Pride and prejudice swirls around my life, though in many channels I’ve been molded into a no-nonsense, responsible and respectable citizen who’s encouraged to identify all pieces of all maestros, and perhaps will otherwise be deemed as a renegade of the ‘Universal Spirit’, which our critics revere, in their infinite wisdom, as superior to the skill per se; or to avoid acting like a smart ass, but strive to be the roosting hawk or sleeping lion that prey in their impuissance; or to put up a discreet and obsequious countenance, and read other people’s mind through simulation and dissimulation, ‘Tell a lie, and find a truth’, as the shrewd Spaniard said. Previously I planned to let off a stream after re-reading the Essays of Elia, the masterpiece of Charles Lamb who conducted an out-and-out self-autopsy with a humor that didn’t look his age and his country, but a movie named ‘This Is England’ advanced my schedule.
‘This Is England’ was an epitome of the early 80s, when the Thatcherism and deep economic recession had prevailed over the Gloire immortelle of the British Empire, giving rise to the revival of the skinhead movement, first seen in the late 60s. Born out of deep disaffection with a society that diminished the value of working class men, skinheads scared the heck of many people with their menacing looks and fearsome reputation. We tend to automatically equate skins with unprovoked aggression and racism, but the director wrong-footed us by portraying this gang as good-natured young people whose waywardness was motivated by frustration with the world, boredom and a sense of fun. Racism didn’t feature indeed, until the arrival of Combo who immediately dominated the group and lectured them about national pride and loyalty. He reminded them that two world wars were fought so that ‘we can stick our fucking flag in the ground and say, “This is England, this is England, this is England.”’ He complained about immigrants taking jobs which should have been taken by some the three million unemployed.
Here, I’m not talking about ethics or ethnicity, as the mantra of Seinfeld goes, ‘No hugging, no learning.’ This movie just correlated with the status quo of my hometown Shanghai. Readers, there’s a forgotten word, if not a forbidden word, a word that means more to us than those around us……that word is……Shanghaiese.
Once we flaunted it, in the face of the world like the Union Jack. It was a word that stood for power, prosperity and respect, but today is scarcely even allowed to be outspoken. Now we’ve been marginalized. We’ve been called social vulnerable groups. We aren’t SVGs, we’re the hard-headed few. Some people say we’re regionalists. We aren’t regionalists, we’re realists. If there’s a reason why people try to pigeonhole us like this, it’s due to one word, envy. They envy us. They envy us because we’re the true voice of the people in this conurbation. People who wear appropriate, talk genteel, work hard and respect the host, I welcome with open arms to the metropolis. It’s the people who think we owe them a living that need to piss back to the hinterland where they belong.
There was a boy in my dorm named Yang Hui, a bumpkin from Jiangxi who had a bias against any and all compositions of Shanghai. Honestly speaking, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t bully him or instigate the negative vox populi against him, not least as an unfledged freshman who yearned to make friends in the college. ‘Shanghai,’ as he put it, ‘is built by the pecuniary and physical contributions from all parts of the country, but in the hands of the so-called Shanghaiese, it has become a hellhole of bureaucracy and debauchery, crimes and corruptions. You Shanghaiese do owe us a lot.’
True, the souring Lujiazui skyline was the fruit of not just Shanghaiese, but all people; true, the ball rooms, amusement parks as well as companies and factories are still entitled to the overloading supplies at the cost of the compulsory power cut in neighboring cities; and true, we’re the end-user of the oil pipes from Kuqa City, without strings attached. But who are the end-beneficiary? Statistics show that 87% of our fiscal income flows to the pocket of Central Government, taking up one-sixth of the state revenue. We derive oil and return gold. Even our intrepid and dissenting Party Chief was imprisoned. Poor lanky guy, he’ll see red at the gluttonous successor sucking the bonanza he created.
They say we’re money-oriented, but how can they shut their eyes against the hustle and bustle along Fuzhou Road?
They say we’re too weak to fight, but China’s sports Gemini, Liu Xiang and Yao Ming, are proud to claim themselves as the sons of Shanghai. Our valiant officers are also among the martyr list of Haiti ‘expedition’, a high-sounding coup fueled by the Central Government’s whim-wham to be the savior of the globe, regardless of domestic conflicts. Oriental Thatcherism, isn’t it?
They say we’re dandies, but through the tongue of envy. What an evil thought it is to denude us of our sparkling outfits, and degrade our gorgeous city into dirt and dinginess that’s their hometowns! I happened to visit my Alma Mater the other day, and by the way, it wasn’t a typical local college, for only 40% of its students were Shanghaiese. In the thick of winter, most of my compatriots had returned to their dens, so the campus turned ghetto of yokels. The moment I stepped into the dining hall, I was shocked by a ghastly tableau: Legions of fugly-looking boors in their rags were squatting violently awry, slurping and gossiping in a falsetto voice. My affinity with the time-honored college was completely washed away.
Now I feel extremely proud, not only of our blue blood, but of the ineluctable mission we’re to shoulder. There’s no shirking the responsibility that we learn to forgive, inculcate and accept the inferior tribes, as the Father did to the Babylonians.