Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Dull Ache of Democracy

I try not to give my foreign friends too much crap about politics and all since, well, the obvious. Instead I've lately just become an apologist for the "ought" of U.S. politics rather than this "is" (which frankly has never been stellar). In Hong Kong, no seems particularly shocked about Orange Hitler and the general stupidity of the American people, but I've found myself arguing about how it is a DEFINITELY BAD THING and NOT NORMAL to a lot of people. Mostly white males, of course.

Hong Kongers, for the most part, are generally more concerned with their civic lot in life, which has been disheartening to hear many of them tell it. The gradual erosion of freedoms is obvious, and worse, it is happening through the democratic process as the rich and influential cozy up to the central government. The local independence groups make it worse by provoking "Schoolmaster Xi" and his cadre with unrealistic demands, while the average local just seems want to maintain what freedoms they have. Though the parallels are eerie, I'm not really afraid of similar things happening back home because (Herr shitgibbon aside) we have over two hundred years of experience in negotiating the paradox of this goofy thing called democracy, albeit imperfectly. HK folks, on the other hand, have never been independent fully independent or known full suffrage. Furthermore, their current ward, the PRC, considers the latter to be an untenable political philosophy (for recent evidence, see "shitgibbon," above). To me, there are real risks in overreaching for independence, especially when the national pride of Greater China is on the line.

This is why I think its so important to treasure the freedoms that are still there, and in that regard HK is lucky. July 1st was the 20th anniversary of "Handover Day," which means there's a lot more of the color red in the city, but was also "Protest Everything Day," when the city has its annual Democracy March. It's relatively non-controversial event, largely because it is not just a massive demonstration for civil liberties and suffrage, but rather a general gathering for groups and causes of all kinds, ranging from migrant rights to pensions to the protection of the feral cattle on Lantau. Heck, even the Mainland brought out its little contingent.:

I attended the event year, and even marched in it for about a hundred feet, just to say I did.  Overall, I found it to be a wonderful, motley gathering, representative of HK's diverse civic culture. It's fun to the read the signs, especially when they've been translated into questionable English, like this one about the new Chief Executive Carrie Lam:

Image may contain: 1 person, crowd and outdoor

Besides being an excellent airplane, "777" sounds like "penis" three times in Cantonese. It's also how many votes from the electoral commission she received, ergo puns. I'm still not sure what the "Christian" bit means, but I chalk it up to the local habit of making odd connections between various topics or embracing weird metaphors and naming conventions like "Youngspiration." Allegedly Lam is Christian, so perhaps any association with male genitalia is scandalous? Or maybe its just calling on her to behave like a good Christian politician. Given my experience of most Christian politicians, that's probably a bad idea,

Of course most of the marchers are still doing it for democratic values.While numerous protests elsewhere were pre-empted by the 5-0, local anti-establishment parties like HK Indigenous and Demosistos (see "naming," above) were well-represented at the event. I saw plenty of "Free Liu Xiaobo" posters, Xi facemasks and even the occasional yellow umbrella. The attendance was apparently anywhere between fifteen and forty thousands, depending on who you want to believe. Apparently that's small compared to past years, but to me it was a lot of people. Compared to the usual civic apathy I encounter in the states, even during these DARK TIMES, Hong Kong is a politically-active place. Even with all the despair that seems to radiate from this city these days, such things give me hope.

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