They Didn’t Say That

A classic put down I have heard in meetings from time to time is: “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Maybe it is but I don’t think so. Without a certain consistency no organization can function for long. When people use this phrase, they are misquoting the American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). What Emerson actually said in his 1841 Essay On Self-Reliance was: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Mao Zedong giving a speech to 300,000 people in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Mao Zedong, the largest mass murderer in history, never said, “Let one thousand flowers bloom.”

In a speech in Beijing in February of 1957, Mao said, “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”

This speech launched the “One Hundred Flowers” campaign, as it is known to historians. Intellectuals were called upon to truly speak their minds about how China should move forward. Many did. That was a mistake. Mao and his murderous henchmen were angered by the attacks made on the Communist Party and on themselves. The campaign lasted six weeks. The subsequent campaign to purge society of the intellectuals who had criticized the party and its leaders, particularly intellectuals educated in the West, lasted for many years.

Mao’s speech and the name of the subsequent campaign, is based on a line in an ancient Chinese poem: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Educated members of society in that era would have been familiar with the poem and would have understood the reference.

Source: The Phrase Finder

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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