Saturday, August 1, 2009

The "banality of evil," anyone?

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A few years ago, veteran Canadian journalist Peter Worthington observed that "Stalin -- next to Mao Zedong [was] the cruellest and most ruthless tyrant of the 20th century." 1 Mao was far and away, certainly, the greatest mass murderer of the 20th Century. Or, was that Stalin?

Hitler? A distant third.

China’s supreme leader between 1949 and 1976, Chairman Mao was, say the husband and wife team of historians, Jon Halliday and Jung Chang, responsible for the death of 37,670,000 people. 2

After Mao’s death was announced, in a scene as banal as it was surreal, Canada’s prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, stood up in the House of Commons and paid homage to the late dictator, saying that he had been “good for his people.”

In 1990 -- stilll with the banality of evil -- in tandem with China, the arm of the government-run postal service, Canada Post, issued a commemorative stamp celebrating the life and work of Dr Norman Bethune, a socialist hero in the pantheon of Maoist Newspeak. It was but a year following the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, ordered by China's Maoist heirs.

The casualties in Tiananmen Square, you may recall, reached into the thousands -- in the main, Beijing university students, all peacefully staging a collective hunger strike to protest a lack of democracy in China.

Dr Bethune had died in China in 1939, after a year and a half as a medical officer, serving with Chairman Mao’s communist army. That there were Canadian missionary doctors, who had spent decades working as physicians in China, has not received even a fraction of the publicity that attaches itself to Dr Bethune’s experience. The banality of goodness?

Throughout the 1930s, before his departure for China, Dr Bethune crisscrossed the country and delivered stirring speeches at a number of rallies, where the good doctor extolled Joe Stalin’s murderous, totalitarian regime for its democratic leanings.

Most recently, Canada’s former governor-general, Madame Adrienne Clarkson, has brought out a new bio in the Extraordinary Canadians series that has further burnished Norman Bethune’s image as the Horst Wessel of China's Maoist movement.

Afterthought: A combined total of Stalin’s and Mao’s victims would exceed twice Canada's present population of 34 million. It
in no way inhibits some elite opinion here from extolling Dr Bethune's heroic stature, notwithstanding his Stalinist and Maoist

1. Peter Worthington, "Time has blunted spy's vile betrayal," The Calgary Sun, 16 October 2005.

2. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, Random House, 2005.

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