The other stuff that I meant to say

So I’ll leave the rage from election fraud in front of 50 people at Lai Tak Polling Station in a bracket, and return to that issue when the new DC member’s team return to me. Feeling that anger too much drains my mind & makes it hard to focus on other stuff.

So there’s one final thing that I want to get off my chest, after having thought of it starting from a while ago and coming with a bit of a eureka moment during bedtime ytd. That is why do I always want some sort of verbal/ material commitment type thing, even in form of the fancy of going into a marriage, a kind of co-habitation or open family arrangement with someone that I really want to get or stay close with. Like why would I jump from really liking what that’s at the moment, to inferring & fascinating about an even more intensive experience in form of those kind of engagements.

So the answer I came up with is, fear of losing what I now have. A million scenario could snatch the ‘present’ moment that I treasured away from me. So I need it to be secure. It could be lost when one changes his/her mind. It could be lost when the physical proximity or conditions are no longer available. It could be lost when some deal between persons other than me got struck and I am forced into accepting the outcome from that. These applied to all the more insecure relationships I had.

Whereas I would be a hell lot more complacent in relationships that are ‘secure’ in that sense and start to act like a total dick that feels utterly bound by that bond. (So I like fucking myself & others up.)

So what I tell myself is, what I really and actually like is the (then) ‘present’ moment. The further securing of it in forms of weird bonds driven by un-communicated scares is means to the already obtained and easily obtainable end. Just communicate fears and ‘complacency’, sit back, and enjoy the show.

So this is one thing.

The other thing is I start to understand a person who affected me a lot better after some subconscious reflections these few days.

He changes immensely quickly when he judges something unworkable. In *every* regard. Politics, economics,

Interpersonal relationship.

So I should have understood. Now I do. In a good and relieved manner – as he likes to put it, it’s objective.

as fuck.

Unlike me, I just get stuck to what I had reason to make sense of, in pursuing some very simple relentlessly. In that regard I really am like a frisbee-catching doggie. I really am.

I feel quite relieved to see what’s been the knot there and, feel objectively more able to live with my past and present.

Hope you guys do too,

Anna x

Election rock’n roll, other stuff on my mind

記得有一位前輩講過,我都係有啲堅離地type嘅人,去完大遊行之後都唔會起晒勢係咁同人講見到啲咩嘅。似乎我個人啲情緒hit zone都係比較同「有人犯規呀球證!!」同埋「屌你,我地真係有機會㗎!!」有關,今次只不過係求其當贖罪咁,幫下天后選區做監投票員,但係真係估唔到開票的時刻,真係會變成一啲永世難忘、見人就想追住嚟講嘅事情。

總之,見到區議會變天,其實我同好多人一樣都係興奮到完全瞓唔著,係咁喺度望住立場個page renew再renew,同埋碌facebook睇下啲最新笑鳩獻世派的posts。我好似終於進入到以前一個重要朋友面對著選舉的心境:a lot is at stake at the matter of a very few number of votes,而每一個選區都係一場好令人咬牙切齒嘅拉鋸戰,天后呢邊贏咗,有人感動到低頭大喊;我碌Facebook見到社區前進贏咗,而我知道佢地上一場補選幾無chance、用好相寓等等等等咁多的努力做咗咁多嘢,今次終於贏到四年嘅資源返嚟發大去做,見到果一下其實同天后出面果位新朋友仔一樣,都有啲想喊。之前無發生到嘅回購領展調查計劃前期會議上,我總算從領匯嘅版圖認識到全港九新界嘅一堆地區名,尤其區議會選舉分得細到「屯門三聖」、「油麗」、「富亨」、「大南」呢啲地方,最少都唔會覺得自己好似係度睇緊樓。加上本人有港島人優勢,基本上好多其他friend唔太熟的港島版圖成個都識,今次望住一個個我都知有啲建制老seafood坐咗好耐嘅地方,而facebook、whatsapp同tg group都有一班街坊係度笑鳩佢地嘅時候(由細睇banner睇到大嘅,有炮台山羅榮焜、城市花園假髮王子許清安、維園周潔冰等,真係睇banner睇咗十幾廿年都未見過真人),個感覺係真係吐一口烏氣,揚一揚眉!

另外,其實我都更加明白到今次反送中運動中,衍生出嚟嘅果種幾organic嘅「手足」情(even though I wouldn’t see anyone as 手足 -_- not even my fam or CU friends)。我份人就真係幾鐘意一班人圍威喂吹水,而我7:30-14:00監完票、再22:00接左好短更之後,到監點票人入去,出到去同剛識的另一個監票人(古龍水味好重的捲髮男,但係我喺佢住棟嘢度學畫畫)加佢身邊嘅一班助選/撐場嘅後生朋友,大家一齊講下形勢點、睇下保民聯啲on9宣傳片、食薯片食朱古力,好似speed dating都無咁快識到一班啱咀形的新fd子(當然,對我來講今個星期日完左之後,我唔太打算繼續build果班friend啦,連人名都唔L知,雖然有個灣仔起動的義工睇得出幾有「執人」的senses, add了我入去灣仔tg group)。所以我都明點解大家真係心甘命抵個個禮拜出嚟,同彼此so-called「共患難」。最正的是,我地點完票宣佈咗1號陳鈺琳贏之後,我見到有人有啤酒,即刻問邊度有得買,幾個勵德邨嘅地頭蟲即刻帶咗我去(住炮台山天后咁多年坐車跑步經過無數次,見到但係從來無入過嘅)podium上面間7仔,話請我飲:) 吹左一輪水先知,個灣仔起動義工有一個朋友就係後腦中催淚彈果個,而身邊一齊煲左支煙又請飲嘅兩位,好快就要上庭—油麻地人踩人果日被告暴動。(原來宵禁係要佢check到你身份證先有事,所以其實等於無,小知識。)啲嘢好似突然間由一個mediated by the screen的光年驟然縮短成為一個身位以外的距離,呢個感覺真係有啲disorienting,好似一個世界觀/座標被推一推郁一樣。

對於我來講,光復到天后炮台山區議會,係真係有一個實質嘅意義,而我真係會gladly use the word光復。個原因係,一個depoliticised的「屋企樓下」已經紮根咗喺我腦海超過二十年,而一場真正有意義有agency嘅選舉,好似喺一張安靜嘅畫布上面潑一把墨,將所有以往隱而不見的人臉與情感浮現出來:原來有一個都好憎李文龍嘅男仔住我屋企樓下5分鐘之外;原來勵德邨比起我對一個公屋邨嘅想像,多好多會落樓圍屌點票不公嘅街坊同後生仔,多到有人企高由圍版以外「莊」入嚟睇下咩事,仲要果度肥龍贏得幾十票(計埋垃圾選舉主住鳩判比佢的十幾張廢票),比我想像中近好多好多。我尋日行落天后食個靚飯,唔知點解,過馬路後見到同平時一模一樣嘅地鐵站、休憩處嘅我人潮,真係有一種呢度已經唔同咗、呢度真係可以屬於我in a new sense的感覺。(同埋發掘左一間好好味嘅日本餐廳!)

Anyways, that feels really blissful。

仲有好多野想講,不過依家要落去開會,ttyl 🙂

Anna

Get, set – China’s Future thru lens of World System, my fire & fury

So I have to make something out of these:

Modernization and China’s future (12/11)

and in Chinese (for the material to be made). So I think it might be a good idea for me to go through it once, more relaxedly.

*

一開始我並不特別喜歡Ray Kiely的文章,甚至覺得佢有啲悶,因為佢不斷解釋不同的種類的依附理論、世界體系理論,然後再不斷反駁、提出他們的論證的不足之處,為的是展現其核心論點:「依附」呢個想法作為一個理論(Theory)並不可取,但係作為一個概念(Concept),去以一個世界經濟體系不平均發展(uneven development)作為起點去進行具體分析現實處境,咁就有用喇。不過好彩11月頭有一場讀書會的討論,負責present呢篇文嘅人都有成功勾起我對睇埋最後一段(佢作為一個concept有咩好)的興趣,加上依家又要交貨,咁睇埋之後由頭諗一轉,就明白呢篇嘢對於以依附理論為起點去理解中國的崛起,有可取同都幾有貢獻的地方。

Ray Kiely最精彩的部份肯定係後半,佢嘗試以「中國復興論」(Arrighi的說法:1400-1800年,世界一直以亞洲為中心,1750起歐洲以更高的資本集中度同更高的工資等,發動到科技革命,一時超越亞洲;不過亞洲以其高勞動密集同低能源耗用的工業再革命,最近十年再翻身,從而解釋中國的崛起)作為例子,說明世界體系及依附理論的最弱點:即解釋不平均發展的起源,以及長時間維持這種不平衡的運作機制(mechanism)。舉例,以上個例子嘅證據都幾流下(e.g. 歐洲的勞動力同土地生產率,的確係有因為競爭為本的資本主義的發展而提高,而唔止係某啲資本或工資相對高而帶來的世界價格比較優勢)。

之後佢以另一個由依附理論所啟發的「全球商品鏈」(Global commodity chain)作為一種分析框架(method of analysis),再去探討同一個問題(中國的崛起),就有有意思很多的收穫。他援引研究,指出中國雖然沒有在生產鏈上完全躍升成為掌握高增值生產技術的核心國,但係中國已經在東亞內部成為了製成品的生產國,並使其他的製造國成為其部件生產供應商(如泰國、台灣、菲律賓等),在此對比的背景下形成了中國在製造等級制中的上層地位。

由此,Ray Kiely再推演,其實以前話「原材料生產國」相對於「製成品生產國」的低進出口比價指數(declining terms of trade,即係賣原材料蝕啲,賺嘅錢買得返等量嘅製成品、比製成品出口國可以買到佢嘅嘢相對少 – 所謂的Prebsich-Singer thesis),在今日連大多發展中國家都其實可以生產製成品的時候,應該被update成為一種「低增值製成品生產國(low value-added, LVA)」VS「高增值製成品生產國(HVA)」的理解。呢個可以應用於一般的所謂已發展國家 VS 發展中國家,亦都可以應用於發展中國家內部的發展層級關係。

Ray Kiely同時非常著重進口替代工業發展政策(Import-substitute industrialisation policies, ISI)對於一個國家由LVA升上HVA、以達致資本主義世界體系商品生產鏈上的「晉級」(Upgrading)的必要性。佢覺得即使World system theories有佢極其戇鳩的地方,但係點都唔夠新自由主義(neoliberalism)對於發展中國家經濟晉級路徑的盲目看好咁戇鳩(佢地基本上覺得,一個國家只要由低層做起,好自然就會慢慢晉級上去-即基本的「現代化」理論的基礎)。仲唔好講呢啲新自由主義政策,根本上就以貿易自由化強迫發展中國家向製造業早已發展成熟的國家開放市場,面對來自他國的激烈競爭,喺過程中根本無可能可以做到(以前基本上所有發達國都用過的)ISI政策。所以強調「依附」作為概念同具體實證起點,依然有其莫大重要性。我們要強調不是「已發展與發展中國家的趨同」,而是兩者之間「基於變化中但不平等國際勞動分工的持續發散」。

Rather than promoting convergence between developed and developing countries, whereby the latter catch up or at least follow similar stages of development through upgrading, we have continued divergence based on a changing but unequal international division of labour.

Ray Kiely, p. 18

更重要的是,就著當前中國同印度等製造業大國以低工資於進入壁壘低(low barrier to entry)的工業(如製衣業)中作逐底競爭的現象,令人憂心的是,今個年代同以往的製造業發展形態不同,因著勞動替代型科技的發展神速,製造業吸納勞動力的能力已大大下降,造成發展中製造國裡「沒有工業化的城市化」(urbanisation without industrialisation),形成我以前睇過的Mike Davis講的「貧民窟星球」(Planet of slums)。另一方面,比起昔日在拉美等地有條件形成跨階級的民族主義ISI發展聯盟,今日發展中國家裡的資產階級因著資本迴圈的國際化(globalisation of circuits of capital),想要攞到錢就有賴有錢國家或者由已發展國控制的國際機構,因此它們更具「買辦」性質,形成以民族主義為中心推行ISI的社會及政治主體的機會微弱很多。

*

Phew. 之後就要講有謂「目前左翼思想界一場最重要的討論」(李民騏語):潘毅vs. 盧荻就中國國家性質是否屬資本主義所作出的辯論。

呢個reading list好的地方,係比我哋睇潘同盧較粗略的立場(佢地兩篇都好短,三版倒),然後睇基於上面兩者的立場與討論、數據同逐步推論相對紮實的李民騏文。

潘的立場觀感上係一種比較dramatic同narrative性質重、但係又幾熟悉的一種論調:中國在全球福利主義核心國面對利潤率下降打擊、由資產階級主導步入新自由主義的背景下,決定開展「市場化、私有化、自由化、國際一體化」天條下的1992年改革開放,步入了出口主導、勞動密集工業化路線下,使原有下崗國企工人及農民工步入血汗工廠型超剝削的說法。我估可能係同David Harvey的《新自由主義簡史》(A Brief History of Neoliberalism)有好多相似之處,而最近又真係學術圈裡周街都有人講Neoliberalism吧⋯⋯。

盧呢⋯⋯我因為聽其他人意見同讀過他的blog,本身對他有一點bias,似乎他是一個很想捍衛中國社會主義革命成果的第三世界主義者。他的看法是,新自由主義分為1980年代重市場化、90年代重私有化、2000年代重金融化三個時期。中國面對著融入資本主義的壓力,當中有「屈從」的地方,如企業所有制的比例上,私營企業大幅增加,不過盧認為去到2000s國有部門的比重已經穩定了下來;也有「抵抗」的地方,如金融化上面中國就一直成功死守,也沒有墜入拉美、東歐一些國家於上世紀末至今陷入的債務陷阱。同時,在數據上他不同意潘指外資佔國內生產總值過20%,按他的計算只有4%,而出口部門對於中國整體經濟的重要性,其實沒有有關血汗工廠等的報導呈現得那麼多

李民騏⋯⋯按我之前聽過佢(好似係夜貓的一條片,介紹他最新有關中國與全球暖化危機的書?)好似係個「毛派」,不過呢個派系事實上代表啲咩我真係無咩idea。不過在他的文章裡,我覺得他還是有理有節的,主要係用非常仔細的數據去砌低盧的立場,同埋比起其他論者,他有意識在行文間提出「推動某些政治方向的主體何在?」的問題,其實係同Ray Kiely最後提出的問題不謀而合。

佢首先就中國的私有化程度一點,指出其實眾多論者都同意中國的私營部門在改革開放之後大幅增加的不爭事實,而盧爭論的只不過是國營企業的比重在2000年代相對止住了跌勢,穩定了下來。李在數據使用上面反駁了盧,指出無論以1) 工業部門業務的收入(以國營、私營、外資及港澳台資企業三類,各自的某規模以上工業企業收入佔國內生產總值(GDP)的比例)、2) 利潤總額(反映市場上最關注的盈利狀況)、3) 淨資產總值、4) 各工業行業的業務收入(國有企業排頭的只有12個行業,大都是發達資本主義國家裡常由國家經營的重工業及公用事業等,外加國家專營的煙草業;私企排頭的有27行,包括除煙草外的近乎全部輕工業、部份重工業及礦業;外資及港澳台資壟斷製車、電子設備製造等最高增值行業)、5) 全社會固定資產投資(國企不守2008年前的一半佔有率,目前的三分之一比率還下降中)、6) 城鎮就業的創造而言,私有化的走勢一點也沒有放軟

盧用以指證國家私有化只是「妥協」的,是2015年官方公佈的國企改革方針指明抵制私有化,但同時要求國企市場化,前者是官方十多年來必說的空話,後者有國務院、各省市、經濟顧問等眾多有實權實勢的部門推行,國企全面私有化對於李來說,只是時間問題。

他再就中國的金融化程度,說明他不同意盧的判斷之處。盧講到中國好像成功守死了金融一體化的防線,可是,李引述盧也承認,第一道防線「抑制銀行資本參與金融活動」已隨著房地產與股市的泡沫與震蕩、影子銀行為企業放貸,以致生產性投資的壓縮的行為早早失守,而第二道防線「資本流動管制」因為近年的外匯巨額流失(高官轉錢出國等?我都想知多啲,唔係好熟,例如中國有無一個官方固定的匯率,而事實上係有個黑市賣貴好多?我估無,因為睇電視係見到有人report人民幣匯率,但係事實上係點我真係好唔清楚),已受到很大的衝擊。李提到,事實上國內並看不見有抵抗金融化走勢的集團。

另一邊廂,2014年中國金融業佔國內生產總值的比重(7.3%)已經比美國高。李認為在2008-11年的金融大地震後,國際金融環境其實已經出現了一定的轉變:美國早前不健康地依賴增加居民貸款(household debt)以製造足夠國內需求去吸納過剩產品的模式,慢慢已經得到重新平衡。世界經濟的矛盾即資本主義無限擴張的生產,與勞動人民有限的購買力(造成相對或絕對不足)—很可能由美國轉移到了中國,留下中國出現巨形經濟危機的伏線。

文章中一個頗令人impressed的地方,是李活用世界體系理論解釋新自由主義的起源,以及中國在呢個背景之下所發揮的角色。簡單而言,世界體系理論將世界上不同國家,按照它們的經濟霸主或從屬地位,分為(1)核心(core)、(2)半邊陲(semi-periphery)、(3)邊陲三種國家;半邊陲國的定義,大概是成功爭取到一定製造業部門中的出口優勢,但仍然依附核心國為出口地(屌我要再確認一下);邊陲國以向其他國家出口原材料、再向他們入口製成品維持其最底層角色。世界資產階級在二戰以後出現大範圍的工人運動、民族解放運動、社會主義革命運動下,對工人階級及被殖民國作出重大讓步(e.g. 成立福利國家、容許獨立),造成主要核心國家的利潤率大幅下降、主要半邊陲國如拉美、東歐等地因誤對未來生產力過份樂觀、陷入債務危機等,造成資本主義徹底破產的嚴峻危機。因此,新自由主義是世界資止階級團結起來的一個大反撲:以不同的表現形式(如私有化、金融化、自由化、重要核心國家以去工業化削弱工人階級的談判力等),達致全面恢復有利資本積累的條件、提高利潤率的目標。

當中中國的角色係咩呢咁?李認為,新自由主義究其根本,始終都係資本主義,以資本主義的手法積累—即以較大的地理區域、廉價勞動力以生產大量剩餘價值。這比起以所謂「掠奪性積累」這種以超經濟手段(如暴力)作原始積累的手段,更為重要。中國的角色就係以世界最大支的產業後備軍去補呢一個位,讓核心及半邊陲國可以將本來利潤率已大幅下降的低增值部門轉移出去,轉而從事新的高利潤行業。呢一點其實對以David Harvey為首,非常著重核心國家的內部政策轉變、以及它們對半邊陲國的債務敲詐下,對「何謂新自由主義」的定義而言,係一個超級大的(and if correct,非常突破盲腸的)反駁

頭先講到中國內部的危機,李認為中國同其他所有經歷工業化的國家一樣,都會出現工人階級鬥爭性增強的一個現象,具體呈現就係由2007年起中國的勞資糾紛群體性事件激增,同時中國的平均工資增長率—一個反映工人階級談判能力的指標—開始超過了勞動生產增長率。而就算因為就業結構傾斜向製造業、因而普遍的超剝削依然存在(contra盧),對於資本積累所需要的利潤率而言,中國不斷上升中的勞動成本可能很快就會超出可容納的上限。

而同Ray Kiely又不謀而合的一個點係,以中國為首的發展中國家可以超越呢個矛盾的能力,比起以往核心國低N倍:中國無可能好似佢地想當年搵到中國一樣,搵到一個起碼有中國咁大、咁多人的地方去做低利潤部門轉移、然後再將全國人民生活水平upgrade到去依賴新的高增值產業的模式。李提到,資本主義的邏輯註定,可以成為從邊陲國拮取「超級利潤」的核心國必然是一個極小數,而中國要躍升去嗰個地位,就意味著要把本來所有核心國擠出外圍,which在現實政治同資源上是沒有可能的。因此,另一個「出路」是中國政府以強硬手段將國民壓在永不超生的超剝削命運之下,不過李就話:

歷史並非總是由上層精英來寫的。三十年河東,三十年河西,水可載舟,亦可覆舟,被凌辱、被鄙視、被壓迫的廣大勞動群眾總是不甘寂寞,每隔一個歷史時期就要登上一次舞台的。

佢懶係嘢無講,但係要走出呢個如宿命般纏中國身的矛盾,最後一個出路,就是以工人階級為首的社會革命。(具體係要仔細N倍講,次次啲學術文章咁樣end,都搞到我有啲覺得好似比人點完一大餐「哦!」完好多次之後,再被傳返都係果個教的感覺 -_- 要真係落地咁了解最最最前線的勞動民眾每日面對緊啲乜、咩位會比人迫到爆煲決定搏一舖攬炒罷就,呢啲壯烈嘅大性情,其實回想起來睇中國基層的抗爭永遠都有呢種味道⋯⋯)

*

唉。為左交貨睇完上面啲嘢一轉,感覺上李民騏的分析intellectually係幾深刻有理的,而Ray Kiely個conceptual point都係高度吻合佢的研究方向,in that sense都是深刻的(無咁深刻啦。)不過最最最最大的感受都係,屌,中國大陸每日事實上發生緊的事,我真係可以話完撚全唔知,in this sense知道呢一大堆「看中國發展的方式」,其實到肉切身的意味還不是很近。我呢排都有些念頭,應該培養一下看關注中港基層動態的媒體(惟工都計嘅),不過屌,返工㩒住自己個頭睇完咁多字,有得放鬆嘅時候,其實真係唔係好想睇⋯⋯係我都係要㩒埋自己個頭落去果啲嘢,定係我本身就唔應該睇野睇到自己其他時候唔想再睇野,要adjust下個人as a whole呢⋯⋯呢個好似正路啲,不過都唔係好識實行。

*

聽日做監票員,要早瞓,但係有兩樣嘢,我都係好想講。

  1. 屌你老味臭閪,今日晏晝check下問卷response,見到呢兩句野我真係火滾到一個點,唔該打字嘅(我估係中大CUTA的人)仆街食屎死!!

(你的觀察)

(你的建議)

屌你老味呢啲無聊但係有啲地位的人對我(同我地)做緊的事的質疑,其實我成日都會take得好重、太重。我頭先做完gym諗返起,真係要上員總個網睇返佢地18年個工會通訊裡面、大家講過的理念呀經歷呀先定一定返個人。我會get very defensive,但其實同時我都會係心裡面好質疑,我做緊的事係唔係多餘?我係呢啲收成期高層的眼中係咪已經係一隻永不超生嘅眼中釘(因為我係咁喺個職員幾海度share員總新資訊,咁真係新嘛)、係咪一個徹底嘅joke ><。最可惡的是佢踩本人有無心於學術嘅呢個位(屌你老母臭閪我上面先寫完一大秋呢條presumably讀natural science的收成期朋友仔呢世都唔識appreciate但係影響佢第時有無得返大灣區退休嘅嘢)—頂你個肺你估我唔撚驚復工之後唔夠時間跟進我話過想跟進嘅嘢?你覺得我會in any sense compromise我對學術同理論同任何解釋make sense嘅程度嘅執著?你可唔可以碌返去你間可能有二噁英嘅辦公室檯底度suck your own dick instead of speaking???唔好咗鳩住個地球轉去好啲果邊啦建制大粒佬!!!!

好,rant完。

唉自從有人提醒過我做野可以diplomatic一啲之後,我成日都會好驚我會唔會做多咗,我會唔會做少咗,而我諗返起以往好多曾經一開始時期望滿滿,而之後因為心裡某些重要嘅位的失望、或溝通失敗(主要係我罵人或人罵我而有一方頂唔順),斷裂得都幾粒聲唔出就「啪」*snap*下。其實我面對呢啲嘢嘅自我表述能力同抗壓抗焦慮能力都唔高。呢樣係我想講下的第二樣嘢。

2.

尋日我發現自己一有空隙的時間,都會在想以往面對著一些重要的人,我有無做錯、定係佢做錯、佢點樣不能原諒地僭越了我,我又點樣按佢所說不能原諒地僭越了佢,總之有不少這樣的內心對話,而我總是要以一個不自控的倔強的苦笑,去證明給自己看我沒有做錯,而一切已事過境遷,all behind my back for the good。

所以最近都在這些時刻做多了10分鐘以下的瑜珈做間奏,調節一下心情,有時幫員總出完一個post、mon完一下response,個人又會興奮(mission done and out and promoted!!),又要做一節去回復平靜。

在尋晚的睡前瑜珈後,我真係一個mountain pose咁瞓在床上,不知為什麼可能真係有啲禪意上身,在回想起那些對錯與過去的時候,想起Adrienne剛才一句”choose to relax”⋯⋯

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI9upn4t9n8

⋯⋯突然想起了,我也可以choose to forgive⋯。到了今日,其實邊個啱、邊個錯,都真係真係完全無所謂、無意思。可能兩個都啱,可能兩個都有錯,但係最重要嘅真係,其實係某啲重要嘅意義上,我哋都明白大家,也只不過係用自己最擅長最純熟的方式,去communiate那種理解給大家,而since there’s still mutual well-wishing, we are still Aristotliean virtuous friends 🙂 .

Aristotle’s Timeless Advice on What Real Friendship Is and Why It Matters – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F18kSA8OxqY

Which is the thought that carried me through my hard English years. 我尋晚甚至有一下想到不同關係裡面,一些好相似的動態的再生,一時間真係順口地用「種咩因,就有咩果」去諗以後我可以點樣避免孽緣的再生、為自己為身邊嘅人種啲善因。(屌⋯⋯)

好吧,學下Adrienne,咩恩怨情仇都可以inhale再ex個hale放低,Namaste(合十)。

Quick recap on ytd: Snippering down janitors, Forearm wheel pose

Phew. So much to do today, tomorrow, day after and on Monday. A friend said I’m the sort of girl that thrives on a packed schedule, and now I do get one. So I have to help Chris with 2 teaching materials and a short review commentary, and I sort of have to keep reviewing and updating the CUEGU thing (though the launch of the new, detailed survey had been delayed, probably due to a lot of dealings & meetings taking place behind the scenes regarding our collective fate on Mondays – us referring to CUHK staff members) , and also I half regret signing up to be the 監票員 on this Sunday (on the bright side, at least it gives me a reason to get to the voting station as early as 7:30am, which will never ever happen in any other possible worlds). Even I am sweating seeing this level of compaction.

But yea now I’m tackling item 0, which should have been done ytd but i was too tired to – recording what happened yesterday at CUHK, see what can be reported back to enhance CUEGU proposals & really just for the sake of me to remember what I did for what reasons; and perhaps ease my mind a bit on the many past experiences that come to appear to my mind recently (mostly from intimate rships).

**

So yesterday, a friend from CUGC and I went back to CUHK to check on the frontline workers. My idea was ‘to carry something through to the full extent’: if I helped starting a petition on workers’ safety given potential chemical hazards now at the CUHK campus, then I should make it fair and accessible to *all* CUHK staff regardless of their position and level of literacy.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeaO8P9GfbW6Tubu7hhbTE7M-BnfDlLaRC-tcUoLRgqDLshzw/viewform?usp=sf_link

中大教職員、校友及同學促請中大校方:全面檢測及謹慎清理中大室內外化學污染,並確保工友安全 — CUHK Staff, Alumni and Students Demand thorough testing & prudent cleaning of CUHK chemical contamination and occupational safety precautions for frontline workers. (872 signed by 22 Nov 2019 🙂 )

So, simply speaking I achieved my aim, coz I managed to distribute all ard 15 copies of the petitions, enlarged to 16+ font size and one-sided A4 (out of some weird presumptions about people having a worse vision??) to different stakeholders on campus, including boss of restaurants, supervisory staff as well as frontline workers; mostly in person, some of them sneaked into their secret hideouts (ok resting rooms) from under the door (‘You know where you are and I know where you are B-)’ – weird).

I think the most ‘gratifying’ spot was 花圃路,where after an initial scare (a supervisory staff seemed to be really alert about us speaking to a frontline gardening staff), his attitude sort of changed 180 (to me) when I mentioned I was distributing something from the CUEGU. He talked a lot about what he think can be fought for at this stage (shit now it gives me a sense of urgency to report back – the school is making decisions every minute rn) from his observations & experience at the frontline.

Then he sort of gave us the green light to approach other workers on the road when we turned back, and that’s how we managed to get in touch with some quite young & bespectacled 油漆(?)組 workers, some apparently 木工/泥水組 uncles who made me laugh with how they viewed us as monitors to be dealt by PR methods, some more hesitant gardening uncles who walked past, and a few 戶外組(?)aunties, uncles + young staff who got called to go uphill upon our approaching them (guess the senior doesn’t like us talking to them that much), and a 戶外/街道清潔組 head who chatted a bit with us while the cleaners were picking up trash and bricks on CC grass. That was the most ‘fruitful’ time period out of our entire 2.5 hours (1230-3?).

Some less fruitful times was when we searched in vain from 7/F down to 1/F for cleaners on the Sino+ ‘3 brothers’ bdgs, only to find one janitor who was new to the school responding to our knock on a very subtle door. She said she did not know how to read so giving her the petition didn’t mean a lot, but I asked her to retain it for others to read in the resting room. Then a more awkward encounter took place at YIA, where 4 janitors were resting at the bottom of a staircase which became a makeshift place for them to hang their equipment and calendars etc. They were a hell lot more cautious about us approaching them, and took our petitions sort of to hasten our departure. Later on we met a lady who held the petition took from her colleagues and said she ‘would not talk to us anymore’ – probably a reference to how she got scolded off from disclosing ‘un-fact-chcked’ info to students before, as my friend had spoken to her before perhaps about the employment status of toilet cleaners (outsourced or in-house). They told us they did not have to perform any dangerous works, and they were mostly just there to clean the washrooms & buildings so that they can be used once work resumed.

Most of the workers we met did not care that much about chemical pollution in the air, and they were keen to tell us that they got the protective equipments – one of them mistook the N95 mask she got as the ‘豬咀’ and I corrected her. Also they seemed to be given hard plastic goggles, but most of them weren’t wearing it (possibly didn’t see the point in wearing it). Some of them expressed fear with directly drinking water from the campus, and the supervisors expressed concern with the traffic arrangements (super congestion in Shatin area and how buses were so packed that they didn’t stop for the workers).

They suggested 1) also showing concern for the EMO management & repair headquarters, located right underneath Haddon-Cave sports ground – for that we can communicate to 安全及環境署 who is responsible; 2) asking for alternative traffic arrangements in-campus (for departments working near Bridge No. 2); 3) asking for alternative traffic arrangement to & fro the school, like shuttle buses, or to have different departments resuming work on different dates gradually in order to ease the traffic burden, now that the Uni station is closed; 4) Ask for special permission for pregnant staff to work at home or to resume work later.

However the attitude of the supervisors were more ‘demeaning’ of the frontline staff – they expressed fears that ‘they would say the wrong things’ and that ‘they can’t even read’, so it’s okay to bypass them in the consultation process.

Some staff perhaps 訓示ed by their superior earlier took a really PR attitude in replying to us. They said they were not supposed to be resuming work yet, but some of them returned ‘out of a sense of duty’, and they did not even know if wages would be provided for these days of ‘voluntary service’. Also, equipments were provided and they felt okay with the chemical issues around the campus. The funniest point was when they pointed to the ‘Five Demands’ the company had engraved onto the worksite walls and possibly attempting to do the same in their hearts and mind: 「顧客第一、環保安全、XXXX、持續改進、不斷革新」. One of them who walked past the door joked 「缺一不可呀!」。I like how they were trying to stick to the official line, while defying it with their joking attitudes – I sort of enjoyed this having an understanding among us while our communicated was mediated by ‘the official line’.

Yup, so I better write up a Chinese version of some keypoints from the above, for other CUEGU+ friends.

*

Ah I almost forgot. So we also spoke to the boss of the veggie restaurant who happened to be there – a thin, polite-looking middle-aged guy who looks quite nice :). He gave some measured comments on the type of violence out there (‘even language violence is a form of unobservable violence,’) to suggest that he wasn’t exactly on the side of the young protestors, but that’s fine. I asked if there’s gonna be any subsidy for the colossal loss in volume of business out of the emergency campus evacuation, and he said they were dealing with the school about it (?). He said that he was happy to have achieved some balance in revenue & costs earlier, only to be reversed by the recent unexpected incidents.

He wanted to apply for the Li Ka Shing aid for SME restaurants but since they do not have a 飲食牌 operating here in campus, they were sadly ineligible for the however small subsidy. They would be happy if we can somehow reflect it to the 膳委會s. Also, they reopened yesterday because they thought the school was going to resume work on Thursday – but it was announced really late (on Weds afternoon) that it wasn’t going to. So I think they got ‘tricked’ into spending some extra electricity, water & manpower in dealing with that. Also, he said they had to throw away boxes of organic vegetables stored inside before because of the chemical scares, which is another source of grave loss.

*

Ok so, what else. I can talk about the journey to CUHK, which was a physical strain mostly because I slept late (for that fucking stupid Taobao payment issue) and had to wake up early to get to CUHK. I mistakenly took 807K towards Sai Kung instead of CUHK mtr station and sort of had a nice-ish minibus ride for some extra rest before arriving. It was a bit confusing to figure out what to take when the Uni station was closed and I had to try out the 681 from tin hau to Ma On Shan option, but I quite liked the route – got to see more trees and a bit (annoyingly) of Ma On Shan’s different estates. But $20.2 one way – not a small amount, at least according to my shitting consumer’s perception ($20.2>>>>$19.9).

And skipping my nice convo with an old friend and brief meeting with Chris & another new friend, I had a really nice opening up of my upper back & shoulders, using the yoga wheel to do this:

Was a ‘pain’ as I did 2 times wrong and the last one right – it felt really really straining for my shoulders, but afterwards it was great, I feel like something that had been real tight all along really got opened up. I quite like the more introductory pace of the class and the more ‘professional’ (i.e. not chatty?) style of the teacher. It was a bit of a down-letting when my friend seemed not to share it because she was worried about having to get back to work .. aww I would have loved for the timing to work so we can do this every week. I see the point in paying for yoga wheel classes, not really in paying for stretches that I can pretty much do by myself with youtube at home.

arrrhhhh… really look forward to getting my own yoga wheel so I can roll roll roll at home (sob sob)….

And maybe I can really become the ‘bendy girl’ if I keep practising yoga. I really, really liked the calming, soothing and pace-changing practicing yoga gives. Had felt the urge to do it at home & almost had been doing it everyday in the past few days. Maybe it will really grow into me, as it is a much-needed part in my journey to ‘reverse’ some deep-seated personalities & habits in myself: being really hectic, impatient about packed items to be done, and sort of compulsorily having them on my mind before they are done or lingering on the after-taste of a well-done or worrisome-ly-done task. It helps cooling myself down and get me to change my pace, and get ready for some rest and stretches that I really look forward to. (The Yogi term ‘juicy’ sounds cheesy self-loving shit, but some twists and stretches really are juicy.)

Need a lot of that for the last few days of hectic first stab at unionising.

Gotta get back to work & maybe you too,

Anna x

Uneventful day? – my share of shit swallowing, or give & take

So I did nothing except some intense physical workout and getting exhausted from that in the last 24 hours. I feel like mopping up some feelings that I tried to come to terms with this afternoon, while dragging myself up from bed at home, and after dinner when the dust of the last few days settle a bit.

So I think I had a slight epiphany or promise to self in the afternoon. That is, I should take up my share of sub-optimality-swallowing in a relationship, regardless of its category – romance, friendship, family, whatever. I know sometimes putting myself in a position which gets me nervous, anxious and alert, and also packed with some grudge from some requirements (perhaps subconsciously – not even something the other asked for). But then I asked myself if it worths it, and I know from the bottom of my really soft heart a firm yes. And I know others have always had their fair share of shit swallowing for me. Given that I know I am not a particularly considerate person (I get how I leave everything deemed less urgent to my parents & probably take them quite for granted .. and I can get my child-like selfishness from the scene of myself grabbing food on the sofa when everything around’s messy af).

I had some flashback on a relationship where love was intense but I couldn’t take the conditions that come with it. I couldn’t, and I am finally accepting that it’s an ‘I couldn’t’. It is a shame. I was unable to put down my ego and self-importance enough to be an ‘equal’ partner among all. I need recognition from my capabilities & diligence. It was outright denied to me, as I was said to not know what I am doing. Probably right but that search for the answer to their question destroyed me. Over and over.

It’s my character flaw – I really want to apologise and say, I know I was telling myself a half-lie, a story of sour grapes to stop my own scars from bleeding to death. I know it has to do with my inflated ego whilst being with people I deemed my lower counterpart and therefore find very very difficult to interact with when apparently deemed ‘lower’ morally. That’s why I feel a lot more at ease with the staff at least at the moment – everyone has a reason to be respected by me. Which is real shitty to think of it, it means I 欺善怕惡, in capabilities/ morality sense。Will I change? Will I still be 捽數 and doing it for the people there, instead of for the work in itself? I have images of leader or guardian-like people that I had respected and relied on at different stages in my life. Failing each of them brought me trauma.

I often value their valuing me more than any thing. I don’t want that to repeat.

With Chris it’s fine – he has a Tai Chi player feel to organising. With Ann it’s a bit harder. She likes my efficiency.

I think something that changes my interaction with someone is when I start to have respect for him or her. Say, for how he/she endured and showed patience and consistency despite all. (Or start to see his/ her weakness behind an all-encompassing impression.) Maybe the point is to learn to respect people in their unique way so no one is ‘lower’ than you, and to learn to not do anything for compliments by someone somehow ‘higher’ than me. This I remember is something I’ve written in an 2017 Dec email to a group of close friends. With utter excitement, like Moses proclaiming the Ten Testaments from the Lord’s Fire, an excitement that eventually died off when I don’t ‘need’ to write to them anymore. Maybe also have respect for yourself and have appropriate awareness & constructive despise for my own room for improvement. Maybe it’s the Aristotle thing of getting the exact right amount – no more, no less.

Respect my dad for his optimism, loyalty, utter patience & willingness to give; respect my mom for willing to tone down her constant anxiety about everything and offering her heart and mind to making our lives better & easier. These are probably qualities that I’ll take tens of years to acquire, and more importantly exactly complement and allow me to become who I am – a quick-witted, impatient, efficient improviser specialising in mental labour.

– Silicon Valley (rating: *****), S01E02

Yep, this makes a lot of sense. This is really why I couldn’t live as an all-rounded, caring neighbour. I had been specialised into not-caring since very young.

And to trust in the maturity of the other. That’s like the bedrock in every relationship.

Needing sleep & hope you too get a good rest,

Anna x

Winding down – Rebuilding our CUHK post-apocalypse

So, it’s almost like how 你我永遠不肯定愛不愛誰/約不約定誰/黃金廣場外分手/在時代門外再聚⋯⋯Can’t believe how my routine is turned upside down by the recent development of events with which I have always kept a sort of relaxing distance. I could once indulge in my intellectual pursuits on the role of populism & economic grievances and what the fucking ever of something happened 5 years ago. (I can’t say how glad I am for having had myself to write these blogs – I TOTALLY forgot what I liked about those articles now that my brain is super overwhelmed by a bunch of different stuff & time-frame & people in decision-making.)

Regarding the ‘never thought I’ll get to know you’, the you is CUEGU (Employee’s General Union), 中大員總. So I happen to stumble upon them because Chris gathered a group of more pro-active & youngish staff on like 13th/14th (I wanted to check at whatsapp, then overwhelmed by rushing messages so not a good idea). Then he gave me a list of phone numbers to set up a group. Funny development is that this group, with a professor KM of CUTA adamant to wipe out places within staff circles not under his web of “老樹盤根” teachers’ control, became a 校方的外圍 as many more prestigeous professors got added in alongside us frontline admin/ research/ teaching small potatoes, creating an unintended ‘horizontal’ communication platform where Agnes Ho (head of OSA?), Lavendar Cheung (head of Press & Comm), Ng Kee Pui (副校)are all inside. So we ‘progressive/ proactive’ small potatoes were sort of able to 帶風向 in the group about some issues that we are concerned about, e.g. pollution, students & staff’s role in rebuilding CU order, cleaners’ safety etc. I was so scared at first when I ‘leaked’ by being overly eager our drafted 聯署 on ‘CU ask for warranty to stop Police from coming in’ to KM, with his bunch of unknown people. I like how Chris is quite 一兩句輕輕帶過 about how to tune up and down things given the changing circumstances, and Ann in how she placed back much-needed confidence at a turbulent time when I internally feared that I have done something stupid that would affect the greater scene.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfbELh2zSe6YS89hAUKEL8vuRROCx7ahngWgxLMfreaKxh1wA/viewform

緊急聲明:禁止警方進入校園並使用致命武器 — 中大職員促請中大申請臨時禁制令, 11月15日(I just realised I forgot to put in the date in that statement 😀 )

Ok so that’s the funny new group. We re-started a smaller group with controlled access and then things went a lot better. I think it started with us meeting up openly with students and staff on Friday 3-7pm at Pong Man Lun indoor sportsground, where we get to sort of really get the vibe of each person (some are more talkative, some reconciliatory, some with a vision to bring it to a unionising direction, some rather angry at the school, some focused on in practice what we can do, some concerned about safety with his/her specialised knowledge..) – which did mean a lot. I like them. We then went to CC can for a 風眼中的最後晚餐 before we knew it was a ‘last’ supper, as right in the midst of it we received news in person that the popo had advanced so we urgently evacuated ourselves to CUEGU room at Wong Fuk Yuen building. There we got to chill a bit and exchange our varying levels of concern about the situation we were in (all of us received individually tons of messages concerned about our safety).

Fake ‘bomb is around’ news spread from that 校方的外圍姨媽姑爹未FC info group, evacuating basically the entire CU campus by a 擠牙膏manner: each building’s warden spread the news to his or her own building’s students, under an absolute state of chaos and panic. I felt so outraged by the school’s possible tactic to ‘bring peace upon CU again’ by starving the black-blocked protestors of a supportive shield. That was at the expense of my friend having to fly back to her hometown in the middle of a supposed school semester (which was annoucned to end early. Probably in a coordinated effort by the govt to make universities less of a hotbed for protests, to cool things down).

Anyways, we were there in the CUEGU room which is more like a dance studio, spacious, no cluster at all, yoga mats, mirrors along the wall, etc. I like how spacious it is and how comfy I can get working on my computer there, monitoring the number of people who signed the statement, and kept receiving and sending messages to people around. We had to abort the plan we just came up with at the Pong Man Lun meeting, which was to sort of take part in the newly established quasi-anarchic and autarkic order in CU as members of staff, supporting students led by a panicking CUSU (which declared that it would now stop running. *clap* even though I understand the stress they were facing). We have now become more like a post-apocalypst clean-up team, in this chemically polluted (to an unknown extent) campus wtih remnants of an old civilisation and destruction.

So Chris, Ann & another guy & I stayed at the room overnight, while others returned home awaiting newest decision on tmr’s supposed 11am 和你執. Chris might be a bit disheartened (?) to see that we can sort of do nothing in the situation, given the school had been quite overt in suppressing our call for students, alumni and staff to return for a collective clean-up. Maybe not disheartened but rationally seeing no role in us at the time. My friend suggested that we should sort of ignore and defy the school’s call because that’s more like excuses for them to exclude members’ participation, but since the school had issued official notice discouraging return, we sort of really can’t be openly against them.

Instead we did a 圍內執 at hotspots of recyclable materials at CC and brought them to a center for redistribution. Enjoyed that thoroughly because I got to collect for myself a lot of shower gel with high-end fragrances ❤ to my weird likings. Maybe breathed in a lot of pollutants but don’t care (no I do, I want to be able to bear children in the future – just having that potential rather than not is great) – and felt a bit liberated (from a ‘selfish’ individualistic common way of life?) when getting on a new friendly teaching staff’s vehicle in moving stuff around. Usually you only get on strange new vehicles of your relatives. It is almost as intimate as someone’s home, given the number of times you stay inside to build up your experiences and a literal point of view. And got to sit closely with some new mates, getting buckled up etc. To think about it I set on 3 new vehicles (excluding taxi which is supposed to be new to the one taking it) that day from new friends/ simply someone 萍水相逢. I think I am very glad that I decided to come to CU, because now I get that kind of 手足 feelings better – it’s a new order, a new way to relate with people based on common beliefs and often immediate common goals. It could be exhiliarting esp. when you all have a common enemy (not very prominent in our group, as we are more like trying to be constructive of a new, more inclusive school order). I like that.

So after the 執, with the space at CUEGU that I feel pretty much at home at we had some snacks and started talking about our views on the current situation, cuminating into a detailed minutes that I happily kept on updating and sending out to the smaller, tighter group. Several action items and we are meeting up tomorrow again to see how to make them happen. Making things happen, knowing that there are people around as motivated and wanting to get something done as you are, being able to write out your truer thoughts in face of a situation and slam it on those repsonsible (whilst learning the better ways to put it for a more optimal result), being able to live and work with them in a connection – I sort of feel like, this *is* the beginning of my ‘lost’ CUHK experience, of what I lacked and sort of yearned for in order to ‘complete’ myself to be part of the old cusp/ cugc communities.

Plus CUEGC is at a completely next-level vantage point. Get a lot closer contact with decision-making senior management and get to know how this giant machine called CUHK runs in a lot more specific detail. And I like Ann’s work ethic which is like mine, which is quite task-oriented and on point. 🙂

So the last thing I want to talk about, is honeymoon. As with CUEGC, before any more serious ‘infactuation’ takes place, I realise I have a fucking, very, super, intensive honeymoon with many things crossing my life.

I want to give them the portrait originally intended for Chris, and I sort of know/ feel like that could further cement my relationship as an appreciated, hardworking member of lots of potential in the group. However I feel like I want to hold myself back a bit, to burst into working and imaging things soooo freeeeaaaakkkking gonna work out than … taking a step back, hold myself together, get dedicated without being excessively infactuated about the prospect of this whole new empire (almost like a mine filled with ‘potential (to organise, to make good friendships, to fulfill my lost wishes…..)’) …

Most of the time, I realised, when I receive love, I want to tell that I felt it and I want to give back.

And that giving back is often than not misplaced, but true and intense.

Misplaced in the sense of, being diverted onto some other stuff that I tried my freaking best to guess what that person would be impressed with, or simply quite indulgent physical pleasures and moments of biss. Of course with organising with a common purpose it’s different. But I can sense that I am getting people’s contact and be more talkable because I sort of have an ulterior motive of wanting to ‘organise’ in the future. I am already letting that eye in, of guessing what I should do ahead, being a bit (or quite) 懶醒, being super eager & efficient in tackling tasks ..

With a distance and in a new setting, it’s like having a control experiment with my past and I can see how I differ from other people. I surely have efficient lingustic and writing capacities, and I am super task-oriented in that I am like a self-whipped 秘書 — when I get that something has to be done, I sort of get tense and keep on asking for assurances until I am assured that that’s happening according to plans. In the past few days I’ve surely learnt perfect planning ahead is literally impossible, given that a bunch of uncontrollable popos and seniors with their heads burning could make decisions that completely fuck up your original plan, and then, you work on what you have at hand and adjust, knowing that sometimes that spared, unused effort actually means a good thing. It’s surely a series of new (life) lessons for me to be out of that orderly office, boxed and working on one concept after another in an endless chase for their relevance to the real, evolving world. Welcome myself to the world of swirling agency and condequences.

So that’s my last two hectic days. Glad you guys are still around.

Anna x

Cont’d: UM – from inequality to anger-frustration & radicalisation

Lots of things on my mind now. Crazy how the world and myself evolve and I absolutely don’t have enough time to digest everything that illicit a response on me, and as usual I want to process too much at once. Which leads to processing nothing at all. A sign is I have borrowed so many books on labour strikes in HK & Korea, and also bought books on how to brace oneself during totalitarianism (it wasn’t a pressing issue to me until yesterday, for better or worse). The books I bought in my last rather hyper episode earlier this year still… remains unread :). Though the motivation behind buying and borrowing have changed for the better – not equipping myself with things that I *should* know, but things that I genuinely have an intense interest to get to know? (Did I think this way as well last time? A bit?) Let see.

Suppress your urges at times is good. I remember really wanting to acquire the book On Tyranny by Tim Sydner despite having an e-copy. Thinking of buying at Eslite, e-printing, etc… then I read the pdf and realised maybe I can just finish reading it on that. Also I am super impatient (this seems to be a recurring theme) – I kept reading that pdf while very impatiently waiting for a cross-harbour bus to bring me back home, having stayed out last night. I also kept looking at the new books or related online articles intermittently when chatting with a friend. Just bad habit. Really really bad. I am trying to learn force-feeding myself less and letting myself loose a lot more often.

For instance, this practice of writing a casual reflection of books/ articles I’ve read makes me feel like I’m chasing quickly gone buses. My trains of thought. Umbrella Movement, Populism, Totalitarianism, Strikes, Labour Ownership plans, Hong Kong future, relationship stuff, blah blah blah, all come and go in a rush. It’s like being in a CD shop listening to 4-5 or 6 different headphones interchangeably while trying to get a record “finished” and burnt onto my brain. Impossible. I now get what my friend says, I’m only going less fast. Not slowed down.

Inhale: a cooling sensation. Each exhale: a healing sensation. (Sexy yoga instructor tone.) (Doing shoulder, neck and back yoga with Youtube helped me lots. Let me realise how fucking tired I am over the weekends.)

*

CUHK battle against invading police got my nerves. I had this moment of helplessness seeing the fall of Hong Kong and the blatant loss of any remaining ruling legitimacy of the HKSAR govt. I got back to my depression brain for 15 minutes I think, twisting my fingers and sitting still in my metallic-ised brain on a sofa. My strength came from all the others who persevered through darkness in the past and present, in China and beyond. Hannah Arendt who survived the Holocaust. Tyrannies with the popular front crushed but restored as victorious after a few years or decades. We are one and it’s our turn. Solidarity and empathy mean something concrete, something that’s in front of our eyes, something that we can’t cover our senses to anymore.

Everything before – nothing but a truce.

A Devil’s Contract between a placated people and the cake divider(s).

Therefore, in the realities of the capitalist system, … no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, [they] are inevitably nothing more than a “truce” in periods between wars.

Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Chapter IX

*

So, the 2nd set of papers I reviewed for Chris:

  • Zamęcki, Ł. (2018). Hong Kong Youth Radicalization from the Perspective of Relative Deprivation.
  • Cheng, J. Y. S. (2014). The emergence of radical politics in Hong Kong: Causes and impact. China Review, 14(1), 199-232.
  • Cheng, E. (2016). Street Politics in a Hybrid Regime: The Diffusion of Political Activism in Post-colonial Hong Kong. The China Quarterly,226, 383-406. 
  • 何明修. (2017). 第三勢力與傘兵: 比較台港佔領運動後的選舉參與. 中國大陸研究, 60(1), 59-86.
  • John Lowe & Eileen Yuk-Ha Tsang (2018) Securing Hong Kong’s identity in the colonial past: strategic essentialism and the umbrella movement, Critical Asian Studies, 50:4, 556-571

I think a much more layered picture that account for many features I observed/ experienced during and after the UM emerge when these papers are added to the more cornerstone-like framework provided by C. K. Lee. Especially on the relationship between economic grievances, the psychology driving a fomenting class of people to think & react in certain ways, and how it is manifested in narratives and political actions among us. (Sounds very social science.)

1.

So let’s start with Cheng (2016) whose framework is most like how I used to perceive the trajectory of HK movements before. Basically it’s the state V. civil society narrative – regime vs. people locked in an institutional bind (ineffective LegCo & constitutional powers of the CPC), the people instigating protests over a host of issues (inequality, ‘white elephant’ developmentalist projects), and how the hybrid (semi-democratic) regime responded with an increased range of repertoire (e.g. more overt Chinese intervention, patriotic education, etc.), leading to a further diffusion and ‘scale shift’ in the participation rates after repeated public staging of defiance.

It’s the general way we viewed what happened in the past: escalation of conflict along the essentially one same fault-line: a non-responsive regime vs. people demanding representation. That’s how I understood HK politics since secondary school and got that desperate, burning desire to know how to get out of the bind where there seems to be no way out. Sighing and head-shaking in face of every inevitable escalation, sighing at every moment where the regime could have conceded but chose not to – really, instead to escalate it further in much more ridiculous Chinese ways. Sighing. Seeing us caught and sink into the spider web-like spiral.

That’s why it’s also one of the least interesting paper. This way of looking at the issue is too limited and lacking in insight to me. Also offer not much hope or action guidance except in ‘strengthening CS further to exert a greater cost on the regime if there is no concession’ -> concession is outright denied -> lie down and cry internally -> Get more frustration and want to erupt next time -> Repeat. (That’s literally my internal dialogue…)

This also explains the deliberative democracy theory-inspired ‘civil disobedience’ adopted by Benny Tai. As a CIVIL society you can only play your hand with the regime while retaining moral legitimacy through binding your hands by the law eventually. His is the biggest jump the placated pro-democratic middle class or middle-class-to-be – sophisticated enough to get the convoluted idea of ‘breaking the law so we can obey better laws’ – can take.

2.

I think Cheng (2014), Zamecki and Lowe & Tsang can be discussed together as they serve to explain a crucial missing piece in the puzzle – objective conditions of inequality, the psychology of HKer’s economic grievances, and the partial form of their manifestation: populist nostalgia for British HK.

2a.

So I think the Cheng paper worths quoting in full in part when he discussed inequality. Sure, we all know HK is a very unequal place, but even I got my mouth wide open when I went through the statistics in the way he laid them out:

At the end of September 2013, the C. Y. Leung administration released its definition of the local poverty line, that is, families with incomes equal to or less than half of the median income of families in Hong Kong with the same number of members.

In concrete dollar terms, this definition refers to one-person families with monthly incomes of HK$3,600 or less in 2012, two-person families with monthly incomes of HK$7,700 or less, three-person families with monthly incomes of HK$11,500 or less, four-person families with monthly incomes of HK$14,300 or less, five-person families with monthly incomes of HK$14,800 or less, and families of six persons or more with monthly incomes of HK$15,800 or less.

According to these criteria, people in poverty amounted to 1.31 million, 19.6 percent of the population. With the intervention of social security and various benefits, people in poverty still reached 1.02 million.

I am sorry for being an off-ground person. $11500 for 3 people a month?? $3600 for one? $15,800 for 6? ~20% of the population living this life? I know inflation sort of grew with rent during 2013-9, but we all know wages increase far far slower than rent and price of stuff.

So I found the newest stat:

15,000 for 3?? 9800 for 2?? WTFFFF I can’t even imagine 9,800 monthly salary for one person being sufficient, given that rents are like 8,000 for a 100 sq. foot flat in Wan Chai? (Of course you can live in an even worse condition for not a lot less. And of course migrant workers are working at $3,721/month 🙂 )

20% = 7,000,000*0.2 = 1,4oo,ooo people living this way ?

Lord save us.

Maybe it’s just my stupidity for not having known these numbers by heart. But like compare it to my personal salary, which already isn’t high for a uni grad, I can’t imagine getting that amount on my bank book. Just wtf. Maybe lots of them are elderly – but still, elderly need to *live* and with this number they probably aren’t *living*.

Ok, so the Cheng paper also did some Gini coefficient and top 10% v. bottom 10% comparisons. Spare me for some perhaps common-sensical data to those who care about inequality:

Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor poor has been widening. In 2001, the Gini coefficient in Hong Kong already reached 0.525; it is expected to be even higher.

Normally, a level exceeding 0.4 provokes caution, and the territory’s level is comparable to that in some Latin American countries. According to a document prepared by the local legislature, the Gini coefficients were 0.249 in Japan in 1993, 0.326 in Taiwan in 2000, 0.316 in South Korea in 1998, and 0.425 in Singa- pore in 1998.

In September 2010, Oxfam in Hong Kong published its report on poverty in the territory, which indicated that the incomes of the poorest one-fifth (20%) of families had shown no improvement in the past five and a half years and the median monthly incomes of the poorest one-tenth (10%) and one-fifth (20%) of families were HK$3,000 and HK$6,000, respectively.

In comparison, the median monthly income of the richest one-tenth of families had risen by 16 percent to HK$80,900, about 27 times that of the poorest one-tenth of families, reflecting that the gap between the rich and the poor had been widening since 2004.

Yea I know friends who can earn $80,000 at least as a 2-person household as fresh grad 🙂 So I am more accustomed to the top-end rather than the eye-popping bottom end. Just CRAZY. I can’t even sketch that whatever distribution curve – intensively skewed to the left.

Yep. I am more impressed by the data Cheng presented than his argument, that is there is no apparent correlation between economic inequality and the radicalisation of HK politics (remember the distant past where ‘radicalisation’ means Long Hair throwing banana skin in LegCo):

It has to be admitted that the existing literature has not been able to establish the organic linkage between poverty, social inequalities, and so forth on one hand and actual political radical actions on the other, though incidents of protest activities and related minor conflicts with the police have been on the rise.

Arguably a correlation can be established, but the causal effect has not been well analyzed. After all, the number of radical political activists in the territory remains very small.

Leaving us the puzzle intact to resolve. Thanks 🙂 He did mention people’s growing anger on the perceived inaction of the Tung, Tsang and C.Y. Leung administrations, involving slogans like 官商勾結, but nothing more insightful than what I would know from the news?

(Tbf, the poverty stat is something I should have known from the news. I guess I have been properly de-sensitised from the weight of those stat until now, forced to go through it purposefully. *thanks education & media*)

2b.

Cheng mentioned briefly that HK used not to have this issue with ruling legitimacy because people can move up the social ladder – just like the Chinese today who get satisfied by the CPC’s economic performance. Now that desperation really comes from not seeing an economic future that worths aspirating to, and rather seeing a political future filled with China-style cultural & social repression. So that desperation has a real, objective basis in the bursting of the promised middle-class dream for all, a promise made & once realised in the bright colonial 70s. (For those at 收成期.)

Zamecki provides a more intimate sketch of the different psychology in facing economic relative deprivation and the political one. HKers were promised high on political reform in early 2000s – there is now a gap between the high expectation and the stagnating and even failing reality, called ‘progressive RD’ by Zamecki. Whereas in economics, the people had received no promise, but rather at least a retainment of the status quo, while the reality underdelivered. This is called ‘decremental RD’. ‘Progressive RD’ – expecting high but receiving even lower than before – illicit a stronger emotional sentiment of anger from injustice regarding what one deserves. This explains the differing importance of political > economic demands psychologically.

(On this Ho Ming-sho complemented with the HKer’s general belief in universal suffrage as the panacea for ALL social questions ranging from inequality, collusion to immigration control. So political reform is generally seen as the tool for economic changes among all things.)

There is a move-up-the-ladder from objectively being deprived, to realising it, to being angered by one’s own deprivation, towards collective action in order to eliminate deprivation. I think Zamecki provided a sketch of a causal linkage:

The reason behind the frustration among Hong Kong’s students is rooted in their social position and political expectations. In the surveys on the group of Hong Kong students, almost all interviewees answered that they are strongly dissatisfied or fairly dissatisfied with the possibilities of social upward mobility in Hong Kong (73% fairly dissatisfied and strongly dissatisfied; cf. Chiu, 2010). Another reason for concern was the issue of housing – more than 90% of respondents were dissatisfied with housing quality (cf. Hong Kong Ideas Centre, 2015). Moreover, most of the students feel that the political and economic situation in Hong Kong became worse (91 % of answers concerning the political situation; 56% concerning the economic situation). Finally, many of them did not believe that the situation was going to improve (77% of the surveyed students).

The existence of collective identity, grievances and emotions is essential to outbreaks of radical actions. According to research (Simon et al., 1998; Stürmer and Simon, 2004), the role of collective identity in the process of the transformation of frustration seems to be crucial. Collective identity is also rooted in shared feelings ofinjustice. Stronger feelings of injustice, in turn, depend on how vulnerable the endangered value for a given person is. Consequently, the greater the danger for the group is, the greater the anger and the determination to participate in the protests.

This formation of collective identity is exactly what Lowe & Tsang contributed by examining the nostalgic ‘British Hongkonger’ identification: a very much known but insightful when re-digested mechanism in the current ‘HK Independence’ call , which stems from a feeling of hopelessness regarding the possibilities in the future, calling for a nostalgic, glorious re-imagination of the past in order to guide one’s vision for the future. One that also separates ‘us’ culturally, socioeconomically and geopolitically from the under-class Chinese.

2c.

Zamecki also provided a timely sketch of the steps it takes for an ordinary frustrated teen to become politically radicalised:

Fathali M. Moghaddam (2005), in turn, illustrates the radicalization process in a metaphor of a six-floor narrowing staircase:

The ground floor is the feeling of relative deprivation; the first floor is the search for options and solutions; the second floor is the anger and hostility against those who are perceived as responsible for the injustice; the third floor is the moral justification of terrorism; the fourth floor is recruitment to the terrorist group; and the fifth floor are terrorist actions.

The transformation from radical opinions to radical actions thus starts somewhere between the third and the fourth floor. I am of the opinion that we can use this model to analyze not only terrorism but also violence.

In the past few months we have seen a lot of moral justification, on utilitarian and normative value, of violent action. A LOT, even a blackmailing wave of it on the poisonous online network formed to mobilise this disaggregated mass over symbolic identity of ‘Hongkongers’. Which is something some of my friends and I are sick of.

Anger-frustration, more than ever, drives the eruptive politics of Hong Kong:

Gurr stressed the key role of frustration at the outbreak of collective violence. It is the “frustration-aggression” that is the primary source of the political violence.

3.

Bit too tired to go into Ho Ming-sho’s very insightful paper contrasting the HK post-UM elections with Taiwan’s post-Sunflower movement elections. The main take-away: established opposition had been too under-resourced & badly coordinated to absorb the newly politicised, politicised on a ground that is different from them: self-determination rather than a democratic return to China. Quite good to see the ‘under-resourced and too powerless’ point emphasized, which is an important institutional, structural factor in HK politics but now often taken as the ‘original sin’ all on the opposition. There is so much more to this paper but I need a rest ..

I guess no one’s reading up to this point so thanks,

Anna x

First stab: Lenin on Imperialism, Polanyi on Commodification

*long read alert: you may be bored by this* *written last Sun*

So, it’s been a compact week. I find it difficult to shift suddenly from thoughts about the deceased Mr. Chau (and all the inaction & norm-making that led up to that particular concentrated moment of suffering all on 1 person instead of karma on all of us in different proportions to their ‘sins’ of course), about communication in intimate relationships of 2 and in a collective, about populism turning right seen from CUSP ‘king jongs’ (group discussion on certain social issues let say), …… AND the joy of being an official member of the university (I got my card today!).

Another thing is that I often find the process of reading immensely enjoyable because ‘the number of insight per page is very high‘ (Quote a professor at uni on Acemoglu & Robinson’s paper (they are authors of ‘Why Nations Fail’), a comment to which I wholeheartedly disagree). But then I am quite unable to describe or share what I’ve learnt with others, except in some super dry & rigid ways when obliged to. (See this below, something I’m not entirely happy with, but could be a useful summary for sb interested in Polanyi). So I want to try to relate the awe I felt in readings and work more by first spilling them out clearer for myself. Please DO NOT expect anything neat (you won’t if you know me well enough).

波蘭尼(1886-1964)生於奧匈帝國,為著名經濟社會學家。他在著作《鉅變》(The Great Transformation) 中要解答的問題是︰為什麼歐洲在經歷1815-1914年的百年和平之後,會迎來一戰與法西斯主義崛起下的二戰?他認為這場鉅變的政經根源,就是國際社會不顧一切地堅持一個不可能的烏托邦任務︰建設一個自我調節的市場(self-adjusting market)。市場化的進程步向毀滅人類與自然之路,因此激發起社會的自我保護運動 — 此互動被稱為雙向運動(double movement) — 但這卻不得不窒礙市場的自我調節機制,最終導致整個社會體系的崩潰。

…作為出路,他認為我們應接受經濟必然鑲嵌在社會體系之中的現實,及社會自我保護的必然︰  ‘Laissez-faire was planned; planning was not.’ 一定的市場管制不會侵害、反會增加大眾的自由。

…在我們的讀書組裡,我們談到了幾方面的問題:書中所述的歷史現象能否對照今時今日?波蘭尼如何看待社會與階級?這些觀點與馬克思主義有什麼分歧?波蘭尼對運動主體性的解釋是否不足?對於出路又是否過份樂觀?

波蘭尼(1944)《鉅變》讀書組筆記 , Oct 2019 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x7x8cEB_ywi0bdUcRrdJ-LtvbJuhupTLLR_RaKmIclg/edit

Just quoting it bores me 😀 The language is sooo dry.

soooooooooooooooo let’s get an Anna’s dive into Lenin’s imperialism. plus some looking back at Polanyi as a comparison.

**

So Lenin’s Imperialism. my impression of it….

… is that it’s a very, very accessible read. The old-fashioned manner in treating data (think of 1917) often adds an authenticity & sincerity in what the author is trying to show and argue for with the aid of the data – Lenin quoted a lot from ‘bourgeois economists’ to describe the process of capital concentration and centralisation in pillar industries and banks around the world. It’s quite colloquial and Lenin walks you through definitions & logics in very relatable and easy manner.

So the most important contribution of his book to my thoughts, as with Polanyi, was filling some gaps in concepts and terms that I’ve heard of for like next to a million times: ‘BANKS’, ‘FINANCE’, ‘MONOPOLY CAPITAL’, ‘MARKET’, ‘DOUBLE MOVEMENT’, blah blah blah, and of course ‘IMPERIALISM’ (fuck it). This probably isn’t something shared by ‘layman’ into the field of leftist political economy studies, but I guess it could well be for some peers sort of ‘raised’ in these concepts in their uni years. They fly around stuff I read like… flies. Used but not explained. Sort of like the concept of ‘populism’.

It IS supposed to be something so easy and intuitive that you get right away, but then you realise no, you don’t REALLY get it. Banks just happen to be this villain that brought down a ‘financial system’ and an ‘economy’, and this is the crisis of ‘neoliberalism’ in the age of ‘imperialism’ based on the ‘IMF’ exploitation of debtor countries through ‘structural adjustments’…… Oh god, spare me.

So Lenin sort of gives a really clear and accessible and ‘ah!’ definitions walking me from industries, to banks, to ‘finance’, to export of capital, to economic division of spoils by a monopolistic industrial syndicate, then to the political division of territories by an oligarchy of powerful states. I now get why people ask you to read the originals. It’s good advice in the case of the concept ‘imperialism’.

*

Going into it.

If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.

Such a definition would include what is most important, for, on the one hand, finance capital is the bank capital of a few very big monopolist banks, merged with the capital of the monopolist
combines of industrialists;

and, on the other hand, the division of the world is the transition from a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolistic possession of the territory of the world which has been completely divided up.

Lenin, V. I. (1999). Imperialism: The highest stage of capitalism. Resistance Books. (列寧《帝國主義論》/帝國主義是資本主義的最高階段) 

That’s the main idea, two sides to ‘Monopoly’ – first, monopolistic combines of various industries + centralised director of collective capital, banks acting as the capital provider = financial oligarchy; secondly, monopolistic colonial possession of the whole globe by am oligarchy of rich countries.

1.

So first of all, concentration of production and formation of monopolies. Lenin used convincing data to show how firms amalgamate into monopolies, sort of like big fishes eating up smaller fishes only to be eaten up by an even larger fish in the online game, and he stresses on how like 3/4 of the energy or raw material consumed in a sector was consumed by like 1/100 of the total companies, revealing the extent of monopolies in multiple industries (esp. heavy industries like coal, oil, electricity) and multiple countries.

That fish-eat-fish process happened after the era of free competition of 1860-70s following the crisis of 1873, as smaller firms starved of sales and revenue were easily eaten up at a heavily discounted price by larger firms that were able to smooth their income. So we were passing into the era of monopoly especially since the boom in late 19th c. This proved that production had become increasingly socialised – production in an industry became coordinated on a level never seen before by huge, complex single entity spanning across countries, as per Karl Marx’s theory.

  • For some reason his description of monopolies through % total raw materials consumed/ goods sold vs. % the companies stood from the whole really helped me to grasp the idea of ‘monopoly’. We have always heard of big MNCs as an integral part of our lives, but you know, it’s sort of *not really registered* onto our minds how extensive & invasive those monopolies are. Quote:

And while at that time it appeared to be something novel, now the general public takes it for granted that large spheres of economic life have been, as a general rule, removed from the realm of free competition.

Financial Organization of the Capitalist Industry and the Formation of Monopolies – Outline of Social Economics Tübingen, 1914. Quoted by Lenin

2.

Secondly the banks – the fish eats fish data went even crazier, and there were new forms of ‘eating’ – annexing, making you an affiliate, making you dependent in 1st to 3rd degrees, leaving like 6 bank syndicates out of an original 100+ in Germany. Banks are at the same time expanding super rapidly in their number of branches. So I really liked Lenin’s river allegory for banks: the different branches forms …

… a close network of canals which cover the whole country, centralising all capital and all revenues, transforming thousands and thousands of scattered economic enterprises into a single national capitalist, and then into a world capitalist economy.

There you get capitalism as a concrete reality, not just an ‘-ism’. Every ATM and bank branch you walk past is like a water fountain of capital flushing around, performing the function of oiling and being part of the capitalist cells running in accordance to the capitalist order. Sort of like a body.

The power of banks is described here in very clear mechanisms (was I too dumb to see? Or writers kept on mystifying it or assuming it’s known to all?):

  • Scattered money capitalists (in form of banks) get transformed into a single collective capitalist through dominating the personal, commercial and industrial current accounts of the whole society. They used to be auxiliary honest middlemen, but not anymore after their super-amalgamation into monopolies/ oligarchies.
  • Their ability to ascertain exactly the financial position of every user – they can control and influence them by restricting, enlarging, facilitating or hindering access to credit. They provide you with the system of ‘water pipes’ essential to your streams of income and revenue and payments, and they CONTROL where to build them, terms of your access to it, size of the water tap, etc.
  • Their direct control over big enterprises by acquiring shares and appointing members onto the Board of Directors. Their personal union as supervisors with the industries or commercial entities , steering forward or killing off the entire industry by throwing in or taking away the necessary funds.

3.

Finance capital. Lenin purports that Hilferding’s definition of it is complete if the history of the rise of financial capital FROM the merging of nascent monopolies in bank and industries is added to it:

A steadily increasing proportion of capital in industry ceases to belong to the industrialists who employ it. They obtain the use of it only through the medium of banks which, in relation to them, represent the owners of the capital.

On the other hand, the bank is forced to sink an increasing share of its funds in industry. Thus, to an ever-increasing degree the banker is being transformed into an industrial capitalist.

This bank capital, i.e. capital in money form, which is thus actually transformed into industrial capital, I call it ‘finance capital’…

…Finance capital is capital controlled by banks and employed by industrialists.

R. Hilferding, Finance Capital, 1912

So this financial oligarchy coming out of monopoly industrial + bank capital exerts its power in many ways. First: the holding system where a mother company can control a daughter company only by buying out like 40% or less of its shares (since other scattered shareholders find it impossible to unite), which in turn can do the same to give birth to granddaughter companies with investment that is just a fraction of the latter’s worth.

The mother can deny legal obligations to the granddaughters through carefully hidden links. Oh, think of the Berlin Water holdings company I reviewed in a case study, it pulled this trick to fool the public: so a daughter company *appears* to be public because the Berlin government created a mother company that then ‘adopts’ this originally-public child, then sold the mother to two global water provision sharks:

柏林水務(Berliner Wasserbetriebe, BWB)是繼市政石氣及電源供應商後,該市最大的公有資產。早於1994年,柏林參議院的兩大政黨,基督教民主黨(Christian Democrats)與社會民主黨(Social Democratic Party,SPD)先將柏林水務重整,成為按私營法管理的公營公司,再於1998年正式作私有化的決定。政府原本更提出全面私有化的計劃,在綠黨、PDS、工會反對及房屋協會威脅司法覆核下,才改為部分私有化。

這場私有化最具爭議性的地方,是政府與私人公司之間的秘密協議,及用以掩蓋私有化的複雜企業架構。政府先成立了一個新的控股公司Berlinwasser Holding(BWH),再將柏林水務變成BWH旗下的子公司。於1999年,RWE Aqua Ltd.與Veolia與政府簽約,以共2.8億德元 (€ 1.43 億)各得BWH 24.95%股權,成為柏林水務的幕後夥伴,同時掌控其母公司BWH的國際業務。往後的三十年,政府都不能取消或重新談判這份秘密公私合營合約。2004年,首四年的水費凍結期過後,柏林水費出現15-20%的大幅漲價,變成全歐洲最貴。

2011年柏林水務公司回購: 背景 https://zh.wikiversity.org/zh-hk/%E5%85%A8%E7%90%83%E5%9B%9E%E8%B3%BC%E5%85%AC%E5%85%B1%E8%B3%87%E7%94%A2%E6%96%B0%E8%B6%A8%E5%8B%A2#2011%E5%B9%B4%E6%9F%8F%E6%9E%97%E6%B0%B4%E5%8B%99%E5%85%AC%E5%8F%B8%E5%9B%9E%E8%B3%BC

Thinking in terms of mothers and adoptions make this dry, legally dirty trick thing look a tee-bit more interesting.

Lenin also described the other ways for finance capital to enjoy superprofits.

  • Issuing floating of companies, stocks and state loans: banks can anticipate monopoly profits from a corporate acquisition of small firms and water up the capital value by crazy %.
  • Bond issues: bonds are essentially tradable claims of ‘I owe you’s (IOUs). The absolute monopoly banks have in issuing bonds get them to keep 10% of the borrowed sum.
  • Security issues: securities are essentially financial instruments representing the holder’s ownership status over some equity or some IOUs (debts). Issuing them gets you like a crazy % of profit because it’s a monopoly.

*

It’s been almost a week and I realise how much is lost over this short span of time – I’ll bring chapter 4 onwards to my face before continuing. This is an important record even for myself as all that’s left are blurry chapter titles for me rn…

Anna x

Write-think: Umbrella Movement – global or local, economic or political?

So a mentally distressing day. The police had decided that killing people on site openly is fine. I don’t know what sort of society I am living through. I fear for my life and for the lives of people who are just like me. I fear for the authoritarian present that I’ve heard many friends saying was bound to come some day before, as if it’s an intellectual comment seeing what others can’t see – knowing you’re going die and actually dying, are different feelings.

I am reminded of the times when death is hanging overhead every day. As I saw the uncensored picture of the dead woman at Tin Shui Wai who felt from height without any trace of blood (apparently ‘suicided’), and as I screwed open the window frame in my room to hang a yoga mat stuck with 3 words: 止警暴, stop police violence, outside my flat. My head gets this swirly feeling as if neutrons, fibers (whatever) and neurotic networks are getting rewired, getting metallic, into a loop whenever I reach back towards that pattern of thinking in the not so distant past.

I am certainly not like that right now, but, ironically the recent Hong Kong is a lot more desperately steep into a collision course. Between fate and those refusing to accept fate. And we can fight fate with let say a strong general strike, but it will still, very probably be brutally repressed even if we successfully stage it. It still worths a try and I am glad I am here in Hong Kong to be with this city while witnessing and taking part in the seismic change we’re gonna experience. But remember to brace, brace, brace.

Brace.

*

So reason why I want to write is coz I’m getting some inspiration from the papers I am reviewing for Chris’ paper on localist populism as a consequence of Umbrella Movement, UM. I have always and always been using the ‘plug all the holes in the argument body’ brain when doing research and even writing up reading group summaries. But I want to be less alienated and to get some more personal connection with the stuff I’m doing. That’s all because there was this moment earlier on at around 7, when I had been frustrating over the points in the original draft that remains valid despite counterpoints raised by the articles I read, I suddenly ask myself, ‘well, what do I think?’

As with a few other similar moments before, I frowned for like a minute. So I know there must be some lack of digestion here again.

So first of all, Chris is trying to argue that we should see the Umbrella Movement as part of the global upsurge of Occupy+ movements, characterised by youth participation, use of digital media in mobilisation, horizontalism & lack of leadership, plus distrust for the establishment. Before going into counterarguments (both Ho Ming-sho & Ching Kwan Lee dispute that the UM completely converges into that global wave of movements), I realise I have to even take a step back to ask why the fuck does all these matter. What good comes out of the endeavor to try to argue that this Hong Kong movement is part of a global movement??? Like, literally how does that help our cause or whatever?

So it goes back to some politics 101 that sadly, I completed my first degree with distinction without knowing. That is, why compare. Why the fuck should we do comparative studies? Is it just an academic gimmick to like, come up with new topics to write about? (It used to mean something like that to me, sorry, f me. Maybe that’s true to some extent.)

I remember the only time really being moved by the power of a comparison was… very recently, reading something about comparing Hong Kong to Shenzhen regarding economic policies/ industries? (I don’t entirely remember) – like I remember suddenly being able to see how limited our form of world, our ‘common sense’ of how things should be is challenged. I remember part of the psychological growing up milestone involves recognising that the others do not experience what you experience. I remember realising some day in Primary 1 or 2 that, hey, if my Chinese teacher is teaching me Chinese now, the other class could not be taught by her at the same time!!! So they actually do not have the same Chinese classes or teacher as I do!! lol Sorry if it seems dumb. But comparison is meant to help us to grow out of our idiocracy, to sharpen features that are unique to our society, and to see what’s possible out there.

(my mom ranting, breaking up my mood, thanks.)

ok so, comparison. So C. K. Lee’s ch.1 of her new book Take Back Control: Eventful Sociology of the HK Umbrella Movement (2019) was really succinct in pointing out where Hong Kong stands in the politics 101 framework, and the way she puts it just makes it suddenly crystal clear what kind of society we are in right now (put in comparative landscape). Hong Kong has an executive-led political system where the executive holds the power to initiate bills, set the agenda, veto legislator’s bills. Legislators can only raise bills that do not involve public expenditure, political structure or the operation of the government (Article 74 of Basic Law), and CE’s written approval is needed for any bills that involve government policy. (I immediately think back on the bill by New People’s Party to set up rent control against the Link – it failed the Article 74 test and even ‘responsibility to protect the right of private property’ (Article 6). (The Basic Law is so evil! I mean, even proposing rent control violates big landlords’s right to private property? How about the right to live of ordinary people? Lucky I did not take the CRE 🙂 ).

Not to mention a Functional Constituency that was made up of 統戰對象 of the then British and now Chinese government. Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. So essentially we are insulated perfectly from the comparative politics world of ‘presidentialism vs. parliamentalism’ (101 debate of US system vs. UK’s), whatever. Our CE is more powerful than most presidents in the world. Opposition are forced into disruptive tactics in LegCo, and now they are running out of them.

I think we are a lot more like an autocracy than a democracy. Given the really dirty fist-fight for breadcrumbs of political power given our electoral system of ‘proportional representation with the largest remainder method’ (looked it up on Wiki). I now formally forgive myself for having not cared that much about Hong Kong electoral politics – it’s not a level playing field at all. Not to mention all the patron-clientelistic links from tycoons and new compradors (given honorary titles and seats at consultative bodies to 統戰)to grassroots based on generous handing out of resources.

On top of that you get a 金剛箍 of ‘legal liberalism‘. I like how C. K. Lee puts all these well-known elements together to let you see the nasty cake it bakes. So in the early colonial period everyone fucking hated the colonisers who were corrupted, who beat & shot Chinese dock workers without hesitation – they were the imperialists condemned by the whole of China based on Lenin’s Imperialism (1917). Natural reaction! It was only after the failed Maoist-leftist insurgency during 1967 with a huge PR mistake of bombing 2 kids alive, plus the buildup of the ICAC + other MacLehose policies that completely reinvented the image of the British government in Hongkongers’ eyes since 1970s. (Of course plus our economic fortunes.) From then on, plus the 1989 movement, we moved swiftly onto a liberalist discourse, getting completely into the British tactic that used rule of law to placate political demands (法治吸納政治). From then on the cleavage of pro-Beijing v. pro-democracy gradually got entrenched. (1980-2000 is a blur to me – need to do more history homework).

So all these adds up into a mode of eruptive politics that’s like a volcano. C. K. Lee puts it this way: HK is a society of conservative order and political inaction at most times, only driven into intensive, concentrated eruption of an unexpected mass discontent that forms an ad-hoc united front in disjointed, pivotal events. It’s really rare that I enjoy a definition, but she took a definition of event as ‘a rare subclass of happenings that, instead of being produced by the structure, has the potential to disrupt structure‘. (wow, neat. and subversive.) Hong Kong politics’ really just that. 1967, 1989, 2003, 2014, now 2019. I know GDC and other people who had tried so hard so hard against this pattern. They want to build an alternative civil power center that acts as a shadow opposition to the government, to the whole legislature engulfed by the neoliberal consensus (sorry for jargon. Essentially it means an order that is pro-free-market-plus). But so far they had been isolated except in rare times when their campaigns work (e.g. on Universal Pension, The Link, etc.). We do not have a mass-based civil society.

‘There is no society’, I hear, says someone, a ghost that lingers and reincarnates into us.

They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.

Margaret Thatcher, in an interview in Women’s Own in 1987

The government is caught in the structural bind between a ‘liberal’ colonial legacy plus world-class administration, and the new authoritarian re-coloniser, China. That’s why the new awakening – perhaps too late? or not? – that we are the source of sovereign power, that we should take back our future, means something. I remember Eddie Chu Hoi Dick says it’s de-colonisation despite in an anti-China form, but regardless he’s glad it’s eventually taking root among the people. 解殖,guess that has been the keyword for a generation of scholars.

So yes, I really liked C. K. Lee’s framework. Good and succinct writing. It’s sometimes eyeopening to see in clear terms exactly how and in what way repressed we have been. It gives one power to articulate it and then fight against it. 🙂

So, C. K. Lee actually disagrees that the UM can be seen as entirely similar to US and Europe economic-driven protests against failing democracy in 2014-5, but rather more similar to Arab Spring protests against the lack of democracy in political tyrannies. On this you know, that’s sort of why I get excited at first about working on Chris’ project, which seems to be trying to argue against this conventional view.

Maybe I thought at the time that being able to trace the economic root of the unarticulated rage only expressed in form of reformist, law-based demands (think of 2014 political reform bill, and 2019 extradition bill) – is progressive in a good way – people will see how this mass carnival-like movement they put up isn’t to no avail; it is extendable to some important fronts in the political turf war, say demands for fairer wages, working hours, rent levels, pension rates, etc. on which a much larger mass can resonate with and hence be mobilised. Well, this is lefty wet dream of course, thinking of how entrenched the legal liberal discourse is. (Even in me. ‘Will I get caught or visited by the police, putting up that yoga mat outside my flat? Hope it’s not illegal?‘)

Maybe this is just not possible. I don’t really see how a direct link can be set up between economic grievances and the UM movement. I buy Ho Ming-sho’s other couterarguments: HK and Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement differ from other global movements in how 1) they were a lot more receptive to institutional forms of politics, from the speed that the power in protests got translated into electioneering; 2) they focused a lot more on geopolitics regarding the China factor than neoliberalism despite sharing economic grievances; C. K. Lee added that people see economic subsumption by Red Capital a scarer thing than economic inequality itself; 3) Despite being educated-youth-led and digital-based, they were NOT leaderless.

I find the first one especially powerful a counterargument because, Western populism had always been about anti-system, anti- the rigged electoral system and the whole bunch of elected scumbag of elites. Hong Kong and Taiwan do not think like that. WE HAD NEVER REALLY BEEN ABLE TO BE THOSE SCUMBAGS OURSELVES. We want to try being the scumbags. We want to see how the way we stink differs from the Beijing appointees. 🙂 WE (at least Hongkongers) HAVE BEEN POLITICALLY DEPRIVVVVVED!!! At least let me vote for universal pension and buy back the Link once in my life! Or vote to limit mainlanders from coming in (a more conventional wish I guess this is). AT LEAST!

At least I want that for myself T_T Like my friend, we want to be in the game don’t we. They are building up plans to buy back water and railways in the UK (bite my lip T_T)…

To be very fair, I think the economic anti-neoliberalism debate had not really began in Hong Kong. Definitely not in UM, and not now in anti-extradition bill fight. See how ‘get unionised and stage a general strike!’ can only sneak in as a tactic. We are losing so much political airtime in this cross-class alliance for liberal democracy to be defended. (Yup, I am in the 失語 camp from day one. Ousted 🙂 )

Some found the mass realising their political (disruptive) power and realising how hateful the police is as a form of significant political awakening. I agree. It’s a political awakening regarding 解殖。NOT about economic demands AT ALL. Try debate having more public housing is more important than removing mainlanders from HK. I know there is a ‘populist’ simplistic undercurrent that is pro-more public housing and less ‘white elephant’ infrastructures. But these are definitely SECOND in their political agenda and tradable.

So.. guess the direction forward is to look more into populism that arose from the movement, instead of trying to do the Sisyphus task of reasoning the bygones as how I or we wanted it to be about. I don’t know populism very well either, we’ll explore it tgt later on.

Happy to be able to speak my thoughts,

Anna x

Reference:

Lee, C. K., & Sing, M. (Eds.). (2019). Take Back Our Future: An Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. ILR Press.


Ho, M. S. (2019). Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven: Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement. Temple University Press.

Delay no more: Earning love

A brief settling down of the ripples coming from a dive into the emotions I experienced in intimate relationships. I promise (to myself) this will be brief, as I as much as those who care about the effect of rumination on me want to put this issue to rest, at least to a less restless state, by nailing the coffin a bit.

So I now understand the intensity of emotions I experienced better. There are two kinds of love, cheap love and earned, real meaningful love. I tend to, mistakenly, look down the former in which I thought I have to do nothing as I am entitled to it simply by being there. My presence satisfies them. The latter pulls my heartstrings. I earn love by trying desperately to keep up with a standard I avowed or implicitly assumed necessary in being with the person with that kind of moral standards or expectations. I feel like I have to make the checks I wrote pay, so I did everything in all possible manner to be like ‘him’ in the regards I deemed where I am judged.

Whereas I love my lover for his really unique character. Something soft, gentle, fragile, stubborn, sensitive, sentimental. And all I tried to earn is moments of intimacy, triggered by the touch of skin. Tactile. Smell. That’s all I want.

And I tend to want to give up judgment over significant issues e.g. householding, career plans to this person who is more experienced or reliable than me. Coz he’s the ‘right’ one. Maybe this is part of my way to love.

So my promise to myself now is, you don’t have to earn love this way anymore. I looked back at the tapes for you and none of them asked you to reach those standards that you desperately reached for unconsciously. You earn love by being a worthy companion that listens and knows when step back a bit shutting the gates on your runny thoughts, when to take an extra step out of your normal lazy character to do a bit more for that person, not for your standard compliance but for him. (Or her! I am not ruling out anything:) )

Both you and him are unique persons loved for being unique that way. At least I see my own ‘likable (?)’ stubbornness more clearly than before from the earlier ‘political’ rantings. And you know what you liked about the guys. I do.

So yea, pat on the shoulder, and let’s hope you wouldn’t put yourself and above all else others on this ordeal of keeping up with some vague, compulsory goal in order to deserve love. This sounds shittily cheesy and meaningless but it’s not in this context I hope: maybe you already deserve it?

You too listener,

Anna x