In a post linked to a few days ago, this observation about the similarity of the Cultural Revolution in China to what’s going on in the streets today:
For instance, the Red Guards of 1968 often came from privileged backgrounds. The first groups emerged from the elite high schools and universities in Beijing and belonged to the generation that had been born immediately after the Communist takeover in 1949. Raised on stories of revolutionary heroism and bitterly disappointed at the fact they had missed their chance to display their Red credentials…
Similarly, today’s revolutionary vanguard is also made up of young, well-educated people, a disproportionate number hailing from elite educational institutions and working within elite professions. They grew up at a time of unprecedented progress in race relations, but it meant the main action was already over when they were coming of age.
But the Red Guards of old suffered a fate they didn’t expect:
There may still be cause for optimism, eventually. The Red Guards were eventually liquidated and sent down to the countryside for manual labour, their precious university spots taken by worker-peasant-soldier students with better proletarian credentials. The Cultural Revolution ended up lasting for a mere decade and was followed by show trials and lustration of the ringleaders. All revolutions burn out eventually, and the revolutionaries themselves become victims of their own fervour — and with any luck we will see the same thing happen with America’s own cultural revolution.
I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that sending our elites “down country” (a ritual which persisted for many years in China) is an appealing fate. One of the things that’s wrong with this country is that those at the top have no idea what those at the bottom actually go through, or how best to deal with the issues at hand. One way of doing that is to negate their own privilege so they can experience this for themselves, but as we also have seen getting an American to give up privilege–even for a season–is an uphill battle. Trust me, however, experience in places like China and Russia shows that it’s better to give it up than have it taken from you.