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.