Overview: Episode 06 offers two segments. ViceonHBO.com gives us the following description for each.
CHINA’S GHOST TOWNS – Fifteen years ago, China changed its policy so people could buy their own homes. Real-estate investments boomed, and new cities began popping up each year, many inspired by western design and mimicking iconic locales like Paris and lower Manhattan. The problem is: people don’t live here. One ghost city in Inner Mongolia, built to house one million people, is now an empty shell of unoccupied skyscrapers and abandoned construction sites. VICE checks out this and other urban failures to figure out how China’s preoccupation with growing its GNP turned “supply and demand” into “build now, sell later.”
EGYPT ON THE BRINK – Over two years ago, Arab Spring climaxed in the overthrow of President Mubarek in Egypt. But for many Egyptians, the situation has actually gotten worse, as has the man who replaced Mubarek: Mohamed Morsi, elected under the radical Muslim Brotherhood banner. VICE visits the embattled streets of Cairo, where opposition to Morsi has resulted in renewed mass protests and violence in Tahrir Square. Among those we meet: members of the Black Bloc, youthful revolutionaries who disguise themselves with hoods and scarves while vowing to oust Morsi and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood.
Expectations: I’m not sure how to take this episode based on the Preview Clips offered. The whole idea of urban ghost towns seems surreal and the Egyptian crisis seems so volatile I am having a hard time processing what I’m seeing. Is this all for real? Is there any spot on Mother Earth that is not fucked up? Those are rhetorical questions of course. Where the human animal resides there is going to be conflict, confusion and downright wrong decisions made until doomsday.
One thing that does not seem quite right about the episode is the subtitle used here. The label used for Episode 06 is – Corruption. I’m seeing a lot of negative concepts but I’m not sure if the one that comes to mind is corruption. In CHINA’S GHOST TOWNS I clearly see stupidity at work not corruption. As for EGYPT ON THE BRINK revolutionary fervor and political reform take a front seat as the top concept here. So, as I state I am a bit conflicted by the issues via the clips alone. I guess watching the episode is in order; like I wasn’t going to watch it anyway.
Gut Reaction: First up, CHINA’S GHOST TOWNS reported by correspondent Ryan Duffy. I like this guy’s way with words and his snarky sense of humor. He illustrates the absurdity of the human condition quite well. By, the way, that is a key element to VICE’s reporting; it is stated right in Shane Smith’s voice-over each episode – it “exposes the absurdity of the modern condition.” Here, I’ll show you –
Nothing to date for me has captured the absurdity of it all more than the first segment this week. For the first few minutes as this piece played the only thought crossing my mind was, “What?” which was followed by, “What the fuck is wrong with this country?” (meaning China). Now, across the USA there may be a few housing developments or cul de sacs uninhabited due to contaminated soil, sinkholes and the like but, in China, we are talking about whole, unfinished cities. Again, WTF? A recreated Paris, France in China has me wondering about the mental acuity of the Chinese government.
The prevailing opinion distracted me to the point of having to watch again the comments from the economic expert explaining why these ghost cities exist. It appears like it looks good for the country to build infrastructure even if it is unusable or undesirable infrastructure. Okay, I guess China has money to burn.
But, where is the corruption? Yes, it was cruel to displace people, but was the intent corruption? I don’t think so; the intent was merely “progress.” If fact, coupled with the look at the one-child policy an episode ago, if anything is corrupt in China it is the lame, stupid, illogical policies and practices this country has put in place over the years. In the end, this segment just left me baffled.
EGYPT ON THE BRINK reported by correspondent Suroosh Avi, left me feeling something different from what was intended perhaps. But, first let me draw attention to the reporter for this segment Suroosh Avi. Vice.com’s bio of him reads –
Shit, we thought Shane Smith liked to interview dangerous people but our man Suroosh got right to the heart of the matter in his report taking a dose of tear gas for the cause. His delivery style seems to be more stoical and, dare I say, more dry than the other correspondents but the fact he is willing to get into the intensity of it all makes him a welcome addition. I though it odd, however, that Shane was doing the voice-over for this segment and opposed to Avi himself.
Again, though the Egyptian government from one leader to the next can be called corrupt, that was not what caught my attention here. I saw passion, fervor and justice and I’m not sure why here and why now. Clearly, those emotions are present but we have seen on VICE other instances of revolutionary goals in many other countries. For example, we have just recently seen reports on the anarchy in Spain and Greece. Why is what is playing out in Egypt any different?
It simply could be that with the mainstream reporting of the Arab Spring movement it makes me more compassionate for Egypt’s quest for democracy. Also, even though violence is employed the youth of that North African country successfully ousted out one corrupt politician in Mubarek and have the drive and will to force out the next one as well. Morsi also needs to go and this segment made me believe the underdogs can do it again. Does that necessarily mean it will be a democratic country one day? Time will tell and VICE will be there to tell us.
In Conclusion: It may be lame to quibble about the subtitle of this episode. It just was a needed jumping off point into this post. Corruption is everywhere. The notion of people willing to deceive and cripple others just for their own self gain happens every day in every country. Becoming informed and aware of its existence helps to crush it.
We conclude with VICE: the Morning After hosted by Fareed Zakaria. This little roundtable helped me understand why they titled this episode “Corruption” – these are pieces on two corrupted societies. Oh, the upcoming episode 07, I am predicting, should be subtitled “Drugs”. Peace.