Narcissism’s Terrifying Vision
… half of China may well have to die.
While the spectre of communism, which so haunted the twentieth century, has largely receded, it still retains its oppressive power in the world’s most populous nation, China. And whereas Stalin’s Communist Party was dissolved in ignominy following the demise of the Soviet Union, the party of Mao has become one of the most powerful governments in the world.
Both Stalin and Mao suffered from multiple personality disorders, including psychopathology, narcissistic personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. The dominant characteristic differed between the two, however, as evidenced by their behaviour and the nature of their regimes. Stalin’s character and regime were heavily marked by his severe paranoia, which was given free reign by his absence of conscience. The endless pre-emptive massacres of those he feared would become a threat – such as prisoners released from the Gulag, potential collaborators prior to the outbreak of World War II, and the entire Politburo at the time of Lenin’s death – demonstrate a man living in a continuous state of hyper-attentive fear, constantly conjuring up enemies for annihilation.
Mao too exhibited all three dangerous personality disorders, but with Mao the balance was skewed more heavily towards narcissism than was the case with Stalin. Mao also appears to have derived greater personal pleasure from extreme violence than Stalin. Without doubt Stalin enjoyed the fact that others suffered and died at his hands. Mao, however, found it exhilarating. When he first witnessed torture and murder at the age of thirty-four, Mao reported that he had felt ‘a kind of ecstasy never experienced before.’
Mao’s writings when he was still in his twenties give a chilling insight into the mind of someone with this terrifying combination of personality disorders. Describing his outlook on morality three decades before he rose to power, he wrote, ‘I do not agree with the view that to be moral, the motive of one’s action has to be benefiting others. Morality does not have to be defined in relation to others… People like me want to … satisfy our hearts to the full and in doing so we automatically have the most valuable moral codes. Of course there are people and objects in the world, but they are all there only for me.’ Alongside the extreme egotism expressed here, it is telling that Mao makes no distinction whatsoever between people and things. This is because in the minds of people with psychopathic personalities there is no distinction. For Mao, as for psychopaths in general, mass killing of human individuals had the same emotional impact as casting wood on a fire.
Mao’s musings on his love of violence also reflect his psychopathic inability to conceptualise the suffering that violence inflicts on others. In Mao’s disordered mind, extreme violence was simply something to indulge in to satisfy his narcissistic fantasies and relieve the boredom he would suffer in a peaceful world. ‘Long-lasting peace is unendurable to human beings,’ he wrote. ‘When we look at history, we adore the times of [war] when dramas happened one after another… which make reading about them great fun. When we get to periods of peace and prosperity, we are bored…’ Once again Mao is incapable of making any distinction between reading about war as an abstract occurrence and actually bringing about the deaths of millions of people.
Relations Between Wolves
On the one hundred and tenth anniversary of Mao’s birth in 2004, a group of dissidents wrote a letter entitled ‘An Appeal for the Removal of the Corpse of Mao Zedong from Beijing’. In it they wrote, ‘Mao instilled in people’s minds a philosophy of cruel struggle and revolutionary superstition. Hatred took the place of love and tolerance; the barbarism of ‘It is right to rebel!’ became the substitute for rationality and love of peace. It elevated and sanctified the view that relations between human beings are best characterised as those between wolves.’ The reform of China’s political system, from its current pathological ‘relations between wolves’ towards democracy is necessary. It is necessary to safeguard not only the citizens of the world’s most populous nation, it is needed to safeguard us all.