An Epochal Day

Even before daybreak today, my phone was full of messages telling us how special or epochal this day is – being all 2’s which rhymes with easy or ease in Cantonese. If only life and living could be that simple.

Yet the first newsworthy item I picked up today was that Putin, the Russian President had recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities which he called as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Rather neat and easy, it does seem though. And that was in the wake of an agreement for a summit between Putin and Biden, which was also rather neat and easy. But would the summit take place soon enough, again in the wake of new sanctions by the West and Presidential decrees from Biden.

And that was shortly after the rather warm and carefully worded address by IOC President Thomas Bach delivered before President Xi Jinping at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics held on Sunday, marking the end of 16 days of friendly, exciting and epochal winter games between some 3,000 athletes competing in over 100 events from nearly 100 nations. SCMP headlined the following day that “Bach hails an ‘extraordinary’ Games”. Yes, Bach was all praises for China and everybody and had heaped accolades on China, the Beijing Organizing Committee and the volunteers, the Judges and the athletes. He had even learned sufficient Chinese to say a few phrases in Putonghua.

For Su and I, we had watched on TV most of the Opening and all of the Closing Ceremonies. I had watched on TV live, rather unintentionally, Eileen Gu compete and win her first Gold in the big air event, and Su and I were touched by the extraordinary skills, energies, EQ and diplomacy displayed by the young athlete who is by now recognized as the Gold Girl aka Snow Princess, and quite rightly so. We had since followed her other events which the local TV had broadcast dutifully and religiously. She was so likeable and her performances made good TV. She melts hearts, as many journalists had reported. We were pretty sure that if it had not been for the almost total lockdown, we would not have followed the Winter Olympics as much and as closely as we had while the Games were on. It was great fun and great entertainment, and rather educational too. The skiing events reminded us of the Whistler days, and Su would remark, at the fall of an athlete at the tracks or on the slopes, that that was exactly how John performed. We couldn’t help feeling that this could well be the most extensive coverage of a Winter Games for the average Hong Kong viewer. In the past, most events would have taken place in different time zones and the local TV stations might not have obtained the broadcast rights or the motivation to obtain and broadcast such footages.

Both Eileen Gu and Thomas Bach had said, at post events interviews and at the Closing Ceremony respectively, that athletes and sports transcend nations and politics, or something to that effect, and Bach specifically wished that “the political leaders around the world be inspired by your (the athletes’) example of solidarity and peace” which reminds me of the lyrics of “The Impossible Dream”.

Back to Ukraine, a place that few of us, certainly for myself, would know too much or have too many friends there, a friend uploaded a video around just after might today of a businessman in jovial manner telling audiences how peaceful it was at the eastern border of Ukraine, 40 km from town centre where he just had been, on business, and where he saw many anxious diplomats and NGO personnel exchanging polite messages, expecting impending changes in the country, i.e., wars. The businessman emphatically said no one wanted wars, which would harm everyone, including Ukraine, Europe and US, but would bring immense benefits to warmongers and arms dealers, mostly in the US. It is a no brainer that wars would not benefit any country or civilian, but that is not what politicians and political leaders want the average person to believe in. In a recently published new survey by Reuters Institute covering 46 countries, the US media finished “dead last” among the 46 countries in media trust. It implies that the country with the most resources and home to global media giants, including the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, finished last. The US media had only a 29% trust rating from people reading and watching their products. Finland ranked the highest, with a 65% trust; and Kenya came in at 61% rating.  This contrasted with a Gallup poll that back in 1976 when we had household names such as Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor or Roger Mudd, nearly three-quarters of the US people trusted the media.

Back to Hong Kong, we had our doses of fake news and news generated by interest groups, certainly in the months and years leading up to the passage of national security laws in Hong Kong. Even today, we face the prospect of being bombarded daily with messages and sound bites the sources of which cannot be tracked down or are suspect at best. Every time before and after the Government or the Chief Executive makes a statement, rumours would be rife, running wide and fast in various circle. Then journalists would ask dark questions at press conferences calculated to generate distrusts in the authorities. Even as truckloads of supplies and helpers were being ferried across the border from Guangdong, we had footages of young people in masks – of course – holding up placards that say or suggest, “We can handle the problems on our own.”

At the end of the day, it is for the individual to make his or her decisions on what the real situations are, but that won’t be easy.

Once again, I hope to talk to you again soon. And by the way, I have had the outlook of my website changed. I hope you find it an improvement.

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