True Blue CNY

January 27, 2009

You could say as humans when the going gets tough – the pull to come together gets stronger – animals know it only too well; wolf’s prick their ears to call of the wild, so do birds when its time to take their place in a V formation as they make that journey back to whence they came from – and as humans so do we.

I am reminded it’s not something that should be denied or even looked upon as a character flaw; ants never feel it; we do only because that’s part and parcel of the human condition.

The idea of safety in numbers is very much scripted into our being; and these days with the specter of the economic climate hanging high over the horizon, the feeling of not wanting to be alone is sharpened and heightened.

By now many of us are already in the thick of it; some may have already lost their jobs; others who might still cling to them worry no end about keeping them; then there are those who just fall somewhere in limbo land; their disposition waxing and waning as they change their outlook 10 or 20 times a day.

As someone who watches his diorama of bitter sweet unfolding in my small family. I cant but help feel the condition of lost hits us Chinese harder than maybe the Americans, Jews or even anyone else on this planet.

I know that sounds like a mega sized generalization and some of you may even decide to pelt me to dust by writing me charming letters into my already dogged eared inbox; how dare you Darkness say that we Chinese are less resilient than ah morgs! The idea that we are even somewhat lesser; more vulnerable and less capable seems to smack of self depreciating hypocrisy.

But in all honesty, that’s really how I see myself as a Chinese; hardly the archetypal survivalist sort; I am not saying if tomorrow a meteorite slams into this planet; I am just going to keel over and die; only I certainly don’t see myself as a I am Legend, Will Smith sort who can fill in the missing blanks of the world watching endless reruns of mediacorpse Little Nyonya or walking around post apocalyptic Orchard Road wondering whether its really truth that the meek shall inherit the earth – hey, that’s just not me.

Neither am I suggesting for one moment; Joe the plumber isn’t hurting somewhere in Utah or that Yakov, the Matzoball maker in Tel Aviv isn’t worried that a Hamas rocket isn’t going to plough into his living room when he next decides to change the channel on his telly – I am sure there are common threads of trepidation, fear and concern coursing through the whole of humanity at this moment when so many things these days seem to be frittering away; only at such times, one can’t but help compare the Chinese psyche to Americans, Arabs or even the Jews –I could be wrong, but they always seem to be slightly better prepared to weather the storms of life – the Arabs for instance can always take comfort in the idea of how divine providence accounts for everything here and the afterlife (akhirat) in the idea of Inshallah. As for the Jews, they can always draw strength from the unshakeable knowledge; they’re the chosen people and even when they break bread during the shabot and dip it in something as ordinary as salt; it’s full of symbolism and tradition. As salt the great preserver speaks of the eternal covenant between God and his people – the circle shall never ever be broken.

As for the Americans, even in their darkest of moments; they can always cling to that evergreen-cliched of the “American Dream” – besides they have Oprah Winfrey and if things really get bad, they can always blame it all on Bush.

But what do we Chinese really have?

Can we argue the proposition while Westerners are driven by a shared dream and hope; we Chinese are driven by a shared fear of our torrid past? That idea may seem ridiculous only if you didn’t realize even in this season of hope and munching on artery clogging Bak Kuah; I happen to be writing this essay on my Nokia communicator seated between two giant red bombs with their fuses sticking out menacingly; weren’t they once used to scare off marauding dragons which used to swoop down on unassuming farmers because we fear them? Why do we even splash red all around? Is it really a symbol of good fortune; or maybe it induces a spot of migraine in evil spirits bent on a spot of mayhem because we fear them? Coming to think of it. Why to we give out red packets of money? Does it really symbolize the chastening passage of the mythical wheel of life; or maybe when we boil everything down to crud; money is really the only thing that offers protection against the grind of destitution – and somewhere amid this heady medley of reds upon red; we have lucky knots, bats that can ward off sickness; croaking frogs that funnel good fortune; pelicans that can ward of the grim reaper etc – its a potpourri that reveals alot about us as a people, race and creed but my point is to show fear is such an integral part of who we really are; could it be somewhere in this sea of red; we’re all just yearning for what they never really had along? Or maybe we’re struggling to regain what we might have once lost somewhere in our long and confused history – what else I wonder can account for how we fashion no end amulets, talismans and good luck charms to guard ourselves against restless and malevolent spirits? – why is our psyche so rooted in the idea of averting, deflecting and placating the evil forces all around us?

But despite all this – I remain hopeful even though fear accounts for so much of what I call, the ‘me’ that lies beneath the skin – that inseparable ‘me’ that’s somehow intertwined with the greater “we,” that all makes up the Chinese identity. That I can never deny even if I wished to step out of my own skin for another – or decide to change my accent or wardrobe; somewhere amid this litany where man will always have to battle endlessly against restless malevolent forces; Chinese New Year still manages to hold out the promise of a better world, a place that isn’t so much a physical place, but an opportunity: to live inside your dreams.

Be it by offering the promise of sanctuary in the idea of the great return when we all come full circle even when we don’t really close it; is wiped clean and forgotten. The very moment we step over the threshold of our homes and united with our loved ones and friends; Man as Chateaubriand said, “has not one and the same life. He has many lives placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery” – but so long as the Chinese new year yarn continues to recount like a broken guitar how good will always be able to win against evil; the center holds just long enough for us to take heart in the belief providence and good fortune can always be counted to do the right thing and stand on our side when the things get rough; whether its real or make belief matters little, Chinese New Year; I reminded is like a girl who doesn’t see the point of wearing false eye lashes or even make up; she never once aspired to be a literary labor of contrived reality; all she tries to do is lie insistently and badly; by demanding you to see her internal beauty despite how forgettable she looks – Yes, I know, it may even try rather unconvincingly to supplant our cold cut sense of reality; but despite its limits, it remains a befitting anecdote for our troubled times; be it, to help us all scale our loss, palliate our fears and sooth our weary spirits with paper mache reality: all is well – a falsehood no doubt and not very good one either, but nevertheless there’s enough allure there to ramble in the rest: things will always get better. The rest we will just have to make up as we go along..

Happy Chinese New Year All!


God Bless you all – Long live the brotherhood!


Darkness 2009

[This essay does not carry an EP code – The Brotherhood Press 2009]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: