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