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What You Should Hate / September 29, 2009
By Mark Ames


Maybe the answer to the banking oligarchy’s stranglehold on America is something much more radical than all these hollow attempts at merely adjusting the system and “making it work better.” How can you make something “work better” when it doesn’t work for you but rather against you? Maybe America needs its own Mao to sweep it all away and start from scratch, something Twain called for a hundred years ago.

I’d be for that: a kind of American Mao by way of Jefferson. Sure, it’d be ugly for some people–by which I mean you, and not me, hopefully. We’re not in a Middle School civics class, after all: We’re hostages in our own home, and the other side is playing as brutally as they can, so why shouldn’t we? Mao sure as Hell would. So would Mark Twain.

In fact Mark Twain called for something like a Maoist thrashing a century ago–he’s exactly the sort of Mao by way of Jefferson I’m talking about, part of a fine American tradition of Maoffersons. Here’s what Twain wrote about the “blessed French Revolution” in A Connecticut Yankee more than a century ago:

the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal-wave of blood — one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell. There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror — that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

To which Mao would add, in his serene, pithy way: “Passivity is fatal to us. Our goal is to make the enemy passive.”

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

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Add your own

  • 1. aleke  |  September 29th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Like Brecht says: “What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?” Zizek’s dyad of violence, objective and subjective. The objective, systemic violence in the establishment of a bank, now that would incite any true Jeffersonian!

    Jefferson lived!
    Jefferson lives!
    Jefferson will live!

  • 2. az  |  September 29th, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Twain’s forgetting that the White Terror afterwards had just as big a death toll as the Red Terror, it was just covered up much better.

  • 3. jane  |  September 29th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    What book does the Twain quote come from, so I can get it from my library ASAP?

  • 4. rick  |  September 29th, 2009 at 10:07 am

    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

  • 5. Jane  |  September 29th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Uh, doyee…nevermind. Great quote though. I’ve been reading Twain lately, so I’m adding Connecticut Yankee to my list – right after the Mysterious Stranger and the one about Joan of Arc.

  • 6. John  |  September 29th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Twain’s right, only he should have taken it further: The terror was justifiable by most accounts and viewpoints. Many of the revolutionaries, as soon as seizing power, instead of fighting for social justice and equality took to plundering and exploiting, just as the monarchical and aristocratic class had been a few scant years earlier. That’s counter-revolutionary activity if I’ve ever seen it, by god, and they deserved the axe just as much, if not more than any fucking aristocrat.

  • 7. lyle!  |  September 29th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    that’s pretty cool of mao and twain

  • 8. aleke  |  September 29th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

  • 9. spiffo massive  |  September 29th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Bla bla bla I’m too much of a fag to handle this bla bla bla communism bla bla bla I’m scared bla bla bla

  • 10. spiffo massive  |  September 29th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    and on another note Ames, it’s ironical that you’re fantasizing about such a regime, because the first thing all communist regimes do is round up all the intelligentsia (i.e. people like you) and ship them off to nice little gulags where they won’t be of any harm. if you’re not that lucky, they’ll just declare you mad for being disillusioned with their obviously superior government and put you into a madhouse like so many Russian dissenters (eg. Michail Bulgakov). you’re screwed either way

  • 11. Curtis Spangler  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    that is george washington

  • 12. schlemiel! schlamazel!  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Jane: It’s from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Here it is on Project Gutenberg and Google Books, if you can stand to read shit on a monitor for any length of time.

    The quote’s in chapter 13 (“Freemen”) according to my googling.

  • 13. doctor k  |  September 29th, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    mao owns forever. long live the victory of the ppls war.

  • 14. M  |  September 30th, 2009 at 7:20 am

    to spiffo massive:
    Soviet Communist regime could be brutal all right, but Mikhail Bulgakov was actually never sent to a madhouse. He died in 1940, and the practice of sending dissidents to madhouses (instead of gulags, by the way) is more relevant to 1970s.

  • 15. lzzrdgrrl  |  September 30th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    [quote]”……Jane: It’s from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Here it is on Project Gutenberg and Google Books, if you can stand to read shit on a monitor for any length of time………”[/quote]

    [i]Shit[/i], is right ………..

    It took me a long time to get it, but if you want to validly know the history of Europe and Christianity, Twain is not the author to read ……..

  • 16. klauposius  |  September 30th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    What exactly did Mao sweep away? Mass rural poverty? Systemic corruption? Oligarky? An entrenched system of privelege? From which country did he sweep it? Not China.

  • 17. Nergol  |  September 30th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Yeah, Mao was great! He taught the rich a lesson, and only had to starve 30 million peasants to death to do it!

    That’s just what we need here!

    But don’t worry, Ames, you might be fine. I mean, the Red Guards didn’t shoot *every* intellectual in China.

  • 18. geo8rge  |  October 1st, 2009 at 6:25 am

    oligarchy’s stranglehold

    Using the post Soviet model misses the point. The problem the US faces is too many people with a government income(like the Soviet Union). If you add the government pensioners(including social security) to the government workers you will see the problem. Sure the bankers are playing the system, but they are not problem.

    Look at Vallejo Ca. An otherwise impoverished city that is going into the ship breaking business, that has the highest paid police and fire departments in Ca (including neighboring rich San Fransisco). Vallejo is now in bankruptcy, their solution cut wages of a hand full of maintenance people. No Oligarchs in Vallejo. Hat tip:

  • 19. Josephus P. Franks  |  October 1st, 2009 at 6:57 am

    16, 17: What did Mao do? Try nearly doubling life expectancy, and laying the groundwork for China’s present day industrial strength. You could add destroying rural despotism by landlords, and male despotism over women. Foot-binding? And even using the most inflated estimates available for famine deaths under the PRC, as Amartya Sen pointed out, China did far better for its population than the world’s largest crock-I-mean-democracy India.

    Try reading one of the books on Mao written by members of the Chinese underclass, rather than those written by descendants of the predator families Mao helped crush. Mobo Gao’s “The Battle for China’s Past”, Minqi Li’s “The Rise of China”, Dongpin Han’s “The Unknown Cultural Revolution”…

    Not that I expect you to actually read and learn anything. More likely, your already strained intelligence and psychological firewalls will suffice to keep new ideas from penetrating your thick skulls.

  • 20. spiffo massive  |  October 1st, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    @ Josephus P. Franks : hahahahaha wait.. .hahahahahahahha man where do you come up with bullshit like that? have you ever heard of the term PRO-PA-GAN-DA? sure there are books on how Mao was a mother Theresa and solved all of China’s problems with his great intellect and wisdom (he was illiterate by the way). But there’s way more books on how he was one of the most bloodthirsty and unscrupulous leaders of all time (he makes stalin look like a boy-scout in comparison). just ask the millions of dead chinese peasants he ‘helped’ liberate from the evil clutches of the so-called despotic landlords. and while we’re on the subject of death, did you know that your great leader was not content to just kill the poor buggers he actually went out of his way to destroy their family’s ancestral shrines so their spirits would roam forever (chinese beliefs and all that). sounds like a swell guy eh? the chinese experiment failed even worse than russia as far as communism goes. but i’m probably wasting my time explaining this to you. yet another brain-dead marx/engels-spewing, babbling imbecile

  • 21. Josephus P. Franks  |  October 2nd, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Sorry Spiffo, while like you I haven’t read much Marx or Engels, I certainly have read. I’d recommend you do the same. I’m sure even the Chang/Halliday book on Mao would help you develop your intellect and improve your grammar, even though it would only provide more pulp fiction with which to develop your worldview. “Boy-scout” – I know what a boy scout is – but a “boy-scout”? Is that like a guy that scouts out boys at the behest, I can only presume, of pedophiles?

    I also presume that you are an even more vociferous critic of India, considering that its policies have led to far more deaths than in China under Mao. As Sen put it, “India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame” (that is, during the Great Leap Forward famine).

  • 22. james  |  October 2nd, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I presume when Mao took power large sways of the population where hooked on Heroin from the British imposed Opium trade, the mafia had large control over the country which the British used as administrators over it major cities and the fact that an estimated (30 million people, starting before 1939) were killed by Imperial Japans invasion into China.
    Plus the fact that groups like the Tibetans and Uighurs receives military and financial training and assistance from the CIA for decades continuing to this day which has vastly increased since 89 especially in the last decade.

  • 23. aleke  |  October 2nd, 2009 at 11:40 am

    When do all these hardcore rightwing lunatics stop by? Go read

    or go home!

  • 24. jakeweed  |  November 18th, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I just had a look at the passage from Twain. It’s not completely clear from some of the comments above–or if it is I missed it–that Twain is comparing the horror of the reign of terror during the period of the French revolution to the horrors produced during the “1,000 year” reign of church and monarchy in France prior to the revolution. His point is that while we learn to be shocked by the violence and terror of the revolution, we are not taught to be shocked by the more everyday, commonplace horrors that produced misery, poverty, and injustice for the majority of the people under the ancien regime. Twain also seems to be arguing that while bloody, the revolution was not only less bloody than the long reign of the previous regime, but that its violence was in a sense a necessary purge of the accumulated violence and injustice that preceded it.

  • 25. Justin  |  June 19th, 2010 at 7:45 am

    @spiffo massive

    “A large number of chinese suffered and suffered horribly [because of Mao] but he yanked China, he pulled China in space of 2 generations or 40 years from being a medieval empire to a modern nation state poised to take off when leaders of more practical bent, less visionary men but more practical men took over from him, which is exactly what has happened. China after Mao has become THE rising power of the century.”

    verbatim from Dolan interviewing Philip Short on Mao

  • 26. Justin  |  June 19th, 2010 at 7:56 am

    @spiffo massive

    Way to run your mouth while completely missing the point of the article. If you still believe that the financial system in america is setup for your benefit, you deserve whatever economic misery still to come.

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