Lost In Tranlsation, Indeed


I find this Times feature (click on the slideshow link) in their "House&Home" section today (titled "Not Lost In Translation") preaching the virtues of chinoiserie rather offensive.

No, I'm not talking about the gratuitous use of a movie title in a headline (last item). And no, I'm not talking about the orientalisim involved (on the one hand, I like to think that my ancestors had good taste most of the time; on the other, the whole fetishization of Chinese artifacts and displacement from their cultural context is a bit disturbing). I'm talking about the grotesque use of Mao as an icon.


Mao Zedong was the greatest mass murder of the twentieth century (and, by extension, of all time). He killed between 40 and 50 million of his subjects. These are not typos. By comparison, Hitler and Stalin were pikers. The total toll from the Holocaust was 12 million (6 million Jews, 6 million "other undesirables" -- Gypsies, homosexuals, and so on). In the three years of the Great Leap Forward, thirty million Chinese died. That's two-and-a-half times the number of total deaths in the Holocaust.

It's not like these numbers are secret and only available to a mysterious cabal of China scholars; fifteen seconds with Google and the research is done. Obviously the Times wouldn't dare suggest that you decorate your house with a Warhol silkscreen of Hitler: could they be suggesting that killing 40 million yellow orientals is somehow more acceptable than killing a third that number of white Europeans?

What's next? Idi Amin fingerbowls and Pol Pot tea cozies?


I'm holding out for the Pinochet throw pillows.

Pol Pot oven mitts would be more appropriate, I think.

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