Ain Jalut wrote:
What is your source his early idealism? I only read his Juno Chang bigraphy.
Well, there's your problem. As I said, you can't trust a single source.
My source is the Chinese History course I took in college, in which I read a bunch of sources including excerpts from the young Mao's own writings, in which he expressed ideas pretty much diametrically opposed to his actions later in life.
Pretty much every historical work that forms an opinion comes under heavy criticism.
Yes, and every historical work is supposed
to be subjected to critical evaluation to assess its legitimacy and trustworthiness. That's what historians do -- evaluate and criticize the work of other historians, as an ongoing process of verification. Learning to read texts critically, to analyze the validity of their claims and sniff out the bias in their arguments, was one of the first things I had to do when pursuing a history major. The question is, what is the result
of that criticism? Does the vetting process conclude that its methodology is valid and fair and its sources verifiable, or that it's making unsubstantiated claims and selectively interpreting the evidence in support of a preconceived agenda? After all, there are lots of books out there making biased or propagandistic arguments, and it's important to learn to guard against them.
I wery much doubt that any idealist could commit crimes as horrific as Mao.
My whole point, though, is that nobody is that simplistic, so fixed and unchanging throughout decades of life. The perspective of a young guerrilla on the run from an oppressive state can be profoundly different from the perspective of an aging dictator who's accustomed to having absolute power. And what about all those baby boomers who were counterculture hippie rebels in the '60s and then grew up to be conservative corporate executives in the '80s?
Honestly, though, sometimes the idealists are the ones most
capable of committing great crimes. If idealism becomes twisted, if you're so convinced that you're fighting for what's right that you're willing to employ any means to achieve that end, then you can rationalize profound evils. Look at the Catholic missionaries who tortured Native Americans to force them to convert to Christianity so that their souls would be saved. Mao's thinking was much the same: He forced China to go through hell in the short term because he believed (or rationalized to himself) that it would bring about a utopia in the longer term.
This is why Yarnek missed the point. Good and evil aren't about what side you're on. They're about what methods you use to achieve your goals.