My long-time friend has always argued that the key to any relationship is the sense of equal empowerment. (He and his wife are both in their 60’s and have been happily married forever.) If one or the other partner feels in any way ‘grateful’ or ‘indebted’ to the other, he believes, it is the kiss of death; it is virtually impossible to have a true relationship.
While I have often disagreed with him both personally and professionally, I have learned to hold my tongue and think it through. And, in the end, I have often found him to be more of a sage than I thought, at first, he might be. This time is no exception.
So, once again, we’re talking Hong Kong. Setting my friend’s advice aside, I just don’t get it. It’s starting to feel like Woodstock. It does have the same surreal feel to it, and while that group of young people more or less grooved their way into history, these young people seem to have the same youthful quest for identity and meaning.
The game is over. It’s been over. What are the demonstrators really hoping to accomplish? If they really believe that China can’t live without them they are sorely mistaken. Shanghai could be the new Hong Kong in a heartbeat. Have they really led such sheltered lives?
There is, of course, the accusation of foreign intervention, and the Americans are always at the top of that list. And for good reason. But I think the conspiracy theorists give us too much credit. We wish we had that kind of influence any more. We wish we were that organized.
The Western media, of course, is full of ominous foreboding as to what Beijing will do. And rightfully so. I have said from the beginning that if Beijing wanted to stop this they could and no one would be in a position to do anything other than talk.
And what do I think? Of course they will intervene. Any government would intervene when ‘democrats’ behave like anarchists. What are they to do? Would President Obama allow a few hundred – a few thousand – students to shut down New York City? I don’t think so.
Relative to the Chinese I drive by every day on my way to work, the Hong Kongese have it pretty good. And the elders know it. Why is it that the youth – and I was the same at that age; but it was the Vietnam War instead of Beijing we were upset about – insist on drawing their swords against windmills?
The reality is that Beijing is not concerned with what’s going on in Hong Kong. They are about to host the APEC conference in Beijing and all of their focus is on the regional/world stage that will provide.
The government, wanting to insure blue skies for the foreign dignitaries, has been issuing driving restrictions and shutting down factories for several weeks now. And I am okay with that. Because I want what they want – to project a positive image of Beijing; which is, without a doubt, a world-class city. And I support that. They deserve it, in my opinion
But what about Hong Kong?
If the Western media would stop covering it, it would disappear. So, are we really doing the people of Hong Kong any favors by our incessant coverage of the unrest?
I don’t think so.
My friend, by the way, also believes that you must suffer before you can know true joy in life. And I happen to agree. I am not sure, however, that this philosophy would sell to the students at Admiralty Square, few of who have suffered to the extent that their ethnic cousins on the Mainland have.
Freud claimed that all of life is personal – we are the main character in all of our dreams and our nightmares, no matter what form or shape we assume. And, I have found, that one insight explains an awful lot of what I’ve observed in my six decades of life.
Hong Kong, I suspect, is no exception. People revolt when they have lost all hope. All revolutions are extremely personal to the people who incite them and fight them.
The young Hong Kongese have some legitimate reasons to have lost the hope of their parents’ generation. Wealth distribution has become extremely polarized in Hong Kong, just as it has in the U.S. (I read recently that the number of billionaires in the U.S. has doubled since the start of the Great Recession, despite the fact that a good many people are still struggling to get by.) And now that Hong Kong has returned to China their competitive universe is 1.4 billion people strong. The plum jobs and business opportunities are increasingly going to the highly-motivated and well-educated Mainlanders.
Democracy, however, as I’ve noted before, will change none of that. It might make it worse.
To continue to stifle the traffic and commerce of the jewel of Asia, however, will not get it done either. In the end these young people are probably making life decisions under those umbrellas. They just don’t know it. Or perhaps they do. When you’ve lost hope reality becomes a little distorted. Or irrelevant. Either way, the impact of our decisions seems to lose any power to influence our behavior. I’ve been there. So have you.
Whatever. The dignitaries of APEC arrive in Beijing next week, where they will surely be treated to blue skies and a world-class welcome. It is a certainty that Hong Kong will not be on the agenda any more than the fate of Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Central Politburo Committee and security czar who has the distinction of being the highest ranking government official taken down in a corruption investigation since the country came to life in 1949, was openly discussed at the 4th Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress held recently.
Will APEC provide a cover to clean up Hong Kong or a reason to delay? I don’t pretend to know. I am fairly certain, however, that this won’t be allowed to go on forever and that the government, as well as the residents of Hong Kong, must be ready to move on.
So, does that mean that suffering is inevitable? Maybe probable is a better choice of words.
Either way, the events of 2014 will undoubtedly be a life-changing event for the young demonstrators of Hong Kong. It will be an asterisk, in the end, in the history of Hong Kong, and not even a footnote in the history of China.
Meanwhile, the business of Asia will be underway in Beijing. And I, for one, if not the delegates themselves, will enjoy the clear skies and absence of traffic congestion.
I wish the young people of Hong Kong well. I am an optimist by nature and wish all good health and a fulfilling life. More than that, however, I wish them wisdom. They will move on. But it is up to them to take the path of self-fulfillment rather than the path of self-destruction.
Copyright © 2014 Glassmaker in China
Notice: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity. They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.