This review was kindly requested by the Author, Ray Hecht. A brutally honest portrayal of what seems to be the common mannerism of our youth and our society. Here you have four young adults living in four different ways, and each chapter discusses their addiction to technology, their odd ways of connecting to people through…
Not much Chinglish these days, not terribly in the mood.
Have I run out of energy for my legendary Chinglish series of photos, could it be true?!
In any case here’s this one for now from a menu:
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And I said wasn’t going to be a political blogger…
Been a devastating week since I posted about what I really think of American politics.
I’m not taking the election results well. I, like most people in my world, did not see that coming. Does this mean we should’ve trusted Michael Moore and Ann Coulter?
Seriously, I don’t mean expats who are far from America didn’t see this coming, I mean everyone I know back in America as well as Americans I know in Shenzhen and all over the world. I had no idea I was so out of touch. That’s what really hurts.
I feel betrayed by the news media. Those liberal websites I followed with their pundits and polls — which I guess is no longer a thing in this brave new world– they had no idea what was going on. Huffington Post was worst of all, but all the sites suck. I’m over it. Since then, no more talk shows for me either, no topical comedy, no SNL skits. I want none of it. I deeply regret all that time I spent trying to keep in touch with America and it turned out to be a complete waste.
(No, I won’t getting into right-wing propaganda :post-facts” websites either. I am thinking of only following British news sources from now on. At least international news has a good excuse for being out of touch with middle Americans.)
I didn’t sleep the first day. I talked to my best friend back home for hours, analyzing and analyzing and trying to make sense. He didn’t take it well either. I ranted to my poor girlfriend nonstop about the American system and how everything is so much worse than I realized.
I want to be an optimistic person, believe it or not, I really do. But now that I realize the entire global system is so fragile it’s very difficult to anticipate anything good can come of this. Sure it was flawed. But now this? All the gains of the past have been thrown out the window. Nobody knows for sure what will happen next. Most likely, if you believe that the shit-spouting candidate will do what he said he was going to do, real fascism is coming.
Why did this happen? Because of the FBI? Because Hillary Clinton truly is that bad a candidate? Because of apathetic voters who stayed home, or the nationwide gerry-mandering that is the electoral college?
I mean, how can this be the same country that elected Obama? It’s so hard to make sense of it.
In terms of numbers, what apparently occurred is that the same amount of Republicans voted in 2008 and 2012, but Democrats voted in smaller numbers and hence lost all the swing states. So it’s not a popular vote country. Perhaps Obama is the aberration, an incredible individual who turned the tide on America on his own yet now the pendulum swung way back into the gutter more Americans are used to.
God, why couldn’t it at least have been a normal Republican who won…
There are new rules for politics. I suppose it might be interesting to see what may come next. I realize that Obama even beat Clinton in 2008 because he had such little experience, not despite it even that that was what the right criticized him for. Turns out experience is a liability. Americans like “outsiders” now or something.
And while third parties never did gain any traction, just about anybody can take over the major parties. What a damn tragedy that the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders out of winning the candidacy, how amazing it would have been to see how that would turn out.
I still replay this all in my mind and it’s so hard to find a narrative that makes sense. Just what is the lesson?
He didn’t even really try. He lost all the debates, his campaign staff was a mess, and his rhetoric was all over the place. Only the fascistic elements were consistent. It seemed obvious to me that he just wanted to launch a TV network.
I mean, it was the most negative campaign in modern history. Is it going to be this way now, everyone has to be as ruthless as possible to win?
And he lied so much. Pathologically. Anyone can look it up on Politico, or debunk myths on Snopes, but for some reason most don’t care about the lies. His base doesn’t care about his lies whatsoever.
Apparently, the biggest problem today is that so many people live in different bubbles due to their own Internet medias of choice. The right likes to whine about the “mainstream media” but there’s no such thing. Reality TV had a hell of a lot more influence than the news media. The new culture of anti-intellectualism rejects fact-checking and chooses their own facts. Thanks, Facebook.
And fool that I am I always though digital technology was going to save humanity… Shows what the hell I know.
So currently the narrative is forming that we are supposed to respect the supporters, because they’ve had it bad and it was liberal arrogance that pushed them away. We shouldn’t have called them racists or whatever.
Sure, snobby liberals can have their faults but I find this election a serious overreaction! I mean, seriously?! Boo hoo, people got mad because of political correctness and so you nominate a disgusting vulgar fascist.
Don’t even get me started on how I don’t understand women voters.
The truth is that humans are fundamentally stupid. We are instinctual animals that can sometimes be rational, not rational beings who sometimes give in to emotions. People do not want to learn. People want “strong leaders”, that is they want dictators.
I will certainly concede that the supporters are not all necessarily hardcore white supremacists (though many many indeed are). But the majority did turn a blind eye to some very dark forces indeed. They chose being willfully ignorant and made excuses for bigotry — be it against Muslims or Hispanics or women — and instead of thinking deeply about personal bias they had a temper tantrum because they don’t like being labeled as what they are. Well at best, they are suckers.
I don’t think this new era is going to go well for the white working class. Let’s bet on it.
I guess it will be “different,” whatever that means, whatever it is people want so bad.
Seriously, this is different than George W. Bush’s presidency, which was very bad, or McCain or Romney or even what Ted Cruz could have been. This is ushering in a new paradigm of embracing the worst of humanity.
So here we are with a documented explosion of hate crimes and an unprecedentedly corrupt — from not releasing tax records to refusing a blind trust and giving his kids positions like a third-world tyrant — executive branch with no idea what it’s doing. It begins.
I’m lucky to be in China, now that China is pretty much certain to take over the world.
I may never go back to America. To be fair, I wasn’t planning on going back any time soon.
I do admire the new protest movement. I wish I was there to express my horror at what is happening and fight the good fight, I wish I could.
But what to do? Efficient governance has failed, due to a completely broken democratic system. I can only conclude that anarcho-libertarianism is the appropriate ideology in this age, everyone has got to take care of themselves. Let’s just hope that the environmental damage to the planet Earth doesn’t ruin it forever for every selfish individual out there.
Funny thing about being a hopeless white guy right now, my black friend really did see this coming. Damn I was naive. I assured him the monster candidate couldn’t win, yeah he wasn’t supposed to get this far but his base was fringe, that this was a story of Republicans imploding, and history would progress. He really knew better. He’s planning on leaving the country and I support that decision; it’s not hyperbole, he has the means to do it.
There will probably be a hero of the new left in four years time, that ol’ pendulum will swing back, but by then things will have changed so drastically it may be impossible to repair. I do hold out hope that something can happen in the next two months, like he’ll quit to work on Drumpf TV and we’ll be left with Mike Pence as a weak status quo Republican. It’s not ideal but the world would make a bit more sense.
I wonder if this is one of those “great men” theories of history or if this was inevitable because of historical forces. Is he such an enormous personality that he gets to change history, or would that have happened to someone else regardless at the rate America is going?
It seems around the world authoritarianism is gaining ground. Xi, Putin, Brexit, Neo-Nazi parties in Europe, Duterte, the recent coup in Brazil, Thailand crackdowns, the Likud Party in my homeland (I’m just going to go ahead and introduce myself as Israeli nowadays, not American. Never thought I’d see the day), and so much more everywhere. I wish people were educated enough to know how to properly blame corporatist elites for the ruined economy around the world, I wish they had better ideas about alleviating poverty and violence, but maybe it’s because of Internet bubbles or maybe it’s because of the human tribal instincts but in any case this is happening.
It really feels like we’re in an alternate reality. I for one fully believe in the many worlds multiverse more than ever.
That’s about all I can say. No endless links, no articles to quote with the hopes of changing minds. That never worked. That did no good.
It’s over, and this is the world we live in.
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(Perhaps even a positive distraction to read a book, what with all the recent turmoil. Yeah I may have scheduled this at an inopportune time. More on that next post as I gather my heavy thoughts…)
So, I am admittedly writing this at the last possible moment. Not trying to change minds here, I guess, I’m just trying to figure things out for myself and express it as rationally and sincerely as possible. These issues are important and should be thought about deeply. That’s all I’m generally attempting to do.
I follow politics as much as I can, and as an American abroad I think it’s even more important to be aware of what is happening in the world. It matters. The times, they are serious. If you happen to be friends with me on Facebook, you may have noticed the articles I choose to share. While I try not to be too annoying or angry when it comes to political rants, there are things worth being aware of and I say what I can.
However, I’m not truly qualified to be a columnist and a pundit and I don’t usually take up this sort of writing. My journalism tends to be light, and my fiction tends to be about human experiences in small scales. I am not the kind of blogger to try to save the world or anything.
Yet now I am writing this post in a rush in an attempt to organize all that is going on in my mind. History is unfolding right before the world’s eyes, and I must attempt to comment upon it before the results of the polls come in and it’s too late. Here I go.
* * *
First of all, as someone who generally tries to be a moral person I am going to start this out by talking about Nazis. Yeah, went there, let’s get it out of the way already. There is indeed a valid reason every argument seems to get into Nazis eventually, and that’s because it really is a point in world history worth making comparisons. And is it just me, or is it more poignant that ever?
I do have a point I’m getting to. The main question remains: Was the average German citizen in the 1930s particularly evil, or were they merely caught up in historical forces beyond their understanding? And moreover, where they victims of propaganda or do they deserve to be held responsible for supporting the worst dictatorship in history?
I used to lean towards the side that it wasn’t quite the average person’s fault. Both cynically and sympathetically, I used to conclude that the average folk of most societies would probably support a Nazi party if historical forces added up, and that it wasn’t really their fault. We must be ever more wary and question ourselves for that reason, so that we can have the perspective to not get caught up in evil ideologies. I mean, we should hope that future historians don’t look back and ask the question of why we of today are so evil. Shouldn’t that be a good benchmark for inner contemplation on human morality?
That’s what I used to think. I don’t think that way that any longer. Today, I can no longer help but think that the average German citizenry who supported Nazism – or at least was too apathetic to care so long as they’re Aryan – were terrible people and should be judged accordingly for it. I think this because contemporary Trump supporters are the modern equivalent.
That’s what I’m saying. As a (hopefully) thoughtful American, I believe that Trump supporters are terrible human beings and they should know better and don’t deserve sympathy and history will judge them as monsters.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a greater perspective. Like, pretty much everywhere is evil when you break it down. I live in the People’s Republic of China, which one used to at least be able to say was going in a positive direction until Xi Jinging took power. I have connections to Israel, which certainly does have its human-rights abusing issues and currently the Likud party in particular. I went to South Africa last year, full of upper-class whites who got where they are by way of apartheid. Even the United States has a complicated history of aboriginal genocide and slavery and oppression throughout the 20th century, and hell the Bush years of illegal war-mongering wasn’t that long ago and the Obama administration wasn’t as different as it was supposed to be! And that just goes for the countries with the most power, plenty of less developed nations have terrible challenges. It’s a complex web of historical privilege, apathy, and some brainwashing that usually makes it not totally the fault of citizens that their governments can be forces of evil.
Yet something else is going on right now. Something ugly. There is a powerful new movement within my country and it can’t be excused as them just getting caught up in a manipulated framework they don’t understand. No, they are willfully-ignorant people who support authoritarian policies. There is no other way to put it.
The Trump legions are not supporters of conservative economic policy which we can debate. They do not have some rational thoughts about being hawkish on defense policy. They don’t want to fix immigration. They don’t really care about how an outsider of politics can save the country.
No, what they have are racial resentments, serious problems with hypocrisy, and for some reason support a strongman dictatorship which is against everything good that America is supposed to stand for.
They are supporters of bigotry. They are supporters of hate. That is what’s going on.
I probably won’t change any minds by being all arrogant and mad. I do wish I had some brilliant arguments that would cause Trump supporters to soul search and question themselves. It doesn’t work that way though. Hey, it’s a post-fact political world.
Still, I have a lot to say and I must say it.
Something dark is happening in my country. There’s always been partisanship, and there have been ugly times in history worse than we remember regardless of the mythical “Great Again” that they’re supposed to make America. But specifically it appears that Internet culture is the difference these days, and it disturbs me.
Dammit, society was supposed to be evolving. When Obama was elected in ’08 – who clearly did sell out on many issues but didn’t deserve the vitriol of the opposition party the past eight years – it was heralded as a new era in terms of online participation. Internet-savvy young people, we were told, turned the tide.
Nowadays, with you-know-who on Twitter, the fury of ignorance has become the loudest voice in the digital sphere. As experts smarter than me have explained, the danger of online media is that people become lost in their own echo chamber and ignore news that disagrees with their preconceived notion, and they believe things that aren’t true. Facts don’t matter. It’s confirmation bias on steroids. Furthermore, the anonymity of the medium has let loose millions of fully racist commentors. The trolls are attempting to take over the most powerful government on earth.
Here is an intelligent article about the white supremacist alt-right movement which forms the backbone of Trump supporters, and everyone needs to read this:
To summarize, the young generation of white supremacists (or white separatists, or racial realists, or whatever shit these people call themselves lately) are very savvy when it comes to memes and propaganda etc. and have started taking their own trolling seriously. The worst of YouTube comments basically have a political movement now, and it is organized.
It really is that bad.
* * *
What happened? Is it the fault of new media technologies? I am scared it’s deeper than the usual pattern of how when the economy gets bad far isolationist right-wing parties take power – as happened in many places in Europe. I get that it happens. What I am afraid of is that although they will lose they are still going to be a permanent part of the modern American landscape from now on.
How the hell has this happened?! I mean, I used to follow conservative media. I did. I used to watch Fox News and listen to talk radio. I used to be… I shudder to say it… a libertarian. Of course, I do feel it’s important to be an independent and get all sides of the various issues that affect our world.
The conservative ideology used to be quite clear. The mainstream was liberal biased, and the best way to grow an economy was through free market principals. Oh, and welfare is bad. Then some optional religious stuff. That was the gist as I understood it.
I have since come to recognize that it was all a lie. For years conservatives told a certain story, and their audience ate it up, and it was a lie. Sure we know that the Tea Party was kind of a monster the Republican Party propped up and then couldn’t control any more. But it’s an even worse mess than that. Because Donald Trump does not even pretend to be a conservative on any issue. He is an extremist nationalist, and that is the main issue that his people believe in. That’s all it ever was.
Like really, Sean Hannity turned around on the Iraq War? Really, Hannity?!?! They believe in nothing. Except for bigotry.
Say, for example, with welfare. Turns out those masses of people were lying when they said they were against the dole due to economic and moral grounds. No, they don’t care about taxes or incentives to work. They just care that certain ethnic groups don’t deserve the welfare that they deserve.
It has turned out that it was always more about white identity politics more than anything else.
Take the fact that Trump’s base are evangelicals, and the fact that Catholics and especially Mormons have largely rejected him (good on them). This truly pisses me off. It shows that evangelicals are ignorant about even the very basics of the Christian religion, and that they always have been, and what they care about in fact is being part of an ethnic community and rejecting other communities. Seriously, does anyone with a brain believe that Trump is a real Christian? What else can it be with those people? At least Catholics and Mormons have the ability to be consistent in their values.
It is not a left-right thing anymore. Not even close. The right has abandoned everything they ever said they believe in just to prop up a nationalist monster.
Hell, even the conspiracy theory land people like with Infowars have abandoned everything they used to stand for. (I know it was a crazy site, but during the Bush years it was something of a source for the anti-war movement. Even in the early Obama years there were valid points about the banking corruption in the ol’ Alex Jones documentaries. Now he gave it all up for nothing more than the bigotry of being anti-feminist or something, along with the whole uber-nationalism shitck.)
* * *
There is a certain narrative going around that intelligent people are supposed to feel sorry for Trump supporters because they are blue-collar working class who have sadly lost their jobs due to globalist free trade policies.
There is this Cracked article about how to empathize with Trump supporters because it’s a city versus country thing: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/
Usually I like Cracked. Good with myth-busting. But this one wasn’t good.
Obviously Republicans do tend to be more rural and Democrats tend to be more urban. And one could argue that it’s lack of education which causes people to inadvertently have such awful politics.
But that isn’t the case. Here’s what’s really going on to a much larger degree:
Got it? To sum it up, evidence shows that Trump’s base isn’t necessarily that poor. Polling shows that racial anxiety is the real issue that worries the majority. This is what is happening, this is what kind of people they are.
Again, the fact that Trump’s other main issue besides kicking out Mexicans and Muslims is protectionist trade policies – long thought the purview of the radical left – shows how out of whack the usual liberal vs conservative definitions are.
And yet I still contend that the factories going to China issue isn’t even what they’re serious about in the first place. Deep down, only the bigotry matters.
Party Members by Arthur Meursault is an intense, ugly, gruesome work of fiction that will leave most feeling nauseous. It’s also a page-turner that is kind of essential reading for China observers. Reader discretion is advised, be aware that this one may offend many if not all…
Basically, the novel is a satire which viciously critiques the excesses of contemporary post-economic reform China. As titled Party Members, it stars a low-level Communist party member who lives in a third-rate polluted city and decides to indulge in the very worst of corruption. It is incredible how far it goes, which is a testament to author Meursault’s mind in both imagination and depravity.
The protagonist, who is certainly no hero of the story, is Yang Wei. He starts out as a very unremarkable Chinese man. “Not one in a billion, but one of a billion,” exceptional in his mediocrity. The story starts out critiquing how dull and quaint the average Chinese citizen can be in their complacency, but soon Yang Wei stands out indeed as being a particularly shameless party member.
To be specific, one day Yang Wei’s penis starts talking to him and pushes him to literally act like a dick in order to get what he wants. So begins an series of progressively worse moral failings, from familiar disrespect to copious descriptions of prostitution and shallow consumerism. The literary critic in me ponders whether hearing of voices represents schizophrenia, or if an unreliable narrator device is at play. Although later scenes seem to indicate that it is ‘true’ in the world of the story, for reasons unknown his penis seems to gain the ability to speak and thereafter instructs him to be a terrible person.
Comparisons of Irvine Welsh’s Filth come to mind, which was about a corrupt police officer who had a tapeworm that could talk. Somehow, Meursault is even able to outdo the famed Welsh in writing vulgarities.
Despite whether or not the particulars of the story will appeal to all readers, Party Members is mostly well-written by technical standards and stays interesting one way or another. However, the descriptions can get too dense, and there are far too many adjectives. Even several long-winded speeches, satirical as they are, can come across as whiney nihilistic teenage rants. “The only way to be successful is to be a complete and utter dick… Just shit all over it!” More often than not the novel descends into telling not showing, with plenty of words such as “scumbag” thrown around in the narrative, unnecessarily reminding the reader how to judge the various scenarios.
Subtle, Party Members is not. Crass and disgusting, it still can’t be denied that it reads fast. It’s also hilarious at times, with ridiculous situations one can’t help but laugh at. In a sick sort of way. From toilet humor (there is actual drinking of piss as part of a scam marketing campaign), to the recurring theme of copiously describing greasy KFC food.
Yet, as the plot goes on it gets uncomfortably worse. Once the chapter about the child named Shanshan comes—which is about a terrible urban legend in China concerning car accidents and homicides—it becomes very hard to read.
The ending is legitimately horrifying. The question remains though, is this strange China tale supposed to be classified as horror?
Most unlikable protagonist ever. Which is of course the point.
It must be said that China is an enormous and complex country, with major problems but it may not be fair to look at it through the lens that Party Members embraces. The most cynical possible interpretation of Chinese society is a point-of-view worth exploring through this book, but there is a bigger picture and hopefully this isn’t the last word when it comes to China fiction. Meursault is certainly very knowledgeable about China issues and a talented wordsmith, but it just doesn’t seem healthy to focus that intently on the worst of the worst with no solutions whatsoever. Perhaps the genre is dystopia, in that case? Dystopia which takes place in the present.
All in all, reading this will leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. And being able to do that is something of a literary feat, in a way.
For this week, my new novel THIS MODERN LOVE is free for downloading. As part of a Kindle Direct Press promotion, you can receive the novel for your Kindle device, or Kindle app/program on your smartphone or PC (the Kindle app is free by the way, no excuses!)
I hope you will enjoy the read. I am also still happy to directly share for reviewers via email if PDF is your medium of choice. In any case, I am slightly proud of this work and would like to know what readers think.
Tales of American love and sex, or lack thereof, in the 21st century…
Due warning: some graphic content
On my last trip to Hong Kong, I was lucky enough to go to the exhibition from the late David Bowie’s private art collection. It was at Sotheby’s HK location at Pacific Place near the Admiralty area.
Although I didn’t auction any of the pieces, it was a great experience to be able to witness works of art that Bowie had personally owned!
Really fascinating works. The man had an incredible aesthetic, as we all know. The Basquiat pieces particularly stood out:
And there was even a work of art that Bowie collaborated on with Damien Hirst:
More information can be found here: http://www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/blogs/all-blogs/bowie-collector/2016/10/bowie-collector-highlights-on-view-in-hong-kong.html
Unfortunately, the exhibition was only on for one week and I believe it has since moved to London. If you happen to get the chance to see it there, I highly recommend it.
Lastly, do please check out this slideshow: