It’s a question I got asked a lot in Taiwan, even though this piece will be about Hong Kong.
It’s kind of true. Westerners do not use umbrella’s that much as the Taiwanese or any other Asian nation does.
The standard Western answer to this remark is: “But it’s so inconvenient to carry that wet mop around after you’re out of the rain.” To which your average Taiwanese will reply: “…Eh.. Isn’t it more inconvenient to be wet yourself?”
So umbrella’s are a common sight in Asia. Even when the rain is just a slight drizzle, you’ll see them being flashed open by virtually every pedestrian.
I did not see any umbrella’s in Hong Kong. No drop fell from the skies. But this canopy and Hong Kong have a history, a very recent history, but a history nonetheless. History probably because, as I’ve been told, the Hong Kongese tend to have a short term memory. Even huge events tend to not occupy the minds for long. Occupations in the West don’t last that long anymore. From Poland to Wall Street, it seems to all go by rather quicky in modern deterriorialized times.
So the umbrella was used as a shield in 2014 against the rather harsh dispersal tactics of the Hong Kong police force. It quickly became the moniker for the whole movement that stood up against mainland incursions into the Special Administrative Region. Incursions, since technically there’s a “One Country, Two Systems”-policy in force until 2047. But Beijing doesn’t seem that Taoist anymore and no longer possesses a patience of that kind to see Hong Kong return to the fold.
(PRC and SAR flags waving together)
My first days of exploring the city were quite eye-opening. I not only saw the type of city I expected ( a merge of East and West ), but also could feel the posthumousness of the umbrella movement in the air. Something had stirred up the city, like a wave that has hit a pier and only left debris behind as its mark. It remained unmentioned, but it sure had left its traces in the future expectations of the people.
Local friends were mostly busy working long after the sun had stopped beaming its rays over the high rise buildings. And when the conversations veered towards the topic of Hong Kong’s future status, the “I dunno” was what could be summarized from most peoples’ reply. It wasn’t an indifferent ignorance, but one of pessimism. It now seemed only a matter of time before Hong Kong would become whatever the Big Brother up north decides to mould it into. I don’t sense much defaitism. Many seem to prepared to still resist, even against the reality that imposes itself upon them. No artist tolerates reality, as Nietzsche said, and the more the years pass the less I can really draw a clear line between artists and revolutionaries.
Compared to Hong Kong there doesn’t seem to be much revolution in the air in the West, despite it being rife with crises. It’s tedious to even start mentioning all of the proverbial excrement that’s hitting the fan, but it keeps on piling up. And each one of them is never considered enough to go skirmish in the streets for more than a night. Maybe that’s the benefit of having multiple issues of them going on at the same time? Keeps one confused about which one is the most pressing. Or, as I remember all too well, the “what will it matter?” rhetorical question was asked in response to the suggestion of going vocal.
I guess we in the West don’t use the revolutionary umbrella either.
At least Hong Kong was prepared for failure.
I don’t see the courage to fail that present in the old West as it was/is here.