Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Bai bai

After nearly three years of being the exotic dancing girl of Public Address, it's time for me to retreat behind the curtains of the champagne room. These Canto-peasant feet weren't made for stilettos.

Here are the reasons for my early retirement.

Some of you may remember my occasional reference to my paid employment a few years back at the Secret Place, a politically sensitive part of the wider New Zealand civil service (somewhere near the prostate perhaps). Now after a gap of self-employment and hobo-dom, I am a full-time civil servant again, an employee of the [Redacted Place], Geneva HQ.

Keith, on his Facebook status updates, has written eloquent one-liners on the struggles between his inner terrorist and his inner mercenary. Personally, I have an inner terrorist struggling with an inner bureaucrat. Ultimately though, I've ended up in a line of work where the bosses can't afford to know that they have terrorists in the workplace, even if they are well hidden inside non-terrorists (near the prostate perhaps). I have to do my best to help them not know - in Rumsfeldian terms, I have to be the thing that they don't know they don't know.

There are certain workarounds for blogging in the international civil service. One is to just blog about, I don't know, your period pains, consumer electronic toys you bought, how pretty the trees look in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and the amusing habits of the natives (within reason, that is, not insultingly). And your cat. Let's not forget the cat. This wouldn't necessarily compromise Yellow Peril, because all these things can be coded language for, eg, advocating the overthrow of the [redacted] government. For example: "Whew! This sure is a brutal red tide this month, it feels like it could last for ten thousand years. Maybe I could defeat it with the combined forces of a bourgeois movement for political transparency, and a restive peasantry rankling against widening inequality. And some Nurofen."


The other workaround is to get your workplace to use you as a PR hack blogger. But trust me, you don't want to read a blog every week about [redacted]. Even if we do have a working relationship with the [redacted] [redacted] of Outer Space Affairs.

Oh yeah, there is one more option. Keep doing exactly the same thing as you ever did, on an anonymous blog. If, and when you can be bothered. Maybe. Who knows.

But you know what? I'm a long way away. From New Zealand in general, and increasingly... from you. The truth is that as well as my [Redacted Place] labour conditions, the PA System experiment is large factor in why you're seeing the back of me. Although it's been a very successful exercise in online community-building, and although I have had a lot of fun with it in places, it has, overall, been strangely isolating for people like me. But I always knew that was how communities worked, and I knew even before it started that PA System would be dominated by a certain kind of perspective. It's not a terrible one, not at all. But it's not for everyone. For people like me, it takes a lot of effort to stay involved. I'm tired and isolated enough where I am, now that I'm a real hard-working immigrant at last.

From out here, I'm retiring from Asian stuff too, except for the food and the hot guys (remember them? Those were the days). I'm expending all my Asiany energy sourcing ingredients for jiaozi from three different grocery stores in the inner city. Europe truly is still in the dark ages. But at least in Geneva, everyone's a foreigner, everyone's transient, so everyone is alone together. I kind of like that. And from what I can see from here, the Movement back home is taking care of itself. The whole way through Yellow Peril, I've looked out for bloggers who can do what I do here, in case I ever got tired and had to leave. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to do exactly this, but there are so many old and new Asian politicos and scribblers who cover parts of this turf, a little bit here, a little bit there, and who do things that I could never do. We are legion. I think we're going to be okay.

Is everyone else going to be okay? Coincidentally, the day that I joined the [Redacted Place] and became unsure whether I could say exactly what I wanted on this forum without getting fired, was the day something happened in New Zealand that had me feeling sick to my stomach every time I checked my email and found no reply to a 'where are you?/are you okay?' callout to some of my activist friends. Good friends. Eventually, when the replies started coming with reports of raids of their homes and young families, and when the posts and discussions on Public Address showed their colours, it certainly drove home for me how far away I am from this country, and from the overall middle ground of this site, from its essential gut. I'm closer to the prostate, perhaps.

But even so, as I write this, I realise how much I'm going to miss you guys. Thanks for loving and hating, and above all, for reading.

To the crew, particularly Russell: I owe most of the many crazy opportunities of my bizarre career in the last few years to you. If only you had known that I was going to blow all my hard-won media-whore cred by getting a job at the [Redacted Place], you might have considered recruiting Lincoln Tan instead. Thanks for taking a punt and for not freaking out. Watch the gout.

To the chicks: As if to prepare me for my own exit, the author of some of the most well-considered, articulate, clearly argued, occasionally plagiarised by others, and least-linked political posts ever in the blogosphere, one of my oldest friends from middle-class activism [Redacted] [Redacted], AKA Span, retired earlier this year from blog-life to exist as a more well-rounded human being. At least we still have Deborah and Maia.

To the white boys who never minded being called white boys, which included actual people with exotic names such as Stephen and Danny: Cheers guys.

To the natives: I have never so much appreciated the importance of behind-the-scenes support from those who wisely refrain from commenting publicly at all. Kane, Teanau, Bini, Creative Combat and Conscious Collaborations, thanks for your staunchness, and laughter, and solidarity.

To the Movement, of whom there are too many to mention by now: what a time we had. Special thanks go out to Al, Keith, Charles, Kumanan, Hannah, Kah-Bee, Derek, Ruth, and James Liu.

This kitty is ready for a nap.