Friday, May 23, 2008

Merry Enigma

Is the world coming to an end?
A few days ago as I was having breakfast in a Hong Kong McDonalds (I know, so keep your comments for later), the piped music changed from a tearful Canto-pop ballad to a familiar tune. I looked around me, was anybody noticing? Or was it too early in the morning for that?
On cue my mind filled in the next line “ ……. and a happy new year”. I knew that the commercial powers that be in Hong Kong pushed the festive season forward every year but the middle of May?

The South China Morning Post I read that morning had page after page devoted to the devastating Sichuan earthquake. Miraculous rescues as people were pulled from the rubble more than 4 days after the earth shook so violently. Ordinary Chinese people were joining forces in an unprecedented show of solidarity. “Our belly is full, thanks to the economic progress” one citizen was quoted, “so we can care for others.”
The bottom right ¼ section of the last page covering the quake was an advertisement for the latest model luxury German car. “ The road is your catwalk,” it proclaimed.

The Chinese government has put no restrictions on ordinary people organizing themselves at a grassroots level to travel to Sichuan and assist in the rescue work. An article in the Asia Wall Street Journal questioned whether that would be the beginning of the end, a genie once out, that couldn’t be put back in the box. A new people’s movement. What is the writer hoping for? Can’t people just help each other?

In the meantime the Burmese powers that be (still and unfortunately) wont let foreign aid and assistance offer much needed relief to the victims of cyclone Nargis, some of whom have, two weeks after the disaster struck, yet to be reached. The Chinese government, one of the regime’s staunchest supporters and customer of their natural resources, says it is an internal issue and the Burmese leaders should not be pressured.

Having just returned from the Philippines I remembered a story on rice. The Philippine government sought a guarantee from Vietnam that it could buy rice, since their own harvest could not supply enough. I was in the Philippines to photograph a festival in honor of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of the farmers. The priest blessed carabao and a colorful parade ensued. This year though, in the community where I went to take my photos, the number of attending carabao had decreased to only 4. Most of the rice fields had been turned into residences, there were few farmers left.

Some things are impossible to comprehend.

Just like me eating that EggMcMuffin ™

Not Here Anymore Not Quite There Yet.

© Hans Kemp 2008