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In recent weeks, the people of Hong Kong have been leading protests against the threat of Chinese oppression. Today in India, the government announced they intend to revoke the statue that allows the state of Kashmir self-determination and will split it into two union territories, ruled directly from New Delhi.

These are two instances of the same phenomena. In both cases, the vicissitudes of history have made these territories extraordinary. Nationalism cannot stand that. They must be reduced, brought into the fold, broken and remolded and melted into the whole.

In both cases, there is a larger picture. If the Chinese government cannot keep Hong Kong placid, what hope do they have of ever enticing Taiwan to rejoin the motherland? If, after more than 70 years, Kashmir still chafes at Indian rule, what hope is there for the unification of Akhand Bharat?
Yet, to the nationalist mindset, it would be intolerable to let them go. Thought form is destiny. If the people of these territories will not see reason, they will see force. They will be made to see the glory of New China/Bharat Mata.

There’s a basic problem in that the Enlightment idea of human rights was developed in the Western sphere (despite the fact that those of the Western sphere have often ignored it). Therefore in the other major spheres–the Islamic sphere, the Sinosphere, and the Indosphere–there will always be some measure of resentment of the idea. It will always, to some degree, be considered an alien intrusion. In these days of rising nationalism, that degree is increasing.

The ironic thing is that the idea of the nation state was also developed in the Western sphere, but hardcore factions of all spheres seem to take to it like a duck to bread.

But whatever intellectual chuckling I get to have at the nationalists of other spheres ignoring the foreign origins of their actions is bullshit compared to what’s at stake. Kashmir has been an oozing sore for decades. The Chinese government, judging from Xinjiang, seems enthusiastic about crackdown.

Power to the people. To the people of Hong Kong. To the people of Kashmir. It’s hard to see how all this will turn out well. But there’s still hope.

Every day is another day I could post more Chinese poetry on this blog.

Yuan Danqiu loves celestial beings
At dawn drinks from the clear flows of the Ying River
Returns at sunset, purple and sacred mists within the mountains and hills
Thirty-six peaks circle all around

Long time in their spiral, I follow the rainbows and stars
Riding upon a flying dragon, wind sounds in my ears
Across the river, astride the ocean, connected to heaven
I know how to travel with heart-mind to the outer edge of Infinity.

(Translation unattributed)

Last night we went to the museum. I got separated from my wife & kids and wandered into a room containing a massive scale-model diorama of Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta. I could see tiny cars crossing the bridges, and see crowds around the bases of the skyscrapers.

A voice came over a PA. This exhibit was on the earthquake threat to the region. Sluices in the walls opened; water began to pour into the room. The diorama started to to shake.

I saw the bridges break, imagined the hundreds of cars falling into the sea. The streets began to flood, the skyscrapers to crumble. The PA explained that in the event of such an earthquake, the region would subside. I watched Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with their millions, sink beneath the rising water, until it was just me, standing waist-deep, with nothing else visible above the surface.

Drains opened. The water poured away and the diorama rose again for the next demonstration.

When I caught up with my family, my 6-yr-old asked “What did you see, Daddy?” I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to scare her.

Then I woke up.

I have always heard the Doors’ “Light My Fire” thusly

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
China we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Let me explain. There was a phrase, common in the McCarthy era: “Who Lost China?” As in, who was responsible for allowing good, decent, Pearl-Buckesque China to be subsumed by the Kremlin Red Slava Rodina Konspiracy (Spoiler: McCarthy, upon consultation with what he pulled out of his own ass, decided it was Owen Lattimore)? By including the saying in “Light My Fire,” Jim Morrison was mocking the anticommunist piety of the previous decade, putting the ghost of Tailgunner Joe on the altar of his Fire

Did I honestly ever think those were the lyrics? Not really. But that’s what hit my brain.

(I also got the first line wrong, though not in any way that changed the meaning)