An uneasy home named Hong Kong

crowded hk.gif

Were it not for its mountainous terrains, Hong Kong would not have been dubbed the world’s most vertical city.

Occupying an infinitesimal carve out of Chinese land, and a few hundred outlying islands, all of which are no larger than 1100 sq km, Hong Kong can only afford to provide to its 7.2 million inhabitants approximately one-fifth of its total areas, given the geographically steep contours, virtually on all its entire spaces. Even the skyline on Big Apple, the first major city on Earth to proudly attest its nature-defying abilities with supertall skyscrapers, is no match to the enormity – and the monstrosity and all its narrow-gauge compactness – of the skyline in Hong Kong. New York City, in a century, has built over 4000 high-rise buildings, mostly in Manhattan; Hong Kong has put up to 8000 in half a centenary, scattered all over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories.

Sum it up, in historical sweepstakes, with its integrated 99-year rule by British Empire. Firstly concentrated on manufacturing, the government, realizing the potential impacts China’s open market reforms could impede on its economic growth, created a brand-new experiment to jack up its popularity as a global city: laissez-faire market, mainly on financial and trading sectors, with government intervention almost null-and-void. Thus is the brand-new Hong Kong we recognize today: glitzy skyscrapers, burgeoning elites, vibrant streets and markets, beyond-excellent infrastructure, and highly flexible bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, the environment simulated by the laissez-faire system has also procreated ruthless competition among individuals to achieve paramount success, enforced the people’s appetites to far-reaching extents, and pushed them for more recognition upon their higher social echelons. Driven even further by China’s economic boom, by which numberless mainland Chinese, mostly parvenus, have begun to enter the competition, the contest has been itself increasingly arduous. This is evident, particularly, from one major detail: more and more mainland Chinese are buying up apartments and condominiums, the already-exorbitant prices of which having been marked up by major real-estate developers bulk of the locals, self-dubbed ‘Hongkongers’ can barely afford in their lifetime.

As a consequence, social gap has increasingly exacerbated in the last decade. Despite the fact there are up to 100,000 millionaires and multimillionaires living lavish lives in over-sized condominiums, or to a lesser extent, mansions on mountain peaks, it is also estimated that more than 170,000 people in Hong Kong are struggling to live in cubicle-sized, stacked boxes they call ‘homes’, most of whom are former construction and industrial workers having been displaced due to the city’s dwindling industrial sectors.

In short, the race itself is not going to stop anytime soon.

The New York Times has published an article and a slide show to document the plight of Hong Kong’s poorest, each of whom is struggling to find a better home for oneself.

Infographics: how 5 countries could become 14

future map

Actually, combined with the possible city-states, and one ‘missing’ plenipotentiary, the number could be instead 18.

Sorry, I was instead counting ‘Sunnistan’ as two separate countries – Syria and Iraq.

Source: The New York Times

The ups and downs of solitude

A-Sarah-Maycock-illustration

 

 

Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature. – Albert Einstein

One should not confuse the notion of solitude with that of loneliness – solitude refers to a point when one chooses to refrain from being in the center of the crowds, or merely wants to keep oneself deeply tranquil, while loneliness is perceived as an acute lack of social contact. At times, solitude can help individuals to think more calmly, to envision ideas more obviously, and to get engaged in mind games more creatively. Most authors, painters, and other artists, for instance, are notable for having utilized solitude as a means of accomplishing their magnum opus. Solitude itself, in addition, helps to reconnect a person with the inner self one aspires to discover. Hermits, monks, or any other spiritually inclined individuals, get acquainted with the nature – mostly forests – as means of achieving inner peace for themselves. 

Nevertheless, solitude itself may have its own drawback. When one clings to this concept for too long, loneliness is the consequence, frequently, that may result. He or she, upon returning to the societies, is more likely to get detached throughout the circumstances. With a significantly distinct point of view, one may find oneself alienated by the dominant sense of ‘commonness’ prevailing among majority of the individuals. Or that he or she may be entrenched in guilt for having failed to trigger them to enter their own solitude, where the inner peace rests in. Or end up disappointed by societies’ unchanging flaws. It can be anything.

John Burnside, writing for Aeon Magazine, wants us to make an equipoise, regardless of how uneasy it sounds to be, about the fundamental concept of solitude by itself. Read the full article here

Excerpt:

For many of us, solitude is tempting because it is ‘the place of purification’, as the Israeli philosopher Martin Buber called it. Our aspiration for travelling to that place might be the simple pleasure of being away, unburdened by the pettiness and corruption of the day-to-day round. For me, being alone is about staying sane in a noisy and cluttered world – I have what the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould called a ‘high solitude quotient’ — but it is also a way of opening out a creative space, to give myself a chance to be quiet enough to see or hear what happens next.

There are those who are inclined to be purely temporary dwellers in the wilderness, who don’t stay long. As soon as they are renewed by a spell of lonely contemplation, they are eager to return to the everyday fray. Meanwhile, the committed wilderness dwellers are after something more. Yet, even if contemplative solitude gives them a glimpse of the sublime (or, if they are so disposed, the divine), questions arise immediately afterwards. What now? What is the purpose of this solitude? Whom does it serve?

Infographics: mapping Syria’s rebellion

Syria's rebellion

Originally intended to maintain peaceful purposes, the protests occurring all along Syria in early 2011, beyond everybody’s expectation, turned into a continuous wave of civil war which has been lasting for more than two and a half years, and is still ongoing.

Estimation of the casualties is possibly up to 100,000; millions more have been, either internally or externally, displaced, and the exodus it results has also caused further chaos in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Turkey. To worsen the situation, there has also been disintegration in the rebel forces themselves. Exacerbated by Obama’s dangerous plan to include military intervention after reports of use in chemical weapons surfaced in global media, which case was only resolved after further negotiation with Russia’s Putin administration, the fate of this once stable country is nowhere in sight.

Al Jazeera has a complete report, compiled in infographic, about the complicating structures of the rebels who, despite overlapping hidden agenda, do share one similitude: they are all vying for the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.