Some places are so overdue in terms of having to be visited, it is almost painful. Hong Kong was within my reach in autumn of 1996, when I was on my way to New Zealand. In fact, Hong Kong was my first port ever outside of Europe. But since I never left the airport building my “rules” do not permit to count this place as a country I have visited. Boring I know, only exciting for me personally and my little stats.
Now anyhow, it was time to fulfill the almost 25 year old obligation and visit. Great in that context that I was recovering from a silly infection that I got during my christmas visit in old Germany. That and a jet lag that annoyingly seems to get worse with age, kept me in bed maybe too much. For new yearˋs eve I made it to the port though, having some beers by the keys, a little chat with locals, waiting for, well not the fireworks anyhow. Apparently fireworks were: (A) reserved for chinese new year celebrations or (B) called off due to the demonstrations. I was told these two different stories.
“What do you expect from Hong Kong?” someone asked me. Spontaneously Isaid, that I had come really hoping to experience demonstrations, to get a feel what it was all about. “So, mission accomplished!” I said probably slightly inappropriately excited considering the topic. But I had basically just come from a spontaneous outburst of violence around the corner of where I stayed. So I felt I had gotten what I came for. I am not the thrill seeking tourists, the adrenaline junky. Far from it.
Connecting with a situation so visceral as I had just done in the streets, when riot police charged after rioters, seeing people yelling and scanting in obvious despair. Seeing the many young people everywhere wearing little signs of participation in the resistance, such as little whistles, rolls of tape, helmets, masks, or other equipment that comes handy when secretly, and sometimes openly, resisting the unavoidable.
Unavoidable. I fear that describes the situation best. I am not sure that I ams siding with anyone in this conflict. It is complicated to explain. As a westerner I am of course indoctrinated by the idea that democracy is the only reasonable solution for governance. At the same time I see, as many, that idiocy, complacency, and bureaucracy hemper quick progress where progress is needed. Such as climate action. He says while preparing for landing in the Philippines. It is complicated.
The chinese regime certainly does not intuitively come across as a great alternative. And when have autocratic regimes, left or right, ever offered satisfying results? With a small group, or even one individual, deciding progress (for better or worse) is guaranteed. But unfortunately the opportunities are probably as big as the risks. It is complicated.
That night in the streets of Hong Kong it did not feel as if democracy has a chance in this place. I wished it for the young people, whoˋs face I still see, expressing all the desperation, anger, rage, and hope in their screams. The part of the people however who, as so many of us in democracies as well, just go with the flow is bigger. Only dead fish swim with the stream, the Swedes say. I am afraid, almost all of us already stink rotten.
Australia we love you (M. Python)
On my way to Hong Kong on the plane – the irony becomes apparent later – next to me sat an australian cowboy. And indeed, he looked genuine, with his cowboy boots. He had just left his hat at home. He just came from a visit to Norway, enjoying nature there, and the cold that he does not experience in Australia. With pride he showed me his farm, which is impressive to say the least. A lot of cattle, even more ground. Much of it he built himself. He has all the right to be proud.
How about climate change and with it the largest bushfires Australia has ever seen, I inquired? He was not sure that it has anything to do with human influence. Global warming? he felt the debate was ongoing and no judgment possible. I strongly opposed this view of course, since the since is clear. It actually has been since the end of the 19th century (around 1890 or so, when e.g. Arrhenius discovered the importance of CO2 as climate gas). I got a bit wound up because I am so tired of hearing from people that they are so confused by the media and politics (Australia is Murdock country of course).
I am not saying that it is mostly down to scientific illiteracy when people still think that climate change caused by global warming is debatable. But it is curious that 97% of the data clearly speaks for human influence on the current warming, with about the same percentage of climatologist clearly seeing the link between human activity and global warming. “Science is no popularity contest and not ruled by democratic vote”, people often respond. Well, that misrepresents science and reveals ignorance of the scientific process. A logical fallacy. Because the 97% number is based on the data and scientific facts supporting the hypothesis that human made global warming is real.
It is akin to going to you general practitioner and getting a devastating diagnosis. You decide to double check. In fact, you go to another 99 GPs. Now 97 out of the 100 GPs tell you that you have a heart problem and should immediately do something about it. Would you say, “Nah, this is not a popularity contest! How about the 3 GPs getting to another result?”. “I think I Am safe. Either way, no reason to be rash about it. What if you are wrong? Let us wait and see and continue as is for now”. Right?
Anyhow. Australia is burning and with it the long held beliefs of Australians that jobs and economy are more important than the environment. I read the other day that around 80% of Australians now believe in the human effect on the climate. When I was there in 1996 that sounded very different. Back then was the time when I was very interested about the topic and constantly brought it up with people. I felt, something must be done. Back then ignorance about it was huge. Many could not distinguish between the Ozone layer issue (an issue pressing back then, but only very distantly related to the global warming problem) and the CO2 issue. Hence my frustration that so many years later I still have to tell people, that the science has been clear for 140 or so years…
Thanks to Sharon (aka Greta) the issue now seems to become the most prominent. Bt maybe too late. And too little? It is tempting to think that it is only fair that Australia is burning. It is not as if people were not warned. But that is falling into the same trap as many Australians who see their country as an island in a metaphorical sense. Global warming is, as the name suggests, a global problem, best solved globally. That we currently act nationally is the first problem. The burning Australian bust is not an Australian problem, it is a human problem. Dah!
Visiting Macau was on of the best things I decided to do while in Hong Kong. I had heard different stories from people. Some thinking it utterly uninteresting because it is all about the casinos. And true, the casinos are super boring. It is a funny feeling looking at the many options there though to part with your money. Statistically of course you have no chance of ever winning at the casino. So I would just check the intricate ways the casino had come up with in the different games to make sure that the maths was on their side.
Most of my time on a day trip I used to marvel at the buildings in the old town. It really does feel, and I could swear even smell, as Portugal more than China. They offer food items that are popular in Portugal, bars and cafes look like the do in Portugal, even the endless up and down the hills reminds of Lisbon! I must admit that I liked it very much! Just strolling through the little alleys, having free snacks that are being offered constantly, enjoying the pleasant temperature and sunlight. It is like a little holiday from the big holiday, which is my life now.