Tag Archives: Punk

Power And Enlightenment

A couple more things from near the start of the year. There is religion here, many Buddhists (I know that’s not technically a religion), some devout Christians and large Muslim populations concentrated in certain areas.  But religion does not enter government or society thinking as a whole, the way it still does a little in the UK, or a lot in Iran. You go about you life, and it can feel the most modern, rational, light-hearted, open and tolerant of places  (apart from the daily reminders of the Facebook / Youtube / Google redirection thing – but they are kind of abstract). There is a perception of complete freedom on one level, and very admirable levels of equality for men and women. The religious restrictions of places like Saudi Arabia, and even the idea of religion in general, baffle my wife, and a lot of people here.

What you do have here are officials; party members and police chiefs. Just like countries with high levels of religious interference and governance, these guys sometimes have their own whims, likes and dislikes. Sometimes they like to flex their likes and dislikes, and you can be suddenly jolted back into reality.

I was told (I wasn’t there) that a (Western calendar) New Year’s Eve outdoor rock gig in Sanlitun, Beijing, had the plug pulled half way through, after some local bigwig took exception to a female punk singer who dared to lift her skirt up on stage (no precise details I’m afraid). He flexed his municipal muscle, and closed the show on the spot, telling everyone to go home. It was just before midnight. Many people had gone there for a party. Quietly go home everyone did. Can you imagine – Glasgow, London, anywhere – the riots that would have ensued.
On a similar vein, the much anticipated Mr Gay China event had the plug pulled one hour before by the police, with vague reasons of  taste and decency being put forward. The show was the first event of its kind here, and it had gained national and  international attention in the run up. It was virtually underway, with people arriving.

It wouldn’t surprise me if these things are actually done so close to time for effect. Maybe even heightened by bravado stirring inside Mr Municipal Muscle, brought on by the buzz of crowds, and possibly some alcohol intake. Just to show off the power he can actually wield. Why cancel an event weeks before, when you can make a bigger splash doing it on the night?

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The March of Progress, Crispy Silkworm and Old School Gigs

January……….. Beijing is a strange old place. There are some immensely rich people here, alongside the mostly closeted expats. There are many smells and sights on the streets, and several Unidentified Frying Objects.

Xiao Gu Shan High Street

Heating The House. And the bed, and the walls. The bed is on the other side of the hollow wall, with the fire right under it.

I went to Jilin for (Western) New Year. Jilin is in the far north, and is the coldest place I’ve ever been to, at minus 20. Dinner was served the day we left, and it included a massive plate of crispy silkworm, which I just had to pass on. They were big fat things and had been sliced in half.
I saw some some really basic living conditions up there, mostly pig farmers or shopkeepers plus their families living in tiny one room houses with smoky fires that burn all day long under concrete beds. No fridges, no hot water, no showers, toilet out the back… so to speak (a hole in the ground at minus 20 IS an experience, let me tell you).

There are huge changes taking place in China, and it’s not restricted to the big cities. A couple of brand new blocks have gone up in this small town, with all mod cons, and they are buying them up fast at less than £10,000 a piece. The western lifestyle is coming, and you can see exactly how much more energy the new places use than the old simple existence, with their showers and central heating, and water down the plug hole.

I am not a brainwashed citizen (yet), but the West’s criticism of China after the Copenhagen summit was slightly unfair. Nearly everybody, bar the city dwellers, lives in conditions that most of us can’t even imagine spending one night in. They are happy, but when it’s offered, they all want what we take for granted. They are incredibly thrifty and energy concious on a personal level. It’s the horrible gigantic coal power stations that they’ve got to find a solution to.

China as a country is now the largest emitter. But per head of population, they emit a fraction of what a person in the USA emits, around 15 times less. It’s the West that needs to drastically reduce its energy use and change its habits.

Sadly I have recently been hearing that most modern paradoxical term “sustainable development”  in the media here.

Anyhow, enough of the polemics.

The snow continues at an astounding frequency. And the speed and ruthless efficiency with which it is shown who’s boss  is more astounding. Volunteer neighbourhood street clearing gangs roam the estates,  making neat banks of snow along clear paths. Our door has been knocking at 8am the last two mornings, and we’ve politely ignored it and stayed under the covers….

Mao Live, Beijing

I went to “Mao Live” and saw some great Chinese Punk bands, the last of whom spoiled it by playing a rubbish high speed version of Song 2 by Blur. There is a big picture of the chairman’s head behind the stage. It was packed beyond the limits, dark, sweaty, trashed, decibel smashing, and full of cigarette smoke. More reminders of past experiences that I had so quickly lost touch with. Is that the way gigs should be? It felt so at the time. My stinky clothes, ringing ears and stinging eyes the next morning reminded me how quickly we get used to change.

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