Recently my wife went to Shanghai for a little well deserved holiday and break from me.
Whenever she goes on these little trips she always brings me back some great presents, but this time she excelled herself.
Behold, a Chairman Mao ‘Commemorate watch No. 368’.
It got me thinking though……….
Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung as he is also known was named by Time magazine as one of the ‘100 most influential people of the 20th Century’. A controversial figure still officially venerated in China but who critics blame for severe damage to the culture, society, economy and foreign relations of China as well as a probable death toll in the tens of millions.
An icon, blazened across T-shirts the world over, second only to maybe Che Guevara, another controversial figure also in Time magazines list and proud subject of the most famous photograph in the world.
It made me think about an earlier post I made about a Japanese guy in a nazi uniform.
Would I have been so outraged if my Japanese friend was wearing a Cuddly Mao (responsible for at least as many deaths as the SS and Hitler) T-shirt or Red Army uniform?
I don’t think I would.
Which leads me to an uncomfortable but enlightening conclusion, a light shinning on the hypocrisy we are all capable of.
I know what Mao was responsible for just as I know what Hitler was responsible for, so would I wear a Hitler watch?
If not, what’s the difference, why one genocidal dictator and not another?
So, as much as I love my new watch in all its kitch glory, I probably won’t be wearing it.
I will however be looking differently at people in Mao and Che T-shirts and armed with yet another piece of righteous indignation, I may well find myself accosting even more strangers in the street with some uncomfortable facts about their fashion choices.
Many of my cultural heroes do not hold up so well under closer inspection.
Miles Davis was a violent bastard who beat up almost every woman he was ever involved with.
Jim Morrison was a sexist pig and by all accounts a total arsehole in person.
Egon Schiele was a paedophile.
JFK by many accounts played some part in the suicide of Marilyn Monroe, some claiming a pretty direct involvement.
The list is long and depressing.
I guess no one is perfect.