Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Amish in Pennsylvania

In the middle of the Occupy Central drama, I had to go to the USA to visit a number of universities to explore opportunities for collaboration in Service-Learning.  It gave me a chance to visit the Amish country in Pennsylvania. 

The Amish history started in the later 1600s in Switzerland.  They were called Anabaptists because they insisted that those who were baptised as an infant have to be baptised again to be a true believer.  They believed in living simple lives and refused to adopt modern technology.  In the 1700s they emigrated from Europe.  They ride horse-drawn buggies rather than gasoline powered cars. 

They use horses to plough the field.  

You can have a four horse-power plough. 

Their horses can be beautiful and intriguing, when they look at you with those huge eyes.  

They ride scooters but not bicycles. Because you cannot go very far with a scooter, hence you are less likely to leave home.  

They dress very modestly, and do not like to get their images taken.

They are excellent farmers.

They are also excellent carpenters.  They are experts of modular design - they make benches and then stack 3 benches on a frame to make a table.  

They make all kinds of intricate roller games for entertainment.

For hundreds of years, they demonstrate to us that we can live simply and modestly if we really want to.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Democracy now, or nothing?

Amazingly, protesters are still occupying Admiralty/Central, Mongkok and Causeway Bay.  

Many people who support their aspirations are advising them to retreat.  The reasons may vary: the danger of violent crackdown, antagonising other citizens and losing support popular, futility of asking Beijing to change its mind, exploitation by sinister foreign powers, …  

It seems that some of the students feel that they cannot retreat unless the government makes at least some significant concessions.  But the government is not making any, and actually appears to be playing some kind of game with them.  Hence the standoff. 

Many people are sympathetic to the students.  Yet they feel that what the students demand - for Beijing to overturn its earlier decision and to allow citizen nominations - is impossible, at least for now.  

The students have already shown the world their desire for democracy, their determination and ability to mobilise.  They cannot won the ultimate struggle for democracy here and now.  The struggle for democracy is a long one.  It will not be won in one day, one year, our lifetime, and even many lifetimes. But they have made a giant step forward.  Hong Kong, and even China, are indebted to them.  

But many students do not feel that way. They are young and for many of them, this is their very first attempt to realise their dream.  For them, there is no past and no future; the only reality is now.  They feel that if they do not get a significant concession from the government now, they will have lost everything.  

That’s unfortunate.  For history is real, and takes a long time. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Time to Go?

10 o'clock in the morning, October 5th, only a small group of protesters remained at Occupy Mongkok.  But it is a resilient bunch.  They have weathered many days and nights of onslaught by anti-Occupiers. And they have stayed.  

A young man was lying on a tarpaulin, with his mother hovering over him, trying to sooth him.  

There were a lot more police this time.  When an argument got rather heated, they stepped in and tried to calm people down. 

An agitated man tried to dismantle the central tent.  The police quickly stepped in and whisked him away, while he continued to shout excitedly. 

He was saying the Occupiers were disrupting his work, his business.  

I really think it is time for the Occupiers to go.  They have demonstrated how strongly we Hong Kong people feel about democracy and an open election.  But there is truly a significant number of people who do not agree with this method of protest, for a variety of reasons.  

More importantly, the tempers are fraying.  There is too much risk of violent confrontation.  The struggle for democracy is a long fight.  We should avoid shedding blood. 

IT for Occupy Central

We have been running service-learning projects for a number of years.  Gradually our staff have been making increasing use of IT and the Internet to manage the preparations, multiple locations, and operational logistics.  We use GoogleDoc to plan, to manage our supplies, and the logistics.  We use GoogleMap to manage the multiple locations.  We use GPS to plan our travel. 

It is interesting to note that the Occupy Central people are doing very similar things.  There are online maps that lets you see where the sites are.  You can zoom in to see where are the supply stations, toilets, etc.  

Some universities have maps that focus on their own student groups. 

There are also GoogleDoc documents for managing supplies, the needs, and even surpluses. They are also recruiting programmers online to help with the software development.  

I am a little concerned that the system is quite open, and there are some fairly obvious vulnerabilities. But I am not going to discuss them here for obvious reasons. I am just hoping that they are alert enough to protect the system.  Quite obviously, the information shown in these screen captures are all publicly accessible but outdated.  Hence they are not of much use to anyone.  Except to demonstrate intelligent use of IT, for a good cause. 

It also shows that the Occupiers are much ahead of the anti- forces in terms of sophistication in technology. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Citizens Square 公民廣場

I was walking through Admiralty when I passed by the “Citizens Square”  公民廣場.  It is actually the entrance square of the East Wing of the New Government Headquarters.  

It used to be openly accessible at all hours.  And was often chosen as the site for protests.  Then the government decided to fence it off.  When the students decided to break into the square during the latest protests against Beijing’s decision about the chief executive election, it triggered tremendous reactions.  In retrospect, the government’s decision to fence it off appeared more like a dare to the angry citizens. 

Occupy Mongkok - Oct 4

This morning I went out running on Nathan Road.  It is not everyday that you get to run free on Nathan Road, so I try to do that as much as possible these days.  I went to have a look at Occupy Mongkok, for the 4th time.  

Some young men were fixing the flimsy barricades.  Perhaps about 100 people were sitting around at the junction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road, presumably these are the Occupiers.  They were all calm and quiet.  They are surrounded by several hundred onlookers and snit-Occupiers.

First thing that caught my attention was 2 men arguing with the Occupiers.  They seem to be saying that revolutions always end badly, in chaos.  They seem reasonably calm and their arguments were not without merit.  However, many people surrounding them started cursing the Occupiers, using very foul language.  

A man pushing a wheelchair with a person in it was particularly abusive.  He seem intended to provoke an argument or worse.  When the Occupiers refuse to engage him, he drifted away.  Strangely, in the direction opposite to where he claimed he was going. 

A lady continued to blame the Occupiers, loudly and agitatedly, for obstruction.  She did not use foul language. But many people around her were abusive and foul-mouthed.  Many times the anti-Occupiers trued to incite the crowd into some kind of action.  But it did not work.

All the time, the Occupiers were calm and collected, encouraging each other to not respond to provocation, to not engage in arguments, and to stay their ground.  

Those were what I personally witnessed.  I saw no police there. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Occupy Mongkok - October 2

A large crowd continued to gather at Occupy Mongkok.  Many people made speeches.  It seems basically anyone can have his or her 2 minutes of fame. 

One man contradicted some high profile Christians (such as certain legislator) who were saying that Christians should submit to the government.  He pointed out that Jesus drove money lenders out of the Temple, demonstrating that Jesus was not always submissive to the government.  That Jesus can also be said to be anti-establishment. 

Occupy Mongkok continued to be well-organised, and orderly.  

Everywhere people stress non-violence.

Love, peace, respect. 

At the northern end, it appeared that some people tried to dismantle the barricades.  According to some bystanders that I talked to, those dismantlers spoke Cantonese with a Putonghua accent.  The garbage cans now leaning against the fence on the side of the road were originally part of the barricades in the middle of the road; they were dragged away from the barricades.  Apparently some protesters confronted the dismantlers, the police came to stop the confrontation, and it was now a stand off. 

I went closer to have a look, and found myself standing next to a big man wearing a blue ribbon.  He was complaining to several middle-aged persons around him that he did not like the blockade.  I hurried away before other people associated me with him.  I am not sure whether they were the dismantlers. 

This is a worrying development.