Religion and revolution

OC2Occupy Central, the revolution that’s brewing for almost a week now in Hong Kong, has been front and center in major news outlets. For those unfamiliar with what’s been happening in Hong Kong, this massive protest boils down to the demand for universal suffrage, a right that Beijing has wrested away from voters in this tiny territory that was returned to China in 1997. To get up-to-speed, see this nice summary by the South China Morning Post.

While most media reports have focused on the political aspects of this movement, few have noted the involvement of religion in Occupy Central (originally called Occupy Central with Love and Peace). Many of the movement’s key leaders are Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. In Beijing’s eyes, these Christians are seen as “troublesome gangsters of Hong Kong”. On the streets, churches have opened up their space to accommodate protesters, allowing them to use their facilities. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said every Catholic in Hong Kong “has the right and duty to get involved” in politics. Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old Protestant and founder of Scholarism, has been organizing social movements since he was 15. Christians in China are now the thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

Fowl language: Thanksgiving, Deadly Viper, and how we got the word “turkey”

turkey3New posts have been noticeably absent here on semaphoric, and it has been some six months since I last updated the blog. What better time for a new entry than this Thanksgiving season. At the risk of disappointing my readers, I will not gush about the things I’m thankful for (even though there is an abundance to be thankful for). Rather, this entry is about origins. This is also about the recent Deadly Viper controversy. Although this controversy has been in the making for weeks, the situation still requires continuing reflection and critique.

Origins is about beginnings. Yet this is not about how we arrived at a certain physical reality. This is about how certain physical reality came to define a linguistic reality and how the interplay between the two strengthens the reality we perceive. In particular, this has to do with what and how we perceive what’s foreign and exotic and how we use words to caricaturize what seems different and strange to us. And this has to with the bird we eat on Thanksgiving, the turkey.

Coincidentally, the bird shares the same name as the country Turkey. Was the bird named after the country or the country after the bird? The answer to this chicken-or-egg question is difficult to ascertain. The word “Turkey” itself probably originated from an ancient Chinese word naming the people living in southern Central Asia. The geo-political entity of Turkey was never known as “Turkey” since demarcation of this country’s boundaries did not occur until the end of WWI. From the 13th century until the First World War, Turkey was simply known as Osman or the Ottoman Empire. However, the modern name for Turkey comes from the Medieval Latin turchia, and by the mid-1200’s, the word turki had appeared in the Old English lexicon to describe people who are part of the Turkic family group.

If I were a world leader and had a Facebook page…

Tweeting the White House Social-networking got a big boost last week when the White House entered the Twitter fray with its first ever tweet about the swine flu. The Obama Administration has been pushing Washington to utilize and master the universe of cyberspace as a way to promote government transparency and accessibility.

I’m neither President Obama’s Facebook friend nor am following him on Twitter. This is mostly because I’m don’t like jumping on bandwagons. However, I’ve made many friend requests with world leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Hugo Chavez on Facebook and they have yet to respond. Maybe it’s because world leaders have too much on their hands to seriously befriend a nobody like me.

But that was until I found a Facebook Group for world leaders…. [….]

Earth Day 2009

Solar powerToday is Earth Day. There are many things we can do to be good caretakers of this planet and to be ever more aware of the impact human activity has on the environment. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of how much electricity I waste in a typical day. With all our appliances, computers, and lights left on and unattended during the day, electricity simply escapes into the ether and is never recouped.

According to Energy Information Administration, the government’s official energy record-keeping office, the average American home uses about 936 kilowatthours (kWh) in 2007. At home, refrigerators are biggest consumers of electricity (about 14 percent of that 936 kWh).There are calculators that estimate how much electricity you use in a typical day. And if you want to measure exactly how much electricity household appliances use, this little gadget does the trick. But one has to wonder whether this device itself would eat up a lot of electricity.

For myself, the largest amount of electricity I use is lighting. Because I’m a night owl, having lights on for long periods of time late into the evening and the morning hours really adds up financially and also contributes to waste. Switching to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) certainly saves energy. I’ve also switched to LED lights for my reading light. Granted, these lights are pricier to purchase, but the initial investment is well worth the reduced footprint on the environment, power production and waste. [….]

The myth of the model minority

Binghamton shooting Another mass shooting. This time in Binghamton, New York, and the alleged gunman is Asian American. This is the second of such shooting where the perpetrator is Asian American. When news of the Virginia Tech tragedy first broke two years ago, I did not believe for the longest time the gunman was a fellow Asian American. I said to my roommate at the time that Asian Americans just don’t go around shooting people. Being Korean American himself, my roommate nodded with me in agreement. If you grew up Asian American, you were taught from a very young age to excel in school so you can get into a good college so you can graduate, find a good job, start a family, live happily into old age. Your whole life is wrapped up in reaching this end. You’re hard-working, disciplined, enterprising. You were told not to make a fuss about anything else. You’re a model for what it means to make it in this country; you’re the paragon of immigrants in America; you’re the par excellence of the American Dream.

But this label isn’t true. Asian Americans are just like everyone else, we struggle deeply with our family relationships, our jobs, our identity, our place in this world. We struggle with divorce, depression, homelessness, poverty, broken relationships, teenage pregnancies. The list goes on. Yes, we work hard and we seem to have everything together. But we have real problems that no one seems to notice. The label of “model minority” is a misnomer, a misjudgment of character that the majority culture has placed on a minority. This label makes our problems and ultimately our own being invisible to the majority. This is what I call linguistic colonialism. We are not the paragon; we’re just as messed up as the person sitting next to us. The shooting today goes to show that there needs be evermore attention given to helping and assisting minorities and immigrant in their plight, whether social, psychological, or physical.

The Binghamton shooting is sad, reprehensible and evil, that anyone, let alone an Asian American would commit such heinous murders. This tragedy jarred my memory back two years ago to Virginia Tech. It soon hit me that that anyone can brandish a gun and shoot down people, whether you’re white, yellow, red, black. Hatred and anger isn’t the function of race; they’re functions of the heart. If anything, I’m just like everyone else; I’m a mass murderer ten times over because I’ve already committed murder when I have hatred in my heart.

Get Adobe Flash player