The Corona Blame Game

The blame game has restarted. US officials have referred to the virus as the Wuhan or Chinese virus. China retorts with claims of xenophobia and conspiracy. It is inevitable in an election year in the US and from such an administration. And when millions more around the world are blighted by it, attention would naturally return to China and the causes of this pandemic. At stake is the reputation as a global player, and China knows it.

The exact biological cause is in many ways unimportant to most. It rose in Wuhan, China, likely from animal to human contact within wet food markets. Despite Russia’s usual disinformation campaign and the attempts by China to mystify the origins by starting a counter-narrative suggesting it was planted in Wuhan by the US military, the basic and generally unarguable evidence points to a virus doing what it has often done: pathogens jumping to the wrong place.

What’s in a name?

President Trump has repeatedly referred to the virus as the Chinese virus and is being criticised by the Chinese government and a few agencies such as the WHO who point to the risk of stigmatising the Chinese. While banging a drum is not helpful, in an election year, when the global economy is likely to head into recession as a result of this pandemic, this drum is going to be banged louder and repeatedly. Add to that, as sport and general life is disrupted, eyes are going to turn east.

A question is is Trump wrong? He might often be so but if the reference here is to the evidence, evidence suggests Chinese food safety practices have led to this. Indeed, there was little counter-argument from the Chinese government until it spread to Europe and the US. If this does lead to a recession which becomes an issue within the US elections, you can guarantee the criticism of China will be magnified. Agencies like the WHO have done little to protect other nations, instead demurring to China and trade

Xi talked last week about being a world partner, sending help to Italy and Iran and a supporter of the world order. Gathering ‘friends’ has been an active part of Chinese foreign policy for the last decade and the direction of state responses to this outbreak was closely monitored and categorised. This won’t be forgotten. Chinese aid rarely comes without tight strings (see the Belt and Road initiative) and being a supporter of the world order essentially means the nation state, as a way to neutralise any criticism of what happens within its own borders. However, help is needed more than words and restorative actions will be remembered more than words.

Trump is no diplomat and isn’t striving to be one. He knows his market and plays to his consumers. Stigmatising the Chinese people is the wrong solution and won’t solve this present crisis. However, the pressure should be on the Chinese Government. The location and likely cause of the outbreak are known knowns. The hushed up reaction is known too costs us time and lives. The defensive pressure on small countries is also known. The belated, poor response of many governments is also known.

China defensively protecting its pride is an unsavoury and unsatisfactory route. Denying or ignoring the facts brings us back to one of the primary, starting points for the pandemic itself. Accepting the responsibility and learning from a fall can mature the right strains of nationalistic pride.

The Rubbish Side of India

Movies of that last decade 2010–20

  1. Get Out — I never read film review or watch trailers. But I’ll glance at the rating to get an idea. I want an immersive story. Get Out has it all; it’s funny, its social commentary is revealing and the twists are unseen. You walk out smiling with amazement.
  2. The Social Network — a brilliant character study of a smart coward which he continues to be.
  3. Departures — while this Japanese movie is from 2008, I saw it in 2011/12 and it elucidates a confused area in Japan. Ancestors are revered there with little shrines on the mantelpiece, but those who deal with death, undertakers and morticians, are considered to be practising a dark art. Their actions are respected, but not envied. Undertakers are part of the burakumin in Japan, an underclass that is still discriminated against. Working as one is considered unclean. The movie which is hilarious, wondrous and sad in equal measure, is a must watch if you want to understand Japan beyond Hello Kitty.
  4. The Act of Killing — an award winning documentary about the pogroms in Indonesia in the mid 1960s’. Like Departures, the silences tell you more about Indonesia than is possible from the brusque and delusional interviews with the perpetrators. It’s dark history but fascinating to watch telling you much about the complex Indonesia.

Harry and the Great Escape

img_20200109_113355_863I’m no anti-royalist. I see the value in the tradition and seeming prestige of a royal family looking all regal and elegant giving citizens and tourists something to gawk at in lieu of genuine positive change in their life. But today Prince Harry decided to become Harry in all but name. All his life he has been raised, educated and protected at others’ (the taxpayers’) expense, and now he wants to use those advantages and connections, that social and cultural capital to make his own economic capital, to cash in on his name and fame.

While I am sure Meghan is going to take the brunt of the media offensive which will no doubt prove their reasoning, I doubt she is to blame, but the media won’t care. The Queen will be disappointed and not understand the rejection of this duty, but she is the old guard. Maybe being born into something doesn’t fit the modern mind of individualism and pride built on self. Alas we all want a bit of escape but then spend the  subsequent time looking for some foundation. That rejection of the comforts of conformity and with it the modern drift from larger families to 30% of housing being occupied by a sole tenant, to the rejection of marriage and children in Japan, the disinterest in religion to the celebration of new lifestyle cults are with us all. It may leave us bereft and lonelier. It seems a little inhuman.

Harry as he is now known to most people, formality only exists in formal circles, now wants to be his own man. Or possibly just to be left alone. He might be a test case. He might even start the beginning of the end for the British Royal Family’s status. Certainly after the Queen dies, interest will dwindle and the unfairness will be clear. Harry will need to give up his official title. After all, you can keep saying you work for the CIA (odd choice I know) when you don’t. He’ll have to hand back the keys to the palaces and join everyone else in the line at the airport until he can afford it for himself.

I won’t miss him. I don’t miss any of them. But I like history and possibly this is the beginning of their history.

See you next year!

So the decade flew by and I ask myself what happened? Well when 2009 ended it was all pre-Nottingham, Oxford, Middle East, Singapore. Before so many new people, before social media really became so ‘vital.’ I’ve travelled and studied more, but read less, all while gently drifting away places, ideas and people. I had 2 main goals for the last decade (re-education and money) and now that is secure, I want to find out who I can be. Enjoy 2020, hope to see you x

Rest Well Dave

img_20191230_011122So Dave Berman, the greatest songwriter of his generation, died this year. He hung himself. Not a surprising end considering his mental history but its timing made it more saddening. Berman had just returned from 10 years in self-imposed exile. Living with his wife, occasionally put out well-received poetry, he refrained from singing in public for 10 years and put out no material. Then, suddenly, we heard he was back with a new album, a really good new album. A few weeks after its release and just days before the tour was about to start, he died. It was an ‘end to his wanting.’

Why was he great? Wordplay (who else can rhyme schadenfreude?), characters, simplicity and heart. The last album was written after his marriage separation and the death of his mother. ‘I loved being my mother’s son’ is a song title that needs no explanation. In I’m the Only One for Me, he has one of the funniest lines you will ever see ‘if no one’s fond of fucking me, maybe no one’s fucking fond of me.’ 

Dave was a man for all seasons even though he knew ‘he would crumble in crunch’. He had a song for every moment you need to reflect on. So often I have celebrated the lyrical dexterity and lauded him to friends. I never saw Dave play live. I would have found any way to see him on this proposed tour. It wasn’t to be. But Dave noted ‘friends are warmer than gold when you’re old’ and I’m warmed by the fact that I will be listening, discussing and celebrating one of my very best friends for the rest of my days. 

Dave in happier times

A further eulogy below


So we went to see the WWE this week. Yes, that of Hulk Hogan’s ilk. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s my age but I’ve seen more wrestling in the last 18 months than in the previous 20 years. Like very old people saying they are 86 and half years old, I’ve become more playful as I get older.  I suppose you need to when you don’t have kids. You don’t need to tell me…we all know it’s choreographed but the action still involves bumps and no doubt these guys hurt the next day. It still reminds me of being a kid.

Recently mostly we’ve seen the local brand of wrestling called Singapore Professional Wrestling (SPW). It’s the same as WWE but on a local scale, yet with no less effort. Being able to pay $25 and be ringside with beers has been awesome fun as hear every slap and crash, flee as the wrestlers hurl each other through the punter’s chairs and chant along as Singaporeans finally break some taboos and tell someone they suck. This might be the only place (bar one prominent Youtuber) where locals let their tongues loose. Yet it’s still moderate and good-natured, all it could be in Singapore.

The athleticism and effort for what are basically amateurs is impressive. Backflips off the top rope to the outside, choreographed action sequences and the usual story lines involving faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys) baiting the crowd has been very fun. After all that, you get to meet them and get some photos. Its silliness in action and we’ve loved it,

Back to WWE, it was worth the steep price. We had good seats prime view, side-on. But apart seeing some big names like Jericho, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe but being a touring show, you felt they held something back, wary of getting injured and threw in too much pantomime. But then maybe the TV still creates magic which can’t trick your eyes. Maybe that doesn’t matter. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime and I smiled throughout.