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

Clear some clouds: Funeral Blues, protest against EMO

So I am the type that’s easily carried away by myself. I am impatient and easily excited/ irritated. So that’s why after a morning packed with (social) action, I am still in a somehow excited and restless mode and need this writing to cool myself down a bit. It’s a part of me that I really need to find a way to understand, tame and deal with, and writing things out help A LOT. For instance, while I was helping with article review at the student paper, my urge to spell out every SINGLE thing I find puzzling on the article was immensely eased by first putting all of them in form of comments on the google doc (there are like 20 of them), *then* I can get into a much more balanced and equal discussion with all the other teammates. Being able to rest my restless mind on a piece of paper knowing they are acknowledged somehow means a hell lot to my normal functioning, let alone communication.

And yes you guys don’t know how hard I tried to hold myself back just now, during our 20-people protest from S.H.Ho College front door to Estate Management Office’s front door (in between S.H.Ho and Jockey Club Research Students’ dorm, right beneath the sports ground). I really wanted to grab the microphone from the leader because she was a bit too clumsy, she didn’t shout loud enough, etc. and I kept telling myself, no, you ARE NOT the organiser and you DID NOT put in the level of effort that they did in organsing this and NO ONE deserves to be ‘replaced’ just because they are LESS GOOD at something. Hell, this is my demon, the eternal *urge* to make things pleasing and ‘perfect’ in my eyes. That probably makes an OCD-meticulous researcher, but NOT an organiser, nor an activist because I am far, far too impatient and jumpy. Can’t hold back lines that are not meant to be said in the open.

But hell, it was such a day. I was able to show the face I sigh with at home time and time over, seeing how fucking stupid and messed up and senseless the world revolving around me is. Show it right in front of the wrongdoers. It was SUCH A RELIEF.

*

So a guy who is only a year or a few months younger than me is dying from impact from fall when he was escaping teargas attack in TKO.

This is unacceptable.

As a person who fascinated death and means to death especially by impact from fall at a height, it was only a 1/F difference. It worked because it was accidental (victim not alert nor deliberate) *and* he fell head down. Head down. A rule I remember I kept reminding myself to make execution work.

Of course these things are a bit far away from me right now, and I didn’t think of these immediately from the news – I was affected simply by the news itself. The guy’s innocence and the popo’s brutality in delaying crucial rescue for 30 minutes. THIRTY MINUTES. Use your brain and think of how precious those 30 minutes were.

But yea thinking of my past experience sort of added another layer of linkage between me and the news, or the guy to be more precise. He didn’t mean it. But he received the consequence. He didn’t want it, nor willed it. He didn’t. He was murdered. (In a sense, I’m not trying to make a legal claim).

I now relate a lot better to the sense of urgency and desperation among the active crowd – what am I doing right now, here? Why am I continuing my normal life when something as outrageous as this is happening simultaneously. Should we not shut down everything and demand justice?

Funeral Blues

by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Funeral Blues.

But of course with all the editing I’ve been through with the student paper and from all other readings and discussions, I know it’s important to make the ultimate weapon – by, for and from the mass – patiently and calmly. But yea maybe it’s my emotions awakening after a period of going crazy on my own issues – it hurts to stay calm. It used not to feel this way.

It hurts to stay calm.

*

I’ll try my best to continue, bracking this issue for the moment.

So yes, we were at a demo against the EMO demanding safety precautions be taken for cleaners cleaning slogans and pictures scribbled by students and whoever all over the campus. I stood with my pair of sunglasses quite at the front holding photo evidence of them working under unsafe conditions, e.g. wearing only an N95 mask when allegedly using thinner, a highly toxic chemical, having to stand on a thinner tin when cleaning up slogans at a heights, having to sit on some make-shift plastic stuff rather than a proper chair when doing the work, etc. So I shouted at the top of my voice to the extent that I coughed in between alternating slogans while we rallied to our destination.

The feeling I get is that the whole response is very civilised-seeming and bureaucratic in all the non-sensical ways. Main counter-claims made by them: that we are not certain if the workers pictured wearing N95 masks while cleaning up at the time were actually working with thinner, or some other non-hazardous solvents (so we are mistaken to blame them without CERTAIN evidence); that there are so many locations all over the campus given how freaking big the EMO team is and how freaking many sub-contractors they have under them, that they CANNOT ASCERTAIN who did what and where and when; why not let the workers come and tell us, we have been so receptive and concerned about their safety ALL THE TIME; why don’t we discuss LATER at a BETTER timing and location than this awkward situation right now, the two of them (director Mr. Lam and assistant director Ms. Lai of the EMO) being surrounded by placards and having to hold an empty thinner can (a prop); please BE REST ASSURED that we have our monitoring and checks systems to deal with issues of this kind; ……

No names of company, no extent of outsourcing (explanation: CU-employed workers are overworked, we don’t want to add to their burden right?), some vague promise on immediate safety checks, promise of meeting up in roughly a month after being repeatedly pressured into making that clear …

It’s just exhausting and irritating to hear how they respond by not responding to the point e.g. outsourcing is necessary because CU staff lacks specialised skills like lift fixing. Come on, we have solid witnesses and proof that floor and toilet cleaners are being outsourced, on the picture right in front of you, lady.

And the insistence on ‘civilised’ communication – ‘calm down, you students, listen to me’ attitude when they said non-sense like the above. Paternalism. So things changed a bit for the better when a friend and I revealed ourselves as alumni and staff.

Confronting the establishment and their bureaucratic logic – which to some extent is understandable – is always, always frustrating. Why do you keep squaring the circle? Why can’t you call a spade a spade? Huh? Why? What keeps you from speaking the obvious truth and admitting guilt?

This is probably my deep, deep frustration with the HK ruling class in general. Just man up and own up to the mess YOU STARTED AND BROILED. It takes a lot of courage, but it has to be done.

Like how I am trying to fix myself and my own denialisms… slowly by first admitting fault and, maybe simply exhaustation and tiredness. (Don’t think that’s directly comparable but still).

*

So I wanted to write more about my emotions towards people that meant a lot to me, as this action in the morning also drew me back a bit towards some of them and sometimes I am less than comfortable with the suddenly contracted distance than the new normalcy I am adapting to. I want to iron them out and be able to confront myself and them better.

And also, some people very important to me kept returning to my dreams in consecutive days. I want to iron that emotion out a bit too, perhaps later on. That’s a thing I want to do for my last week, and for some long unreplied letters, responses awaited by someone also dear to me.

Thanks for listening and I hope we can weather things through together.

Anna x

Reset: why strike works

So I’ve been to the doctor just now queuing for a longer period of time than I expected (for some minor issue), and I had a longed-for nice accidental nap on the train to University Station. I like how that length of trip from Hung Hom is one that’s long enough for a satisfying nap and for waking up one stop right before mine. I like it less when I am awake and I have to anticipate when I’ll have to get down, just to be 2,3, or 4 stops ahead.

An impatient personality it must be.

The point for writing this now is because I am a bit too exhausted mentally to start another task immediately, reviewing Chris’s paper on Localist Populism since 2014 Occupation Movement. Just between us, I do sometimes have a perception that the theoretical sharpness of his writing could be even stronger? Perhaps that’s the feeling I get from reviewing the last project proposal on Guangzhou & Chengdu compared on economic upgrading. Maybe that is because it is by nature water blowing when the data hasn’t been collected or analysed yet. Nevertheless I like his tone – gentle and humble, just like him in person – and I look forward to reading the paper as a way to start my reflection on the issue.

A more important reason for writing is because I realise this form of ‘wanting the task/ event/ podcast/ reading/ whatever to kick off my thinking on this issue’ really serves just that purpose – kicking it off, that’s it. Too much of that and my head’s being spun around. So I hope I can take a nice pause to reflect further on the article – essentially a summary of what Chris and Leung Po Lung have said in giving a talk on ‘Strikes in Hong Kong: Past and Present’ on I think around 6 September.

It was the time when I brought my father along (probably because he cares about me, and especially so at the time, and that he was free during that period). As usual I was super diligent in jotting down notes, and after a whole 1.5 month, I can still reconstruct a colossal 6000 Chinese characters (6 pages) of two articles on it, hopefully to be published on some (I was gonna say respectable, but is Mingpao still respectable given its shitty editorials?) media platform.

So yes. Writing the article in fact helped organising myself (see the blog address :)) a lot. A lot, can’t stress more. It helped resolving an almost 5-year question of mine: why the fuck are my friends around CUSP plus all that convinced of the political power of strikes? How is something that remote from our present lives (or my last 20 plus years for that matter) even possible? I must say that listening to a podcast on the recently ended UAW (United Autoworker’s Union I think. I hate acronyms when I don’t know what I mean and use it to puzzle others, as everybody else) Strike. I think listening to that, and also searching events that were mentioned in passing in the talk in order to write an article that the reader on the street picking up the paper or scrolling fb would understand – that helped me a lot to get into the scene of an actually happening, or happened strike. And that does help a lot in immersing oneself in the power of that strike, both politically and bit surprisingly morally.

*

So on what have I been convinced? Yea I have that incredible feeling of finally feeling part of the joy and sadness from a monumental show of strength by a collective that seemed far from us (or I should say, usually hidden from our eyes in the workplaces, behind the scenes). I think the immediate striking point was at some point, I figured that taking strikes as the most powerful political tool to bring social changes make sense. And I know for Anna to think that way, she’s rooted. I still remember how my comment on Karl Marx’s Capital after reading it in 2016 was that it makes sense. The idea that it makes sense comes from many other things at the mainstream that I have been fed with not making sense – being superficial, being bland, being outright counter-intuitive, etc. Like liberal media commentaries, neoclassical economics for sure, even public governance things I remember from CUHK times. The language in those tings are clean, or passionate in a bureaucratic/ rigid way, idk. But the lens of political economy always help me to see things like 1000x clearer and more excitingly.

So why does striking make sense as a political tactic? I remember reading Julian’s blog regarding the bar benders’ (紮鐵工人) strike in 2007, where he put a line in red and it was something like: ‘when capitalists are making profit out of the labouring of labourers, what’s a better way to undercut their profit than having the labourers, their source of profit, to stop labouring?’ The idea to me is, what’s a more fundamental strike at someone’s profitmaking out of source X than to remove source X – more precisely, explicitly reject to be X, the dehumanised factor of production ‘labour’ or just ‘L’ in neoclassical economics and (more importantly) DI-the-fucking-RECTLY reject & challenge profitseeking practices that we have long condemned and they have long themselves experienced as dehumanising and painful, and DEMAND change in form of, well, direct demands that blackmails the long-time blackmailer to a CLEAR, unequivocal RESPONSE?

當你抗爭的對象是藉工人勞動從中取利的資本家,有甚麼比透過罷工截斷其利潤來源更具威脅,更能成為談判的籌碼?

紮鐵工潮旁觀記(一) , 心湖淬筆 http://mindtologos.blogspot.com/2007/08/blog-post.html

And in the above half-rant there lies a lot of different fertilizers that come fruitfully into this ‘this make sense’ declaration. First is of course, hundreds and thousands of news of how things just are BAD to HELL in our current human world that’s not entirely different from an Aristotlean slave society, in the sense of a bunch of smurfs run chores and do things that are too gross to be seen in the open light for us and live segregated, second-rate citizen lives. There are a lot. Sweatshops sound like a platitude once it has become a Liberal Studies topic, once you have flattened it into ‘a social issue’. But it’s not. Every pinky that’s gone from handling a machine, every extra 4+ hours of OT, it counts towards some human flesh just like yours or mine being crushed into a state of hopelessness and acceptance of reality as it is. (And Trump is a ‘reality’ TV show host. I now understand why the crowd would like a Joker than cut that kind of crap short for a punchline. *spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the excellent movie*).

The second is of course, the Marxian language I’ve acquired over time. So the idea that the source of surplus value (or in simpler but wrong technically term, profit) is socially necessary labour-time. So yea, I just have never thought of striking as reversing this logic but it fits like seamlessly: withhold the handing over of labour-time to your boss, and you get no surplus value and a destructed capitalist production logic that goes in a chain reaction. Think of chemistry as chain reaction between atoms (whatever). I always liked Marx’s analogy of the study of society to the study of evolutionary biology – it spreads, contagiates, just like that. Okay, I actually have heard of that multiple times: ‘we need to choke capitalist production at its choke points’. But I guess the way Julian put it makes its tie to the theory even more intimate: workers, as the source of surplus value, are the only ones that technically, morally, effectively and legitimate able to ask for what they should have by refusing to perform that function.

I guess the third and final ingredient in this chemical reaction in the brain that gets me the newfound conclusion is *ta-da!* reality. I don’t know what in the Vox podcast on UAW strike hit me, but maybe some background chanting? Maybe on how they fought this week-long struggle with each like US$250 per week, like a few thousand HKD to care for an entire family? The human and lesstidy fragments of reality that stem from that, like some of them really really want to give up and take the General Motors deal, even though it doesn’t respond to their core demand? (Yes they took it eventually) Like another untidy detail of Trump actually stubbornly being on the side of workers this time because of his stupid campaign promise to bring jobs back to America? (GM was trying to pull out of certain states in America and go to Mexico. Tbh, this is anti-property rights, but to be fair the honest and straight forward way to bring jobs back to America is not to attract businesses but to force production to stay in the US with hefty government fines? Why do capitalist firms have this free pass to make America worse over and over again? I don’t mean to support this, just mean this logically.)

Perhaps it has been in my training to see things in very tidy compartments, both as theories and case studies (empirical evidence to back the theories up). I guess you can say that’s my strongest ability (one of). But I realise the kind of stuff that I read that get me to identify as someone who is really glad that I’m able to see the world as it is with these lens (was gonna say ‘as leftwing’, but tbh I have a much more complicated pattern of thought than that kind of dichotomous categorisation on the political orientation plain – I think some other diameters include ‘feasibility’, ‘coherence’, etc.), is when I am reading some more personal account that show how the theory fails in very believable ways to portray the historical and practical effects of phenomenons that had been closely studied by the (left) intellectuals.

Say, cleaner actually don’t like the minimum wage because her boss almost immediately cut her hours, or that her social benefit claims become more troublesome because her earnings have exceeded some limits. They find it cumbersome to their normal conduction of lives. Or when a guy in Chengdu recounts how he witnessed all the paramilitary struggles against one another during the Cultural Revolution in the factory he worked for, but the strongest piece of memory was how he climbed to the next dormitory to get an electricity cable to connect to theirs, and almost fell onto the ground, when he and his pals needed the light to play Poker cards and mahjong. Natural because production was being stopped!

Or when Justin Trudeau actually took a picture with some high school students on his daily jog and then people questioned why was it taken by a professional photographer – realising that the prime minister is actually crafting his image to be a down-to-earth one by having a photographer around him during his outings.

These things just add the necessary dose of reality to me that makes the complicated effects and results coming from actions or policies in certain direction more believable and lubricates the theories that I’ve heard in the right way – make things messier than they are in a good way. In a way that makes me firmer in my beliefs (because they make even more sense, lol).

Yea, I think these are the kinds of things that make me like Guardian and Vox podcasts a lot. The light human touch. And the Oral History on Chengdu workers whose state-owned factory was going to be torn down soon. Each of them have a personality that shed very different angles of light on the same time period and they are the living testimonies of monstrous experiments and fortunes they had been through.

賈樟柯 《中國工人訪談錄──一個關於集體記憶的故事》

https://www.cp1897.com.hk/product_info.php?BookId=9789620764226

*

So back to the article that I’ve been writing for Chris. The idea is roughly this: that Hongkongers had been very militant in strikes and social movements in the past since 1842. Militancy had been in the air right there in the Causeway Bay or Central that I am now walking in. So I took pride in coming up in the title 香港人的勇武史︰罷工的前世今生 , of course knowing how pointless it is to receive gratification by intellectually masturbating at my own ingeunity but still can’t help to get some adrenaline or whatever prompting a sense of achievement over coming up with something like this sort. The point is throughout the process of writing, I am convinced by the historical details that strikes had been possible (because they have happened), effective in forcing capitalist & governmental response, and popular because there had been mass mobilisation.

The last point I think is especially striking, because seeing Hong Kong now everyone are pretty dull and often thinks grimly about the possibility of actually being a meaningful collective that can fight for something meaningful in a powerful way. (Ok, maybe I am the only one thinking that way. I am not convinced by the kind of solidarity coming simply from being ‘yellow’ (pro-democracy).)

So there had been teachers’ strike and nurse’s strike in the 1970s. There had of course been general strikeS in 1920s – 1920 Strike by machine workers, 1922 Strike by sailors and 1925 Canton-Hong Kong General Strike involving Hong Kong workers returning to Canton as part of striking en masse. I am sure these are commonplace knowledge within the left circle, but first of all the nurse’s strike hasn’t been to me, secondly this is definitely not the case for the general public, and thirdly going into the details make them a lot realer and powerful. They were GENERAL or at least multiple-sector strikes – imagine neighbors in the whole district filled with a very natural sense of brotherhood and almost vulgar solidarity with workers from a sector who dared to speak up against the British, and very naturally stopped their own lines of production as if it’s just how things are. Stopped serving the French in restaurant or grocery stores when some ship repair workers refused to repair a French warship that just crushed Fujian in 1884. To be fair it’s pretty like how people from the neighbourhood go out and shout at the police together in the evenings recently – a kind of natural response as a human being to the suffering of fellows.

Communism mattered a lot at the time before it went very, very sour and rotten in China. That’s another story, one that I am surely very interested in pursuing later on.

Now I am a bit self-conscious of perhaps appearing to be ‘hypomanic’ because I write so much. So yes, partly I feel some excitement from being able to speak my mind, but no, no. I have always felt all these things during readings but just deadly unable to articulate these insights and intellectual strikes. Writing them help me to make sense of my own thoughts and why I have been and will remain that dedicated at least in principle to these ideas in the future. All these helps me to vent and understand myself better. Trust my judgment (ok hypomanic persons are sometimes said to lack self-insight. Let see what others think.)

And for those who have seen my personal writings before, these are a lot less obscure and inchoate right. At least I think so.

*

Another related thought is that recently, I do feel like I need to walk the talk in some way. Like when I am savoring something $300+, in a very real sense that money can alternatively be spent a lot more effectively by another person in a worse situation – it’s a lifesaving amount of subsidy for others, at least potentially. So say with gym and yoga, the kind of things that I can clearly do myself (to some extent) at a very low cost at a high level of willpower. Why do I pay for quite petty bourgeois classes that cost a fortune? I am not changing my personal habits right away, but I am digesting the ‘market only recognise preferences backed by purchasing power’ point a bit in my life. Have had many nice meals outside and crave dinner at home, really.

Once again, I am not going to take my happiness right now for granted and think that everything is moving just the way I wanted – so I remembered, at the clinic just now when heading to the bathroom, that not so long ago I used to have this very nasty and uncomprehensible-today habit of walking into commercial buildings randomly, choosing a high-enough floor level, and go into the bathrooms or staircases finding out windows that are accessible enough. This is probably too much detail, but I want to say it. That was me, obsessively preoccupied, just a few months ago.

What would you think of me after knowing about this piece of me? As expected? Will you make it a blackspot that’s forever on your head when you think of me? Is it something gossip-worthy? I wonder, but I still want to say it. It’s a part of me that makes me who I am now, and making sense of what drove me into that level of dedication to my belief and subsequent devastation at the inability to achieve it, in the earlier part of this writing, is part of the healing.

Thanks for listening,

Anna x

Last Week Tonight: Xinjiang, Podcast, Economics & You-know-who

So it has been a pretty exhausting week for me. My friend recommended me to do an mood diary, but that’s not why I’m writing. I am writing because – the urge is to feed further contents into my head (Universal Pension book that I’ve borrowed, the talk record for Chris and related thinking on strikes in Hong Kong, etc.), the stamina is literally ‘please, I just want a rest’, and just like a cigarette, a moment to pause and let the flowing streams of thought clear themselves a bit seems to be the best thing to do. I’m glad I finally have a concept of the week-end, a working week ending.

‘And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.‘ Genesis 1.31, 2.2.

Both in my mentally drained (let say disastrous) times and high-functioning times, no. I never had a weekend.

So there has been several things that I really learnt over the last week. It’s nice to dwell on them a bit because they are quite perspective-shifting, for a stubborn Anna.

First of all I was immensely happy and had that extraordinary sense of achievement from completing Chris’ ppt for Xinjiang in essentially 2 days. I knew I was suppressing it and let it loose – allowed myself to dwell a bit further on the fact that I was being smart to be able to tie the whole repressive-regime narrative over the Xinjiang issue back to some very fundamental capitalistic exploitation-based issue – of Uighurs essentially being forced to labour for fast fashion sweatshops within the camps. I felt so smart about the title ‘Political Economy of Repression – Unpaid Prison Labour’. Then I asked myself a bit more on bed before I slept (as the thought excited me & triggered that internal reward mechanism really well, lol) – so what?

So what? There’s not much of an answer to it. So what? How does my being smart mean anything to the one million Uighurs detained and 14 million living with a nanny app in their cellphones and security checkpoints outside every park and shopping mall?

A second and intimately related issue is that I started listening to podcasts, and I heard about the Uighurs. Podcasts, or just a (force-fed) voice over your ears, give an extra layer of intimacy to things being said to you. Maybe that’s because I’m an audio-person (I like singing, choral singing, fascinating about being a news anchor or a voice actor, …). It’s like someone helping to ask the questions to have in mind (with Current Affairs 101-type introductory podcasts, e.g. Today in Focus by Guardian) and bringing you over to their worlds through a speech extract at times, or an interview extract, a surrounding’s crowd cheer – it makes you feel present, it’s more sci-fi than ever (imagine the kind of futuristic tele-transport machines) – it’s certainly better than video clips you watch within a Youtube frame alongside many other tabs reminding you of your busily-scheduled life.

It makes questions a lot harder to answer. Someone is there, using his or her bare body to confront a mass machine of annihilation – of hope, or of physical matter like his or her relatives for that matter. So, what now. What now?

In part at least from listening to Jacobin Radio, even the act of running the radio is part of the answer to the ‘what to do’ – propagate unpleasant facts and underheard opinions to the rest of the world (literally, when even Lebanese infants know ‘Baby Shark’, the Internationale isn’t that hard to realise materially. Capitalism does very solidly give us the centripedal forces to unite.)

So Uighurs – pronounced ‘wee-gurs’, another perk from listening to podcasts for an infrequent English speaker – in deep Western China. I must say I had a very selfish reaction to the issue at first, when I was doing my research into Xinjiang’s political economy. It supplies literally 1/4 of China’s oil and gas when China’s a net energy importer. It is the route to Central Asia and Middle East where further oil is located. I had a moment thinking, China’s not gonna let go of Xinjiang because of that, and I am glad because I, as part of the Chinese materially dependent on China for our energy (let’s put aside the issue of nationalism & identity politics for now), am securing an important source of oil for myself, the resource-scarce deep South. It is EXTREMELY selfish. I wonder if US citizens sometimes think this way as well when they see home troops stationing at oil routes and oil allies in the Middle East – they are securing OUR energy for US.

It is a thought that has to be denounced and I abhor myself for that little impulsive cheer… but how else? How else are we to live in a universe where we compete for scarce resources based on national economic and political power? What still is of Hong Kong (and China for that matter) if we are no longer physically powered? How do we do politics differently by you know, freely trading with another region for the resources they are naturally endowed with, respecting their claims over it and respecting their legitimate claim to political union? (Ok it sounds as easy as this to me now. China can still fucking TRADE FAIRLY with an East Turkistan, even putting aside the urgent need to develop renewable energies. So does the US 🙂 )

So this leads in quite smoothly to a third point. I’ve been rethinking on the issue of mainstream neoclassical economics – which starts from precisely the standpoint that human beings allocate scarce resources to the most efficient ends for the persons that need them the most, through competition via the market. My friend and I are now working on some debunking of all the myths based on faulty and ethically gross assumptions made by economists. (I said in the tutorial this morning while reading J. B. Foster with a student: Larry Summer, World Bank Chief in 1992, had a doctoral degree in economics, but not basic common sense of a 9 year-old. That’s my sister who said outright dumping pollution from MDCs to LDCs is ‘CRAZY’, while Larry Summers advocated it using sound economic arguments without a blink in the eye or remorse :D)

Foster, J. B. (1993). “Let them eat pollution”: capitalism and the world environment. Monthly Review, 44(8), 10-21. http://wjsmith.faculty.unlv.edu/smithtest/FOSTERletThemEatPol.pdf

I am immensely, immensely grateful for my friend to be weathering out of my personal dramas with me in part through this project. I used to, and still feel a lot a rage about economics after having these non-sensical concepts force-fed to myself by choosing to do an economics degree. For a group of people that I cared deeply about (in convoluted and eventually harmful ways). My friend helped me to start to see the importance of putting effort in communicating these rage to others, and ultimately to myself for the former to be able to take place – it is such a relief to know, I have been right all along, and I can be proud about myself, my insistence, and that rightness can be communicated for a purpose that’s far, far larger than completing a rant for my own intellectual comfort. A purpose that links back to the group of people whose comments I cared or still care deeply about, to all people suffering directly from these faulty and ethically gross logics, to even my mom, dad and sister because we can find ways to understand each other again, to bridge that gap, even gulf from my intellectual & academic advancement far far ahead of them for the time being.

For the contents we can probably wait till we get something out, hopefully soon 🙂 One thing I can say for now is that markets only recognise preferences BACK BY PURCHASING POWER, and therefore takes background inequality in endowment and distributed entirely for granted. Right now I am too exhausted to go back into the details because that’s intellectual hard work. It feels a hell lot better to be working hard of these arguments than the Oxford essays I used to write though, for sure.

Fourthly and also related is, my relationship with others. People’s comment which I still care deeply till now. People’s stronger friendships or relationships with somebody other than me which get me insecure more than jealous. (Jealous is not really the right word. Insecure is.)

So there’s a line that I’d try to remember for some time if not the rest of my life from a very dear friend of mine. When your relationship with a person does not turn out the way you hoped or wanted it to be, adjust instead of avoid. Hell and heaven know how many people I had, have been or still am avoiding because I could not cope with the way we fell out, or more precisely, how he or she fell out from my very fucking ideal imaginations, assumptions and expectations of him or her. Very frankly, that list includes myself and I tried to annihilate her. (me.)

I am a really emotionally inept person and I’m literally crying a bit now. But here comes another line from another very dear friend of mine: maybe I am adapting better to myself this way, being openly admissive of my strong, intense emotions from something, someone, over a pair of oversized golden sunglasses and Temple. It’s natural and physical that I miss someone dearly, want something dearly, and get emotional over not being able to get to what I want to be. I am learning to make peace with this side of myself that’s perhaps really the truer me. At times I feel like it would do me good to try actively think back on my psychological unbearable times – to remind myself that that’s where I came from and there’s no need to be overjoyed for that being gone. It’s never going to go because it deeply engraved in the present me and it’s an important part of me, and of course it could happen again.

I still haven’t got a decided view over the broader issue of mental health. Is psychiatry a good thing or something to be denounced as strongly as my group of (ex-)friends do? Is positivity-based self-support a good thing or something to be outright ignored? I still don’t know. I am pretty sure thatI am all too prone to an all or nothing attitude and the reality is probably if not always something in between. For now all I can say for sure is that, mental health services and awareness in whatever form (to be debated about what it should be precisely) have to be a hell lot more extensive than they are now. I can’t imagine not seeing a doctor for half a year because that’s how long queues are in the public system in emergency cases. (Later I realised that there are ‘urgency level’ ratings and sorting, which solves a big part of this issue. But still, we don’t want things to get there before it can be resolved earlier.)

Back to the group of friends I cared a lot about. I realise I feel quite uncomfortable with the way they express their care and move forward, as I now do see a contrast in my interactions with other friends. I used to be a lot stronger in tone in expressing my frustrations at interacting with them, but now this is a different and genuine feeling that I want to explore a bit. So they would take you as a case study to further understand the mentality of Hong Kong students/ early graduates to facilitate further organisation of this segment of the Hong Kong political forces. By doing that they are still directly caring about you because their success, or ‘improvement’ in milder terms in that struggle against the normal order of the globe, has been and/or still is our common goal. We never walk alone, but sometimes we have to walk alone. We’ll meet in a few years if we happen to still be working towards the same goals.

I think I was forced to accept this without being able to take it emotionally. To be very very fair, I did a lot to sabotage the relationship and I had some really strong reflections over that probably around a month ago, a realisation on how far I went to gain their constant approval just to feel secure about my relationship with them. I realise I also tend to write in terms of ‘how I have improved, am improving and will improve‘ when I am trying to reply to their emails, even recent ones – I HAVE to prove my worth to them.

So there is a new, genuine and profound sense of relief right now, that I am no longer in that circle. Even though I love them dearly, just hints back at that way of communicating with one another suffocate me – probably a hangman’s knot I tied for myself. The relevant piece of relic is still inside their house.

Perhaps it’s time for me to accept – this is and has been the better way forward for either party. I feel really happy and proud of myself for what I have achieved, however little, insignificant and unplanned, in the last month, with friends that paid a patience that I am forever grateful for to me, an unworthy person struggling to find her place in the world and relationship with the swirls of madness playing out every single second on the globe, by forces beyond our control right now but will be if we try very, very hard. (Yes I am referring to capitalism and political, economic maliciousness. Not God or anything of that sort.)

Writing feels really good and I am definitely going to write more!

Thank you all my friends, companions, colleagues and comrades I’ve met, who accompanied me and from whom have been learning in the last few weeks. Maybe even Guardian, Vox and Jacobin podcast makers. It feels surreal when I think back on my universe just a few months ago, really.

Anna x

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