Why waste time?
It’s all you have.
Time is imagined.
Is all we have imagined?
You stand before me.
I beg you stay not long.
The trees move slowly.
Your departure so long gone.
The trees encroach me.
The branches hands of thorns.
You stand before me.
Twisted, devil’s spawn
Stillness darkness torn
Torn asunder maw
Trees fall around me.
You stayed here not for long…
This is part one of a set of poems. The other ones aren’t written yet, but they are needed to make sense of this,
haven’t written a poem in over a year – felt like something different…
Thanks for stopping by.
It’s odd that last time I wrote I was talking about my attempts at being honest with myself and others from now on, as apparently in a rather drunken state on Friday evening I almost opened up some things I don’t want to be open yet.
I won’t go into what this conversation contained (or more accurately, what I think it did – large amounts of free red wine is not good for memory…) but instead something more important. it’s reinforced my belief that our subconscious knows ourselves much better than our conscious selves.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it once or twice, but for those who aren’t aware, I meditate relatively regularly. Not enough, regularly nonetheless.
I started a few years ago as part of my personal fight with depression. I am of the opinion that I have not been depressed for over a year now and I feel that meditation was one of the most important parts of escaping its harsh grasp. However I must ask why drunk Tim is apparently of the opinion that I still have an inner conflict.
Drunkenness is associated with a loss of control and a lack of inhibitions. I would say that the majority of people think that whatever strange gobbledygook (never used that word in a written form – what a fantastic looking word) comes out of a drunk’s mouth is probably nonsense.
But surely a lack of inhibitions and control is more likely to unleash people’s unconscious thoughts, that perhaps they themselves don’t know about?
Because of this, i’m looking forward to (and fearing slightly) what my friends have to tell me when I ask them about our drunken conversations tomorrow. I might just learn something about myself from my drunken self…
Now back to the subconscious knowing oneself better and meditation. After finding out about the second half of Friday evening, I spent some time meditating today on a question – am I actually still completely content, as I was when I first escaped depression?
Turns out that the answer is no.
I’m not depressed by any means, but interestingly I found out a few things, and I think I therefore know what my lost conversations from that evening were about.
And oh, one of those things is controversial. It’s going to be fun explaining that one in the near future. But I realise it’s something that I’ve been hiding from myself for a long time. I’ll leave what that thing is off the blog until I’ve made certain of it. (apologies for the vagueness and mystery!)
My point is, it’s interesting that heavy drunkenness to the point of not being able to remember, and meditation can bring round similar thoughts, considering Meditation is considered to be a means to peace, control and inner understanding, whereas Drunkenness is associated with the opposite.
Perhaps one major difference is you come out of meditation happy, concentrated, relaxed and healthy…
and you come out of drunkenness with a hangover, no memory of anything useful that may have come about and possibly a fair dosage of anxiety to top it.
I’m going to leave today’s blog there, as I want to have a longer think on the above content.
Thanks for reading!
I’m meant to be working…but I felt like writing something.
Once again, i’m starting this today without knowing what i’m going to write. So whatever jumps into my head first, is going to be what I write about!
I have said before that, like everyone in the world I imagine, There are some things which I have kept to myself and myself only. Truths and feelings that only I know. I often contemplate whether or not I will ever voice these things – be them the small hidden ideas or something huge and possibly life-changing. Today I’ve been thinking about some of these things again.
Well, the truth is I think about these things every day. Many are rather melancholic, but anyone who read my last post (see here, http://thoughtofvg.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/full-circle/) will know that I feel I gain a lot from melancholy. It’s hard to explain why, but that’s just the case. I might talk about that later, or perhaps on another day.
I won’t say what these things are that I’ve always kept to myself in this blog. In fact, I think the only reason i’m writing about (or rather around) it is that for some reason listening to this song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQmK6nN7bBU made me think it would be a good idea. The title has a mysterious hopefulness about it.
I’m fully aware i’m rambling. But i’ve decided that I’m allowed to ramble on this blog. I’ll keep concise writing to essays and the like…after all, one of the blogs that affected me the most in the past was simply someone who rambled about everything she could think of, with an unrivaled honesty and intensity. I was often in tears after reading those posts, even on the happier writings, simply because of the intensity of the words.
That leads on nicely onto why I love melancholy so much, despite it seeming completely unreasonable. Melancholy is so much more intense than any other emotion. Maybe it isn’t for everyone. Maybe I use the word melancholy in a different way to the average person. Maybe some people just don’t feel as much.
So here’s a test. I want you to listen to some of this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOd2x1xxwRE
This, in my eyes is melancholy.
It’s beautiful, yet ugly.
It’s calm, yet violent.
It’s sound, but somehow it has colour.
It’s gloriously ‘happy’ yet painfully ‘sad’.
I guess that’s why the band calls itself ‘this will destroy you’ – because there is so much conflict in the music, but because of that conflict it seems to work so much better at evoking an emotion.
Just look at some of the comments-
I find it strange that, despite being agnostic, every time I finish a meditation I almost invariably bow my head and say thank you…to something…
Just an odd little musing to begin my little today’s writing with.
I’m really meant to be finishing off an essay for one of my Chinese modules this evening, but as I was walking home from my weekend-ly shop and coffee shop reading stop, I decided that what really clinched a higher point on the importance ladder was actually writing something on the web again.
I’ve been at uni for around 2 months now, and i’ve spent that time breaking the rules of being a student. What on earth do I mean by that?
Firstly, there is a myth that all first years do not in fact do any work.
This is almost true.
There are however some that end up working all the time, and it appears that a happy combination of German and Chinese (with a module in Arabic on the side) kind of forces your free time to take a holiday without you.
I’m actually loving being so busy though. It feels great to never even have a chance of being bored. Sure, I’ve had no time to write this poor, ignored, blog, among other hobbies, but to spend every hour doing things that interest you is awesome.
And that thought brings me round nicely to an interesting fact…
I believe one of the first things I ever wrote about online was the importance of doing what you believe in/have interest in/ are passionate about and how empowering that is. It seems that ideas move in circles, but beautiful, expanding circles that somehow meet again points where they are poignant .
What is poignant about right now for me then?
It’s common (at least for me) for beginning uni students to be asked a difficult questions by their peers on an almost daily basis – “so what do you want to do in the future?”
Some have a clear goal. Other’s have a rough idea. Yet more have no idea whatsoever.
It’s a good question though, and one that I’ve answered with numerous answers, depending on what feels right. Sometimes the answer of “I don’t really know” seems right. Sometimes to declare my goals as “either being in academia, journalism or politics” is my response.
Other times the answer is ‘I want to be happy’.
Just so you, as the reader, know, I ‘ll interject on my own writing here and say that I didn’t begin writing today with any set goal as such on where my writing would lead, so apologies if this all seems disjointed. I will post this as soon as I’ve finished writing rather than proof-reading. It just seems right today to do so. This is therefore a semi-disclaimer for disjointed content!
The truth is, I have many loose goals, enclosed by the last one – to be happy.
and that, is perhaps why everything around me currently seems so poignant. I’m at university – it’s a big change. I’m doing something I really care about – that’s a big deal. I’ve come back from life changing experiences from living in far-western China for a year – that’s of huge important. I’m now also in the position to look back on that in retrospect – that is definitely, without a doubt a huge deal.
So yes, it seems that in hindsight to the beginnings of this blog i have come full circle. But that would suggest that i’m back at a rhetorical ‘square one’, surely?
I’m not ashamed to say that when I started writing this blog, I was in a dark dark place. I used to suffer from severe depression, which I only ever told one person the majority of. I didn’t even tell him everything, as despite not being depressed anymore, I keep some secrets to myself (as some of my friends will be aware of – trying to work out the enigma that is me!). I’m definitely not back to this point, and although I would never try to erase my days of depression – it made me who I am – I don’t want to ever go back to that abyss.
I have however held onto part of my depression – melancholy. Melancholy makes me happiest. Perhaps it’s seems totally wrong for that to be the case, but even great artists of the past have accepted melancholy as not just an interesting concept to explore, but essential for expression. In a way, I see my years of depression as now being essential to being as happy as I can be. Whether you can share this opinion or not, there is no way you can have such an intense form of happiness without melancholy. So I hold that it seems things have come full circle, but those
circles are growing wider, more open, more all-encompassing.
Like a good, deep meditation.
And so this post too comes full circle.
Which makes it the perfect time to end.
I leave you with a picture of this time last year. Near the edge of western China, where it meets the stans. Yining, Xinjiang province.
Thank you for reading, have a wonderful day.
Now that I’ve been back from China for around 3 weeks or so, I’ve started noticing things in a more objective way again finally. It has been a constant struggle with how strange everything that once was so normal seems, but now it’s a little easier to just…well, think.
I want to share with you a little thought therefore which has found its way into my brain over the last few days, observing the people round me, and myself. (and if you’ve never done any work on observing yourself through mindfulness, research it for a bit – it’s useful stuff!)
One thing that I developed over a year abroad in China was an intense case of being much more calm and collected and this has made me notice just how angry and upset many people get over very small things. It’s not just this however, because it clearly is personally destructive to get flustered easily. The majority of people in the world are more stressed than they need to be, because they create their own stress.
So my thought for today is this. Do you get annoyed too easily, and if so, in what way?
Do you get angry when someone undertakes your car on the daily commute?
Do you get upset perhaps when a family member shouts at you for something seemingly minor?
How about when your toast burns?
Or does the state of the world shake you into a rage?
Obviously some of those are more serious than than the others, but they don’t need to make anyone angry. If you just notice these things, then accept them, that negativity will start to fade away.
Calm and collected people will also inevitably affect those around around them. If someone gives no conflict at all in return to a negative action or remark, that goodness gets noticed. One chilled out person can make a lot of people in one day that little bit happier.
Be that person.
And so I have left the middle kingdom and come back to the UK. I may have basically disappeared for a year, other than the occasional ‘I’m still alive!’ post when I could find a VPN, but it certainly didn’t mean i was gone forever. I’ve got a blog to write afterall…
I did consider writing a bit about my personal time in China in this blog, but I changed my mind. I also considered doing what I usually do here – that is have some poetry, about China. But I changed my mind again. Instead, I thought I would share my piece of writing on the province I spent my year in, as there are things happening there that the majority of the world doesn’t get to hear about.
When you think of China, do you think of Bamboo, temples and Pandas? Maybe you imagine the giant skyscraper-dominated metropolises like Shanghai and Chongqing?
My China was rather different, living in the far west desert and camels were slightly more prevalent than the stereotypes!
I won’t give you an introduction to what my little article is about here, i’ll just let you read it instead. If you haven’t seen the very very few news reports from the area, or heard about it somewhere, you may be surprised about Xinjiang…
And on a quick side note before you read, if you decide to follow my blog just on this post, you may be disappointed, as this is not my usual sort of post, so here is an apology beforehand!
Welcome to Chinese central Asia, a place that depending on where you are in its vast expanses could be almost anywhere in the continent. Sometimes you could find yourself in deserts reminiscent of the middle-east, and sometimes on emerald green plains just like those in Mongolia. You could even be mistaken for thinking you had stumbled into Russia in certain places. Although admittedly these countries do indeed all have borders with Xinjiang, the geographical similarities don’t always fit nicely onto those lines.
It is not surprising then, considering the diversity and size of the landscape, that Xinjiang is just as diverse in its peoples. Completely aside from the Han, the majority group and the stereotype of ‘Chinese’, there are the many minority groups. The most numerous minority groups are perhaps the Uighurs and the Kazakhs, both of Turkish roots, but the region also is home to Mongols, Russians and Tibetans, among others. The Chinese official word on the relationships between all these groups is that every group lives in peace and harmony, learning from each other and contributing to a truly multicultural society.
This claim is however not quite as simple as the Han would like the world to believe. In considering how multicultural or not Xinjiang is, one must critically explore a number of different topics such as: the economy and planned economic developments; actual relationships between minority groups and an understanding of regional tensions; the politics of the region (especially that which is concerned with borders and control), and the history of Xinjiang, and indeed China as a whole.
Contest and Tension
As would be expected with a region aptly named ‘new frontier’, Xinjiang has not always been Chinese. Owing to its historical imperialistic nature and bloody past, Parts of Xinjiang have gone in and out of China’s control for hundreds of years, but numerous empires have had its fair share of the region over history. Areas such as Kashgaria and Ili could have been considered states of their own at times or colonies of other countries. The Ili region for example was at one point contested by Russia and China. Even Britain had its eyes on the green plains in the shadow of the Tian Shan Mountains, for if they had managed to colonize Tibet.
Xinjiang’s heavily contested past is important, because it is much the same today. Without understanding that different powers have had their influence on the region, we can’t understand the relationship between the Han Chinese and some of the minority groups. Before China made a decisive move to secure Xinjiang completely for itself (along with Tibet and Guangdong) under Mao’s government, the area was generally known as Turkestan. Some Uighur activist groups claim that Xinjiang should still be Turkestan and want what they consider their country back.
Even if China were willing to ‘withdraw’ from Xinjiang, it probably would no longer be possible. Mao’s means to secure Xinjiang was to flood the region with Han Chinese and build new cities until Han were the majority in a place that beforehand had almost only minority groups. This act alone would no doubt have upset the Xinjiang locals, completely excluding the current claims of racism, ethnic tensions and destruction of culture.
If we look to Tibet, a region in a similar position, we see risings to make Tibet an independent country but interestingly it remains 93% (as of 2008) Tibetan ethnicity, in contrast to over 50% Han in Xinjiang. Tibet has support from some western pressure groups to stop sinicization, yet Xinjiang is widely ignored.
‘Develop the West’
Support for Tibet often attacks the government’s ‘develop the west’ policy – which officially is a scheme to bring the western provinces out of slum-like conditions and poverty – yet this policy is also contributing currently to the slow destruction of Kashgar’s old town, among other locations throughout Xinjiang. In short, the minorities of Xinjiang are in the same, if not worse position, of a province which is the target of international human rights pressure.
One must however consider the other side of the ‘develop the west’ scheme. It is true that many traditional houses and buildings have been demolished in the name of development, but health conditions have almost certainly improved and modernization does open new opportunities for the people of Xinjiang. Although it would be a push to talk of clean water in China, running water is readily available now in even the most isolated of towns, even in the desert. Xinjiang is now not only not lacking in electricity, but is actually China’s largest producer and slowly becoming a pioneer in renewable sources. In the Turpan basin, wind turbines stretch for miles, and solar panels exploit the intense sunlight of China’s hottest place. China became the world’s largest producer of wind energy in 2010, with a large proportion of that output coming from Xinjiang.
Energy production has also unfortunately created a less favourable side-effect – very high levels of air pollution. In personal experience, I was told by one friend in Kuitun, that she ‘remembered when the snow was white and the sky was sometimes blue’ in winter. The air pollution did indeed get so bad that snow turned grey in a day of settling. Mentioned in the above paragraph was the renewable sources of the region, but of course this air pollution does not stem from wind turbines. Oil and coal burning is also a huge producer of energy in Xinjiang, and the negative environmental effects have developed so quickly that the majority of people in Xinjiang can remember a time where air and skies were clean.
‘Develop the West’ can also be seen to be rather short-sighted in its plans. Xinjiang may be rich in resources, but one resource this arid, desert region lacks is water and there is a risk that there is simply not enough to support the rapidly increasing population. With less than 5% habitable land in Xinjiang due to water shortages, can it support the continuing migration to the region? Urumqi has in the past always been one of the most habitable places, yet even the capital is now feeling the strain of lack of water. Climate change is reported to be threatening its water sources, yet despite that there are plans to build pipelines across Xinjiang to bring water from the more eastern side of the province to the drier west. Water problems have become and will continue to be one of Xinxiang’s greatest challenges.
The Chinese government’s ‘develop the west’ plans make sense from the most basic understanding of it – to bring wealth to some of the poorest regions of China – but it is currently doing as much damage as it is development. It also seems to contribute more to the Han migrants rather than minority groups, who are losing cultural heritage and their environment.
Unrest and violence
As previously discussed, Xinjiang has long been a contested region between many groups of peoples. In more recent times this contest has mainly been between Han Chinese and Uighurs. Since 2008 attacks labeled as separatist violence have taken place over Xinjiang. In July 2009 Riots broke out in the capital, Urumqi, claiming 200 lives by official numbers. A source of my own, a policeman with access to police videos believes the fatal casualties to be at least three times that, but he was admittedly not present at the riots. The riots on 5th July began as protests, but became violent part way through. The government issued a statement claiming the riots to had been planned abroad by outlaws.
The cause of the protests is said to have been a violent incident at a factory which started due to a serious false accusation against Uighur co-workers. This is easy to believe, considering the high levels of racism towards the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. Although the majority of people will not be openly aggressive towards Uighurs in the streets, many will openly talk of their dislike of them. Some of this dislike is extreme – for example, a Han Chinese in Kuitun suggested genocide of Uighurs to me as a solution for peace in the province.
Just this year, violence has once again been on the rise, with major incidents within the province in many towns including Urumqi and Kashgar, as well as terrorist attacks on Kunming and Guangzhou train stations, reportedly instigated by Uighur extremist groups. In response, the Chinese military now has a very strong presence across the province and the government has declared a crackdown on ‘terrorism’.
Although trying to stop violence is no doubt the correct thing to do, the Chinese Government’s approaches have been questionable to say the least. A few weeks after a very serious attack on a market in Urumqi, the roads in the centre of the city were closed without warning. A procession of soldiers and tanks then made their way through the city, playing speeches from megaphones of ‘peace and harmony’ as they went. These troops and vehicles are now dispersed across the city in such places as the grand bazaar (predominantly Uighur area) and outside mosques (Uighurs are a Muslim minority group). These of course, are true signs of peace and harmony.
These shows of power seem to have made the military and police forces believe it is acceptable to be unnaturally aggressive themselves. The police for example was previously not allowed to carry weaponry, yet now in Xinjiang a large proportion of the force have firearms. Outside of the school where I worked, for the last month there was an armed police guard – armed with automatic rifles and spears. In Fukang, a friend caught on camera the moment where a SWAT van drove up next to a Uighur family, surrounded them with armed police, checked their papers, ripped the papers up and through the family into the back of the van. It has become a common sight in Xinjiang cities to see riot police marching through the streets on patrols. These are just a small number of the signs of increasing aggression in the region from the authorities.
Even outside of Xinjiang, Uighurs are being persecuted. A leading Uighur academic working in Beijing was thrown in prison after criticising the way the government was treating Uighurs. He was labeled a separatist by official sources. One must also ask, why should it be a crime to be separatist?
Other minority groups of Xinjiang
This article has mainly tackled the concerns between Han Chinese and Uighur peoples, but it is important to consider the other minority groups and how they are treated. In Urumqi, there is a Russian quarter separate from Han and Uighur parts of town. One could argue that they don’t seem to fully integrate therefore into the wider community, but it is relatively common across the world to have areas of cities where a minority group almost completely owns it.
In the majority of cities, Kazakhs live happily integrated with the Han. However, talking to some Kazakhs, I found out that some are concerned about if some of the laws used against Uighurs (Xinjiang has a number of derogatory laws that only affect Uighurs) will effect them in the future. As Kazakhs, like Uighurs, are generally Muslim, some could well suffer from laws slowly coming into place that appear targeted at Muslim groups – two examples being a move to ban religious Muslim clothes and beards in Karamay, and a ban on Ramadan fasting. In general however, it does appear the other minorities of Xinjiang do not feel anywhere near as oppressed as the Uighurs. Part of this could be that Kazakhs, Russians, Tajiks and Mongolians all have their own countries bordering the region and so they don’t find their way of life threatened in the same way as the Uighurs do – the Uighurs do not have their own country, and if their culture is lost in China, it will be gone forever.
Is Xinjiang ‘multicultural’?
Returning finally to the rather sensationalist title of this article, it is time to address the original question using the prior information. In order for a country to be multicultural, one would expect the people, in general, to live contently together, regardless of ethnicity. The tensions between the different ethnic groups say otherwise, and hence it’s advised not to listen to the recording when you fly into Urumqi for the first time speaking of harmony and respect between all peoples of Xinjiang. Multiculturalism requires an acceptance of all cultures, not a drive to wipe out all cultures but one.
The government’s complete misunderstanding (or choice to ignore) of the reasons for violence highlights the ‘Han culture is best’ attitude that leads to sinification. Each time there is an attack, Uighur groups from abroad will voice that the cause is oppression and destruction of culture, and the government will ignore the claims and declare the acts as mindless terrorism and accept no blame of their own. This ignorance, on purpose or not, is not the sign of a multicultural region.
Then there is the military and government response. The sad irony of marching the military through a capital city whilst playing slogans of unity and peace is impossible not to see, and the concentration of troops in minority areas accentuates that the authorities don’t believe their own words.
Kazakh and Uighur culture is used as a tourist attraction rather than actually respecting it and this is the Chinese way. If you visit Yunnan province, the region famous for its diversity of minority groups, you will find that new ‘old’ towns built in order to make minority culture into money, and also make it appear more Han Chinese. From a very cynical point of view, it is interesting that the Yunnan old towns keep on burning down and being rebuilt in a more Han style, filled with tourist shops rather than homes and small businesses. One must also consider Inner Mongolia, which now has very little Mongolian culture in it. Hohhot is now infamously a generic concrete Han city, with all things Mongolian stripped out of it. Most Ethnic Mongolians have even forgotten their language.
For me, it is clear to see the ultimate goal of the authorities in Xinjiang. They do not want a multicultural region, but instead another Inner Mongolia – a region where minority culture has been suppressed to the point that it can be used as part of tourism, but has no place as living, breathing culture. The current year long ‘terrorism’ crackdown is the perfect opportunity for them to really begin to do serious damage to the cultures of Xinjiang, through fear-mongering and targeted further ‘develop the west’ development. Although terrorism and violence is never justified, there is no doubt that the Xinjiang unrest is, and as a result the province cannot be called the multicultural region that the government would like you to believe.