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The Bullying of Struggle Sessions
struggle sessions are extreme social exclusion to induce human torment
At the age of 9 militants ransacked current president of China Xi Jinping’s home, driving his sister Xi Heping to take her life. Xi’s father, a high ranking Mao official, had fallen from grace—his wife renounced him and he was paraded through the streets in a public shaming session. After his father’s fall from grace, Xi would attend these humiliation sessions with his mother as part of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In one instance a teenaged Xi hears the crowd chant down with Xi Jinping, his mother being among those chanting.
Struggle sessions became the go-to punishment for anyone betraying Mao’s communist values. Another time Xi escaped confinement at school and ran home to tell his mother he was hungry. She denied him food and Xi ended up going to a detention facility where he forged himself as a strong character through hard labour and hardship, even going months being deprived of meat. Xi understood his mother’s dilemma, he understood the necessity for her cruelty under Mao’s punishing regime. After Mao’s death in the late 70s Xi Jinping’s father rose back to power, his family reunited, and Xi Jinping climbed his way up through CCP ranks.1
Many many people lost their lives, family members, careers, family attachments, friends, and community during the Cultural Revolution, which sought to erase and destroy all traces of and attachments to Chinese tradition and capitalist values and culture. Anything that mattered to Chinese society, Mao sought to erase and destroy it with ruthless fanatical conviction. People who engage in that level of cruel certainty never allow themselves the mercy of fallibility.
One of the questions I asked most people was what, in their judgment, was worst about the Cultural Revolution. The answers were diverse. A woman academic who spent several years cleaning her university's latrines said that it was the burning of the books. She said that the Cultural Revolution was supposed to be a cultural revolution, but had instead become a revolution against culture, a revolution that destroyed culture. A young man who had participated in the burning of the books on his campus, on the other hand, made a distinction between physical violence and spiritual violence, and said that spiritual violence was really more difficult to bear. For him, what was worst was to return to his campus after having participated in the Cultural Revolution in other cities, after the worker-soldier propaganda teams had come to his campus, and to see the university professors sweeping the grounds, cleaning the toilets, and making and serving food in the campus dining halls. Some said it was the distortion of facts, the absence of truth. One young man who had been an early participant in the Cultural Revolution said it was the loss of hope, the loss of ideals. Others said it was the dehumanization. — Anne F. Thurston, Victims of China's Cultural Revolution: The Invisible Wounds: Part I
As Canada eagerly approaches the end of our second term with Supreme Leader Chairman Justin Trudeau, the pervasive sense of loss associated with China’s Cultural Revolution resonates more than many of Canadians might like to admit. Thurston describes the traumatic stories of deep loss and resilience known as the literature of the wounded — stories that tell us about Chinese counterrevolutionaries losing all the things that give life meaning — culture, spiritual life, work and community, precious momentos, friendships, ideals, a sense of safety and purpose. Thurston as well as Bevan + Mitchell describe a Maoist society in which institutional leadership sought create a false hegemony for themselves through the weakening of the family by severing attachment lines and turning family member against family member.
Mao … empowered young dogmatic followers in China with what he described as “the right to rebel”. He called on the youth of China to rebel against the people who tried to control them — their teachers, the police, the landlords, the government. Children spied on their parents. People were humiliated in the streets. — Bevan + Mitchell
Thurston interviewed 34 survivors of the Revolution for her paper and reported that every one of them suffered the death of a loved one due to torture, suicide, Maoist state refusal to provide life saving health care to counterrevolutionaries, or factional violence. The Revolution further intensified the losses by denying access to rituals of comfort and in many cases by denying access of loved ones to the death bed. Having lived through Covid restrictions and having watched the horror show that unfolded in PQ and other places across Canada vis a vis geriatric Canadians in care during COVID, having witnessed an unvaccinated renal patient die because refused a kidney due to his opposition to the vaccine, and now watching a lung fibrosis patient who opposed the vaccine fight for her life, denied a transplant by Canada— the stories of China’s Cultural Revolution strike a chord.2
In the aftermath of Richard Bilkszto’s suicide death, DEI facilitator Kike Ojo-Thompson and her apologists continue to employ all manner of gaslighting and deflection to distract us from the matter at hand. Frank Domenic tweeted that Bilkszto headed an anti-CRT organisation which had ties to Chris Rufo and Ron DeSantis. I get a chill reading Thurston’s account of Mao’s destruction in juxtaposition to present day Canada: when a person took his own life, as many who were unable to withstand the attacks against them did, the traditional memorial service was sometimes replaced by a “struggle session,” in which the deceased was accused of having betrayed the revolution and having confirmed his treachery by suicide.
Crushing + profound isolation, coupled with a destruction of their own capacity to attribute meaning + purpose to their suffering, drove many victims of the Revolution to end their lives or drove them into a state of permanent madness. Presumption of guilt, unrelenting pressure to reconsider one’s own guilt in obsession, to examine whether we did have too much privilege, extraction under duress of physical torture + sensory deprivation of confessions to crimes not committed—all this created a social terrain amongst counterrevolutionaries in which they could not see what their suffering achieved for the greater good. A powerful human theme emerges from Thurston’s work involving the extreme to which isolation victims would go to receive human connection — preferring even a beating to the endless dark hours spend in a cowpen. Social support determines the degree of survival of victims of extreme situations such as the Maoist Revolution or the Holocaust.
Social connection, a biological imperative.
What if the biological imperative of social connective drives many people on Twitter to subject themselves to such crushing abuse and dehumanisation on social media today? What if some humans feel so much pain from social exclusion and disconnection that they would subject themselves to abuse rather than go without any social connection? What if they would rather abuse others than go without any social connection? What if we have everything so disturbingly wrongheaded?
What if the the problem lies in the fact that humans are lonely and starved for human connection beyond our collective capacity to tolerate this disconnect? What if the answer to our problem lies in connection + co-regulation? What if the most important connection we forgot is the one we have with ourselves? What if we must each include ourSelf before we can even begin to truly connect with any other humans?
Pain directs our attention to significant social events and promotes our correction to avoid those events in the future. Pain signals us, like the smoke alarm above our bed does. When your smoke alarm malfunctions it beeps and you fix it, right? So, when your pain circuits beep at you, you being a good friend to yourSelf, stop and take a look under the hood, right?
What if we tend to exclude ourSelves first + foremost and what if that feels like physical pain to our Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex (dACC)?
According to Eisenberger social pain can still be felt if the affective component of pain is intact even if the sensory component is not.3 Meaning our crude conception of human behaviour as delineated into body versus mind no longer serves us. The English language provides its speakers with no other way to expression social or attachment pain except through the use of physical descriptors. Scholars found that this phenomenon carries over across language and even culture — overall the human experiences of physical and social pain occupy the same matrix of expression and possibly perception.
The neural circuitries for sensory pain and for affective pain live next door to one another in the brain. The mind-body delineation is our delusion and it’s killing us. Limited self-belief and anxious attachment style can weaken the dACC and make individuals more sensitive to sensory + somatic pain. Social supports provide opportunities for healthy disruptive connection, they strengthen the dACC, and therefore decrease sensitivity to pain. MacDonald + Leary write that threats to one's social connections are processed at a basic level as a severe threat to one's safety. In fact, we argue that such threats are partly mediated by the same system that processes physical pain because the pain system was already in place when social animals evolved adaptations for responding to social exclusion.4
Isolation ultimately leads to demise for social animals like humans.
The Cultural Revolution of forced social exclusion and isolation is the invisible + clean way to destroy en masse — we never see any carnage or piles of corpses. We see no evidence of destruction. We see nothing—no evidence of anything wrong. And the Revolutionaries smile as they look us in the eye and say, you see, there’s nothing here, everything is fine, you must be mistaken.
And so you take your Blue Pill like a good citizen and you shhhhhh. Or do you?
The Revolution will not be televised. The Revolution will not be on Facebook. The Revolution will not be on Google. The Revolution is in you. The Revolution is you. Wake up now.
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Bevan + Mitchell, Xi Jinping’s Rise Started When His Father, Zhongxun, Fell From Grace, 31.5.2021
Rasheed, Goutham asked: What is the core difference between Marxism and Maoism, and how both are different from Gandhian Socialism?, 2019
Eisenberger, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115146, 2015