Does anyone else think it’s a bit ironic* that John Cage criticized American involvement in Vietnam, and was taken seriously, at the same time he praised Mao Zedong was his work in China? However you feel about Vietnam, America was fighting a set of brutal dictators who were allied with the Soviet Union and mercilessly crushed any dissent. You could say that American involvement in Vietnam was unwise, but it’s not like we were fighting a group of enlightened people here—the Viet Cong were as brutal a lot as any such group of the last century.
Mao, on the other hand, was basically the Chinese version of Adolf Hitler, except he killed many more people. So well done, Cage—on the one hand, he was dead set against a war that may have been stupid but was morally defensible, on the other, he wrote books praising a mass murderer.
And how are those predictions about how we’d have Mao Zedong to thank if we have everything we need for survival looking? More people than every before in human history are fed and clothed and doctored. What did China do to help? And would Cage still want America to have the “Chinese sense of society?” Yeah, I’ve been really envying the people of Tibet. (Although maybe oppressing New Mexico just a little wouldn’t hurt).
Maybe Cage didn’t know about Mao’s massacres—but he should have, since other people didn’t have much trouble figuring it out. Mao’s brutality was common knowledge among informed people by the time Cage wrote “How to Improve” in 1971. And if Cage drifted away from Mao, he never condemned him; instead, Thoreau became the new object of his admiration.
Could you imagine a former Nazi becoming Secretary General of the United Nations? Or George Wallace getting widespread black support?** But people seem to have no trouble at all swallowing the idea of someone who admired the most bloody dictator of the 20th century as a moral thinker. In my opinion, Cage’s admiration of Mao basically negates whatever moral credibility he might have had.
*Actually, I’m pretty sure that I’m using “irony” correctly here. Even if the whole world uses the word incorrectly, I’m holding the line. Someone needs to stick up for proper usage.
**Okay, maybe I need better examples, since both of those things actually happened, but those were about the most improbable things I could think of. Anyway, I doubt anyone is going to read this far, so I don’t even know why I’m throwing this footnote in here. This post pretty much peaks with the (probable) proper use of “irony,” and by the end of the first paragraph people will grasp the main point and go off to check their Facebook, unless they happen to be Angelle or Penny, who either don’t have Facebooks or have them but I don’t know about them so they’ll probably do something more productive. And I guess Dr. Langguth probably doesn’t have a Facebook either. But anyway, you get my point, except you probably don’t because you probably didn’t get this far.