Cultural revolution be damned

There’s no real soft way to say that toppling statues and journalists calling for cancellation of police shows is nothing short censorship. Misguided and well intending censorship, but censorship nevertheless. These rioters destroying and defaming public spaces and statues set in there are robbing culture away from the future generations, encouraging a lacklustre, unpolished and one-sided view on individuals and events. Not only that, but destroying individual masterpieces, sinking them into local bodies of water. That’s close to a cultural genocide, erasure of past. The world should’ve learned from the Chinese Cultural Revolution and steer far away from repeating that mistake. No matter how much Mao Zedong destroyed Four Olds, the incalculable amount of antiques from literature to paintings, from murals to statues, were hacked, burned, defaced and utterly decimated. Vandalism against cultural relics was rampant, something that’s happening still in the name of cultural reform, or in case of Middle-East, in name of religion. Yet modern China will loudly boast about their thousands of years of history and culture, despite the only place where you can see pre-Mao Zedong era China untouched is in Taiwan.

Of course, when it comes to the video game industry, journalists don’t want to do their job as independent news reporters or do investigative journalist. The video game journalism is activism for the industry, and people like Mitch Dyer supposedly already are having conversations with developers what kind of content games should have. Guessing if these are the same journalists who said being objective is impossible, being independent is as impossible as well. Media people like Dyer aren’t journalists, they’re activists gunning for a simple-minded message without any sides. Then again, Kotaku’s Imran Khan wants to change how police is being depicted in the games and they can’t be window dressing for game mechanics any more. That is, of course, loads of bullshit. Apparently, the American police can only be depicted as neutrally and as raw as possible. Majority of video game consumers don’t have issues with differentiating between reality and fiction, and thus the escapist vision of paladin-like police is what they should be. Khan’s example of a game with this sort of depiction is the recent Spider-Man game, which has far more fantastical elements than ideal police officers. Spider-Man himself, for one. Khan seems to be under the impression that all games need to represent the police as realistically as possible, which is of course is driving an agenda rather than trying to stay objective. Escapism demands fantasy.

Khan holds the major misconception that games are the ones telling the story within these products, that the framework overrides what is the true story in games; player’s play. The use of Earthbound as an example of an evil, threatening police is weak at best, grasping at straws. There are no sins in telling fiction in manner the creators want. No amount of political pressure or other should be inflicted on creating a product. Wait, aren’t you exerting a pressure for the developers and publishers to cater to the audiences? No, that would be a misunderstanding. Game developers should be free to create whatever they want, but reality is that the decisions they make have consequences when it comes to selling games. Just as anyone is free to create anything within allotted laws, nobody is forced or required to buy these products. Market dynamics decide what sort of decisions are most fruitful and what dries on the shelves. Even when journalists are exerting their authoritarian pressure on game developers and publishers, the end line will still be on the store shelves and digital markets. If a developer wants to make a game that depicts reality, it must be set in proper manner in an overall realistic game. Sure, the NYPD has chased Spider-Man for years in the comics and have taken shots at him, though always fitting the books’ tone. Every time a Spider-Man story makes a whiplash in content, like having Peter Parker making a deal with the devil, it gets riled into the ground.

Public personas, from journalists to whatever hell influencers really are, want to promote themselves as patrons of culture and arts, as people who deliver you the best world can offer. Their activism breaks this illusion the moment they enforce their double standards and see both of the as equals. We can talk about art and artists as much as we want, but even these people will gladly downgrade their views on the subject whenever applicable and resort on assuming they have a say in what creators should be doing. Certainly loud public pressure will help, even when its only momentary and comes from relative minority. Often even from audience that isn’t buying their products. The less you spend time on popular media and entertainment industry, the more you will see normal people and proper customers voicing their displeasure on what these companies are spending their time and money on. Social media forms bubbles around us, making us see our own views as much larger entities than what they truly are. We consume media supports that bubble even further and get our news that further shield that bubble. Hell, with the riots and vandalising statues we’re seeing people go their way out and forcing that bubble unto others rather than exiting their own. The censorship, authoritarian attitudes and pushes we’re witnessing is destroying whatever bridge between the bubbles we could’ve built. There has been a push, and there will be shove. It may not be now, it may be six months later. It might be next year or even during the next generation, but there will be a push. There is no right side of history in current time, in the moment. That is only for the future generations to decide. Some of now-growing generation has seen their neighbourhood ransacked and burned down, homes lost and livelihoods destroyed. No amount of dabbling with the history studybooks can change a child’s memory of city on fire.

6 thoughts on “Cultural revolution be damned

  1. While I kind of agree with you on things about “activism” in video games–in reality, it is really toothless and leads nowhere–I really, really disagree with the statue stuff. Really, it is kind of a big leap to jump from pulling down statues to game commentators demanding to censorship. (I do think that you have messed up with the nature of “censorship” and “authoritarian”.)

    You are mistake in that the benefactors of statues really want to educate people on nuance history. Looks at how many statues of dictators are raised around the world! Scupltures in these cases are used a sign of power. Conversely, pulling down statues in the eyes of the protestors is kind of like a symbolic victory, a middle finger to the power-that-be, if you will. I don’t think censorship is big on their mind. If anything, they haven’t burnt books like the Cultural Revolution.

    Beside, do you aware that tons of the statues being pulled down in the States are products of the Lost Cause of the South, an ahistorical narrative, don’t you? They are not even that old. And how can we be the one deciding the right side of the history? Current events, I will give you that, but we are talking about the people who have died over a century ago.

    Also, I am not so sure about the fact that most people are capable of seperating facts and fictions… Have you seen Fox?

    1. Statues, much like any other object we create, can be changed in meaning if we intend to do so. While a statue of a dictator may have been put up to celebrate him, say Stalin, it would take not much effort to educate and spread information on their regime. Much like words can be changed forcefully, we can give new meaning to objects. Rather than use Father Sun’s statue as a method to celebrate him, it could be used to remind the hellhole Soviet Russia was. Pulling down statues as a middle finger to the authority does very little, it just takes away tax-payers money from more necessary targets. Somebody has to pay and fix the done damages. Furthermore, it’s a weak argument that they haven’t burned books, considering all this has lead removal of books from stores, especially banning some from digital distribution. The Cultural Revolution wasn’t engaged in one day, and it didn’t start as an official movement in the begin either. It took some time to get that fire raging.

      Also there is no better object to put proper education and accurate historical knowledge in place than statues that have a narrative to them. Even if they weren’t that old, they still stand as masterful works of art and an easy way to further educate people not only on history, but also on methods through which some practice historical revisionism. Not to mention such statues are great examples of practices and methods craftsmen used to create these statues, and destroying any era statues destroys links between. There really is no Right Side of History as it tends to be portrayed. Only in hindsight after we’ve gotten all the possible objective information what has taken place, why and what sort of world it was we begin to have the proper objective lens we can view events and say “This person did right” or “This person chose wrong action.” It’s more about understanding why and how people ended up taking what action. At any given moment in time we lack any information to say anything truly valid what might be the proper course of action. Most of us are stumbling through history as it happens, very few manage to make it. Sometimes they make it intentionally, sometimes accidentally, sometimes in a manner the future generations wouldn’t approve of.

      As for FOX (news), almost all American media giants like CNN are heavily biased due to partisan politics practised there. While FOX News has been the joke ever since I can remember, looking from an outsider’s perspective they have improved their journalism while CNN’s political section has gone down the drain, but that seems to apply to most other American news sources. That is not to say bias wouldn’t be present in other sources too, Reuters’ coverage has dropped in quality during the last five years or so in certain areas to the point of being unusable.

      1. As you say, if we can easily educate people and spread informations about the wrongdoings of the past, then what is the point of keeping statues anyway? If anything, demolishing them makes things easier, since you don’t have to twist any narrative here–the statues in this case are not abstract arts. Their narratives show right in their apperances. It is clear the sculptors wanted the public to think of these statues and what they stand for as the one having power and should be celebrated. What should people continue to please them anyway?

        (A lot of states where statues are being demolished are also where people teaches in school curriculums not just the Lost Cause of the South but also Creationism, Abstinence sex-ed, etc. And because of the demographic, all these anti-science, ahistorical stuffs don’t seem like they will go away anytime soon. So people must have thought that “Yeah, I will destroy statues. It is the best we can win for now..”)

        And why is tax money related in here? People are willing to destroy statues for free. I am sure that they are even willing to donate money for anything to replace these statues. If you don’t want to waste money or can’t find any good replacement, then just plant a tree there.

        If you are talking about the effectiveness of destroying statues, then I agree with you. They change nothing. They are only symbolic acts. But then again, protesting itself is a symbolic act laden with so many smaller symbols. It’s all about show, so why not make the biggest noise? It’s not a great strategy, I will give you that, but in a large crowd in such an excited state, it makes sense.

        As for history, are you aware that there were people back then who thought that slavery were bad? You could point to Britain abolishing the slave trade, or the Catholics church condemned slavery decades before the civil war started. Even the Founding Fathers acknowledged that it was inhuman, just that they seemed to do anything to avoid making any solution. Why are you saying that people at then were blind to the real consequences of their practices?

        Sure, you can say that your average plantation owner were not aware of any of this, and only continue the practice and support the Confederate because of culture, family’s tradition, business practice. I agree with that, and I won’t hold any grudge against them. But that is not the people whose statues are being destroyed. Like I said before, the people who created these statues wanted to celebrate the old order, the Confederate, and what it stood for. And the vestige of these terrible things are still present until today and causing sufferings–institution racism and cultural racism have existed since the Reconstruction all the way until today, in one form or another.

        I have just read your dissertation on turning off from news that is just bellow this post, and while I agree that will help a lot of people, I will also point you that for many others that is not a choice. I mean, what happened with George Floyd or Breonna Taylor could have happened to any black working people in America. People have empathy, and people have legitimate fear for their lives, and they want to stop it.

        At the same time, the state’s just a disapointment in response to all of this fear and anger. BLM started years ago, and people have been protesting in civil again and again. And still nothing changed, even with Obama on the helm. And now under Trump’s adminstration, things have gotten worse. Even voting and democracy, the avenue for change that people look up to, are being attacked by gerrymandering or the Republican’s throwing eggs at the idea of mail voting. And, factor in all the suppressed emotions accumulated because of COVID-19, not a small part cause by the administration’s incompetence, and you have got a crowd is really desperate, really angry, does not have any trust in the institution and the process. I am surprise that there haven’t been a full-blown armed rebellion by now. People seems like they still have some sense of holding back.

        As for the online stores stop selling certain books, I think that both you and them are mistaking about the real power of the consumers and the public. What if the stores still keep selling these books? What are people going to do with them then? Sue them? Boycott them? I don’t think that they can cause any real damage. This self-censorship is just unecessary, because the real power-that-be (the state) is not invest in preventing online stores selling books. Nazi’s censorship and the Cultural Revolution on the other hand were both policies created and enforced by the state. They needed muscle, real muscles to work.

        1. Point of keeping statues, even if there were no education, is simply to take care of historical artefacts and art. It is censorship to remove these elements from their place and robs the future generations of their own decisions on these matters. Their destruction is removal of history and censorship, as well as destruction of unique pieces of craftsmanship. They may show their narrative, and yet people are no slaves to them. We are able to make our own decisions and deductions based on all available information. Though as said, even if something was intended as something, it doesn’t necessarily have to be treated as such. Destruction of these works of art is short-sighted at best and at the moment only serves another narrative rather than objective view. As mentioned, it also robs the future generations of these works.

          Tax money is related, as defacing, destruction and vandalism has to be cleaned up. Most often you only see the statues being destroyed, yet the damages of the act has to be fixed and cleaned. You also may end up having just a base of the statue there, which in some cases may be damaged beyond use. Dropping a large heavy metal object into a lake also needs to picked out, and hopefully restored to its rightful place. Defaced monuments aren’t exactly easy to clean, especially if the surface is weak to certain washing compounds, raising the price the cities and governments have to pay to clean things up.

          Yes, mob psychology is stupid. Destroying mindlessly without a thought what it does. It’s mindless and petty at best. Mob psychology is rather the opposite of sense, theirs are actions without any.

          I’m not saying people were blind to the real consequences of their practices. To some, there were no need to think that, just as we don’t consider the real consequences of some of our actions due to lack of information on future despite having far easier methods of gathering information. Our way of life, as it is now, can only be objectively viewed in the future when consequences have taken place, though history doesn’t stop. We may be able to look at e.g. the Napoleonic Wars and consequences it lead into, but only because we have full historical context of it. That is to say, we can only surmise and guess the consequences of actions and practices now, while only future generations can truly say how things were in full context of history.

          Again, the statues are objects; we don’t need to carry their original meaning. Then again, none of the people these statues depict are one-note. There is a tendency of considering only one side of the coin in these matters. A cotton farmer may have been slaver, yet we also should remember he may have been an educator, a builder of society and person to advance whatever we may consider positive fields. These things don’t eclipse one another, they’re part of history. It’d be insulting to history and future generations to censor history by replacing a narrative with another and push only one element of a person to the foreground instead of cultivating a balanced, whole view of world, its people, reasons and practices of any given time.

          People tend to have empathy in the mentioned cases when it suits them. Looking at statistics, the white population has been shot more by the police in the US over other ethnicity.

          As for American politics, well, it has always been a shitshow we laugh at. It’s a broken system, vote someone from a third party that’s not a Republican or Conservative, they’re both equally as bad or as good.

          To say that the state is capitulating on how digital editions are being removed or altered in storefronts is faulty, seeing how even streaming sites have been pulling back movies and shows just because single voices from activists demanding so. Sure, Gone with the Wind is said to return with additional text in front, which in itself is a riot. Parts of population has always boycotted texts and works they disagree with, but luckily thoughtcrime is not a thing in most parts of the world, and we are able to cultivate more varied view on the world. Rather than promote removing items from being offered, putting other products to fill-in the picture in a proper manner would be far more constructive path and would allow each person to make up their own minds rather than just be victims of activism and narratives.

  2. Of course, this is the post to entice commenting.
    I’m all for dialogues but comment sections have never been good for deep and considerate communication.
    Fuck you negativity bias.

    1. One more thing – it is just to be against the cultural revolution.
      I was gonna bring up China’s history, but you did it in the first paragraph.

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