When the narcissists of London and New York meet the coronavirus

Chip Tsao doesn’t mince his words when he points out the hypocrisy of Western metropolis urbanites who feel that nothing can touch them, not least a virus that originated from Asia.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are seen reflected in a cafe window during ongoing renovations to the Tower and the Houses of Parliament, in central London on 17 January 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are seen reflected in a cafe window during ongoing renovations to the Tower and the Houses of Parliament, in central London on 17 January 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

The international cities of London and New York have become epicentres of the massive outbreak of the "Wuhan coronavirus"* in the UK and the US. 

Big cities are densely populated, but London and New York are mainly made up of the following three communities: the elites and the petty bourgeoisie; professionals; and immigrants from all over the world. Precisely because of the large presence of these three groups, the cities developed “metropolitan arrogance”. 

The arrogance of the Londoners and New Yorkers is of an even higher level than the people of Beijing

Countless world-renowned movies are set in these two cities — Autumn in New York, West Side Story, and Batman were set in New York, while Love Actually, Notting Hill, and movies of the James Bond franchise were set in London. People living in these two large international cities thus feel that they’re living on the top of the world, enjoy the best quality of life and are in the position to dictate standards from fashion to morality.

A person with a face mask walks by a Dr. Martens store on 25 March 2020 in New York City. ( Angela Weiss/AFP)
A person with a face mask walks by a Dr. Martens store on 25 March 2020 in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The petty bourgeoisie and the elites are narcissists — they feel that with the export of their culture through Hollywood movies, they are the rightful global hegemon. 

It is the same even with a city like Beijing. The Beijing people feel that they are the power centre of the country with a population of 1.3 billion and thus possess the superiority to have others bow down to them. They too, look down on people from other Chinese mainland provinces. This is essentially the same sort of metropolitan arrogance. 

The arrogance of the Londoners and New Yorkers is of an even higher level than the people of Beijing: London has the Big Ben as a symbol of parliamentary democracy, while in New York, a towering Statue of Liberty overlooks the New York harbour. For more than a century, these cities of the free have been dream destinations that those from the third world would like to move to.    

Protectors of globalisation

In the era of globalisation, these cities are plugged in to vast information flows and are bustling financial centres. The white-collar professionals are the ones who reap the so-called first-tier dividends of globalisation. In fact, the people of London and Paris are the ones most protective of globalisation as they are convinced that globalisation will bring about peace, happiness, and prosperity to all mankind. 

Wouldn’t we then become the same as “them Hong Kongers”? No way. Because Hong Kong is a former colony. 

Used to their narcissistic ways, the Londoners and New Yorkers tend to be hedonistic and obstinate, tending to persist until they get their way. Naturally, ordering them to stay indoors under lockdown is tantamount to taking away their rights and freedoms. 

At the same time, when the Wuhan coronavirus was spreading in Asia, the Londoners thought it was a disease affecting Asians in a “faraway land of the East where a dragon lived”. They thought if “Londoners like us” did what “they” did and wore a mask on the commute to work and back, it would seem as if “Londoners like us” were also in a state of panic. Wouldn’t we then become the same as “them Hong Kongers”? No way. Because Hong Kong is a former colony. 

Despite the UK Prime Minister making an urgent appeal to the people not to go to bars, run marathons or attend concerts, Londoners — especially the young white-collar professionals — would not listen.

They felt that the London lifestyle is what many people around the world aspire to. They thought there was no need to close their shops, let alone be locked down.

Pedestrians in masks walk along Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the backgroud, in a quiet central London on 25 March 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)
Pedestrians in masks walk along Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background, in a quiet central London on 25 March 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

Yet in English, the words “panic” and “pandemic” have the same root. One would remember that before the 17th century, the UK and Europe were hit by the great plague. The definition of “panic” is an uncontrollable fear or anxiety triggered by a sudden occurrence that often results in irrational behaviour.

It is precisely due to such shallow hypocrisy of the Western petty bourgeoisie centred in London and New York that the UK and the US have suffered huge losses and are now in great distress.

People in the UK and the US, mainly in the cities of London and New York, laughed at the panic-buying of toilet paper and masks in Hong Kong and mainland China. They felt that this was what Asian panic looked like: collective fear, irrational behaviour, and an absolutely unnecessary wiping out of supermarket supplies.

Yet the petty bourgeoisie of these two cities profess to uphold what they call “liberalism”. Liberalism promotes equality and expressly rejects racial discrimination. 

But here we find a blindspot of the Londoners, New Yorkers, Western intellectuals and petty bourgeoisie: verbally, they are not allowed to say “Covid-19 originated from China”. Otherwise, people around them would label them as supporters of US President Donald Trump. But in their hearts, their belief in Western superiority breeds an arrogance in them, convincing them that this sort of coronavirus only spreads in the land of the yellow-skinned and will not become more serious than the influenza.

It is precisely due to such shallow hypocrisy of the Western petty bourgeoisie centred in London and New York that the UK and the US have suffered huge losses and are now in great distress. They have plunged into total chaos and become as afraid of death as the Asians. 

A message to "Resist" is seen in the windows of an apartment building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on 25 March 2020 in New York. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)
A message to "Resist" is seen in the windows of an apartment building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on 25 March 2020 in New York. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

When they laugh at or give funny looks to mask-clad Asians walking about the city, they forget about the plague that hit the Mongols some 700 years ago — a plague that also hit Western civilisation head on following the Renaissance. According to the political ideology of liberalism, liberal intellectuals have this to say at the mention of the historical fact that “the Mongols were the ones who brought the plague to Europe”: associating the “Black Death” with “the Mongols” is akin to associating the “virus” with “the Chinese” — both are politically incorrect taboos. 

In the end, London and New York are facing the same fate as Wuhan — ruin.

A long period of “incorrectness” and “taboos” has led Western countries that revolve around the petty bourgeoisie of the two cities to completely let down their guards against viruses and plagues originating from China or other third world countries.

They would rather continue gathering in bars with a beer bottle in their hand while watching the television and jeering at the American president, saying that he should not have linked the words “Chinese” and “virus” as it was unfair to China, and cursing him to lose the next election — than to wear a mask, stay at home, and come to terms with a lockdown, in the case of London. The reason is not necessarily because they are afraid of hurting the country’s GDP. There is only one reason: they believe that their fearless all-tolerating metropolitan lifestyle is very cool.

In the end, London and New York are facing the same fate as Wuhan — ruin. This is retribution for the great hypocrisy of “globalisation”. 

*This translation has kept to Chip Tsao's use of "武肺" in the original Chinese text.

This article was first published in Chinese on CUP media as "当伦敦纽约大都会自恋人格遇上武肺".  

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