This is not a manifesto. This is not a cry for help. This is only a brief update.
Many of you have been wondering what I have been up to. The simple story is that I dedicated myself to moving articles from my “unread” list to my “read” list after reading them. I hoped to finish without touching social media or messaging anyone, and without writing this. I have failed.
I am (almost) 27. Chanel Miller, sexually assaulted at Stanford University in 2015, is 27. Emma Sulkowicz, raped at Columbia University in 2012, is 27. Tyler Clementi, spied upon before committing suicide at Rutgers in 2010, would be 27 today. Without the media attention of #MeToo and in the busyness of school and work, these events fell out of my memory until Miller’s recent release of her novel. Yet the victims will never forget.
My family is from Hong Kong. I remember briefly reading about the Umbrella Movement in 2014, but I had just started working full time and I didn’t think much of it. I had last visited in 2009, and by my next visit in 2016, I couldn’t discern the impact of the protests. In the shadows, activists were committed despite the rise of China. As the current Hong Kong protests continue to entangle greater geopolitical concerns, I remember that democracy must be earned and defended with vigilance.
I have spent the past year asking the questions I should have asked years earlier: What is feminism? What is racism? What is the LGBT movement? What is privacy? What is socialism? What is ethical veganism? What are the geopolitics of the left? Why is the suicide rate in South Korea so high? What does it mean to be an Asian-American Christian? (I am agnostic) What are the struggles of poor Asian-Americans? Am I contributing to the oppression of minorities if I ask them to perform the labor of explaining their oppression? I cannot hope to understand in a single year of belated autodidacticism the lifelong suffering of others.
I admit that despite my privileged upbringing, my empathy is finite. I am tempted to return to a lifestyle of ignorance, spending each day putting one foot in front of the other, not in protest marches, but in bar crawls. Instead of advocating for diversity in tech, I debate replacing my black galaxy granite countertop.
As I watch other millennials follow the well-trodden path of marriage and parenting, I am reminded of two recent stories. The first examines the difficulty of reconciling affirmative action with the Asian-American experience. What are the ethics of responsibility in a progressive movement that is leaving an indelible mark on the world? The other is a parent’s struggles to navigate a new world of progressive education in New York City’s public schools. What will our children think of us as parents if we don’t understand the progressive movement that our peers have suffered to bring to fruition?
I don’t know if I want to be a parent. I haven’t dated anyone. I haven’t put any effort into dating. I’m not sure if I will.
I hope this update brings you closure. I had originally intended to publish a follow-up to “I Am Not A Man” that would have covered what it meant to me to be Asian-American. I didn’t suspect that Asian-American identity subreddits would harbor even more perverse forms of toxic masculinity than the alt-right. In their worldview, postcolonial feminism justifies fighting white supremacy with “woke” Asian supremacy. This logic leads to them “calling out” “White Male Asian Female” relationships and denying the agency of protestors in Hong Kong by framing them as white supremacists. Fortunately, Keanu Reeves shows that Asian masculinity can have confidence without misogyny.
P.S. I deleted my Facebook and stopped checking Twitter, my email, and my phone a while ago. I hated the idea of announcing a departure from social media because in my opinion, it echoes a privileged journey to Burning Man or a Vipassana Meditation retreat. I recognize the selfishness of ghosting. It is why “men are trash.” In a world where young male suicide is an epidemic, a long period of hikikomori-like behavior is a cause for concern. Although I would prefer to frame my current lifestyle as ascetic or monastic, I do not practice spirituality or virtuousness. I only wish to claim the hermit’s peace of contemplation in solitude.