23 December 2010

We can all benefit from more Motherlanders?!

Christmas is around the corner! Apart from the horde of Christmas shoppers, who are mostly forced to splash out because of the god-knows-who invented tradition of gifts exchange at Christmas parties, and the mostly ridiculous decorations in shopping malls that attract another horde of "professional" photographers, what do you see most on the streets of this Hi-Tech Village around December?


The authoritative English newspaper of this Village, the great South China Morning Post, puked up an secondary school standard composition insightful editorial last week. Yes, we can all benefit from more Motherlanders! Or, could we? While you're reading this, ask the first person you see around if he/she feels any benefit from having more visitors from the Motherland. Hell yeah, they spend on average HK$6,511 per trip, but where the hell has the money gone? Not in our pockets, for fuck's sake. The retail and catering industries might have benefit from the increase of Motherlanders, but who's been moaning about the need of paying a minimum wage that is going to kill them all? It's simple maths, baby: X no. of Motherlanders = X times of HK$6,511; bosses could have increased X times of HK$6,511 minus operational cost minus profit amount of wage to their staff, but fuck no, they couldn't even pay HK$32 per hour. Gone are the benefit Motherlanders brought to the black hole.

Of course, the editor of SCMP was not so naive in thinking that only the Villagers are taking advantage of the Motherlanders. The editor thought the Motherlanders are taking something home, too. According to SCMP, Motherlanders can learn how we express our opinions freely and maintain a free flow of information. That's right. Motherlanders come all the way here to learn our freedom and study our socio-political culture. They come here to participate in our social activities and take part in the debates at our City Forum. They're not at all spending 18 hours a day buying jewellery, watches, branded clothes, and handbags. Those Mandarin-speaking people flocking to the shops of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex everyday are our fucking illusions. I am sure there're more things Motherlanders can learn from us; like how good we are at recycling! Just check out the picture I took the other day around Tsim Sha Tsui, the popular Motherlander spot...

What would happen if the Big Bro decided to shut down the border and stop Motherlanders from coming over? The end of this Village? I thought about this for a long, long time...

The announcements on the MTR would be in English and Cantonese only, i.e. shorter ear-bleeder at stations.

No more "hot money", more affordable flats.

No more confused Motherlanders blocking your way with their 30 bags of "freedom of expression" they bought home.

30,000 less babies per year born to Motherland women in the Village; MUCH shorter queue and more options for local mothers at hospital.

You could speak Cantonese and expected to be served in shops.

Lots of mega shopping malls filled with luxury brand shops would be closed down. More normal, no bullshit spots for local Villagers to go and have fun.

We can close Disneyland down for good, as kids can get very angry there.

No more ridiculous signs telling you what is queue jumping needed.

No more pooping in shopping mall. No more peeing on trains.

Benches could be properly used.

Wanchai would be ours again.

For now, enjoy your holiday shopping and have a very happy Christmas with your brotherly Motherlanders!

15 December 2010

Should We Read?

How seriously should we take books? The parents of Hong Kong are perhaps the ones who might be able to provide a proper response to this question. Rather than manifesting our awareness of the dangers of books, they assure us that reading must necessarily cultivate our intellectual and emotional demands and instead urge us to adopt a fetishistically reverent attitude to their literary merits. Prompted by this literary fervour, many children are therefore obliged to surrender to the reading lists carefully formulated by their parents so they may obtain a wider vision of the world to accomplish a range of intellectual endeavours.

For many devoted readers, the benefits of reading cannot be more obvious. In the face of financial assault, political disgrace, and romantic pessimism, our wretched souls are likely to assume a melancholy air and contemplate the inherent frustrating experience of life. Disconsolate, books invite us to abstract all our surroundings and take refuge in a more agreeable world, tempering our anxieties that are caused by the reality. The other benefit of reading, and a more crucial one, is that it makes allowance for our critical analysis, and thereby makes way for us to develop our intellectual faculties of what we feel, even when it means other writers help us to do so. Instead of taking whom we admire as oracle, we should consider these writers milestones of our own thoughts, through distilling their wisdom, remedy and refine the significant parts of ourselves.

But books often cause their readers a few problems. Not only we often mistakenly regard our favourite writers as being lucid on almost all topics, but it's also because they might silence us. If good writers might influence us in a negative way, it is because their writings contain bits and pieces that we don't yet know how to articulate. A survey of Shakespeare's works, through the insights into human nature that are beautifully suggested in the balanced phrases, may strike us with awe, but it's maddening in the way we are unable to command our minds with fluidity to articulate our pens across a blank sheet of paper to state precisely what we feel. The works of a fine prose stylist detonates a too great potential to rival against even the most insatiable desire to write.

Another problem is idolisation. When we encounter a beautifully written work, it is perhaps not the case that we might idolise the writer, but, rather, the objects the writer so skilfully describes. Upon reading Gombrich's "The Story of Art", though one may learn how to appreciate certain works of art more properly, behind its forceful description of works of art lies the implicit tendency to savour what Gombrich aligns with artistic merits, harbouring within us an appreciation of what is depicted in the pictures rather than the artistic quality of the pictures. We are forced to reconcile an intended artistic reverence with a neglect of what constitutes the essence of the works of art, hence liable to suffer the rigid inability to appreciate what is ignored by Gombrich.

To read too much is therefore to paralyse our intellectual temper with literary idolatry and deny us our right to individuality to voice out what we value. It forgoes a family of life-enhancing ideas which can only arise through the rigours of critical analysis and invites a sense of authoritarianism to which we consistently surrender. It discolours the flexibility and complexity of the human mind to which our imaginative vision is anchored. Moreover, reading is a response to anxiety and unhappiness. To encourage the habit of reading is to further acknowledge one is in a state of unhappiness, frustrated at our inability to translate and adapt ourselves to the realistic incarnation of what is desirable.

For those who think reading is necessarily a good thing, I should strongly argue for the opposite, that reading too much, or even reading itself, may actually close our minds to what is intelligent. Not only parents should stop encouraging their children to read, we should also acknowledge that Hong Kong is one of the happiest places to live in, because most people scarcely have the need to read.


29 November 2010

Why be snobby?

Recently, I came across a rather vile personality that came in an appropriately vile package. This person puzzled me so much by her bitchy behaviour that I was left wondering why people are the way they are.

I tend to believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the things they do and say, so that it's quite easy to see through a person even if their mouths are saying otherwise. For example, bullies need to push others down to feel good about themselves, fat people use humour to compensate for their large sizes, and extremely vain women use a lot of makeup and products because they are insecure about their looks, etc.

But the person I met, who was lacking quite a lot in the looks department I'm afraid, did not try to make up for her poor appearance by being nice or funny. Instead, she was bitchy, rude, negative and whiny. And not just that, it seemed like she had a personal hatred aimed directly at me, for whatever reason I have no idea.

Still, I just don't understand why people would choose to be mean or snobby as opposed to nice and friendly. As a fair person, I don't mind if this attitude comes in a nice package (ie. hot hunk or sexy babe), but if you're a fat, tattooed and pimpled troll with sloppy cleavage hanging out of what looks like a thrift store floral dress... just save it, would ya?

Read all the fun stuff at Miss Fong in Hong Kong.

26 November 2010

Western Imports

The Chinese are probably responsible for more significant inventions in human history than any other group of people. But during the last 50 years, the economic success of Taiwan, Hong Kong and now China has depended mainly on adopting Western technology, and making products cheaper than they could be made in countries that value human life. But with all these Western imports, there is bound to be some confusion about exactly how they are meant to be used.

Car horns: These are safety devices designed to warn pedestrians or other drivers who can't see your car that they need to pay attention to it. They are not devices designed to let everyone within earshot know that you are frustrated and having a temper tantrum in your taxi because traffic isn't moving as fast as you would like.

Eyeglass frames: These are designed to hold corrective lenses in front of your eyeballs. I wish I could have sat in on the brainstorming session where some eyeglass frame manufacturing executives decided that they could increase sales by tapping into the seemingly unreachable market of people who have perfect vision and don't wear sunglasses.

Margherita pizza: Contrary to common usage in the Village, this is not just a fancy Italian-sounding way of saying "cheese pizza." The word margherita signifies a pizza that is white, green and red (like the colors of the Italian flag). The pizza must have tomatoes (no, tomato sauce doesn't count), fresh basil (no, oregano doesn't count) and mozzarella cheese (no, cheese made from vegetable oil doesn't count). A couple months ago, I ordered a margherita pizza at Pizza Express, and they gave me a plain cheese pizza. When I told them that I ordered the margherita, they told me that the plain cheese pizza they put in front of me was what they called a margherita, and that the pizza I was describing was what they called a "buffalita." It told them that this word has a meaning, and that deciding it means something else is confusing. So then I asked for the buffalita instead, forcing them to make two pizzas for me while only paying for one. I'm happy to report that the last time I visited Pizza Express, their margherita pizza had a picture of an actual margherita pizza, I ordered it, and it was pretty damn good.

Freedom of speech: Recently I learned that citizens of People's Republic of China (let's not get into what the word Republic means) enjoy freedom of speech. Apparently, Big Beijing doesn't understand that having the freedom to say whatever you want, as long as the government approves of it, is the exact opposite of freedom of speech. Here in the libertine Hi-Tech Village, citizens actually do enjoy rather robust freedoms of speech and the press, but they don't seem to understand what those rights mean or what the purpose of those rights are. I've had a couple conversations with Villagers where they asserted their "freedom of speech" against me. This assertion was triggered by the fact that they were saying something I thought was ridiculous or offensive, and I had told them that I disagreed. Freedom of speech does not entail a right to say bullshit and not get called out on it. It does entail a right to say bullshit and not be censored or punished by the authorities. The purpose of freedom of speech is to allow for a robust debate, not to save face and therefore stifle debate. Perhaps this particular Western import simply doesn't mesh with Chinese culture very well.

I know this misuse of imported ideas goes both ways. So let me first apologize for what my country has done to "Chinese food," in addition to many other Eastern imports. I invite our cosmopolitan readers to share their experiences with the misuse of Chinese culture in the West.  The Pub is one place in this Village where freedom of speech is respected and understood.

25 November 2010

Why Self-Help Books Should Be Useful

There is no more ridiculed genre than the self-help book. Yet far too many turn to this genre to escape from bureaucracy and the chatter of societies. It always surprises me when people, especially women, crowd the two narrow corridors with awe expressions to learn how to be successful or millionaire with a handful of tips. If self-help book seems to offer consolations of our miserable lives, it is perhaps because it wishes to pin our hopes firmly on the sentiment of fierce optimism. Rather than telling us how the world actually operates, it tends to depict the world as totally just and equal, rendering it completely meritocratic.

Whatever shortcomings self-help books may have, though novels and literature may offer a better solution to human condition, to undermine the value of self-help book is to downplay its traditional role in literary history in contribution to our wellbeing. Much of the history of this genre spent its gloriest history analysing aspects of human psychology and aiming to enrich our lives through practical advice on the art of living such as friendship, romantic love, and diet instead of how we might boost up our self-esteem . The prestige of self-help books owed its success to its practitioners who were largely made up of philosophers and essayists, whose writings seduce us to bear a philosophical mind to even the most trivial details of our everyday life, through sensitising our awareness of the habitual, attuning our minds to pick up certain details that we are previously ignorant of.

Many of these writers were Stoic thinkers. Philosophers ranging from Epicurus and Seneca, Cicero to Marcus Aurelius, wrote a great deal of self-help books almost on every topic, offering practical advice to help us deal with death, the rejections of our lovers, and how to be happy without being rich. Instead of telling us how we might save up our money and invest in stock market, their advice went to the very core of human nature, urging us to perfect the art of going with the flow even when what was before us was as hard to swallow as, to use Arthur Schopenhauer's phrase, a toad.

This is precisely the bent of thinking that underlay the prominence of traditional self-help books. Not only they ventured to portray the world as it is, but also convinced us to be lightened by life's absurdities, adapting to the change rather than resisting it. But this is no optimism. Rather, it suggests pessimism, refuting the grave assumption that we will be cheered up when we are told all is well, and instead drawing us to the thought that we should never expect anything to go well, so we may restore the tranquility of our mind.

If the tradition of self-help books is deliberately divorced from philosophy, then perhaps philosophers are largely to blame, for they are no longer concerned with how to live happily, but, rather, how to get facts and concepts right. The greatest enemy of this genre may be thought as analytical philosophy, whose main objectives are clarification of concepts and logical consistency which seem almost totally irrelevant to our everyday experience however much we need logic to distinguish good arguments from the bad ones. Modern philosophy is entirely lacking its traditional vigour to improve our wellbeing.

Unfortunately, our steering away from analytical philosophy is not enough. The crucial danger of modern philosophy is that many philosophers suffer from the rigid inability to write beautifully. If we survey the history of philosophy, most of the philosophers, aside from the ancients, are terrible writers. Their inability lies not in being unable to articulate their ideas clearly, but, rather, in taking on a wrong perspective of how the human mind operates. The fact is the human mind needs to be seduced and entertained. Instead of employing the art of writing in merely a logical, coherent manner, they should pay more attention to plotting, a characteristic to which novels and literature are anchored.

Therefore, not only philosophy should resume its importance in self-help books, philosophers should also relearn to recast our moral confusions and griefs and collapse an old wisdom into beautiful, communal sentences in order to appeal to the lay audience. I wish to imagine one day where philosophers write much less for philosophy journals and fill their own writings without the slightest trace of jargons, where the self-help sections in any franchise bookshops whose bookshelves will be filled with volumes of Stoic writings, the entire collection of Alain de Botton's popular philosophy, and Bertrand Russell's essays instead of books with lurid covers and images of optimistic-looking faces that tend to falsely do away our anxieties and worries. Because, as the British philosopher John Stuart Mill put it so well, "ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so."


22 November 2010

On Novels and Literature

If we walk into any franchise book shops nowadays, books may be distinguished into two broad categories: self-help and finance. The former tend to bear optimistic titles that supposedly help us to cope with our existence, hovering between "How To Boost Up Your Self-Esteem" and "How To Awaken The Giant Within Yourself". While the latter may offer descriptive details of what the financial reality might be like, it seeks to blend itself with our self-help obsession, offering a lucid account of the possibility of economic happiness, rendering realistic our dream of making a fortune from the stock market.

But it wasn't always like this. Much of our literary history has rested its glory on the genre of novels and literature. Classics ranging from Shakespeare's and Oscar Wilde's to Harry Potter and Twilight, it seems rather hard for us to neglect their importance to our wellbeing. But why would novels and literature start to lack their appeal? Do self-help and finance books help us make some serious improvement of the quality of life so we may legitimately ignore the lessons novels and literature have to offer?

If self-help and finance books are the guidance of how to live, it is perhaps because these genres supposedly aim to seduce us to get something practical out of them and help us improve our lives in a certain way. But as we contemplate pages of practical advice in our beds, sadness might have been returned, for not only they are filled with illusions of what life actually is, they also go on to paralyse our imagination of possible happiness. The drawback of self-help books lies in their attempt to explicitly temper our worries and anxieties with a sense of primordial optimism, while subjugating our accurate views on life, they tend to falsely describe the world as one full of opportunities rather than one that is inherently depressing.

If we are to find a way to console ourselves in the midst of economic hardships and political disgrace, yet self-help books are unable to recast an old truth or wisdom into passable communal sentences, then perhaps we may need to turn to novels and literature in order to remind ourselves of how we should live. One valuable lesson from novels and literature is that they tend to mirror our experience. Rather than making false additions to an already muddied picture of life, their stories are generally founded on our everyday experience, harbouring in us a sense of belonging. But what's so special about mirroring our experience?

If mirroring our experience is essential to helping us to cope with our existence, it is because it sensitises our awareness of what we all have experience with. It allows us to pay attention to the minutest details what we may easily neglect. Upon reading a romantic novel, while we all may have experience falling in love, it transforms itself into a prism and forces us to adapt its content to our experience, allowing us to take on a different perspective that we may be previously ignorant of. It stretches to an ability to describe our emotions and our psychological make-up far better that we do. It guides our mind to pick up certain signals that initially bypasses our consciousness, and from that, cultivating our emotional sensibility and generating an entirely new experience of what we are familiar with.

What's more is that it allows us to understand experience that is not our own. While most of us tend to work in offices as ordinary white collars, seldom we are detectives, murderers, spies, and the like. Novels and literature present before us professions we are unlikely to have experience with and tell us what the world is like from their perspectives. Hence the business of novelists is also to enlarge our sympathy. They engage us into an experience we are unfamiliar with and ward off our bias and prejudice that might have been arisen through our conceptions of these professions as outsiders. This is also precisely one of the most admirable values of democracy. The virtue of tolerance lies not in respecting the differences in ideas and opinions, but, rather, in trying to understand them, through discussions and debates. How easy novels and literature may prompt us to understand others.

The limits of the modern form of self-help and finance books stem from an incompetence to portray our lives accurately and offer relevant insights to improve our wellbeing. In our current moral confusions, novels and literature are crying out to resume their importance.


15 November 2010

On Seduction and Modesty

Becoming teen models may be considered the triumph of feminism. As we glance through the gossip magazines, we should bear in mind that this profession offers substantial female confidence. Instead of regarding their bodies as areas of potential shame, women are finally able to display their physical candour and identities through various styles of bikinis and lingerie, mitigating the tension of the equality between men and women. However equal they may get, feminism is in violation of the fundamental law of seduction, forcing us to give away a vital ingredient of love, namely, romance.

Seduction is an art that is never easy to master. The irony is that it seems easiest to seduce those we are least attracted to instead of the ones we actually like, because the ones we desire elicit in us a sense of inferiority as compared to the perfections we have located in our beloved. What makes seduction difficult is that it lies not in revealing our character as a whole, far from offering a sense of intimacy, it is founded on the display of our finest qualities, because the desirable versions of ourselves are often not ours to summon at will. But how may we carefully administer the correct dosage of our admirable virtues? How can we ever be sure this or that virtue may appeal to our beloved?

The usual solution, and often an effective one, is to be modest. But as long as modesty stems from our crippling sense of inferiority, we often appear to be extremely reserved, and on some occasion, have the need to lie. Hence the experience of seduction is inevitably bound up with that of an actor. It’s because we need to take on a self that is not entirely our own in order to seduce the angelic face we happen to be dining with. All of a sudden, we are stripped of a sense of individuality and reminded of the anthropological wisdom that we are all social animals, that our existence is critically dependent on the others.

But what does it mean to be modest? One common answer often comes from fashion. But it is often an ambiguous one. The traditional view of how to modestly dress aims to unearth the desirable parts of skin textures yet cover some of the most intimate parts to assure masculine blindness until one is, perhaps, granted intimate access to one of the most sensitive and softest tissues among our sensory organs. To be modest is therefore to temper our modern need to be nude. The evolution of fashion, however, suggests there is no proper distinction between nudity and modesty today. What is modest in women's fashion constantly involves with the active participation of a desirable form of nudity. Wearing bikinis and lingerie get on fashion runways as much as those who conform to the traditional dressing code.

Of course, modesty suggests far more than that. Aside from fashion, we may also need to be modest in our manners and behaviours. As for a man, besides a constant need to display his wit and humour, he may need to suppress his usual tendency to swear and engage into conversations regarding pornography and a rather superficial appreciation of feminine physical beauty, and instead be drawn to offer fine knowledge of various types of wine and the like. Whilst for a woman, she may refrain from being far too outspoken, though occasionally may be permitted to ventilate bits and pieces of her intelligence, and suggesting a belief in the openness in sex. How could one be oblivious to the fact that men are highly deluded by the concept of virginity.

This leaves no room for modern teens in Hong Kong who aspire to spend their nights in bed as often as eating meals, change partners as often as they change underwear, and speak with an ardour as vulgarly as those from the working class. The current trend of acclaiming feminine identity through becoming teen models therefore risks harbouring an opposite sentiment that does away the romantic conception of love and inspiring an unfair neglect of the merits of being reserved and modest. Not only it ignores the vital role seduction has to play before embarking on a romantic journey, it also renders love impossible, because many are seduced just because of the absurdly reserved behaviours mentioned. Small wonder why Hong Kong is a loveless city, let alone the fact of it being unromantic.

Perhaps it’s time to readjust the values advocated by feminism. The limits of feminism make a case for the impossibility of romantic love and seek to destroy some of the best qualities possessed solely by women. One of the best parts of civilisation lies not in promoting the equality of both sexes, but instead in how to express their inequality in a desirable, democratic way.


08 November 2010

Please give me a prison break, would you?

One night I was watching a new Government ad whose ending is so familiar that I thought it was a re-run of the old ones.

Employees' Compensation Insurance Protects Employees and Employers

So I searched the website of the government’s mouthpiece and happened to find its many brothers.

Penalty on wage offences

No flytipping

Anti-illicit Cigarettes

Oh yeah. Whenever our Government wants to warn us about what is illegal, they think showing us an actor turning into an inmate is frightening enough. And this thinking happened to sweep across different departments in our Village. They are so confident of this brainwashing that they keep repeating it all the time. Fact is, we grew numb to such drama already and treat it as a washroom break in between our favourite TV series.

I just wonder, do they outsource their marketing tasks to the same uncreative advertising agency because it’s cheap enough? Or they, as clients, keep killing their contractors’ creativity because they want their ads to be as literal (reads boring) as possible?

I never blame our TV channels for their lack of ground-breaking works because they’re free and mainly for people of no other entertainment choice (i.e. children and desperate housewives). But for government ads, I pay my tax money for them. Don’t I deserve some value for money?

I miss the Lap Sap Chung (Litter Bug) in our old Clean Hong Kong government ad.
It appeared belore Shrek and Monster Inc. So original!

25 October 2010

On Memory

It's always tempting to lay your eyes on Central in the morning. A trip to the Starbucks coffee may offer us the best scenario for sight-seeing. In any morning on the weekdays, we may be in solemn awe of the landscape of Central being carpeted by a flock of black suits, rushing into Starbucks Coffee so they may rejuvenate themselves for a long day of work. The endorsement of Central values cannot be more obvious. The adoption of the American middle class lifestyle hints at a refusal of local values, which hardly warrants a restaurant of local flavour anything beyond ordinary pedestrian appraisal.

If drinking Starbucks Coffee is a vital ingredient for Central values, it is perhaps because a paper or plastic cup that carries a familiar green logo suggests a vision of more international tone. Rather than straying into a local restaurant for a ham and egg sandwich along with a cup of coffee blended in a style of local flavour, a cup of Starbucks may actually align us with an upper level in the pyramid of social hierarchy. Small wonder why Hong Kong is an international city.

However much Starbucks coffee we may drink, what is interesting is the fact that our desire for a cup of Starbucks stems not from our tendency to cherish work values, but, rather, from our romantic fantasy to centre our values rooted in a traditional American middle class routine. Behind the Starbucks drinking ritual hardly suggests our effort to reconcile the kind of happiness typical of the bourgeois outlook with financial necessity, rendering the surface more superficial than it seems. A sip of Starbucks in the morning may offer solutions for our fallible souls, for it carries the correct dosage of our missing virtues that are only deemed discoverable in the West.

This is, perhaps, precisely the reason why such scenario provokes a feeling of distance. But everywhere is like this in Hong Kong nowadays. While many may acknowledge the notion of historical value, but hardly there is anyone who offers sympathy for sentimental value. We may learn how our society and identity are formed by the past and traditions in order to acquire a sense of belonging and community. Our government may venture to do away the Tsim Sha Tsui Bus Stop and deprecate anything of sentimental value, yet too seldom they realise the merits of most buildings in Hong Kong lie not in their historical value, but, rather, sentimental value. Having breakfast at a restaurant of local flavour may not summon back a range of old yet valuable traditions, but the fact that being sat there might invite us to attend to a collection of life-enhancing thoughts in order to acquire a sense of the self.

What originally furnishes our sense of belonging and community is not merely architectural styles that offer aesthetic relief which reminds us of the past, it is also the resemblance of style and taste that triggers our bondage to what we may call a Proustian moment. Promoting ourselves to remember something often leads to an undesirable result. It often requires the charity of a friend's patience for us to utter the bits and pieces that seem to stretch too far to recall at all. True memory is different. It can only be experienced only accidentally and occasionally. Instead of being forced on us by another intrusive question of a friend, our memories might have only been returned to us only by an incidental encounter of a similarly constructed fried rice six years later in a restaurant.

The key to harbour our sense of belonging is whether that particular restaurant or this particular street can grant us access to certain emotional textures that only memory can attend us to. The problem of Hong Kong is that the landscape and what constitutes its soul fluctuate too much. Only through memory, our origin of birth may not be muddied up to a point where soul-searching is impossible.

Both physical and metal landscape of Hong Kong fails to recover a distinctive sense of community, belonging, and continuity. It deprives us of an essential medium to express our need for communication and commemoration, an attachment which can only be registered through memory, which only our will can transubstantiate through a material medium. Not until too long, we may no longer be able to tell others who we actually are nor we can remind ourselves of it.


22 October 2010

Reverse Culture Shock

I recently returned from a visit to my economically distressed homeland. After 1 year in the Hi-Tech Village, some reverse culture shock was inevitable. Some quick observations:

1. Nobody's working, anywhere! Besides all the obscenely obese people, this was the first thing I noticed. On arrival in the airport in Chicago, I was blown away by the fact that there are only 2 people behind the service counters, trying frantically to do the job that would be done by 20 people in HK. Same thing in grocery stores: with all the automated checkout and various other ways to save money by reducing payroll, grocery stores have vastly fewer employees per square meter than they do in HK. Restaurants are perhaps the most noticeable example of this: in the US, there will be one or two servers working their asses off constantly making sure that their 20 tables are happy, refilling water glasses without being asked and just generally paying attention to their customers. In HK, the ratio is reversed: 20 servers are seemingly dedicated to each table, yet they still manage not to notice when a customer sits down and are completely oblivious to the needs of the people it is supposedly their job to attend to. I've heard that the ridiculous number of people employed in the service industry is the result of tax incentives the HK government gives for hiring more workers, yet Obama passed several such incentives as part of the stimulus, and still US businesses would rather work their employees to the bone than hire even one more.

2. People can see me! Yea! I know it sounds strange, but outside of the Chinese world, people pay attention to the existence of others. I had forgotten how much I missed that.

3. Bars and restaurants are comfortable. In the Hi-Tech village, the decor in bars and restaurants is designed to impress customers to the point of making them feel inadequate, not make them comfortable. Upon visiting some of my favorite restaurants in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, the contrast reminded me just how uncomfortable restaurants, and particularly bars, are in this Village. In these neighborhood restaurants, the lighting is non-blinding, the seats are comfy, and the vibe is generally bohemian. I spent my first few months in HK looking for the bohemian side of the city, and eventually gave up and moved to Lamma. There is no bohemian Hong Kong: perhaps that's why Chinese people can't walk past the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma without taking millions of pictures, they've just never seen a restaurant that actually tries to make it's customers comfortable rather than intimidate them with expensive decor (once inside the Bookworm, the totally inattentive service will quickly make them feel at home again).

In HK, space is expensive and people are cheap. In the USA, people are expensive (particularly due to insane health care costs), and space is cheap.

After three weeks in the good old US of A, I'm well rested, and somewhat recovered from the hostile environment I had grown accustomed to. In three weeks, I got soft (in the brain and in the belly). Time to build up my urban calluses again.

14 October 2010

What do we care?

Yesterday, instead of chatting nonsense with Henry on msn or clearing the mounting paperwork on my desk, I was busy watching the rescue of Chilean miners on my computer screen, fighting back tears to keep my makeup in place.

I didn’t even care about whether Bow Tie is going to help me secure a flat in his Policy Address, nor whether Big Beijing will resume its tie with Japan. They immedidately became irrelevent.

I was obsessed with the names and individual stories of each of the 33 miners, trapped underground for more than two months. I was looking forward to each face emerging from the rescue capsule, its simile and kissing to its owner’s woman, then children and relatives.

Because it’s all about the survival of unfortunate individuals and caring the world about it is all about humanity.

If the miners had been born in our Motherland, they would be buried alive like nobody. Reports and images of rescue attempt and grieving relatives would be brutally restricted by the authority. Instead of being overwhelmed with joy of seeing the miners alive, I would grew numb to another appeal for donations to help the widows and orphans.

So when I tried to read the local newspapers and saw nothing about the rescue on the front page, not like their counterparts from the US and the UK, I was devastated. Do we actually shut ourselves up from the outside world and just care about ourselves and celebrity gossips? The whole world is watching somewhere else. The horizons of our villagers’ mind is driving me insane.

13 October 2010

Gym blabber gets clobbered

There are some people in this Village that simply deserve a beating. But when you can't really throw a punch and/or afford to get thrown in jail for physical assault (thus ruining your squeaky clean image), you can always imagine...

Read all the fun stuff at Miss Fong in Hong Kong.

11 October 2010

The Herd Instinct Revisited

The criticisms of the herd instinct might appear so common that they start to sound rather cliche nowadays. Though we are often reminded how it may strip us of our true identities, we still tend to be reluctant to detach ourselves from the bondage to the masses and establish our "i-confirmation". If the mass values are cordoned off questions, it is because they are deemed too implausible to be the targets of scrutiny. To start doubting the commonly accepted beliefs is to risk overthrowing the indisputable fact that great minds are scarce, that we are unlikely to be the pioneers of previously unknown truths.

Perhaps our tendency to follow the flock lies in the anthropological fact that we are all social animals. Rather than exaggerating the gravity of free will, our existence is actually critically dependent upon the existence of others. We can only be intelligent if others possess the same level of reasoning abilities. We can only be humorous if others are funny enough to get our humours. Small wonder why Aristotle remarked that friendship is essential to wellbeing.

However, humans are no machines. How seldom we may prefer to be obedient drones rather than creative originals. But how then might we solve the conflicts between the herd instinct and individuality? How might we discover our own identities if we are continuously forced to burden ourselves with the heaviness of inhabiting the same mentality? Is it impossible to reconcile mass values with our unique selves?

Mass values, at one level, might be easily regarded as deluded versions of truth, yet at another level they reveal something more than meets the eye. Mass values may be considered in the same light as fashion or wearing make-up. The quest to search for a decent pair of high heel shoes or a certain kind of mascara from Bobbi Brown provokes our philosophical sentiment to understand who we are. If we have a desire to understand ourselves, it is perhaps because identity is an inherently complicated, obscure notion, that one can bear various identities in different stages of life. Why do we have different identities? It's because we constantly succumb to new experience and are forced to harbour new visions about ourselves. Confused, we are therefore liable to adopt the suggestions forcefully made in the clothes and cosmetic section of a magazine to fit in a socially recognisable form. Similarly, the herd instinct works in the same mechanism. Unsure who we are, we need to surrender to the masses and begin our process of soul-searching.

Though I might have been charitable to the herd instinct, we should not deduce from my previous line of argument that the accusation against the flock is largely undeserved. To acknowledge the merits of the masses is not to legitimately consign them to respectability. Whatever sympathy we may have for the masses, it seems far from being inaccurate to generalise the herd between two acerbic notions commonly associated with them, namely, stupidity and ignorance. If stupidity and ignorance are the hallmark of social eminence, how might we tender the mass values as something valuable to justify the lifelong search for our souls?

The solution perhaps lies not in struggling to break free from the herd, but rather, in educating the masses. Much of the criticism has been focused on the individual self, but hardly there's any criticism focusing on the masses as a whole. What is valuable in educating the masses is that there are values perhaps the entire human race should hold dear to: democracy, science, emotional sensibilities etc. However democratic we may get, even in the most democratic society, there are never enough democratic participations, most notably, voting. To refuse to vote is to refuse to participate in the promotion of common wellbeing. Who could disagree freedom is desirable? Who could disagree science is the most reliable agent to civilisation? Perhaps only the exceptional few seem to suggest the otherwise.

The herd instinct might not muddy our identities as it tends to suggest. But the major criticisms against the flock push us into a baneful direction where we might hardly progress. What's important is the education of the masses instead of the other way round. How many years before the mass values might actually become praiseworthy?


05 October 2010

Things I Hate about Central

After two years of working in Central, my colleague suddenly told me, “I don’t fancy working in Central. It’s such a pretentious place!”

I have been blinded by my vanity of being a Central OL (my first job was in Kwun Tong industrial district, one of the poorest areas in Hong Kong) that I never thought of criticizing our CBD. Now I come up with the following grievances.

Many gentleman here (most believed to be bankers) are too conscious of themselves. They seem to have rehearsed their body language just because winners are supposed to behave this way. I especially don’t like the way they turn their heads back and forth, left and right a thousand times whenever they’re queuing, waiting or chatting with someone else. Is it a gesture to spot out their business partners right away or is it just subtle ogling? I find it pretty annoying especially when I’m waiting behind them. Won’t they just look at the front?

I hate shopping at beauty counters in Central as well. The salespeople are only warm to customers who speak in Putonghua or some tai tais who can no longer turn back the clock but are very willing to spend in the hope of doing so. If you speak Cantonese and can only afford a $720 jar of moisture cream, you can never make it to the cashier as the staff is always busy with someone more valued.
Food is a hundred times more expensive in Central. I’m not talking about luxurious food like foie gras or white truffles. I’m just talking about humble food like bread. It is usually served cold in the baskets and tastes like cardboard. However, it is sold 3 to 10 times more expensive than fresh bread from bakeries elsewhere, just because the bread is labeled “organic” or “whole grain”. Does it make Central people do better in the economy?

There are also mysterious people lurking around, asking for money. The Lehman Brothers victims (they ask the banks, not me), orange monks, grey nuns, street artists and worst of all, the charities. Most of the charity people pressured you into donating when you are about to cross the road. They make you look bad in the street when you refuse. Some are young chaps who try very hard to charm you into donating (“Don’t you think you should at least say hello to me?”). I reject them not because I’m particularly cold-blooded, but because I don’t know anything about the organizations they’re representing. Besides, I donate through PayPal.

Sometimes, I wonder if Central represents the values all Hongkies should go for or its value system has already been isolated from that of the Hongkies. The lack of sense of belongings often bothers my heart.

04 October 2010

On Love At First Sight

Whatever consumerist ethics might be vigorously practised by modern women in Hong Kong, they seem far from being able to escape from the customary female logic- that we should never fall for logical factors such as money and physical appearance. The whole language of love has been corrupted by the sound assumption that our falling in love is based upon a mixture of ignorance and desire, rendering us liable to make false additions to an already muddied notion of self. If we should never fall for first glance, it is perhaps because the reality is always in the habit of disappointing us. A partner with an angelic face who supposedly possesses the ability to read Oscar Wilde's works may end up pinning her interests firmly on an issue of Cosmopolitan, or worse, FACE, and a Hermes handbag.

Hence, in the mature account of love, before we are granted legitimately the right to fall in love, we are apt to investigate in depth about what opinions our partners may hold regarding science, politics, morality, and even daily habits. Instead of strictly following the traditional concept of how two sexes might align together, which is that of money and social status, we should look for in our partners logically irreducible elements: intelligence, emotional sensitivity, talents in the arts and crafts etc. In short, the cliché concept of "inner beauty". How easy a natural archaic impulse might be transformed into an artificially designed empirical notion.

If maturity indicates the quality of truth, then we might be forcefully led to abandon the inherently presumed distinctive differences between men and women, for men are liable to surrender to a superficial romantic logic easily triggered by the invitations of the appreciation body forms, make-up, fashion, and facial symmetry. We are forced to re-evaluate the politically incorrect gender stereotypes: in the mature account of love, women paradoxically analyse their romantic experience according to reason, while men submit their thinking to intuition, emotions, and impulsive desire. Why is it paradoxical? It's because when dealing with other issues in life, these two sexes tend to be consigned to exactly opposite categories. The feminists might have been in the right.

However, our instinctive curiosity of who our partners are poses a threatening problem. If the mature account of love is threatening, it is because understanding too much destroys romantic fantasy. Perhaps the easiest people to fall in love are those whom we know nothing. Our attraction for our beloved ones stems not from our constant intimacy with them, but rather, our lack of understanding of them. People who bear angelic faces tend to be able to carefully administer doses of illusion and reality, that faces happen to be aesthetically constructed in Golden ratio should be able to collect evidence which indicates signs of intelligence, femininity, and innocence around the eyes, noses, and mouths, an utopian image that could only be destroyed when they pick their noses aggressively without a handkerchief and display an excessive interest in the prices of high heel shoes. How seldom we acknowledge the inherent normality in our loved ones; how easy we might slide into a romantic pathology when love reveals its insanity.

Moreover, the modern world, with the help of technology, is changing with an incalculable speed. Our lives are filled with various experiences which are deemed too implausible to be identical with others. Is it sane to think what constitutes our partners' souls will remain the same? Is it sensible to secure our love of regularity for those who operate within the same mortal coil? If our desires and opinions are susceptible to change as time varies, why, then, can't we expect the same from our partners? The same burden no longer inhabits the same soul. Most of us are in fact not aware of our blind submission to Platonic utopia where eternity is praiseworthy and change is despised.

Therefore, the art of securing a romantic conception of love lies in an understanding absenteeism- a conception that is only possible when we don't know who our romantic partners are, but rather, who we think they are. So should we fall in love at first sight? Yes, always fall for first glance. Love without its romantic elements ceases to be love. Apart from the exceptionally rare cases in the romantic history, most depressing endings of romantic affairs are likely to result from the ones rooted in friendship and the like. It's only the romantic experience that we are after.


29 September 2010

Why do we need New Territories?

The King of the New Territories is on the newspaper again. The Honourable LAU Wong-fat GBM, GBS, JP blah blah blah, is the Chairman of Heung Yee Kuk, a consultation body of Villages, Indigenous Inhabitant, etc etc. He is also the Non-official member of the Executive Council.

The report said that Lau failed to declare transactions of properties to the Council. Such transactions had been signed just before the government announced the policy to suppress the property market. Lau earned some cash from the deal for sure. As expected, the government didn't say much. This reminds us of the scandal of our ex-Financial Secretary Antony Leung. Comparing to Leung, Lau's failure is definitely more serious. Let's see what the government will do about it this time.

The most puzzling part of this news is why we need Lau in the Council in the first place. Why those Indigenous Inhabitants in NT are "more equal" than those who have also inhabited in Kowloon and HK Island for centuries? I know I know, it's a historical issue that can't be solved in short term and their rights are written on the Basic Law too. As our Village developers grows mightier, there will surely be more confrontations with the NT people. Shall we need Lau in the Council to help balance the power or shall we start dealing with the problem itself here?

24 September 2010

Moon Festival, we have that too, u know.

Happy Mid Autumn Festival!

More ground-breaking (not) war-zone reporting from your war correspondent.
Did you know we have Mid Autumn Fest here in the war-zone too? Yes yes of course the Korean do! But they prefer to call it the Chuseok (추석) or you can call it Korean Thanksgiving if you are a retared foreigner. The lovely people here in the war-zone, being proud of their tradition, would tell you that it's a Korean festival not originated from the Chinese, but hey, I know how much they like to set themselves as far away from the Chinese as they can, so let's not argue.

Now it wouldn't be a festival without some festive food. While y'all stuff your faces with rebellious moon cakes, with 20 egg yokes inside. Here in the war-zone we all have a much healthier (a lot more boring) vision of festival food. Ladies and Gentleman, meet Songpyeon (송편), yeah, much like every other festival food here in the war zone Songpyeong is made out of glutinous rice. (They sure love their glutinous rice here, B-day, New year, wedding, etc, all glutinous rice cakes) ; Just like moon cakes, it's eaten during Mid Autumn Fest, oh I'm sorry, I meant Chuseok. My bad.

Which Festival is better?
Let's compare!!

Festival Food:
over 9000 calories of delicousness
Great...More rice cake. T.T

No comparison, Mid-Autumn wins this round.

Festival Activities:
Soul Trainnn

Normally, the combination of setting things on fire wax burning and carrying a lantern around (lame i know) would be my prefer choice, but ever since some retarded kids burned their faces off playing wax (thanks a lot, u jerks), burning wax in public is now as legal as smoking a bowl of weed in public and carrying a lantern itself is just plan lame. So I'm gonna go with Ganggangsullae, some kind of weird dance only involve women. Dance + Women = Always gets my vote.
Chuseok Wins this round

Festival T.V

Yes, everyone wears that on T.V!!

While I cannot ignore the hilariousness of the Shatin show our beloved TVB held, how can I not love the Hanbok wearing cuties (Even news reporters wear the full thing!) on my screen?!
Chuseok Wins!

Festival Crowd.
Nobody crowd better than HKers
Hai? Anyone out there?

Pic left-Victoria Park, Pic right- View from my window. Of course, during Chuseok, every local person returns home, and the own people you can find in the city are drunk foreigners that don't actually celebrate Chuseok.
Mid-Autumn Wins!!!

So which holiday do I prefer?

The war-zone version of course! While you sorry ass get 1 day off from Mid-Autumn. I get 3 days off !!! RAWR, plus, the whole war zone is too hangover to work on Friday anyway, so it's effectively almost a whole week off!!! I'm off to join the drunk foreigners!!!

22 September 2010

When I was a young boy...

When I was a young boy, my parents asked me to compromise with other kids in the playground when there is an argument, and apologise when I treated other kids rudely.

These days, parents teach their kids to ignore others when there is an argument. Mama and papa are there with you, you don't need other kids to play with.

When I was a young boy, my parents smacked me for wrong doing, or whenever they feel like it.

These days, beating kids up is a criminal offense and kids beating parents up are not uncommon.

When I was a young boy, my parents left me alone at home on a daily basis. I would be a good boy most of the time and would only try to dig out my old man's porn magazines for the sake of sexual education.

These days, leaving kids alone at home is a crime. And whenever kids are left home alone, they either fucking burn the flat down or climb out of the window and smash their heads 18 storeys high. Thank you, Spiderman.

When I was a young boy, my parents would ask me to queue up for public transports, and never to rush for seats.

These days, parents encourage their kids to hasty grab a seat on buses, MTR, and trains. They better grab more seats for mama and papa as well, or they'd be called stupid.

When I was a young boy, I wiped my own ass after taking shit.

These days, kids are retards.

When I was a young boy, my parents talked to me in Cantonese.

These days, parents talk to their kids in broken English and feel ashamed if their kids speak one Cantonese word.

When I was a young boy, TV was the thing to keep me entertained.

These days, entertainment? Have you learned your 5 languages, 10 musical instruments, 15 sports, hundreds of classical poems, and 10 thousands vocabularies?

When I was a young boy, my parents taught me how to do my homework and made sure I'd done all that was required. They felt that was their responsibility.

These days, it's Ken Sir's responsibility. We paid him, right?

When I was a young boy, my parents asked me to say thank you when people offered me anything. I was also taught to say excuse me or sorry when I run into others' way.

These days, even parents have no clue what "thank you", "excuse me", and "sorry" mean. When people offer you something, they must be dodgy assholes of some sort and kids should avoid any contact with them at all cost.

When I was a young boy, my parents smacked me for not greeting our relatives and friends when I saw them.

These days, adults are obliged to beg for children's attention. They bought these kids gifts and snacks just to make sure that the kids will greet them once.

When I was a young boy, I cried when I got bad school results.

These days, parents cry when their kids got bad school results.

When I was a young boy, I was ordered to bed at a time my parents saw fit.

These days, parents are allowed to sleep or make love only after their kids feel like going to bed.

When I was a young boy, I was ordered to accompany my mom to the market and helped her to carry heavy stuff.

These days, kids are on strollers up to 12.

When I was a young boy, my old man taught me how to "burn wax" at Mooncake Fest.

These days, "wax-burning" is a crime.

A young boy, I was one.

21 September 2010

Run for your life, it's a TAXI!

Every time I get into a Hong Kong taxi, I can't help but fear for my life. If it's not a speed-racing, tail-gating maniac, it's a start-stop-start-stop half-blind grandpa, or if I'm lucky, it's actually a decent driver who's just a little (read: VERY) bitter about having to be a taxi driver and tells me repeatedly during the ride how much he hates his job.

Unfortunately bad taxi drivers are the norm here and I end up gripping the door handles and/or slamming on my imaginary brakes multiple times before I reach my final destination, ready to puke. The nausea is of course brought on by last minute lane changes, loud and whiny Cantonese opera on the guy's stereo (people really listen to this crap?!), the heavy stench of cigarettes or a hearty combination of the above.

It gets me so mad whenever I have to ride with these dangerous taxi drivers. As someone who doesn't enjoy driving because of all the responsibility involved, I can't believe how taxi drivers can be so reckless, especially when they literally have other peoples' lives in their hands! Do they secretly want to kill themselves, with no care for whoever's in the car with them? Do they think driving a taxi is like playing a racing video game? And do they really think they are invincible and can get away with any crazy maneuver they make up in their heads?!

These guys need a wake up call. Just last July, a woman was run over and killed by a taxi driver in Mong Kok after a night of playing mah jong. In June, an elderly man was also run over by a taxi driver, who simply said he "heard a loud sound and found the senior lying in the third lane." In May, a drugged up HK taxi driver drove SO badly his passengers jumped out of his moving cab!

So, what can we do about these cold-blooded killers? Next time you're in one of their cabs, make sure you mark down his/her name and license number and report that bastard! TIP: If your taxi driver does not cooperate, only put him in a headlock after making sure he doesn't have a good set of teeth (or any at all), unless you can stand to lose a fingertip or two...

Read all the fun stuff at Miss Fong in Hong Kong.

20 September 2010

The Lessons of Public Transport

Back in the days before capitalism has become a legitimate economic philosophy, many valued a person for who he was rather than what he had. Capitalism, however, reconfigures the evaluation process and lends the idea of success to physical possession rather than its spiritual equivalent. Owning a Mercedes is therefore an indication of the quality of life. How easy one's ethical integrity might be determined by one's physical properties.

It is a tragedy, perhaps, to watch the downfall of public transport and falsely raise private cars to a status of superiority. If public transport is often regarded as inferior to a Porsche, it is perhaps because it is likely to inspire monotony, having to stay fixated on a same routine every single day. Riding on a bus also suggests that the notion of who we are is critically dependent on others, that our existence is of no value unless the passengers who sit next to us or behind us accord us with signs of respect. Moreover, having neighbours sitting next to us also hampers us to move our joints and limbs freely, thus bringing physical discomfort, that our decisions to articulate our bodies are actually determined by the external rather than the internal.

Driving alone, on the contrary, avoids rehearsing the same driving routine. It offers opportunities to escape from the everyday rituals, especially the traffic, and conspires to rejuvenate us with a sense of novelty. Driving also seems to restore the value of solitude. Rather than going along with the value that a densely populated city might tend to suggest, driving celebrates the virtue of being alone and acknowledges the prided status of individual, making allowance for meditation, and liberating us from the flock, for the herd mentality may unfairly consign us to disgrace and others to respectability.

However, to condemn taking public transport is to fail to place it in a proper context as to what it may offer in life. If public transport has to be given its due place in our monotonous lives, it is because it might prompt us to think far more easily than clinging ourselves to our computer desks in office or in our rooms. Though we tend to pass by the same sceneries in a bus, we are likely to be assisted by the flow of the landscape, which is susceptible to change, inspiring us with a sense of novelty rather than monotony. We are also forced to investigate human behaviours which we often easily ignore- the lady who is dying to get on a bus, the man who is rushing to the metro railway station, and the man who is exchanging business ideas on his mobile phone. The sense of novelty, therefore, lies in the diversity of human behaviours and the flexible exterior decor and the advertisements of shops, which help anchor new reflections to life.

Of all modes of transport, buses are perhaps the best aid to thought. They lack the monotony that planes and metro railway are likely to inspire, the unbearable quickness that a taxi might ferry us to the destination, and the slowness that a tram is insistent to offer. If riding on a bus nurtures our ability to think, it's not just because we are confronted with a scene of novelty, but it's also because we are reluctant to think properly when thinking is what we are supposed to do, just like we are forced to write a publishable essay on demand. Riding on a bus allows us to abstract all the headphones snares and the talking that surround us, through taking in the passing scenery, offers us a sense of silent immobility to observe the seemingly silent mobility of the external world. It retains a peace of mind in us which is essential to contemplation.

If we are inclined to forget the benefits of taking public transport, it might be because driving our own cars subjugates us with the illusion to recover a sense of freedom. Instead of leaving room for us for introspective reflections, driving tends to divert our attention to the roads, for the fear of car accidents or our absent-mindedness for the traffic lights, forcing us to focus on our self-preservation instinct rather than bringing us back into contact with ideas and emotions that are of importance to us. It can only foster a form of rather unwelcome solitude, namely, loneliness, which only wears us out with an excessive longing for love.

Hence our travelling to work correlates with our desire to travel. What is beneficial about travel is that it allows us to get away from the habitual and the tedium, and encourages us, through the unpredictable changes around us, to unearth the visions about ourselves that previously lay buried in our hearts. If public transport is able to inspire us through the moving sceneries, can we not conclude that our travelling to work or school follows a similar trajectory? If we travel because we need not only a break from our domestic setting, but also from ourselves, doesn't riding on a bus similarly allow us to reflect on our lives from a height we are unlikely to reach unless before and after work?

Public transport can also be a remedy for loneliness. It recovers a sense of community, that though we may be lonely, we are consoled by the fact that we are not alone in loneliness, that many are similarly lost in thoughts and emotions. It brings us back a tight city feel, as opposed to a soulless feel, reminding us of the fact that a city should be dynamic and needlessly be condemned to silence. Humans are still at heart social animals whose existence is critically dependent on the external world.

Travel is not necessarily a luxury. Though we may not be able to afford a trip to Europe or Japan, we can certainly afford a few dollars to start our journey on a bus to appease our yearnings for change.


17 September 2010

Libertines Pub Friday Newscut and List of WTF Events

Villagers love their news media more than ever!
HKU Public Opinion Programme said more than 60% of our Villagers found our news media satisfactory, a record high since 1997. We don't know. More Villagers should read our rants against the media before responding.

Our Superman shows us love
If you have any idea that can show your love for this Village, you'll be granted dollars. What interested us is never this project itself; we're damn sure that it will be dull. But when Li announced this project before a dinner, he stuffed his pocket with $100 notes and hand them out to the security guards on site to thank them for their good work. It's not snobbishness, it's love; that we can be sure.

Who needs the rides in Ocean Park when you got the lifts
After all the lift accidents in Hong Kong since late 2008, we're still risking our lives everyday. All the faulty maintenance contractors and lift suppliers got were warning letters, and nothing ever changed. We recommend you to use the stairs. It's good for your health anyway. We also envisage the climbing of flat price on lower floors. Buy now.

Like Bowtie in Facebook! For the hell of it
We liked him. We need to have Donald here at the Libertines Pub drinks. We envy their happy faces there.

We don't understand WTF is "CHANDEMONIUM". We only know that the retards at the Standard know shits about headline writing and website coding. In case they finally feel the need of fixing it, the screenshot is here. It isn't all that difficult:



More drug tests, MORE!
The ass kissing Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre thinks we need more drug tests. They want them in bars and clubs. How did they conduct the survey? We don't know. What questions were asked? According to their informative presentation, they asked "Do you support authorizing the police to conduct compulsory drug test on people inside entertainment premise during police checks, given reasonable grounds?" What are reasonable grounds? We don't know, probably whatever they see fit. We only have piles of posts to tell them to STFU.

Useless, awkward, and WTF events you can't afford to miss

BarCamp Hong Kong 2010
Still on our list. They now have 500+ pretentious assholes attending. Rumour has it that the idiots from TDS will have breakfast together in a McDonald's around the corner. Go murder them.

Greenpeace Carfree Day 2010
You know you ought to participate, if you live close enough to your office like Bowtie. Take a bus to work if you're not that lucky, as the buses in this Village are the cleanest possible ones you can get on earth. Or simply call in and tell your boss you're not going back as it's Carfree that day.

Fear, Greed and Trust Continued

I kept meaning to answer some of the questions in the comments from my post last week, but every time I thought about what I would say, it seemed more like a new post.  So here is that post:

Zombiehellmonkey commented: I agree with the idea that if the system is created for greed, then it will nurture greed by rewarding it, as well as opening itself to corruption; so how might government institutions begin to foster trust?

Well, that's a tough one, and I'm not sure the government's job is to foster trust.  But in China the government actively discourages it by putting major restrictions on voluntary organizations (both real and virtual).  Getting together to discuss politics is pretty dangerous in China, so that problem seems unlikely to be solved.  

But Zombie's question wasn't about China, it was about government institutions generally.  I don't have a lot of special insight on that, so I'll refer to what Robert Putnam has written on the subject.  In Making Democracy Work, Putnam's study of trust and social capital in Italy, Putnam found that northern Italy had very efficient government institutions, an advanced economy and a generally higher quality of life than southern Italy.  The moral system in southern Italy has been characterized by Putnam and others as "amoral familism."  In this system, there is virtually no trust between people who aren't members of the same nuclear family: relationships are based on power and coercion, not cooperation and mutual benefit.  This is the moral system I saw operating in China.  (Interestingly, in the post before mine last week, William talked about how his parents taught him to be distrustful of strangers, and how that has affected his ability to form close friendships as a young adult.  Ok, so William used the "royal we" instead of referring to this as his personal experience, but I think we all know what he really meant.)  

So why this difference between northern and southern Italy?  Why this difference between China and Hong Kong? In Italy, Putnam attributes the difference to the different histories of the two regions.  In the South, "third party enforcement" was the solution to the Hobbesian dilemma because of the hierarchical political system there during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.  In the North, the political system was more democratic: voluntary networks of civic engagement (things like sports clubs, social clubs, etc.) helped create a reserve of social capital that people could rely on to help solve collective action problems without the need for a third party enforcer.  

China's recent history may have created a similar situation.  Daveed commented on my last post that the distrust I saw in China was not the result of the Leviathan, but of rising inequality.  With respect to Daveed, who surely understands much more about China than I do, I think it's a little bit of both.  During the Cultural Revolution, Mao attempted to wipe the slate clean, replacing religious values and traditional, secular morality with communist morality.  "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" isn't exactly the golden rule, but it's a moral system, and not a particularly unreasonable one, on it's face.  But with the Gini coefficient rising, nobody believes the Communist lie anymore.  So what's left?  Coercion, power, and the third party enforcement of the state, and amoral familism.  The communist ethic has been replaced by capitalist ethic of "from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed," except that this amoral ethic isn't tempered by democratic political institutions or webs of civic engagement as in northern Italy.  

What could a government do?  Encourage civic engagement, voluntary organizations and webs of relationships that don't revolve around profit or power.  Obviously, encouraging any of this sort of thing is NOT in the interest of any authoritarian government, so I'm afraid China is stuck...until the next revolution.  As I interacted with this amoral familism in Shanghai, I couldn't help but laugh at the thought that these are the people who are supposedly going to  be the next rulers of the world.  Sometimes we laugh when we are deeply afraid.