The Mask and the Mirror

13 11 2016

As I type this, a huge full moon is hanging in the (suddenly) Autumn sky. Tomorrow, it will rise bigger and more brilliant than at any time in the last fifty years – a supermoon. But what a troubled planet it will be looking down on. Even as I went about my business this week – eating, exercising, reading, surrounding myself with movies and music – a note of unease hung stubbornly over the proceedings. Events both in this city and elsewhere have created an atmosphere of pessimism.

In Hong Kong, China has announced it will block three pro-independence counsellors from taking their seats in the legislative council after they refused to take an oath of allegiance to the PRC, slurring it instead as the “Peoples’ Refucking of Chee-na”, the last word being an anti-Chinese slur. Beijing’s retaliation has been, as expected, equivocal. The Guardian published an opinion piece on its front page, opining “the beginning of the end for Hong Kong” and proclaiming “the end of rule of law and start of rule by decree.” It is hard to see how this will be resolved, other than Beijing pushing the dissenting voices aside. And then? The door been opened for more centralised control from the mainland. It will only increase from here.

Meanwhile of course in the United States, a new president was elected, one that (again courtesy of the Guardian) has “shocked the world.” And I , for one, really was shocked. I never expected Trump to win. As the news was announced – I was sitting at my desk at work – America was plunged into a brutal round of soul-searching. One US friend posted on facebook that he had always reassured people while travelling abroad that he didn’t know a single Trump voter, but that he now realises – painfully – that this was actually never true. The veil has been snatched away and what many Americans are finding is an ugly picture of their own country. As this article eloquently argues, Donald trump is a mirror – although cynically it also posits Hillary Clinton as a mask – the smiling face who would still prop up Wall Street excesses and military abuses.

The world now waits, either astonished or exultant, but also afraid. After this historic curveball, it is hard to say what all the implications will be. No-one knows. The world has re-made itself overnight into one that, many fear, will be meaner than the one before and for both Hong Kong and the US, the future suddenly looks very different to the one many were hoping for.






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