No refugees please, we’re Chinese

What a bunch of haters!

The Chinese public generally holds that currently China cannot accept a large number of refugees, although many are sympathetic toward these victims. The reasons are complex, rather than being seen as lack of internationalism and humanitarianism. It is related to China’s economic development, population, ethnic composition, legal mechanism and history.

The priority for China is still development. An excessive influx of refugees will have a huge impact on social order. If terrorists infiltrate China among the refugees, the safety of 1.4 billion people will be under threat, a fear that can be proved by the current European refugee crisis. Accepting too many refugees may deprive China of a stable environment for development.

Doesn’t the Chinese government know that its obligations to hordes of displaced and migrant foreigners outweigh its obligations to the citizenry it nominally serves, and that anyway the risks of letting in large numbers of alien Muslims to a non-Muslim society are negligible?

The refugee issue must be addressed at the origin. Refugees are not immigrants, rather they are victims of wars and turmoil. It is not China but the West which has caused the refugee crisis that currently plagues Europe. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, launched by the US after the 9/11 attacks, have battered the two countries and displaced large numbers of residents. The Arab Spring, the violent social movement promoted by the West, has devastated the North African area, leading to serious refugee problems.

Hmm………. it’s almost as if they’re on to something there.

The true way out to solve the refugee problem is to achieve stability and development in refugees’ own countries and help them return to their own homes.

Hmmmmm…………… so offering the safety valve of mass refugee resettlement to the screwed-up countries of the world is not necessarily the best way to tackle said countries’ problems over the long term? Do the Chinese really believe that? So hateful.

 

 

Convergence

Source: ArtStation

One of the many ways in which the once-great United States is converging to the norms of its more authoritarian counterparts in the East:

How are we supposed to take the myriad leaks coming from Robert Mueller’s special investigation of what I guess we could call “The Russian Matter”?

You would think that on the day Rep. Steve Scalise was shot the lava-like flow of illegal and frequently inaccurate leaked information being promulgated ad infinitum by the Washington Post, the New York Times, and CNN (among others) would stop for a moment’s respectful pause, but no — at least not at the Washington Post.

That very day they were “reporting” [scare quotes deliberate] that five, count ’em five, needless-to-say unnamed “officials” [scare quotes again deliberate] were saying Donald Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. […]

That is a big story, bigger even than Trump/Russia (well, that wouldn’t be hard). Whether or not Trump obstructed justice we have no way of knowing (though Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley are skeptical), but we do know that illegal leakers are all over our government from intelligence agencies to the FBI. This is quite simply totalitarianism on the march, the subversion of the rule of law in a democratic republic.

Liberty, representative government and the rule of law are fast becoming as obsolete in America as VCRs and $14.99 special edition Time magazines. What difference does it make where in the world you live anymore?

The prodigal expat returns to Asia

Realizes the inviting bosom of the motherland is in fact a graveyard of all hope

He had had enough. It was time. Time to flee the hell-matrix of the West, the spiritual tundra of America. Time to reboot, course-correct, go back to square one. To admit utter, crushing defeat and failure in regard to the past six months of his life, a blur of suffering, signifying nothing. To shrug off said humiliating defeat and the colossal waste of time and life it represented, accept that he had gained literally nothing from it, not even a “learning experience” that would somehow enable him to make better decisions in future, not even a new relationship that he valued – it had really been completely pointless from start to finish – and just charge it to the game and move on.

Yep, it was time to go the fuck back to Asia.

ASIA. It was funny, because during his whole ordeal in Indianapolis, whenever he thought about moving back to Asia his pulse would quicken and he felt as if he were waking up from a deep, cold slumber. Almost as if the true orientation of his life were towards the East. As if, by LARPing as a working stiff in corporate America, he was fooling himself and others and doing violence to his true nature.

Was it possible that he belonged in Asia, that his destiny was to remain an expat forever? Because he would never, ever belong to any Asian nation – as long as he lived out there, he would always be a stranger in a strange land.

Mike pondered this, but the answer eluded him. How much of his hideous experience in America could be blamed on his job, versus the nature of the country itself? He had to admit that life in the US hadn’t really been that bad – quite the opposite, in fact, from a material standpoint. He had lived in a large, comfortable dwelling. He had enjoyed healthy, palatable food every day. He had never had an appetite or want that he could not rapidly satiate.

And it wasn’t like America was lacking in arts and culture, or people who shared Mike’s interests and priorities. There was always the internet for whatever conversation and community he couldn’t get in real life – and unlike in China, you didn’t need a VPN because the good stuff was hidden behind a great firewall erected by tyrants. Not yet.

Mike’s social and romantic life had hit a nadir during his agonized months in Indianapolis, but that was his fault, it stemmed from the anarchic state of his personality. There was no shortage of people he could have met, women he could have dated and/or fucked. He had just never tried. His few lame efforts in that direction had promptly smashed against the rocks of his massive indifference.

“I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention,” said Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. No, neither did Mike. But between believing and doing, a great gulf was fixed. The truth was that Mike had achieved, during his wintry exile in Indianapolis, levels of morbid introversion that shouldn’t even be possible.

Could he have learned to love the motherland? Perhaps. And there would be more chances for that in the future. But what most bothered him about America, he suspected, what really made it impossible for him to settle down and get with the program, was boredom – that most underestimated of human emotions.

Life in America in the current year was just indescribably dull. It was hard to explain, but he felt that the absence of real hardship or large-scale adventure had reduced human life to a series of pointless chores, a mindless rearrangement of matter on the surface of the earth, followed by death. You didn’t get that sense in Asia. There was something different in the air. History was moving there, titanic forces had been unleashed. Asia was a continent-wide adrenaline rush. Life was interesting. And maybe that was just an illusion produced by his borderline mental illness, but it felt real, and that was all that mattered.

“These people have got something that we’ve lost. … There’s a velocity and density of life there that you don’t get in the West, and that I found oxygenating.” -David Mitchell

And then there was his job, that florescent-lit hell. That chain gang of Excel and performance reviews. Every second a micro-death.

Did he exaggerate? No, he did not. It really was that bad. And when he realized it would only get worse – that the climb would only get steeper from here on out, that working his ass off would only bring more responsibility, which meant the torture would be increased, intensified – they would bring in the real professionals for this, oh yes, the instruments were being readied in Uday Hussein’s private dungeon – then he understood it was time. He had to go back.

No more feminized corporate cuckspeak. No more pretending to be “excited” by bullshit. No more fake joviality with people he would pay money to avoid. No more shuffling to his cube in the eunuch uniform of a wageserf.

It was over. He was going to Asia.

His first serious attempt at repatriation had ended in total disaster, and now he would become an ex-ex-expat. A re-expat, perhaps. Whatever. He had bought his ticket. Fuck this place, he was going back.

Passing the torch?

Maybe we should just sit this one out

Via Nick Land, a powerful post from the blogger Donovan Greene:

Western Civilization is in decline, and Eastern Civilization is going to become the pinnacle of orderly civilization in the world as the West continues to decay.

Western Civilization was incredibly successful while it lasted, of course, and the East is standing on the shoulders of giants in its quest to reach further upward. Still, the apogee of Western Civilization has passed. The last great triumph of West over East was the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I do not foresee another big win for the West on the horizon anytime soon. The future offers nothing but decline. In the far future, it is very possible that a civilization (civilizations?) based in Europe or North America will rise to global prominence and superpower status, but that is something to be expected no less than hundreds or even thousands of years from now.

The rising societies of East Asia could prove magnetic to an increasing number of denizens of the decaying West:

As the East rises in stature relative to the West, we will begin to see a low-level brain drain, as the intelligent, ambitious, and adventurous make their way to lands near the Pacific. We see this happening today in very small numbers, and I predict this trend will pick up. Once the mainstream media notices this, the success of these people (and they will succeed, for they will be among the most elite of the Natural Aristocracy) will be broadcast across the West, and many more will join them. These numbers will be curtailed by controls from both sides, as the West tries to keep people in and the East tries to keep all but the best out, but the migration will still be significant.

I tend to agree. The West will rise again, but in a radically altered, almost unimaginable form. Someday.

My story at The Casper Review

Very pleased to announce that my short story, “The Mall of Babel,” has now been published by the brilliant and quirky e-zine, The Casper Review:

Dirk studied the corpse on the floor of the mall, oblivious to the muzak that wafted through the light-filled atrium. The body had hit the polished marble head-first after plunging from a great height. Flanked by humming security drones, Dirk knelt and inspected the body, which had belonged to a 35-year-old cartoonist. Now the man’s skull was cracked and his brains were fanned out on the floor, splattered like spaghetti.

The young detective disagreed with the forensic drone: This was not a normal suicide. There were euthanasia booths for that, vast gleaming rows of them easily accessible within every wing of every sector of the mall. Dirk had never seen a man take his own life like this. Whether private or live-streamed, suicide was always a quiet, predictable act, similar to buying a new pair of socks. This on the other hand was performance art, offered to a crowd of unsuspecting shoppers on a busy Sunday afternoon.

If rebellious cartoonists, exploding mall cops and dystopian visions of consumerism sprinkled with a bit of the old ultra-violence are your thing, you should, of course, read the whole story here.

From the website’s About page:

the casper review is an arts and culture platform for underserved communities: a non-ideological venue for ideologically excluded artists, or anyone seeking an authentic alternative.

the world is changing. let’s create parallel institutions.

Quite. Is this not an exhilarating time to be alive?

The incredible shrinking expat

Every white guy in Asia who is not hideously disfigured or too clueless to live has had the Charisma Man experience. Charisma Man was a comic strip that debuted in 1998 in The Alien, a magazine for expats in Japan. (Story of The Alien here.) It chronicles the adventures of an expat English teacher in Japan – a nebbishy Canadian guy of overwhelming mediocrity in his home country, who is magically transformed into a swaggering hero and debonair sex god by virtue of his fascinating foreignness in the eyes of admiring locals.

Confused for a modern-day Clark Gable, Charisma Man is mobbed by pretty Japanese women trying to get to know him (“Are you speak French?”). Lacking any discernible qualifications and virtually unemployable at home, Charisma Man interviews for a cushy job teaching salarymen at a major Japanese company – and receives an immediate offer. Charisma Man’s great superpower is his white maleness, which enables him to perform a kind of cultural arbitrage, trading on the gap between the value he actually possesses (zilch) and his perceived value in the minds of locals who have strongly positive stereotypes of Western men. His kryptonite is Western Woman – the expat white girls in Japan who see right through his act with the merciless clarity afforded by a shared culture. Whenever he is unfortunate enough to cross paths with Western Woman, Charisma Man’s heroic bubble is burst – he instantly deflates to his dorky, slump-shouldered Canadian self.

Source: charismaman.com

Source: charismaman.com

This is, of course, a comedic exaggeration of reality – even more so now than 20 years ago, when furriners were still a novelty outside (and even inside) the major metropolises. Nowadays the closed societies of Japan, Korea and China have largely gotten used to the presence of significant numbers of white dudes, to the point of disillusionment and weariness with their unfathomable (but mostly predictable) ways.

Having said that, foreigners and in particular Caucasian men still enjoy a significant edge in most parts of Asia:

  • Mere possession of a college degree and a pulse qualifies even the most hapless expat for a basic English teaching job, which can be fun (for about a year) and usually pays more than enough to live on. The more ambitious expats can leverage their native English skills and knowledge of “global business etiquette” and “international communication” (as well as hyperbolic accounts of their work experience back home) to land a more prestigious corporate gig, where they might be managing a team of locals, mediating communication between locals and foreigners, proofreading/editing documents, or something along those lines. Nice work, if you can get it – which is almost certainly going to be a lot harder in your home country. Furthermore, foreigners are often given a pass for a certain degree of incompetence and cluelessness, on the grounds that a) something is probably getting lost in translation and/or b) foreigners should not be made to lose face, as they need to be kept happy and compliant.
  • Socially, too, your foreignness will open doors and help you carve out a niche that you probably hadn’t even thought of. If you find yourself being interviewed on TV, giving talks to large audiences, or hobnobbing with government officials, you’re probably a foreigner in Asia. To be clear, most of these brushes with celebrity lead absolutely nowhere. But they’re fun and they make for good stories. Also, if you combine your built-in advantage as a foreigner with actual talent and hard work – and you learn the local language – you can make yourself a valued resource and even a respected guru. Start a small business, host an event series, write a book about your experiences, or become the world’s leading foreign expert on, say, Chinese economic data. In some cases, this can be the basis or the accelerant for a very successful career abroad (see point #1).
  • Foreigners also have a huge leg up in the dating realm – this is still very much true despite the growing number and visibility of white people in every corner of Asia. The effect is wearing off in major cities such as Shanghai, but it still exists. Just being a white guy, period, is a conversation starter in most places. You don’t need much “game” to chat with a cute girl who finds you exotic and interesting before you even open your mouth. From there it’s usually not that hard to escalate things. In this arena, the foreigner must be wary to avoid being taken advantage of by predatory local women who may see him primarily as a meal ticket or green card sponsor, but frankly, that’s a highly avoidable danger in the modern Asian megacities. Just be smart and hang out with educated, well-to-do women. Also, use a burner phone.

Here’s the big caveat, though. The fine print you glossed over before you booked your ticket on Kayak. Success “over there” may be entirely meaningless back at home. The sheer alienness (I say it with love) of most of Asia means that your achievements may not be valued or even understood by your compatriots; the skills and experience you labored to acquire in the distant kingdoms of the East may as useless in your home country as your wallet full of Japanese yen at the local Walgreens.

As an extreme example of this, consider the Canadian performer Mark Henry Rowswell, who goes by the name Da Shan in China. Known for his comedic performances delivered in flawless Mandarin, Da Shan is one of the most famous foreigners in China, instantly recognizable to several hundred million people – putting him in the same fame-league as the president of the United States. He first achieved stardom in 1988 by appearing on a TV special during Chinese New Year that was watched by an estimated 550 million people.

Da Shan has clearly built a successful career for himself and, while I have no idea how much money he makes, he probably does well. Nevertheless, his incredible fame comes with a severe qualification: Da Shan is completely unknown outside of China.

So there’s a warning for you. Some skills are transferable if you move back to the motherland; others are not. The confidence you gain abroad, however, is likely to stick no matter where you go.

See also: The bell curve of expat opportunity

And: Loser Back Home (LBH)X-twat

When Chinese come back to China…

circa 1972:

Chinese from abroad who come back to visit the motherland are put in a special category. The Maoist authorities, with their fixation on classification, their obsession with hierarchy, arrange them in four different groups. At the top, you have the Chinese who have taken out foreign citizenship. They are the only ones we [Westerners] meet, because they stay in the same hotels and enjoy the same material privileges. But – noblesse oblige – these aristocrats also suffer from the same disabilities in their contacts with the people, including members of their own families. While they can usually see their parents in their homes (sometimes they may see them only in the hotels), they may not spend the night there. […]

The second class is made up of the “compatriots from Taiwan” – in practice this means Taiwanese who live in Japan or the United States. This brand is in great demand because of its many political uses, but the stock is limited. The press talks about them, but you never see them.

The third class, the Overseas Chinese, is more numerous. Usually they are well-to-do businessmen from Southeast Asia who enjoy the best of both worlds: patriotic pride in their mother country, wealth and ease in the country where they live. In the People’s Republic they enjoy special hotels and restaurants: less expensive than those for foreigners, but out of bounds for the local population.

At the bottom one finds “compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao,” most of whom come to China only to visit their relatives in Kwangtung province. This is really the largest group of all – on traditional festival days such as New Year’s Day, the Feast of the Dead (Ch’ing-ming), and so on, they cross the frontier by the tens of thousands. And the procedure for that is very easy: only an identity card is required. Of course, they see only their family villages, but at least they enjoy direct and close contact with the Chinese in an everyday way, whereas the higher-class visitors, though they can travel on the wider tourist circuits, are insulated by the prophylactic measures that cut foreigners off from real Chinese life.

–Simon Leys

Of course, things are (mostly) rather different now…

 

Crucible

Mike’s seven years in Asia receded into the distance. They seemed increasingly remote and strange. Still, he kept having flashbacks, as vivid as ever – like a combat veteran, except that these were happy memories that haunted him, bursting into his gray, purgatorial existence in the Midwest.

Above all, he thought about the girl he had left behind. Leaving her was either a wise move or the epochal blunder of his life. Of course, he would never know which. They kept in touch occasionally, but he thought about her often, wondering if they still had a chance together, if he should go back to be with her, or bring her over here. In the end, the answer was always the same: he didn’t know.

Otherwise, his life was devoid of personal drama, and indeed of normal human contact. He had no real friends and no girlfriend in Indianapolis, mostly because he didn’t feel like putting in the effort. He kept his colleagues at arm’s length without any particular intention to do so, and conversations at the office were frequently awkward.

A colleague named Jordan gushed about the musical Hamilton, which he had seen on a recent visit to New York. Mike’s interest in Hamilton could only be described as non-existent, but he agreed to listen to the soundtrack on Spotify to ingratiate himself with Jordan. He did not enjoy it and had to find a way to tell Jordan without either lying or doing more damage than if he had simply declined to listen to it in the first place. In the end he decided to lie.

Mike had to admit that things weren’t going well, overall. He was inexorably slipping into a mindless, bovine state. Hating his job, yet lacking the energy and conviction to apply for another one, he simply drifted from day to day, hanging on through a series of increasingly severe workplace crises. Here again, he had no energy to improve the situation, to manage the crises in a truly effective way; his only ambition was to keep going, to the growing exasperation of his boss, until the final, unforgivable cataclysm that would get him fired. That was his true ambition: to get kicked to the curb.

It was probably delusional to expect any other job to be better. The problem was that things were so much easier in China, at least for Mike, who struggled to accept the ramped-up workload and demands of corporate America. Punctuality was taken for granted here, and your work had to be accurate and of consistently high quality. People would ream you out in front of your colleagues. You couldn’t even take naps at your desk – I mean, what the hell. Offices in China were like a slumber party after lunch. He had the photos to prove it.

Socially, too, the adjustment was vast. In America, everyone was a celebrity (in their own heads), and nobody really gave a shit about you. It was a weird feeling, not being the center of attention anymore.

Also, you couldn’t bullshit your way out of a difficult conversation by talking fast and using big words (so as to blame the “language barrier”) or deflecting with a joke or an empty platitude. That dog don’t hunt in America. On the other hand, your guard was down when people pulled that crap on you. Unlike in China, you couldn’t just dismiss them, couldn’t hide behind your foreignness; the best-case scenario was to be a remorseless sociopath.

Mike was aware that his social skills needed work. Much had atrophied during his mini-lifetime in Asia, and his self-imposed isolation was making things worse. He needed a girlfriend, that much was obvious. Friends urged him to try dating sites or apps. His answer was that he didn’t need an algorithm to meet girls. The dearth of actual women in his life suggested otherwise.

Over and over again he thought about the girl in Chengdu, the possible key to his current mental crisis. They had complemented each other so well. But now they were separated by 7,000 miles of planetary crust. Just getting his ass to her apartment would burn 50,000 gallons of fuel. You might say the logistics were bad.

Yet, there was no way for either of them to move to the other’s country without radical, and possibly irreversible, disruption to their lives. As with his job, his romantic situation was untenable, yet he could do nothing to change it. He hovered in an eternal present of intolerable stasis.

Or maybe it was more of an interlude, and he would soon be seeing more of the girl, in some unexpected context. He genuinely had no idea. The only thing he felt sure of was that he was going through some kind of trial, the meaning, purpose and outcome of which he could only guess at.

Narrowing your horizons

Some deep thoughts on travel by the English author G. K. Chesterton, writing c. 1922:

I have never managed to lose my old conviction that travel narrows the mind. At least a man must make a double effort of moral humility and imaginative energy to prevent it from narrowing his mind. Indeed there is something touching and even tragic about the thought of the thoughtless tourist, who might have stayed at home loving Laplanders, embracing Chinamen, and clasping Patagonians to his heart in Hampstead or Surbiton, but for his blind and suicidal impulse to go and see what they looked like. This is not meant for nonsense; still less is it meant for the silliest sort of nonsense, which is cynicism. The human bond that he feels at home is not an illusion. On the contrary, it is rather an inner reality. Man is inside all men. In a real sense any man may be inside any men. But to travel is to leave the inside and draw dangerously near the outside. So long as he thought of men in the abstract, like naked toiling figures in some classic frieze, merely as those who labor and love their children and die, he was thinking the fundamental truth about them. By going to look at their unfamiliar manners and customs he is inviting them to disguise themselves in fantastic masks and costumes. Many modern internationalists talk as if men of different nationalities had only to meet and mix and understand each other. In reality that is the moment of supreme danger–the moment when they meet. We might shiver, as at the old euphemism by which a meeting meant a duel.

Travel ought to combine amusement with instruction; but most travelers are so much amused that they refuse to be instructed. I do not blame them for being amused; it is perfectly natural to be amused at a Dutchman for being Dutch or a Chinaman for being Chinese. Where they are wrong is that they take their own amusement seriously. They base on it their serious ideas of international instruction. It was said that the Englishman takes his pleasures sadly; and the pleasure of despising foreigners is one which he takes most sadly of all. He comes to scoff and does not remain to pray, but rather to excommunicate. Hence in international relations there is far too little laughing, and far too much sneering. But I believe that there is a better way which largely consists of laughter; a form of friendship between nations which is actually founded on differences.

The experience of travel interacts with the knowledge, personality, and mental habits of the traveler to generate a wide variety of effects, usually positive but often negative. The same goes for living abroad. I’ve seen far too many disgruntled expats in Asian bars, consumed with hatred for the people and customs of the countries in which they have, quite voluntarily, taken up long-term residence.