Here we see the totalitarian puritanism that has always been forcibly imposed on people in totalist regimes. Maoist China and Stalinist Russia viciously de-sexualized their societies and the reason they did so is directly connected to why Guo Degang has been gagged.
Like Lenin, Qutb also reviled music, deeming it a distraction from the furious hatred necessary for destruction. He was stunned at the church dance he attended when the American pastor lit the lights, creating “a romantic, dreamy effect,” and played a popular record of the time: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Qutb hated this song, just as he hated all American popular music. “Jazz is the favorite music,” he writes. “It is a type of music invented by Blacks to please their primitive tendencies and desire for noise.”
Qutb’s rejection of this form of creative expression goes back to the beginning of Islam. Umdat al-Salik, the Islamic legal manual, quotes Muhammad:
“Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.
“On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress. Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage.
“This Community will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.” Someone asked, “When will this be, O Messenger of Allah?” and he said, “When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful.
“There will be peoples of my Community who will hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful.”
The Ayatollah Khomeini’s rejection of music — like the Prophet Muhammad’s and Qutb’s — was directly connected to his revulsion of any form of cheer or joy in human life. He explained:
Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.
And so, it is clearly evident why communist China closed down Degang’s comedy clubs and why such clubs are non-existent any place where Islamic law is in effect. In Islam, laughter is intensely discouraged, and is actually forbidden for women — especially young girls. Author Nawal El Saadaw remembers that, growing up in Egypt, “If I laughed, I was expected to keep my voice so low that people could hardly hear me, or better, confine myself to smiling timidly.” When Souad, the Palestinian survivor of an attempted honor killing, was flown to Switzerland, she was shocked to find females dressing as they wished, smiling and laughing without being punished, and having people actually say “thank you” to her — which had not happened once in her entire life in Palestinian society.
Despotisms are well aware that joy and cheer are uncontrollable ingredients in the soul of man; they touch the face of the divine. No communist or Islamic tyrant can contain laughter’s boundaries or force it to mean what the totalitarian wills it to mean. And so, under the chains of revolution, within the Utopian experiment to sterilize the earth with human blood in order to redeem it, humor can only be subversive. The powerful seditious energies laughter unleashes can shatter the foundations on which any totalitarian structure needs to stand.
And that’s why Guo Degang, who brought so many smiles to the faces of his fellow Chinese citizens, had to be muzzled. He had touched something inside the realm of his people’s hearts that the oppressors at large could never reach. So, like so many before him, he had to be erased and made into a non-person, ideally as if he had never existed. Such is the narrative of the yearning to build a perfect world on the ashes of what it means to be human.