After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, a fierce political battle ensued for the soul of modern China. But it was the ordinary people of China who had spent the past 10 years fighting through chaos, violence, and oppression who helped forge a new path. Many never made it through the revolution, but many also took matters into their own hands by finding creative ways to survive and seize economic opportunities to put food on the table and protect their families. Millions took part in a "silent revolution" to preserve their traditions, cultures, and identities in the face of unimaginable tragedy. For the survivors who made it out on the other side of the Cultural Revolution, the world would never be the same.
This is the final episode in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It focuses on the politics surrounding Mao Zedong as well as the actions of everyday people to survive and drive change in China. Thanks for listening to the series.
In the 1970's Red Guards and "undesirables" were forced to toil away in rural China working at re-education camps or doing manual labor in the people's communes. The ordinary people of China continued to suffer and found little motivation to carry on the Cultural Revolution. Mao and the communist party realized they needed to add extra incentive if the revolutionary goals were to be realized. It turns out nothing motivates like a strong dose of nationalism and the fear of nuclear war.
This is part VII in a multi-part series on the Cultural Revolution in China. It focuses on the mass movement of people into the countryside, and the mobilization of the entire country for a potential war. The next episode after this will be the last episode in the series, discussing the end of the Cultural Revolution.
The Cultural Revolution began as a campaign against bad class elements, but spiraled out of control as counter-revolutions emerged throughout the country between rebel groups and the local party establishments. As the chaos got out of control, the army had to step in and take control of the country. But whose side would they be on? Sadly for the average person in China at this period, it probably didn't matter as the violence and destruction would continue.
This is Part VI in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It focuses on what was probably the most chaotic and destructive period of the Cultural Revolution. Future episodes will discuss how the end of the Cultural Revolution is in sight, but a whole lot more tragedy would unfold before then.
By 1967, China was engulfed in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. But the violence of the counter-revolutions and counter-counter-revolutions was not the only source of misery for ordinary people in China. As fear spread and the Cultural Revolution expanded, it began to have a significant impact on the command economy of China. The campaign to eliminate the Four Olds was growing in intensity, leaving businesses destroyed, trade halted, libraries burned, and people struggling to make a living. The entire economy of China revolved around one man: Mao Zedong.
This is Part V in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It focuses on the campaign to eliminate the Four Olds and how this impacted the economy of China. Future episodes will chronicle the further ebbs and flows of the Cultural Revolution.
By the end of August in 1966, it was clear that the Cultural Revolution was going to be a unique historical period of violence and upheaval. Violence and brutality were becoming routine, symptoms of the incredibly modern issues that the Cultural Revolution was creating, including student protests and the psychology behind them, leadership seemingly stoking the fires of mistrust and intimidation, and people not knowing which news sources to trust. One of the saddest elements of this violence and chaos was that it was often perpetrated by teenagers. What was life like for the Red Guards, what kinds of experiences did they have at mass rallies, and what made them tick?
This is Part IV in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It focuses on the escalation of the Cultural Revolution in it's early phases and the experiences of Red Guards at mass rallies in Tiananmen Square. Future episodes will chronicle the further ebbs and flows of the Cultural Revolution.
During the first month of the Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong unleashed a whirlwind of chaos and confusion in China. Mao mobilized students as "Red Guards"- one part student group, one part paramilitary group- to terrorize class enemies and spread fear and paranoia. As Red Guard violence escalated from attacks on teachers to attacks on the power structure itself, within a single month the Cultural Revolution was already spiraling out of control.
This is Part III in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It focuses on the formation of the Red Guards and the violence and chaos of the first month of the Cultural Revolution. Future episodes will chronicle the expansion and further tragedy of the Cultural Revolution.
After the deaths of tens of millions of people during the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong had to re-establish control over the Communist Party in China. Through a process of political maneuvering and ruthless policy making, by 1966 Mao was finally ready to begin his Cultural Revolution.
This is Part II in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It talks mostly about the impacts of the Great Leap Forward and how Mao had to pave a new way forward that would ultimately culminate in the Cultural Revolution. This episode sets up a lot of the background and some of Mao's thought processes before the Cultural Revolution began. Later episodes will look at some more of the specific details and events of the Cultural Revolution.
The Cultural Revolution in China lasted roughly from 1966-1976. But the cultural disintegration and scars left from Mao Zedong's final campaign of terror and violence will last for generations to come.
This is Part I in a series on the Cultural Revolution in China. It focuses on some of the bigger picture themes and ideas that will be discussed in the series. More specific details on the events of the Cultural Revolution will come in later parts of the series.
As Ji-Li Jiang describes in "Red Scarf Girl," the Cultural Revolution became more sinister over time and the psychological pressure on Ji-Li to conform became greater. When the humiliations, beatings, and deaths started hitting close to home, Mao Zedong's ultimate loyalty test was given to millions of children in China: Party or family?
This is the second and final part in a series on Ji-Li Jiang's experience during the Cultural Revolution.
Kids often get overlooked in traditional historical narratives. But in China around 1966, the communist leader Mao Zedong realized that he could weaponize the youth of China to achieve his political goals. The result was disastrously tragic. In her memoir "Red Scarf Girl," Ji-li Jiang tells the horrifying story of the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a young adult.
This is Part I in a series on Ji-Li Jiang's experience during the Cultural Revolution. Part II should be out in a few weeks.
What is it that makes you, you? How would your identity change if you suddenly belonged to a new country? For the people of East Germany, this hypothetical became a reality shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in the early 1990's. In her book "Where the World Ended," Daphne Berdahl takes a look at the complex interaction between history and identity.
The end of the Cold War is often simplified to the triumph of democracy and capitalism over communism. But what impact did this triumph have on the everyday people involved? Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and the re-unification of Germany, anthropologist Daphne Berdahl traveled to the East German village of Kella to find out. Based on her insight, this episode takes a look at everyday life from a political and social perspective under the authoritarian regime. How much control did the state have over the political and social life of it's citizens? Was their any room for dissent? What role did religion play? How did all of this change once the borders were opened and Germany was reunified?
Picking up where the last episode left off, this episode looks at some of the core principles and wisdom contained in "The Tao of Pooh." The Taoist concepts of inner nature, yin and yang, wu wei, the uncarved block, simplicity, patience, and compassion are all discussed. It is difficult to read the book and not come away thinking that Taoism is an underrated and useful philosophy in modern times.
Written in 1982 by Benjamin Hoff, "The Tao of Pooh" gives an overview of the ancient philosophy of Taoism. The book is accessible and full of wisdom, but perhaps its most useful element is how it sheds light on the concerning trends in the modern education system. Intellectual curiosity and the search for meaning seem to be taking a backseat to practicality and career readiness.
The Bystander Effect is a psychological term for the tendency for people to be less likely to help victims in need when other people are present. During the Holocaust, a significant number of people around the globe knew about the mass murders, deportations, and concentration camps, and yet did nothing to help the victims. Why? What made people more (or less) likely to step up and help?
The fighting may have ended in 1918, but the Treaty of Versailles negotiations in 1919 may have been just as important. Woodrow Wilson’s noble ideas like “self determination” and “fair and lasting peace” didn’t amount to much as the Allied powers sought mainly to punish Germany. A continued naval blockade, the war guilt clause, reparations, and exclusion from the League of Nations helped put Europe on the path to World War II.
Scene from “Rome” on HBO: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9SFsAqqN7fU
For more on how the Treaty of Versailles and other factors contributed to the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, check out Episode 20.
As the rest of their alliance crumbled around them, Germany kicked off 1918 with Operation Michael-the first in a series of huge offensives designed to win the war. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but in the end exhaustion and futility ruled the day. The offensives backfired and resulted in a decisive military victory for the Allies. World War I was finally over.
Of all the crazy years during the Great War, 1917 was probably the most eventful. The Russian Revolution, Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, the Zimmerman Telegram, Woodrow Wilson and the United States entering the war, the Nivelle Offensive, and Passchendaele are just some of the momentous events. It can be difficult to make sense of it all without an understanding of one of the key themes of 1917- the increasingly demoralizing impact of World War I on soldiers, civilians, and governments.
Fake News and propaganda have been around as long as civilization itself. The modern epidemic of lies and deception as a means to influence public opinion can draw some interesting parallels to World War I. What can we learn from the efforts of both governments and private citizens to control the narrative of war?
In 1916, World War I continued to corrupt and destroy everything it came into contact with. The rates of death and destruction at Verdun and the Somme were unlike anything ever seen before. Soldiers, governments, and civilians were decimated by the tragedy and the "lost generation" was born.
During 1915, it was apparent that World War I was becoming something truly malevolent. With the carnage and the devastation continuing on the Western and Eastern Front, new innovations and tactics had to be used in order to have any measure of success. With the horror show continuing to get worse, political and military leaders took part in a "search for elsewhere" looking for any other strategy that might work. As a result, 1915 managed to add the Gallipoli Campaign and the Armenian Genocide to an already horrifying list of tragedies during the Great War.
The first year of World War I set the tone for the rest of the war. Violence, brutality, and chaos ruled the day as huge armies clashed in what many see as the first truly modern war. But could things have turned out differently? Should the Germans have won the war in 1914? What role did poor leadership play in the disaster that was to come? Why did the war become a self-perpetuating tragedy? This episode will look at questions like this and some of the other human themes that become apparent when you look at the first year of World War I.
It is amazing how misinformed the general public is regarding the origins of World War I. Even historians debate the causes of the Great War. Who or what is to blame for one of the greatest tragedies in history? Like most things that are complicated and nuanced, it turns out there is a mix of factors that led Europe down a path of terrible destruction.
"Terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks; but it kills, if a man thinks about it." Published by Erich Maria Remarque in 1929, "All Quiet on the Western Front" is one of the most important war novels of all time. This episode is a discussion of the novel and some of the themes it portrays, such as war, dehumanization, and the lost generation.
Link to Paul Bloom's alternative take on Dehumanization as discussed around 17:40 mark: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/27/the-root-of-all-cruelty
The Great War has it's share of amazing stories, but the Christmas Truce of 1914 stands out as one of the greatest. In a spontaneous outburst of humanity, soldiers on the Western Front put down their weapons and met the enemy in no-man's-land to exchange drinks and cigars, sing carols, and take a break from killing each other. But what did it all mean? Was this an example of moral goodness shining through in the darkest moments of World War I, or simply something much more practical?
Much of the material and first hand accounts from this episode come from Peter Hart's book "Fire and Movement."