Commentary | What’s solid melts into air

From campus to Asia, transformation is on the way

Please allow me to dedicate this first piece to introducing my new column, “Red star over Asia.” At first glance, one might think that this is a column about Asia, moreover, one about communism in Asia.

Well, you’re not too far from the truth, yet you’re not close to it either. “Red star over Asia” will be a column about things in the process of becoming, rather than things in a state of being. This column will tell of the endless transformations of history, not in a cyclical, but a spiral motion moving ever higher, in a line punctuated by leaps and bounds.

Empires rise and fall. Revolutions and counter-revolutions take turns in a never-ending tug of war, pushing our civilization into uncharted waters. Asia abounds with such stories: the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the bloody India-Pakistan-Bangladesh partition, the 1965 Indonesian anti-communist massacres, the Vietnam war, the Korean war, the Khmer Rouge’s madness, and so on. Asia’s story is a tale of human struggles of epic proportion, of sudden lurches and setbacks as it impatiently seeks to break through the hold of its ancient past.

This is why I choose Asia as a point of reference for my column, because it’s a land that never rests and it’s still changing quickly as we speak. China, once “the sick man of Asia,” is now a major power poised to overtake U.S. economy in around 2025. With India and Indonesia, these three countries carried the weight of the world during the recent recession. The centre of the world is shifting to Asia. Just like the sun finally set on the British Empire, the time has come too for the Western powers to step down from their pedestal.

All that is solid melts into air. This is the underlying theme of this column. It is an all-embracing axiom that runs throughout our history. This axiom applies just as well in the small microcosm we call McGill. Heather Munroe-Blum paraphrased this axiom vividly in her May 2010 budget letter: “Let me be clear: we cannot continue business as usual.” Indeed, McGill cannot continue to do business as usual any longer. It is not immune to the worldwide epidemic of deficit and the resulting austerity measures.

The first blow has been struck with the closure of the Arch Café. Mendelson will not back down on this, since in 2007, he was embarrassingly forced to backtrack on the first closure. Shutting down the Arch Café is a political statement from the administration that they can, and will, execute their plans regardless of the opposition they face, because they have a whole slew of hard-to-swallow changes to push through – all of which revolve around McGill’s 2010-2011 budget.

The world is a-changin’. Asia is a-changin’. McGill is a-changin’. Sarkozy, Charest, Harper, Cameron, Merkel, Wen Jiabao, and Munroe-Blum have readied themselves for this change and are well-armed to impose it on us. The status quo is no longer tenable. We can no longer just resist the changes forced upon us. We need to define – and fight for – the changes we want to see.


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