Fondly remembering Mao: Western universities and 'hemispatial neglect'
It’s no secret that Western campuses are dominated by progressivism. But certain indices of academics’ love affair with the far left still have the power to shock. The University of Victoria is inviting applications from students in its Pacific and Asian Studies program for two awards “in memory of the late Mao Tse Tung” — one to be applied for a study tour of China, the other to promote the study of modern China.
Now the Mao Tse Tung Memorial Course and Travel Awards don’t amount, in monetary terms, to a hill of beans — a few hundred dollars together, barely enough to cover, say, a single forced abortion, perhaps two summary executions, or a month’s maintenance for a political prisoner — but, of course, it is the principle that matters.
Mao, who led the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his death in 1976, was a psychopathic tyrant. He ruled by terror, and was abetted in his crimes against humanity — mass executions, deliberate pauperization and starvation of the peasantry, “re-education” gulags and total elimination of all freedoms — by fellow-travelling Western intellectuals and naive celebrities.
Mao eclipsed fellow monsters Hitler, Pol Pot and even Stalin for the sheer numbers of deaths for which he was directly responsible. And yet, through his cult of personality, he became a kind of living god in China and Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book a talisman for Western lefties.
It is disgraceful that this odious name should adorn any academic award whatsoever. Students burning with righteous zeal should demand its withdrawal. But righteousness on campuses today is more likely to express itself in opposition to Western icons, especially if they are dead white males of European provenance. Wilfrid Laurier University activists, for example, worked to derail (and have apparently succeed in derailing) the Prime Minister Statue Project, a Canada 150 Sesquicentennial initiative, because some of our 22 former prime ministers (and most everyone else alive at the time) were racially insensitive.
Over many years of observing what piques progressives’ indignation and shouldn’t, as well as what should, but doesn’t, I have decided that left-wing ideologues suffer from the political equivalent of a neurological syndrome called “hemispatial neglect.” Those afflicted with hemispatial neglect lose recognition of space on one entire side of the body. It isn’t that they want to see what’s on the side that is lost to them and cannot, it is that they have lost awareness that there is another side. Give them a plate of food, and they will only eat the food on the side they can see, but they will believe they have finished their meal. Ask them to draw a line down the middle of their body and they will draw the line through the middle of their perceptive side.
So it is with radical progressives. For them, inherent evil only resides on the right. The notion of inherent evil on the left does not compute for them. (The terms “right” and “left” are, practically speaking, placeholders for white, Western civilization and just about everybody else.) Progressives will occasionally accept that there can be “excess” or “extremism” on the left, but such excesses, they believe, find their root causes in the inherent evils — imperialism, misogyny, racism — attached to the West and to white people.
And so, because of this hemispatial neglect, there will never be Hitler scholarships, but scholarships in the name of Mao, Fidel and Che are admissible. Zionism — the movement for return to Jews’ historic homeland — is inherently evil, and its proponents fair game for denunciation and exclusion, because it is associated with white Western intellectuals, but all non-white peoples have the right to their own homeland.
Vietnam protesters denounced “Amerika,” but the Khmer Rouge disappeared into the black hole of hemispatial neglect. Left-wing artists wouldn’t perform in Franco’s Spain, but they had no problem playing in Communist-occupied Hungary. Ditto for celebrities today — boycott Israel, sing for Hamas. Mau Mau and Black Panther violence was a by-product of imperialism and slavery; white on black brutality is the inherent evil of racism. The security fence between Israel and the West Bank is an “apartheid wall;” the security wall between Egypt and Gaza is in the black hole. Misogyny is an inherent evil of men in the West; gender apartheid in Islamic countries is a non-issue.
Worst of all, because they consider their partial vision on issues like the patriarchy, colonialism and racism to be whole, it seems to progressives both logical and ethical to deny what they consider to be phantom dissenting opinions any voice in the forums they control.
The neurological version of hemispatial neglect is not curable, but it can be mitigated by “rewards” for good performance on visual attention tasks. But for the campus variety of hemispatial neglect, where, with so many patients and so few therapists, would one even begin?
Barbara Kay is a columnist for Canada's National Post, where this article first appeared. It is reproduced here with permission.
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