Xi Jinping says, “There can be no nothingness in history.” Knowledge is always perspectival. There are no immaculate perceptions. Knowledge from no-point-of-view is as incoherent as the notion of seeing from no particular vantage point. Equally unlikely is an all-inclusive perspective, which could contain all others and, hence, make reality available as it is in itself. The concept of such an all-inclusive outlook is as incoherent as the concept of viewing Michelangelo’s David from every possible perspective simultaneously. For Xi, Fang Fang’s “Wuhan Diary”, that chronicles the Wuhan-based novelist’s account of the COVID-19’s emergence in Wuhan stands as a challenge to the official narrative as she pillories government officials for their prefatory attempts to cover-up the outbreak.
While historical nihilists resist redacting history, China believes that it is of no value to frame political inhumanity. “Turn Changchun into a city of death,” proclaimed Lin Biao, one of Mao’s strategists, in 1948. By the time the metropolis fell, 160,000 non-combatants died of starvation. And so while Beijing recently launched the Tianhe module of a new permanent space station, in cyberspace it has deleted posts that “pollute” the online environment with “harmful” discussions. But is China alone? On the eve of the Independence of the ‘Land of the Free’, the jailed WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange celebrated his 50th birthday in Belmarsh prison in London. Washington waits. Assange is an aide memoire of the darkness of Western democracies. He is a symbol of the human struggle against new digital forms of control and regulation over our lives which are much more adept than the old “totalitarian” ones. Assange unmasks this paradox of non-freedom experienced as freedom.
In an act of piracy, Belarus forced a Ryanair jet en route from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk in order to detain Roman Protasevich. But the Western powers that condemned Belarus applauded the same deed in 2013, when the aircraft carrying Evo Morales was forced to land in Austria. Western liberals condemn the much more brutal direct oppression in Iran but not in Jerusalem – so why worry over Assange? When Morocco gained independence in 1956, Spain refused to include Ceuta and Melilla in the handover. Madrid asserts that the two cities in Africa are integral parts of Spain and have the same status as the semi-autonomous districts such as the Basque and Catalan regions. Arancha Gonzalez Laya said that Spain is considering including Ceuta and Melilla, fully in Europe’s passport-free Schengen area.
What is happening to Muslim Uyghurs in Xingjian is open and obvious. But in the liberal West, there is a variety of oppression that largely leaves intact our sense of freedom. From the Bird’s Nest stadium on July 1st, 2021, Xi Jinping jumps from the Chinese Communist Party’s founding and eventual victory in the civil war directly to China’s transformation to a “socialist market economy” that is “open to the outside world.” The centenary celebrations draped a black pall over the period from 1949 to the post-Mao period. But these omissions matter little to young Chinese who have amnesia. On June 5, 1989 in Tiananmen Square a solitary man stood resiliently in the pathway of four beastly battle tanks. The identity or what happened to the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen after his defiance remains unknown. Likewise, in the narrative of Trinidad’s history, there is a shadowy blot where Albert Gomes should be.
When political gatherings were barred in Woodford Square, Gomes defied the mayor and demanded the right of assembly and free speech. Refusing to shut up, he was ordered out of the chamber. As eight constables approached him, he lay down on his back on the floor. The officers lifted him up and dumped him outside. But Gomes marched straight back in again, still speaking. He was dumped a second time, and promptly reappeared. It was a time when the worst bedevilment of all, was being in exile in the castle of your own skin. The Indian was unsure if he was West Indian, Trinidadian or East Indian. But he was sure – three could not go into one. “The East Indian Weekly” warned against taking Indians from the cane fields to be members of boards or important committees as they needed “experience, culture, refinement, not uneducated men.”
The calculus of Indian identity came to a crescendo when in the 1946 election the question of competence in English as a prerequisite for registration as a voter arose as a variation of an old theme.
The Indians found themselves trying to make themselves as comfortable as possible on a narrowing ledge. It was left to Rienzi, an East Indian of Marxist persuasions, to raise the specter of proportional representation. He wrote, “…If this discrimination is persisted in, Trinidad Indians would be justified in appealing to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the protection of their rights … and to ask for safeguards…” In the end the committee persisted in its defense of a language test and it was left for the Secretary of State for the Colonies to disallow it. How this attitude applies to the present Venezuelan migrant crisis is yet to be witnessed and recorded.