explanation.  Perhaps, her version would have put her mind at better ease?

Anyway, during those days, kids had a little bit more leverage to do whatever we pleased.  Besides, after we'd witnessed how adults howling like wounded animals in the most ungainly ways, their collective authorities eroded quite a bit.

Sometimes, it was even comical.

The last picture above showed that all the mourners had a black band on their left arms - a sign for mourning in then China.  If the deceased were a woman, the band should be worn on the right arms by her mourners.

In one P.E. class in the following days, we were drilled repeated to turn left or right because some of my classmates had trouble in following the commands of "Left Turn" and "Right Turn".  Some of us were not quite able to tell left from right.  To make things simple, our P.E. teacher told us that it were our left arms wearing the black band, therefore, we ought to turn towards that direction when he called out "Left Turn".

Even so, one boy still turned to his right on such command.  Our P.E. teacher was furious and almost struck the poor boy before he realized that the boy was wearing his black band on his right arm.

I don't remember the name and the face of that poor boy.  But he must be a poor one.  I remember that most of us have beautiful shining new black band made of some nice, wrinkle-free material while his was a miserable looking one, trimmed out of an old pair of trousers or jacket.  Surely his parents did not purchase black cloth for the band despite the fact that all residents were given extra rations for cloth that month and for that we despised him and laughed at his mistake most heartily.

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