Cancel Culture and the Four Olds

Cover of Red Scarf Gril

I read Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang this weekend. It’s not the first time I’ve read it, but it’s been ten years since I picked it up.

It’s a Young Adult autobiography from the Cultural Revolution in China. It covers the Red Guard teens who were enforcers of Mao’s dictates. I saw so many parallels with our world today — which isn’t a good thing.

The story opens up with the youth destroying a store sign “Great Prosperity Market” because of the “Four Olds.” Prosperity was no longer seen as a good thing.

“The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas.

Ji-Li Jiang proudly wore her red scarf and dreamed to be part of the Red Guard when she was older. Unfortunately, her family was black-listed because her grandfather — who died when her dad was seven — was a landlord. It didn’t matter that she had never met her grandfather and the family had gone through desperate times. A landlord was one of the worst things anyone could be. The ancestors of the landlord were marked for life.

Here’s an excerpt about the Four Olds from the online Britannica:

When Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution in August 1966, he had already shut down the schools. During the following months, he encouraged the Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois” things and to put CCP officials to the test by publicly criticizing them. These attacks were known at the time as struggles against the Four Olds (i.e., old ideas, customs, culture, and habits of mind), and the movement quickly escalated to committing outrages. Many elderly people and intellectuals were physically abused, and many died. Nonetheless, Mao believed that this mobilization of urban youths would be beneficial for them and that the CCP cadres they attacked would be better for the experience.

It’s an excellent book and a quick read. What I found so eye-opening was how it showed cancel culture on steroids. Soon, nobody was safe. Everybody was being turned in. The former party leaders in the community were found to have some fault of Four Olds and they were treated as badly as Ji-Li Jian’s landlord family.

What are your thoughts about carrying the faults of our past generations?

Do you have any good books to recommend?

15 thoughts on “Cancel Culture and the Four Olds

  1. I think society and social ideals are cyclical. We are supposed to learn from history and not repeat the error filled ways of our ancestors, but that isn’t reality. Someone will always want to dredge up the past and place blame on those of the same culture, ethnicity that was tormented prior. History is then used as a tool to persecute groups of people today.

  2. Fear sitting in an individual’s mind scares the person from speaking up. If people let fears dominate their minds, a select few minds take complete advantage of the fear, and, the individual’s victim mentality, and tries to manipulate people into not speaking up.

    The odd part of this process is that fear, and the fear of speaking up and being heard, are utter illusions. Fear is not real but I am only figuring this out a bit more daily because I spend time training my mind.

    As millions, then billions, overcome their fears and speak up, silencing will literally become impossible. Then we will have complete freedom of speech, without any censorship, which is what humans are entitled to the moment we enter Psycho Planet, the Hell Realm, or whatever one would call the ego’s rendition of planet earth LOL.

    Rent 3 movies on Amazon and watch closely. Each is still in the illusion but provides clues into how the world appears to work:

    – The Matrix
    – They Live
    – 1984

    As our individual minds continue to awaken, we dissolve the world as we know it, so we can get along, chill out, and look within for the answers. Slowly but surely, we are getting there.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  3. The same type of cultural erasure went on in the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia and other places. We’re seeing a reversal of sorts today in that progressivism is vilified in favor of old ways.

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