Out Of It

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I will, in all likelihood, grab and shake hard by the shoulders the next person who refers to themselves as being out here. I mean, Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest financial centers, and a densely packed city in what is probably the most populous province of the most populous nation on earth, but you’ll still find middle managers from Britain or Belgium at cocktail parties saying things like “When I moved out here…” or “How long have you lived out here?” It’s as though they’ve turned up at a decaying highland encampment in some fetid jungle, four weeks from the next satellite uplink.
If Hong Kong is out here, where does that leave, say, Branson, Missouri, or Morecambe, England? At the epicenter of global affairs?
Asians also put up with – although you hear it less often these days – the dreadful, Eurocentric term “Far East.” I suppose “Far East” was vaguely understandable when you couldn’t get a decent cappuccino within a fifty mile radius, or when daily life involved pith helmets, reliable ammunition and riding on the backs of pachyderms. Vaguely.
The Beijing Foreign Languages Press – during its barmy, revolutionary heyday – was one of the few organizations with enough mettle to respond in kind. In its books, it always referred to Europe and the U.S. as the “Far West,” which I love. Last month, I was in London for a few days and my opening gambit at parties was: “And how long have you lived out here – in the Far West?”
Of course, people looked at me as if I was being tiresome or clever. But the poor souls simply don’t get it. China’s no longer out here, and Asia’s no longer out here. We’re just here. We’re where things are at, and the language of orientation should begin from that reality.