The death of a family, and an American dream

brooklyn murder

 

 

One of the United States’ rarest tragedies took place today, precisely in Brooklyn, New York City.

A wife, a child, and three little toddlers: their lives, far before their real success was achieved, ended up abruptly under their mentally unstable cousin’s brutal cleavage-knife attacks. The whole family, one among thousand others hailing from towns, villages, and other settlements surrounding Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, China, which have contributed to new waves of immigration throughout the country in search of the very essence of the American dream, perished, leaving the only surviving member, the husband, and also the father of four, in a deep state of limbo.

Two special reports from The New York Times provide detailed coverage about the family, the murder, and the dismal state of many among the Chinese migrants toiling hard throughout the country, all for the sake of the dream themselves.

First article (The Death of a Family, and an American Dream)

Excerpt:

Mr. Zhuo, 41, was one such worker. His cousin, Mindong Chen, 25, was another. Their divergent paths — one on the way up, the other now charged with murder — lay bare the reality of life in this Chinese community: crushing burdens and relentless poverty, permanent for all but a few.

Mr. Chen’s troubles were there for all to see in his postings on Qzone, a Chinese social media service. “Why is the pressure now so great?” he wrote. “The path has been so difficult.”

Little has been told beyond the Chinese press about the people who died and about Mr. Zhuo, the father left behind, and Mr. Chen, the cousin. He is awaiting a hearing on whether he is mentally competent to stand trial for murder. 

Second article (Before Carnage, Frantic Warnings of Relative’s Odd Behavior)

Excerpt:

The killings tore through the family like a fire: sudden and complete. The five murders in the three-room home on 57th Street, where the children and their parents enjoyed a seemingly ordinary life, the police said, stood out for their brutality and magnitude.

It was “not something that has been seen before in recent memory,” said John J. McCarthy, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

Chief Banks said the scene was one that was seared into memory. He called the crime an “unspeakable act” visited upon a “normal family.” 

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Broken tooth and new Macau

This general view from the Macau Tower s

 

Forget the gang violence and the relative tedium in the ‘good old days’ of Portuguese rule; with casinos flourishing in, and with up to 20 million tourists – most of whom are Mainland Chinese – visiting every year, and with revenues up to 5 times those of Las Vegas (gambling alone contributes nearly 40 billion US$, annually, to this city of 500,000 inhabitants), Macau, for most of its locals, has been an entirely brand-new world. One that is marked, instead of by burning cars and all-hell-break-loose waves of retaliation, by glitzy, candy-colored towers of casinos; by a hodgepodge of tourists than a serene wave of relative quiet; and also by a wave of unease perceived by the locals, despite its record-shattering GDP-per-capita accomplishment, than one of joy.

Even for an ex-gangster, the changes have been tremendously insurmountable.

Read the full article on Foreign Policy (released in January 2013).

Excerpt:

Under Portugal, a somewhat reluctant colonial power, the city had a sleepy air and a sluggish economy to match: a combination of triad violence and the Asian financial crisis caused Macau’s gross domestic product to contract by 6.8 percent in 1998. Portugal repeatedly tried to return Macau to China as part of its 1970s decolonization push, but Beijing refused to retake sovereignty until 1999. At the time of the handover, textile manufacturing dominated Macau’s economy, and the relatively small casino industry was controlled entirely by Stanley Ho. Seen in Macau as a sort of roguish, eccentric patriarch — part Howard Hughes, part Donald Trump — Ho allegedly earned the money to start his first business as a reward for single-handedly defeating pirates who attacked an employer’s ship during World War II. 

Bonus: slide show included.

Art, Truth, and Politics

art, truth, and politics

 

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) presented what, arguably, could be the most controversial Nobel Lecture upon winning his literature prize in 2005.

 

Excerpt:

 

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Qaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

The Christmas Truce

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How World War I temporarily ended, one night in December 1914, as soldiers, enemies and allies, were going to celebrate Christmas, which ironically, did not subsequently end the war itself.

Read the full story on First World War, a website wholly dedicated to presenting full-range information about one of the human civilization’s deadliest wars ever fought.

 

Excerpt:

 

As Christmas approached the festive mood and the desire for a lull in the fighting increased as parcels packed with goodies from home started to arrive.  On top of this came gifts care of the state.  Tommy received plum puddings and ‘Princess Mary boxes’; a metal case engraved with an outline of George V’s daughter and filled with chocolates and butterscotch, cigarettes and tobacco, a picture card of Princess Mary and a facsimile of George V’s greeting to the troops.  ‘May God protect you and bring you safe home,’ it said.

Not to be outdone, Fritz received a present from the Kaiser, the Kaiserliche, a large meerschaum pipe for the troops and a box of cigars for NCOs and officers.  Towns, villages and cities, and numerous support associations on both sides also flooded the front with gifts of food, warm clothes and letters of thanks.

The real meaning of Christmas

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Christmas, in an essay by Christopher Hitchens, despite his flaming atheism, is not ‘as simple, and dead-boring, as writing compulsory confessional drools to families and friends and listening to the same songs and music elsewhere’. The real meaning, he asserts, is much deeper than what people always perceive.

Warning: this might not be a suitable article for everyone.

Read the full article on Wall Street Journal.

 

Excerpt:

 

In their already discrepant accounts of the miraculous birth, the four gospels give us no clue as to what time of year—or even what year—it is supposed to have taken place. And thus the iconography of Christmas is ridiculously mixed in with reindeer, holly, snow scenes and other phenomena peculiar to northern European myth. (Three words for those who want to put the Christ back in Christmas: Jingle Bell Rock.) There used to be an urban legend about a Japanese department store that tried too hard to symbolize the Christmas spirit, and to show itself accessible to Western visitors, by mounting a display of a Santa Claus figure nailed to a cross. Unfounded as it turned out, this wouldn’t have been off by much.

You would have to be religiously observant and austere yourself, then, to really seek a ban on Christmas. But it can be almost as objectionable to be made to take part in something as to be forbidden to do so. The reason for the success of the Lehrer song is that it so perfectly captures the sense of irritated, bored resignation that descends on so many of us at this time of year. By “this time of year,” I mean something that starts no later than Thanksgiving (and often sooner) and pervades the entire atmosphere until Dec. 25.

Before the Columbus

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Far before Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, a Ming-era Chinese naval commander had led a fleet of full-fledged armada, stretching from Southeast Asia, India, Middle-East, and further into the long-stretching coasts of Africa, and unexpectedly, created a whole new Afro-Chinese tribe in an isolated island in Kenya. This was the story of Zheng He.

Released in June 1999, this long-form article was written by one of the world’s best journalists: the New York Times’ award-winning Nicholas D. Kristof.  Read the full story here.

 

Excerpt:

 

Pate is off in its own world, without electricity or roads or vehicles. Mostly jungle, it has been shielded from the 20th century largely because it is accessible from the Kenyan mainland only by taking a boat through a narrow tidal channel that is passable only at high tide. Initially I was disappointed by what I found there. In the first villages I visited, I saw people who were light-skinned and had hair that was not tightly curled, but they could have been part Arab or European rather than part Chinese. The remote villages of Chundwa and Faza were more promising, for there I found people whose eyes, hair and complexion hinted at Asian ancestry, though their background was ambiguous.

And then on a still and sweltering afternoon I strolled through the coconut palms into the village of Siyu, where I met a fisherman in his 40’s named Abdullah Mohammed Badui. I stopped and stared at the man in astonishment, for he had light skin and narrow eyes. Fortunately, he was as rude as I was, and we stared at each other in mutual surprise before venturing a word. Eventually I asked him about his background and appearance.

”I am in the Famao clan,” he said. ”There are 50 or 100 of us Famao left here. Legend has it that we are descended from Chinese and others.

”A Chinese ship was coming along and it hit rocks and wrecked,” Badui continued. ”The sailors swam ashore to the village that we now call Shanga, and they married the local women, and that is why we Famao look so different.”