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May 24 2013

A Tale of Two Revolutions: Towards a Study of Western Sexual Stereotypes of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the ‘Age of Aquarius’. [Unfinished Rough Draft]

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

-Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ immortal opening words from A Tale of Two Cities makes a sharp point about privileging contemporary political considerations, over maintaining an integrous standard of historical inquiry; characterised less by the ‘noisiness’ of it’s assertions, and more by the acknowledgement of ambivalence that surrounds human interactions, both past and present.
Charles Dickens’ criticism of historical thinking that relies on superlatives to make sense of events is echoed many years later in Arif Dirlik’s invitation to ‘ambivalence’ when reflecting on the perception of the Cultural Revolution in the United States: “Much of the problem with the past and present interpretations of the Cultural Revolution lies in a refusal of ambivalence in favour of clear-cut positions that have ideologically suppressed one aspect or another of this complex historical event.” (Dirlik 2003 p159).
It is difficult to come up with reasons as to exactly why, a “refusal of ambivalence” dominates Occidental understandings of the Cultural Revolution. However, if we can identify the most prevalent superlatives that dominate the discourse we can begin to see the emergence of certain central tropes and the kinds of cross cultural interactions these tropes legitimise.

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May 12 2013


I saw a man crouched over a porcelain bowl
With a brush in his hand,

I approached and asked him,
“Why kind sir,
are you so keen?”

He said:
“I intend to defecate on this bowl,
This bowl has to be clean.”