“Miss Chao’s Suicide”

This article by Mao from 1919 is relevant today, following the suicide/attempted suicide of a young freshman student in a residential hall at a private university. It may or may not involved marriage, but it no doubt involved the “three iron nets” Mao explains. Young women, particularly, played a leading role in the May 4th Movement of 1919 in China (pictured above), in which the “three-nets” were challenged openly.

USA students commit suicide in greater numbers than students in any developed nation on Earth (NIH). In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 in the United States (CDC). Those children who die by vaping or other drug use were not included in that figure, but certainly might be considered. These deaths are no accident or a question of mental illness. Who is primarily responsible for minor children? Their parents and their school. “Alma Mater” or Foster Mother has both social and legal ramifications. No wonder that schools are hesitant to speak frankly about student suicides. No school wants a reputation for suicide, as occurred in 2018 with this exposé article in The Chicago Tribune, but no school is alone. It is a national epidemic and partially explains the dramatic drop in USA life expectancy for the ages 0-30 years old (CDC).

By Mao Tse-Tung (old spelling)

“When something happens in society, we should not underrate its importance.  The background of any event contains the multiple causes of its occurrence.  For example, the event of a “person’s death” can be explained in two ways.  One is biological and physical, as in the case of “passing away in ripe old age.”  The other goes against biological and physical factors, as in the case of “premature death” or “unnatural death.”  The death of Miss Chao by suicide belongs to the latter category of “unnatural death.”

“A person’s suicide is determined entirely by circumstances. Was it Miss Chao’s original intent to seek death? No, it was to seek life. If, in the end, Miss Chao chose death, it was because circumstances drove her to this. The circumstances in which Miss Chao found herself included: (1) Chinese society, (2) the family living in the Chao residence on Nanyang Street in Changsha, (3) the Wu family of the Orange Garden in Changsha, the family of the husband she did not want. These three factors constituted three iron nets, which we can imagine as a kind of triangular construction. Within these triangular iron nets, however much Miss Chao sought life, there was no way for her to go on living. The opposite of life is death, and so Miss Chao was obliged to die.

“If one of these three factors had not been an iron net, or if one of the iron nets had opened, Miss Chao would certainly not have died. (1) If Miss Chao’s parents had not used excessive compulsion, but had acceded to her own free will, she would certainly not have died. (2) If, while exercising compulsion, Miss Chao’s parents had allowed her to put her point of view to her fiancé’s family, and to explain the reasons for her refusal, and if in the end her fiancé’s family had accepted her point of view, and respected her individual freedom, Miss Chao would certainly not have died. (3) If, even though neither her own parents nor her husband’s family could accept her free will, there had been in society a powerful segment of public opinion to back her, and if there had been an entirely new world to which she could flee, in which her act of flight would be considered honorable and not dishonorable, Miss Chao again would certainly not have died. If Miss Chao is dead today, it is because she was solidly enclosed by the three iron nets (society, her own family, her fiancé’s family); she sought life in vain, and finally was led to seek death.

“Last year in Tokyo, Japan, there was the case of the double suicide of the wife of a count and a chauffer who had fallen in love.  The Tōkyō Shimbun published a special issue, following which a number of writers and scholars discussed the incident for several months straight.  Yesterday’s incident was very important.  The background to this incident is the rottenness of the marriage system, and the darkness of the social system, in which there can be no independent ideas or views, and no freedom of choice in love.  As we discuss different kinds of theories, we should discuss them in the light of real, living events.  Yesterday, Mr. Tianlai and Mr. Jiangong have already provided a short introduction.  In continuing this discussion and presenting some of my own views, I have done so with the express hope that others will earnestly discuss the case of this young woman, a martyr to freedom and to love, from many different perspectives, and will cry “Injustice!” on her behalf.  (See yesterday’s issue of this paper for details.)”

USA students commit suicide in greater numbers than students in any developed nation on Earth (NIH). In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 in the United States (CDC). This is no accident or a question of mental illness. Who is responsible for minor children? Their parents and their school.