Amidst the Hong Kong demonstrations is something far more violent: the two cents we white people feel we need to put in.
The now sadly-ending institution that is/was Mad Magazine taught me as a child a few things about life, about pop culture, and assorted other things.
At one point, there was a bit, the context of it escapes me (something about equations), but it showed this over-fed, patently loud, obnoxious American type yelling at some put-upon local in a foreign land. The caption said something about the habits of your average American tourist, who is under the misapprehension that the louder he speaks to locals while on vacation, the better chance that non-English speaking local will have of understanding what he’s saying.
Not a lot has changed since the 80s. And there’s something so very ‘chef kisses fingers emoji’ perfect about seeing middle-class white people in South East Asia complaining that their mimosas aren’t as good as they were expecting; that brunch plans have been ruined; that planes are delayed; that their holiday (from a representative western democracy) has been made slightly less enjoyable by the efforts of those locals to emulate a specific kind of western representative democracy.
Below? This is a kind of choice. Here you see a white woman from South Africa.
Just check it out.
The nerve of being in a country that isn’t yours and complaining that the struggle for
freedom there inconveniences you, the sheer caucasity of it all. https://t.co/pOMupGs6Ax
Sakr (@OmarjSakr) August 12, 2019
Everyone needs to behave, apparently. She left South Africa because of this. ‘This’ being protests, for the kind of freedom that she herself, nor any member of her family, would ever have struggled for. And it’s kind of fitting that now that South Africa has universal suffrage, she’s cooling her heels in Victoria Harbour where well-heeled white folk like her (and me, I’ll admit) live/d the cushiest, easiest lives; living extremely well, paid exorbitantly, barely taxed, while a majority of the locals find themselves ten to a room in apartments the size of shot glasses with piss-weak views of fuck all. I don’t know her story, but I can read her like a book.
As the tweeter noted, “The caucasity of it all.”
I love a good portmanteau; Caucasian mendacity.
Then there’s this champion of free speech.
This stranded Australian tourist tells protesters at Hong Kong airport that police should
‘bring your people to order’ after his flight was cancelled. The Hong Kong
International Airport expects to resume flights today pic.twitter.com/fdX9IliTEq
— SBS News (@SBSNews) August 12, 2019
Old mate is telling the locals (who are trying to explain to him – in English – exactly what they’re fighting for) that the police are showing too much restraint. Because it looks like his travel plans are going to be interrupted. And he actually says “your people” here, which, if you’re playing along at home, pretty much wins you this round of Colonialist Mindset Bingo in record time.
I lived in Hong Kong once, and some of the customs and cultural differences I experienced were pronounced – which was basically the point of going there. A great deal of frustration stemmed from my wanting to get from A to B, while persons X, Y and Z were walking three abreast on a footpath that wasn’t wide enough for the three of them, let alone me to walk past. There were ads on local TV reminding me to not spit in the streets and to take my grandmother to the dentist.
We as a culture have spent centuries trying to tell people in other countries they’re doing it wrong, socio-politically.
There were occasional protests back then; the push for representative democracy was growing, a solid decade after the British took their bat and ball and went home. Many expat Brits left at the time of the handover, contemplating that their colonialist dream would be rendered a nightmare by the tanks rolling in and pictures of Mao being erected where once hung saintly portraits of the Windsors. But the Chinese were on to something then, as they pretty much are now – you don’t shoot the bank.
Now, there are protests, en masse, and there have been for a while. The Special Administrative Region – as it is known – conducts itself basically as the entitled offspring of the motherland with the 50-year situation of it being one country, two systems. I recall at the time you could see Brokeback Mountain at any number of HK cinemas, but it was banned China. Not sure how much time expats spend on the sauce on the mainland, but it flowed like a river on the island. There’s close to nothing you can’t do there that you could do in any number of western democracies, aside from vote; not that most westerners there would want to bring about much change to the place anyhow had they the chance to.
Democracy doesn’t come cheap, nor is it pretty. Australia is one of the few nations on earth whose status as a democracy came about with comparatively little fanfare: there was a vote, a motion in the British parliament, and a constitution. The Americans had to fight a war; so too the Indians had to do the hard yards. The degree of sacrifice non-white South Africans had to endure to make a country of their own has been well documented. The fight the Hong Kongers are fighting for now is a noble one; you can take issue with the methodologies they’re employing, but nobody ever successfully enacted a revolution by being polite.
We as a culture have spent centuries trying to tell people in other countries they’re doing it wrong, socio-politically. So there’s something so fitting, so painfully beautiful about the same lot berating the Chinese for not being better behaved in their quest for something more like what we’ve got.
Be more like us, sure, but if it comes at the expense or inconvenience of Graham and Denise from the Adelaide suburbs? Forget about it. Their hard-earned franking credits paid for this holiday.
Show some respect.