The Corner

‘Policing the Minds’

In the course of today’s Impromptus, I cite a report from a place called Aba: “China’s stifling lockdown of this Tibetan town has not only been about patrolling its sleepy streets, but also policing the minds of a community . . .” I then comment, “Patrolling streets is necessary; but policing minds, that is the vital thing for any totalitarian government.” I further comment, between parentheses, “We’re not supposed to call China’s government totalitarian. But sometimes — they can fool you.”

Yeah, they can. For many years, some have likened the Communists in China to the PRI in Mexico, and there’s something to that. But, every week, I read reports of the death-by-torture of Falun Gong practitioners in laogai, the Chinese gulag. I think about the “disappearance” of Gao Zhisheng, the human-rights lawyer. I think about the years-long torture of another such lawyer, the blind Chen Guangcheng, who is said to be near death (like Gao). I think of the imprisoned Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, and the house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia.

PRI-ish?

I’d like to publish two notes, from two distinctive and regular readers, Alex Bensky and Jack Jolis. Bensky, after speaking of self-criticism sessions and some other things, says, “Fascist regimes by and large just wanted your compliance; Communist regimes want your soul.” And the swashbuckling and legendary Jack writes,

Many years ago, my parents had a friend called Countess Lilli Dubblehoff (sp.?). She was a Mitteleuropa grand dame who had, in the course of a long and not-unmovemented life, contrived to be jailed by both the Nazis and the Communists.

I’ll never forget, as a boy, hearing her declare: “The National Socialists [she always called them that] imprisoned you for who you were, but the Communists imprison you for what you think.”

Of course, the Nazis imprisoned you for what you thought, too — but the point still holds. And the countess had standing.

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