Our lost brother

sunThis morning I was called by one of my best friends from Belgium. He wanted to share his thought with me: the East, he had concluded, is not geographical place, but it is rather the symbolic representation of our desire for the mystical. When I was in China this summer, I was wondering wether it would be possible to come to a fundamental difference between the people who are living on the Western side of the Eurasian continent and the people at the Eastern side.

To answer this question I believe we have to find recurse in transcendental history. Transcendental history is not the description of history as we know it has actually happened, but it is the history of everything which must necessarily have happened, although we have no archeological or scriptural sources to prove it. For example, 50.000 years ago, women must have given birth to children now and then. We have neither the material nor the scriptural sources to warrant such a claim, but nevertheless, we know if must have happened.

Another one of this transcendental historical moments is the moment when the human population wondered off into two distinct directions. If we follow on the assumption that the human species “came out of Africa”, their migrations must have come to a decisive point somewhere around Mesopotamia. You could imagine a tribe with two visionary brothers – or sisters, or a brother and a sister – who argued about the best way to proceed. This must have truly been the hyperintelligent, learned and powerful members of the human tribe. Their debate necessarily concerned the following: what should we do: should we continue our movement in the direction of the sun, or will we move away from the sun?

It is very inspiring to consider people from the West as “abendlandische” people, while the people of the East are the people of the countries where the sun is born. It must have been phenomenologically intimidating and existentially disturbing to watch this ball of fire take its course through the blue sky every day. Is this sun something we desire for, or something we are afraid of? The answer to that question most essentially defines the difference between the people of West and East.

Today, I have the opportunity to meet my lost brother or sister. Though our bodies are new bodies and did not take part in this crucial decision for mankind, our genes are still the same. Therefore, I can now ask my lost brother or sister: why did we fight? Why did you decide to go the other way? What was it that attracted you towards the sun? And do you maybe also remember why I was so scared of the sun? The answer to those questions need to be found in the distant past, so a regression through my body is necessary. But there must be a trace left and it must be possible to find this trace. Through this inquiry, we will be able to find the necessary conditions for a reconciliatory embrace.


WeChat: the social fabric of China


Not a single phenomenon is as important in understanding Chinese contemporary society as instant messaging cum social medium app WeChat. Roughly comparable to Whatsapp, WeChat offers all important communication services you would expect from such an app, but it includes a whole array of additional functionalities. Steadily, WeChat is becoming to function as the collective mind of the Chinese and increasingly the surface of everyday life in change becomes incomprehensible without a notion of this extremely popular application.

The general Western prejudice holds that information in China is strictly controlled and that free press is limited. Without having the desire to contradict these analysis completely, my stay I China last summer enhanced my image of this topic. First of all, the fact that Facebook and Google are generally banned in China, doesn’t mean that the services they provide are deemed dangerous by the Chinese government. In fact, Baidu, Weibo and WeChat function similar and often even more advanced ways than their Western counterparts.

Therefore, I’d rather like to think of the divide between Western media and Chinese media as a “silk” curtain, between which cross-influence is not really restricted, but nobody really cares about sharing information over to the other side. Much more than an attempt to limit the flow of information among its own citizens, I believe the ban on Facebook and Google in China could better be interpreted as a measure of protectionism against U.S. corporations. Of course, censorship and regulation are in fact performed by the Chinese government. But if sensitive topics are not discussed (for example the three tabooed “T” subjects in China: Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen), it might often be a result of ignorance about these topics by the Chinese, while simultaneously we in the West can not understand that people just would not care about these topics.

The rise of WeChat in particular is intimidating. The app records over 600 million monthly users, over two thirds of the 900 million monthly users WhatsApp has. Currently WeChat is branching out to Africa, to see if it can take over the local internet market. In South Africa we gradually see a battle emerge between WeChat and WhatsApp to gain control over the market. Especially because of the wide spectrum of social services WeChat provides, I believe WeChat could very well at some point become a serious global challenger to WhatsApp. Its messaging service is only one aspect of the app, which is also used as microblogging service, social network, photoblogging service, dating app and payment service.

More than Facebook or WhatsApp, WeChat is able to provide what so many people desire: connection. In China, few meetings between strangers pass without the exchange of WeChat contact data by means of scanning a personalised QR code. That shy stranger you just nodded at in the subway reveals himself to be a highly expressive avatar on WeChat, with an unstoppable wave of stickers and other tokens of social appreciation which are ubiquitous in the Wonderworld of WeChat. To understand China, this is where it is happening now.