Revisiting history – the Hong Kong handover

hk handover

 

The handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule in 1997, which anniversary will be commemorated tomorrow, presented two important features into the world’s political reality today: firstly, it signaled the end of centuries-old British Empire, once regarded as the most influential, most overpowering, and geographically largest global hegemony, holding on that title for almost two hundred years. British government, to this day, still partakes great responsibility for its 14 remaining overseas colonies (merely a large chunk of Antarctica and a few rocky islands spread on the world’s seas), whose strategic importance is now hardly matched to that of its last, most vibrant sprawling colonial metropolis. Secondly, the return of Hong Kong also becomes an early signal of what, slowly, will become of its people: that slowly but surely, this city will encounter a gradual phase of ‘total integration’ with Mainland China, one by which has become increasingly obvious recently. Feelings of anti-Chinese resentment run greatly high, and tensions, unsuccessfully curbed by the British administrators on its last days, slowly emerge on the surface.

With massive protests being planned tomorrow, in addition to other campaigns of civil disobedience and a large-scale occupation on the way in immediate effect (despite Beijing’s silent threat by means of ‘white paper’ and other pro-China’s anti-Occupy Central editorials), something the world has hardly heard even two or three years ago (there were huge protests, also, but with little international coverage), Hong Kong, tomorrow officially celebrating its 17th anniversary of Chinese retrocession, will be faced with an increasingly problematic question about the future, and its eventual existence.

And things have started to change after the videos you’ll see below:

 

 

Bonus: Former British PM, Margaret Thatcher, reflected on her decision to return Hong Kong to China, one by which she eventually, a few years later, ‘regretted’. View the video below:

 

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“Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

A child holds a poster of Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa in Bandung

 

 

Allan Nairn, an American investigative journalist having covered atrocities made by US-supported regimes in East Timor, Guatemala, Haiti, and Indonesia, released his 2001 interview with Prabowo Subianto, former chief of Indonesia’s special forces (Kopassus) implicated in numerous human rights abuses, and also currently a presidential candidate, as the world’s third largest democracy is coming increasingly near to the election scheduled on July.

You can read his article in his personal blog, but I’ve personally copied the entire article below.

 

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News: “Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

 

By Allan Nairn

On July 9 the world’s fourth most populous country, Indonesia, will hold an election that could result in General Prabowo Subianto becoming president.

General Prabowo, the brother of a billionaire, was the son-in-law of the dictator Suharto, and as a US trainee and protege was implicated in torture, kidnap and mass murder.

In June and July, 2001 I had two long meetings with Prabowo.

We met at his corporate office in Mega Kuningan, Jakarta.

I offered Prabowo anonymity. 

I was looking into recent murders apparently involving the Indonesian army, and was hoping that if he could speak off-the-record General Prabowo might divulge details.

I came away disappointed.  Prabowo shed little light those killings.

But we ended up speaking for nearly four hours.   

My impression then was that his comments were extraneous.

Prabowo talked about fascism, democracy, army massacre policy, and his long, close relationship with the Pentagon and US intelligence.  

But at that time he was out of power and in political isolation. Other generals were the threat. 

But now Prabowo is on the verge of assuming state power.  And looking back at my notes I realize that some of what he said has now become relevant.

I have contacted General Prabowo asking permission to discuss his comments publicly, but not having heard back from him have decided to go ahead anyway.

I think the harm of breaking my anonymity promise to the General is outweighed by what would be the greater harm of Indonesians going to the polls having been denied access to facts they might find pertinent.

—–

Prabowo and I had a revealing discussion about the Santa Cruz Massacre.  

This was an Indonesian armed forces slaughter of at least 271 civilians.

It was done on November 12, 1991 in Dili, occupied East Timor, outside a cemetery where a crowd of men, women and children had gathered.

I happened to have been present at that massacre and managed to survive it.

Prabowo told me that the army order to do those killings had been “imbecilic.”  (He said he thought the order came from Gen. Benny Murdani, but said he wasn’t certain).

Prabowo’s complaint was not with the fact that the army had murdered civilians, but rather that they had done so in front of me and other witnesses who were then able to report the massacre and mobilize the outside world.

“Santa Cruz killed us politically!,” Prabowo exclaimed.  “It was the defeat!” 

“You don’t massacre civilians in front of the world press,” General Prabowo said. “Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know, but not in the provincial capital!”

The remark was telling as an acknowledgement that the army routinely massacres, and in establishing that Prabowo finds this acceptable if the killings are done in places where “no one will ever know.” 

In September, 1983, there was just such a series of massacres around the little-seen village of Kraras on the mountain of Bibileo, East Timor. 

The official UN-chartered Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, the CAVR, later reported regarding the Kraras slaughter: 

“421.  The Commission received evidence that Prabowo was stationed in the eastern sector of Timor-Leste at this time. Several sources have told the Commission that he was involved in the operation to bring the civilian population down from Mount Bibileo, shortly after which several hundred were killed by ABRI [the Indonesian Armed Forces]. The Commission also received evidence of Kopassus being involved in these killings. (See Chapter 7.2: Unlawful Killings and Enforced Disappearances).”

As Suharto pulled Prabowo up through the ranks, his commands were implicated in other mass murders, including one in West Papua where Prabowo’s men masqueraded as the International Red Cross (ICRC), and the now well-known covert operation in Jakarta where they disappeared pro-democracy activists.

—–

The fact that Prabowo and I had agreed to sit down was in itself a bit unusual. 

I had called for Prabowo to be tried and jailed along with his US sponsors, and had helped lead a successful grassroots campaign to sever US aid to the Indonesian armed forces.  I had been banned from Indonesia as “a threat to national security,” and General Prabowo’s men had tortured friends of mine.

But, for my part, I had made the cold calculation that if it helped solve the recent murders sitting down with Prabowo would be worth it.   

For Prabowo’s part, I do not know, but I did get the impression that he enjoyed the chance to talk shop and compare notes with an adversary.

—–

At that time, two years after Suharto’s fall,  Indonesia had a civilian president.

He was the blind cleric, Abdurrachman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.  

The Indonesian armed forces had undermined Gus Dur’s presidential authority.  They had done so in part by facilitating ethnic/ religious terror attacks in the Malukus.  Three weeks after my second meeting with Prabowo, Gus Dur was impeached and ousted.

Today, Gus Dur is often remembered fondly.  The current Prabowo campaign uses footage of him.

But that day, to me, Prabowo ranted about Gus Dur and democracy.

“Indonesia is not ready for democracy,” Prabowo said.  “We still have cannibals, there are violent mobs.”   

Indonesia needs, Prabowo said, “a benign authoritarian regime.”  He said the many ethnicities and religions precluded democracy.

Prabowo said, regarding Gus Dur:

“The military even obeys a blind president!  Imagine!  Look at him, he’s embarrassing!”

“Look at Tony Blair, Bush, Putin.  Young, ganteng [handsome] — and we have a blind man!”

Prabowo called for a different model.

He mentioned Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf.   

Musharraf had arrested his country’s civilian prime minister and imposed dictatorship.  Prabowo said he admired him greatly.

Prabowo ruminated on whether he could measure up, whether he could be an Indonesian Musharraf.

“Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

“Musharraf had the guts, ” Prabowo said.  

As to himself, he left that question unanswered.

—–
End of Part 1.  

Coming Up,  Part 2:  Prabowo: “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy.”  The Nationalist General and US Intelligence.

 

 

Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much

disability clipart

 

We have been, oftentimes, exposed by media to ‘inspirational high-tales’ about people with physical disability who seemingly ‘go out of their comfort zones’ – doing things normally only their able-bodied counterparts can do. Such stories make us question our existence, our self-esteem, and kinda ‘force’ us to improve our life quality, or whatever terms you can associate with it. Someone born without legs who can swim 100 m will ‘force’ normal people who are yet to learn it, to learn it.

Stella Young, herself a physically disabled person nonetheless, disagrees with this notion. She thinks the media, using this way, is instead ‘objectifying’ people of her kind, packaging them in soap-boxy shows she terms ‘inspiration-porn’, exploiting them only for the sake of able-bodied people. An activity normally done by us, when done by them, is instead ‘absurdly’ dubbed as an ‘extraordinary achievement’. She feels something wrong is going on with such perception, and she wants that to change.

The Australian stand-up comedian shares in this humor-charged TED talk her alternative perspective in looking at this phenomenon. Watch it, and think again.

 

The excommunication of Ajahn Brahm

ajahn brahm

 

Ajahn Brahm is admired as one of Theravada Buddhism’s most leading and open-minded monks, his ideas simple and direct, and most importantly, confronting the biases of human nature. His publications, with a cow dung-laden worm being his mascot, becomes hugely popular among readers of all groups (not limited to Buddhists), as these works, basing themselves on life stories, personal experiences, and contemplation he has encountered in decades, are no more than reflection of our flawed human nature, which tends to, despite knowing our mistakes, make them happen.

Nonetheless, maintaining his liberal open-mindedness doesn’t always seem to be his ‘fortune’ (he neither believes in fortune nor misfortune, anyway). Ajahn Brahm even had to pay a serious consequence, due in large part to some hard-line conservative opposition inside the sect themselves: he preordained four Theravada Buddhist nuns, one by which the religious sect completely restricts with.

Whether you agree with the sanction imposed or not (depends on whether you want to obey the centuries-old rules, or simply ‘make breakthroughs’), let me post you this link by Dhammaloka Foundation, which contains an in-depth paper written by the monk in regard to the importance of gender equality in religion. Read, and think again.

Land of Legend: Into the Heart of the Silk Route

uzbekistan

 

Uzbekistan remains a notorious, much-reviled word for human rights advocates, activists, and everyone elsewhere in the globe opposed to dictatorships. From the independence up to these days, the country has had only one strongman, Islam Karimov, in charge of the whole nation. Problems increasingly surround this state, nonetheless: tens of thousands of dissidents have been imprisoned in secret camps, incessantly and brutally tortured, freedom of speech and expressions is nearly completely paralyzed, and issues of succession remain murky for the country’s future, which, anytime, if goes wrong, may likely spark a deadly civil war.

Somehow, it’s not a nation of bloodshed: blame the government for all the misdeeds it has caused towards its populace, and its tumultuous history, but still, deep inside, by nature, and by virtues of nature, it is a, call it ironically, beautiful nation.

Read the full article in Ficus Media, as some photographers travel across the country – forget that political addendum – and reveal the other side of Uzbekistan mainstream media has rarely reported.

 

Excerpt:

 

It is a land beautiful and brutal in equal measure, a short, dramatic flight from New Delhi. As I look through the window of my plane, the vanilla ice-cream on chocolate cake Himalayas seem close enough to reach out and touch.

Far below, I can see the vast sweep of the Indus plains, dissolving into the deep furrows of the Hindu-Kush. It was here that Genghis Khan wintered his army; here that Timur crossed with his camels and horses and a hundred thousand warriors during his march on the Delhi Sultanate, circa 1398. How, you wonder as you look down on the inhospitable landscape, did he manage that march? And how, on his return, did he get the elephants he had brought back from Delhi across those lofty, frozen mountain passes?

Tashkent, with its wide, empty avenues, its boxy, largely deserted apartment complexes and pervading hush, is the antithesis of Delhi’s endless bustle. Save for a hunched gold-toothed old woman in scarf and heavy coat pushing a threadbare shopping cart past shuttered neon-signed stores on a street lit by pale lamps, there is nary a person to be seen. A lone packed bus plies tired looking commuters presumably back home. It’s all desolate and cold as I make my way to my hotel.

Many-pillared, stodgy buildings domed gold and silver, imprints of the old Soviet Union, dominate the cityscape. Men in uniform walk briskly by or stand about, their presence a testimony to the regime that rules Uzbekistan now. It is a sub-text that is always hinted at, but just beyond sight of, an itinerant visitor.

What Epictetus would like to say to flatterers

epictetus

 

“This hammer is reserved only for sycophants and hypocrites…”

 

Had the Greek philosopher lived up to 21st century, and looked at what happens to the world today, he could have seen his own sayings survive for more than two millennia, and goes on reverberating to the future, far, probably very far beyond.

 

“If you throw some nuts and cookies on a road, you will eventually see children come, pick them up, and start to argue and fight for them. Adults would not fight for such things. And even children would not pick up the nuts’ empty shells.

For a wise man, the wealth, the glory, and the rewards of this world are like sweets or empty shells on a road. Let the children pick them up and fight for them. Let them kiss the hands of the rich men, the rulers, and their servants. For the wise one, all these are but empty shells.” 

 

Bonus: Epictetus died in 135 AD. And his words still ring true, and hard, thousands of years beyond his demise.

OK Go – The Writing’s On the Wall

 

This polka-dotted, lyric-catchy music video, by this American alternative rock band, has optical illusion running from start to end. Or I should just say, in Schopenhauer’s way, that the music video itself is an entire illusion. Okay, I should stop being philosophical at this minute and go on listening then.