Sunday, December 15, 2019

Hong Kong v. Tiananmen - Taking to the Streets

Of course these two captioned phenomena aren't opposed, except perhaps rhetorically, and then only for the purpose of drawing contrasts. Just for instance, Capo Xi's anti-corruption drive responds to many of the complaints which underlay the students' uprising in 1989. The students and middle-class rising up in Hong Kong seem to carry the same concerns we attributed to the students then occupying Tiananmen.

The analysis now is so much more sophisticated than it was then, which is to say that we've lost the moral clarity that Perry Link, for one, seems able to maintain. So many well-read and intelligent apologists now deride the ignorant protesters in Hong Kong, as though they fight in vain against history itself.

One thing that has definitely changed between now and then is how we get our news. As I write, plain new barriers are being erected in the way of my getting more elite reads beyond the working-class aggregations offered by all the major tech companies. It soon will seem as though only the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal will have the clout to charge the public what they are worth.

I'm not complaining about the cost of the news. I'm pretty sure that back when we did subscribe to magazines and the local paper we spent more in proportion than what we're being asked to dish out now. Hell, I can pay Apple $10 a month to get a whole pepper-pot of magazines, leaving only those like the three I advert to above to compete for my remaining dollars. Given that to buy an apple (I mean the kind you eat!) is no longer a non-decision for me, one problem is that it feels like I'm spending more than what used to feel like spending money. That was before the VCR and credit cards changed our spending habits for good (or ill!).

My complaint is that even as local news has been undermined (our Buffalo News seems to get most of its literate content now by contract with the New York Times) the analysis of news of global interest is becoming so much more sophisticated. Local becomes outlet for nasty screeds sometimes, while the cosmopolitan position just feels detached and for some diminutive audience of the socially privileged.

Somewhere within all the tech aggregators for our daily reads, there may be a divide between the horrific (and opaque) curation by Facebook "likes," and whatever it is that determines the spread of each day's New York Times. In between, many of us are growing weary of being gamed by our internet habits to present us with those articles we are most likely to like.

So, one thing which distinguishes me from my betters in knowledge regarding China is that they all seem to accept that something like our current world order will persist into the indeterminate future. The many well-informed apologists for China point out how thoroughly the West is being out-played. We are hamstrung by our troglodyte beliefs in an over-simplistic definition for capitalism, and our fantasy presumptions about the moral and historical superiority of the American form of democracy.

The trouble with the American form of democracy is that it gave us Donald Trump, et al., which is surely also relata-ble to the ways our news is curated. William Taylor channeling the voice of Walter Cronkite just reminds us how is is that Donald Trump's avatar from the Apprentice took over reality about who belongs in the Oval office.

Once again, there is a divide between the cosmopolitans and the country rubes, since those who matured in the orbit of New York and Gary Trudeau have always known who Donald Trump was: the grim confidence man dreamed up by the likes of Mark Twain and Herman Melville. At least I have moral clarity about that, of the sort I don't have about the demonstrations and now seeming rioting in Hong Kong.

Of course, the Big Difference is that back in 1989, I and perhaps all of us were certain that the world was about to change, and it did! That was exciting! We weren't so much thinking about what was wrong with our future as about what was wrong with our present. Starting in China, or so it seemed to me, all sorts of walls were coming down and it felt like the world was opening up.

Now, it feels like the whole world is jaded, and there is a crushing certainty that nothing will ever change up against our seeming certainty that suddenly everything will. Climate change and rising oceans, medicine-resistant super bugs, species extinction, cyber-wars, strong-man nationalistic politics and those railing against the youth of Hong Kong all seem to be on the side of the beneficiaries of our historically localized - in time, not in space - technological global regime. Haven't those billionaires figured out that they can't take their mega-yachts with them?

So, what am I waiting for? I guess it seems to me that Hong Kong is not enough to fight for. I would fight for the world and Hong Kong just feels to me like a lost cause in the same way it does to all those China apologists who see wisdom in the ways that China is managing her ascendance. I mean I see their point, I just don't see any sustainable futures there. I'm looking for something akin to the American revolution for the Twenty First Century. And it has to happen soon!

I confess that I do take some comfort in the evident fact that billionaires are no different than the rest of us. They want toys and amusements as we all do to pass what time we have here on earth (as though there were anywhere else!) and to keep their enthusiasms focused against terminal  depression in this post-holy world.

The billionaires choose yachts and multiple mansions where the only difference between the Trumpsters and the never-Trumpsters is motorized versus non-motorized sport utility vehicles. This seems to have some relation to body-image which must be related to identification with earth and authenticity. Authenticity after all is the only thing that's left of Christian soul, post-Christianity. I mean the Christians have all apparently made their peace with soul-less recreation-vehicle capitalism.

I'm guessing that Tattoos - the branding of the self - and e-bikes might bring us all together in just the way that Teslas seem to. Ha! But really. But.

Well, OK, so I just bought an e-bike, because I can ride comfortably up steep hills and for a long time while still getting great exercise. I feel guilty about it. I sure couldn't afford it, even though I got it at a steep discount from lightly used rental stock. Of all the stupid things, I rationalized it based on the current cost of motor and battery, getting me the bike for not much more than that. Mostly I hate the political stamp it gives me. Where?

Meanwhile, the Democrats mounted a masterful inquiry into Donald Trump, and it would seem the Republicans just simply don't care. This is highly disturbing. That, finally, is why I MUST be on the side of the youth in Hong Kong, no matter what the hidden, overly analytical reasons may be for what actually motivates them. I have been stripped of my cynicism. Things have gotten serious.

We must take to the streets! The time is short. Now.

No comments: