“ON THE PAD” WITH THE RED PAD

In the 1960s Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book was the most printed book in the world. It was the size of a notepad. The book was mass-published and distributed among the citizens. In the photos of those days you could see crowds of hongweibings waiving their red-covered booklets with Mao’s quotations.  Fifty years later a “hongweibing” – a queer exotic word standing for a “red defence soldier, red guard” became archaic, many of the “citizens” are now known as “netizens” and the word “pad” acquired  a modern meaning: a “hand-held computer with a touch-screen, a tablet.” Of late, a device called the Red Pad was developed in China. The Red Pad features swipe control of apps, an A9 dual-core processor, 16GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. But unlike more proletariat tablets the Red Pad comes loaded with pre-installed apps that tap into the latest in “party thought” – websites with information for party functionaries.
The distribution method will also undergo changes as compared to how Mao’s books were spread. The Chinese tablet won’t be sold in stores, it will be given to party cadres for free. Lesser mortals will hardly be able to own it – especially when you consider the price of the Red Pad: $1,584, twice as much as the most expensive Apple iPad. With the Chinese New Year in, there’s sure to be lots of the “red-pad gift-giving” on the upper ladders of the party hierarchy. Alluding to the steep price as well as the perception of widespread use of public funds for gift-giving within Chinese officialdom, one online comment quipped, “Red Pad No.1? Corruption No.1!”

Much has changed in the vocabulary and in the conceptual picture of the modern world since the beginning of the digital revolution.  What hasn’t changed, is the hypocrisy of communists. In the ex-USSR they were trumpeting for social “liberty, equality, fraternity” at the same time having their own cafeterias, dachas, rest-homes, reserved places for their kids at universities, even reserved places at cemeteries after their timely or untimely demise. In present-day China they reserve the Red Pads, leaving the paperback “red pads” for the “broad run.”

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