If he were alive today, would former librarian Mao Zedong be a men’s rights YouTube star? ‹ Literary Hub

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April 25, 2023, 11:03am

Ah, now I see why Republicans want to ban books and defund libraries.

According to JSTOR Daily, a young Mao Zedong was an ardent library patron who loved hanging out with books so much he briefly became an assistant librarian. As Mao told his biographer Edgar Snow, after he quit secondary school in 1912, at age 19, he entered a “period of self-education,” during which he

read many books, studied world geography and world history. There for the first time I saw, and studied with great interest, a map of the world. I read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, and Darwin’s Origin of Species, and a book on ethics by John Stuart Mill. I read the works of Rousseau, Spencer’s Logic, and a book on law by Montesquieu. I mixed poetry and romances, and the tales of ancient Greece, with serious study of history and geography of Russia.

Yes, that’s right, he *did his own research.*

After moving to Beijing to be closer to China’s intellectual elite, Mao found a job as an assistant librarian, and at first was excited by his adjacency to the great scholars of the day. But, like most young dudes who go on to found epoch-changing genocidal empires, he grew quickly disillusioned by all the fancy smart guys who were mean to him. According to librarian Stephanie Kirkes (writing in 1976), Mao’s front row seat to the “vanity and egotism of the intellectual who talked of humanism and socialism, yet cut himself off from the wretched masses of the poor” primed the revolutionary ardor that would engulf China for much of the 20th century.

Mao’s disdain for these scholars, and the degree to which he felt they’d lost touch with the common man (whoever that is), would be one of the driving impulses behind the Cultural Revolution and its widespread and murderous dismantlement of Chinese intellectual life.

Not exactly what you’d think a former librarian would get up to, is it?

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