Anonymous asked: Arthur, any plans for a second book? :)
Yes, of course! Though I’ll be damned if I have any idea what it’ll be about. It will likely either be a relatively personal account about my thoughts and analyses on college and learning, or a more focused compilation of more essays (more about the SGV or sociological topics, for example.)
The point is, the notion of writing more certainly has not left my mind, and it will not.
Anonymous asked: hi arthur! you are fantastic.
No, you are!
Wall Street Journal: The Yahoo board has approved a deal to pay $1.1 billion in cash for Tumblr
All Things D reports it was a unanimous decision
Excepted, Part 1: Primer
The first of a journal entry-type series for winding down my high school career, as well as a narration of academically relevant events that have occurred in the last few months. Warning: stream of consciousness may appear.
High school is simply a game. Some will call it the silliest of games; some will call it the most important of games; still others wish to (expletive) it altogether. We all give labels, titles, and categories to things, for it for convenience and maintenance of our sanity. ‘Things’ must be defined; so high school is a game, if not (to some people) a lie; a sham; a waste of time; a trip; an adventure; an interval of time where people care about their own appearances far too much; or a few lousy years.
Games have pathways, invisible walls, and boundaries, though. High school does not, though, and the freedom startles some and motivates others. Yet high school’s freedom is one of its biggest deceptions. Institutes of secondary education, public and private alike, subject its young members to rules and regulations that go so far as to curtail constitutional freedom. Freedom isn’t much of a thing in high school, then.
But nobody can leave high school and call it a huge set of lies, either. Surely we come out of it with something new—at least, I have. Only the most cynical would deny the idea. My high school career has been more than façade and daily digestion of shitty cogitations. Episodes have been terrible; others, glorious. No doubt the friendships feel indispensible.
I’ve said much of what I’ve needed to say as an analyst of my four years of observing and understanding high school life—but it only applies to high school, so an apology should be in order for that bit of unavoidable nearsightedness. For the first time, I plan to talk a little bit more about myself.
In an indeterminate and entirely volatile number of posts, I will discuss the numerous segments of my time at high school. New entries will be periodically posted until a proper conclusion of the narrative is reached. There will be no schedule or queue. But there will always be exceptions.
China, Then and Now, Here and There
The Chinese civilization is one that needs no introduction—but writing this in a Western country for a Western audience means, unfortunately, that I will have to give one anyway, before a proper discussion of it can begin.
China’s history, in terms of its length, rivals that of Ancient Egypt’s, at well over 4000 years. And the similarities end there. Its depth unapologetically surpasses that of its ancient counterpart, for China’s relative isolation from the rest of the world meant that repeated rounds of conquest did not render its culture and customs extinct. Today’s Egypt, as an example, is a hybrid of the Muslim-Arabic sphere and Greco-Roman imperial influence—hardly Egyptian at all. (Conflict between Muslims and Coptic Christians has the place split to this day).
China’s Eastern hegemony, which the Eurocentric worldview presented in media and textbooks hardly emphasizes, reminisces, or reviews, had a profound impact on the continent. The Chinese civilization likes to think itself as a peaceful one1, but it was the centuries-long Chinese Empire’s geopolitical domineering that subjected Korea and Vietnam to its will and Japan to its culture (the kimono is a derivative of a Han Dynasty garb, for example). If China really were peaceful, after all, half of Asia wouldn’t be using chopsticks, feature a Buddhist presence, nor be unusually secular.
The Chinese Empire’s the two most terrible centuries (the 19th and 20th) were the British and American ones, respectively. The isolationist Ming and Qing Dynasties plunged the Chinese into a economic, political, and cultural nadir, thanks to a mix of arrogance and obliviousness. Two disastrous Opium Wars waged by Britain (with superior weaponry and a legendary navy forged from centuries of war) put the great power into a deep slumber, as foreign powers—the Eight-Nation Alliance comprised of many of the European powers that would find themselves in an equally terrible conflict in two decades—carved up the coast for financial benefit (the British being the most egregious case for leasing Hong Kong and Macau) and looted priceless artifacts from Beijing—notably, the Old Summer Palace (a memory that still makes many Chinese sore today). For the Chinese, such embarrassment rendered totalitarian empire unsustainable, and it quickly toppled in a fashion surprisingly in line with the antiquated concept of the ‘mandate of heaven.’
At ends with itself again, China sustained nearly four decades of tumult before settling down—if one could call it that. The Qing Empire fell 1911 by way of the four-month Xinhai Revolution. A narrative of ensuing events closely mirror’s Russia’s: a lackluster provisional government is formed; communist revolutionaries form in secret and create soviets that gradually increase in power and threaten the government’s hegemony; civil war ensues; the communists win. But here, our losers, the Kuomintang (Nationalists) do not perish; they flee to Taiwan and call Taipei the Republic of China’s temporary capital. Of course, it hasn’t taken Beijing since. Taiwan is now a de facto independent nation, and Hong Kong was returned to the PRC 1997 under a “one country, two systems” policy.
All this historical background is not meant to be a primer for the controversy, convolution, and complication that defines Mao-era (and post-Mao) Communist China, for the point to be made is that China should hardly—if at all—be defined in terms of political status, as this BBC opinion succinctly points out. China has stood out during the last 4,000 years not for its superior political organization (it is hardly unique) but for its culture, customs, and traditions, which the Chinese are very proud of (it’s not called the ‘Middle Kingdom’ for nothing). A majority of individuals of Chinese descent will regard themselves as Chinese before calling themselves ‘mainlanders’ or ‘Hong Kongers’ or ‘Taiwanese.’
The notion that the ‘civilization-state’ that has defined China is a superior concept to the Eurocentric ‘nation-state’ is apt, but it is not a fully achieved reality. The resentment that has triggered diplomatic row after row—that threatens to splinter East Asia in its entirety—stems from the harboring of nationalistic arrogance, rather than cultural pride. The difference is minute, but all becomes readily apparent when one considers the origins of East Asian nationalism.
‘Nationalism’ has several meanings: at its most benign, it is a mere synonym of patriotism. The other version of nationalism, though, is defined as “an extreme form…marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.” Nationalism did not exist before the 19th century, and it certainly did not in East Asia. Nationalism is a foreign import. Nationalism, like invasive species, is an invasive concept.
There are two critical factors that one can blame for the genesis of nationalist sentiment in the early 20th century, aside from it being a consequence of the global trend of nation-statism. The first cause is a perception of oppression. The other means in which nationalism arises is, interestingly enough, as a response to imposed nationalism. Qing Dynasty China experienced both of these during the eve of its rule. Cries for republican government came with the hope of restoring a sense of ‘pride’ for the Chinese people, who had been so utterly shamed by their losses at the hands of Western powers, whose poor treatment of Chinese—on Chinese soil!—was indistinguishable from the perceived sense that the nationalism of the ‘foreign devils’ made them too arrogant to do otherwise. (Japan, likewise, developed its own sense of nationalism after the Meiji Restoration, where it heavily adopted Western technologies, traditions, and concepts.)
Today, nationalism in East Asia is alive and well, and it threatens to culturally and geographically balkanize China. Taiwan is split between two political factions, the Nationalists and the Progressives: the former seeks closer ties to China, while the other is a pro-American force desiring the island’s disassociation to its longtime neighbor. Common culture and heritage have allowed for the coexistence of Hong Kong and Mainland China, but embracement of the British parliamentary and legal systems as well as a already-present Cantonese-Mandarin (‘putonghua’) lingua-cultural rift threatens to deliver the Chinese Communist Party more migraines in the future as it attempts to further integrate the ‘window to the East’ with the mainland.
For the Chinese, as it turns out, identity is not so simple. Hundreds of dialects, present because of geography that discourages linguistic homogenization, splinter the mainland; ‘northerners’ regard ‘southerners’ have a sort of friendly rivalry akin to that between two American universities. What unifies them all is the sense of Chinese-ness, if you may, which justifies the macro-level cultural pride the Chinese possess2.
Unfortunately in the United States, many of these inter-Chinese rifts remain present, even in a country where it all should not matter very much. The potency of nationalism is not adulterated by Pacific passage. As a constituent in a heavily Chinese American community, the emotions of chauvinism and loyalty are palpable. Many local Cantonese speakers are more concerned about the tiny southern island than the great mass above it. The Taiwanese are even more severe: the island’s Democratic Progressive Party (pro-independence, anti-Mainland, pro-US) has significant bases of operation in Southern California. Their belief in Taiwan’s de jure independence and sovereignty is stronger than anyone else’s3. Mainlanders are adamant about ‘one-China.’
It should be said with delight, that these polarizing and sometimes downright immature ‘you-versus-me’ sentiments are fading among the Asian American population, for they are primarily perpetuated by a declining demographic of first-generation immigrants who care about affairs abroad more than those at their new home. This is not to say that younger, second or third-generation Chinese/Taiwanese immigrants should be ignorant of events abroad. It is to say that they should not allow one of several divisive versions of “Chinese-ness” to define themselves. “I’m a mainlander” is just as silly as “I’m a Hong Konger” and “I’m Cantonese” and “I’m Taiwanese,” though they need not be completely discarded for some absurd sake of political correctness—avoiding controversy is not the intent.
Such a proposal is not intended to dilute an individual’s sense of heritage for his or her culture; individuals should simply refrain from using inflammatory self-identification tags as a primary identifier of identity. Asians are all descendants of the Chinese civilization—the term, which cannot be translated into English, is ‘huaren’ (华人)4. To define oneself on grounds of political and geographic distinctions that have existed for between 50 to 100 years over defining oneself with a civilization that has thrived for 4,000 years is trivial and short-sighted5. As for the longer-standing cultural distinctions—those are not excuses to ignore shared identity.
As Huaren Americans, this identification is critical in the political as well as the social sphere. The goal is not to homogenize, but to clarify, simplify, and repudiate nationalism, a most deplorable concept. Unifying Chinese identity reduces nobody—but it elevates us all.
1. By most means it is, at least compared to the warring states of Western Europe during much of the first millennium; but of course China has always had its periods of warlord-overrun fragmentation, one of them called precisely the Period of the Warring States.
2. The angry exceptions to this concept of Chinese identity are the numerous (55) minorities that coexist with the overwhelming majority of Han Chinese. Some of these ethnic subgroupings, notably the Tibetans, harbor resentment towards the purportedly oppressive Han Chinese—I suppose subjugation is not just a ‘white people’ thing. (Well, then there’s Japan.)
3. During a current event presentation about the US sale of fighter jets to Taiwan in my mostly-Asian class, my teacher asked, “How many of you think Taiwan is independent?” and around two-thirds of the students raised their hands—which indicates Americans’ quintessential ignorance of foreign policy, even among students whose parents may be compelled to indoctrinate them with one-China or two-China views. But more importantly, it reinforces the fact that Asian Americans are more American than Asian, and thus are rightfully nonchalant about the somewhat immature sentiments that East Asian nations harbor towards each other.
4. The term for huaren abroad? Huaqiao (华侨).
5. Again, nobody should avoid the contemporary political issues; this is a matter of prioritizing identity, not discarding it.
if you ever feel bad about yourself remember that george bush was once informed that 4 brazilian people were killed in iraq and he responded ‘how many is a brazilian’