Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World




This book gives me a whole new perspective on 13th and 14th century world history. It also helps me understand a little more about the Yuan Dynasty in Chinese history (e.g. I learned that it was probably the outbreak of the bubonic plague that led the Mongolian rulers to become paranoid and begin to alienate and repress the Chinese population whom they believed to have been the source of the horrible pestilence).

I'm really glad that I found this non-fiction title after having read Urgunge Onon's "The Secret History of the Mongols: The Life and Times of Chinggis Khan". The latter is supposedly an English translation from the original text written in Mongolian in the 13th century about Genghis Khan's life by someone close to him, and contains mostly dialogues and descriptive passages. Using that original document as a basis, Weatherford gives a far more coherent and illuminating account of all the life episodes set in historical context, while shedding light on the enormous proximate impact and far-reaching influence that this formidable leader's actions and, to a greater or lesser extent, those of his successors, had on human history.

The simple flowing style of writing makes this book an easy read. It is interesting as it is educational.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

For U.S. Readers, "Fated and Fateless" $0.99 Kindle Sale!





A countdown sale is on from Amazon.com Kindle Store at $0.99 until December 14, 2014 1:00 pm (PST), after which the price will go up to $2.99, again effective for a limited time (53 hours).




This is a novel that paints a culturally vibrant period in colonial Hong Kong. Did you know that in the early to mid-1900s, Hong Kong's Chinese society was very much influenced by the Portuguese, other than the British?

Tony, a leading character in the novel, is a Eurasian from Macau born of a Chinese mother and a Portuguese father, who is the offspring of a well-known historical Macanese figure.

A major character, John Woo the lawyer, is of mixed Chinese and British descent.

Other interesting characters include Jean the French teacher and Jill Simmons, the Eurasian stockbroker, who comes from mixed British, Portuguese and Chinese origin.

Wendy the working girl and Diana the apparent heiress (the two leading female characters), and Edward the doctor (the other leading male character), are Chinese, as are most other major characters (like Mr. Lee the property tycoon and Ms. Yeung the secretary).

Fate throws them onto one another's path and creates distressing chaos in the lives of Wendy and Diana….

Thursday, December 4, 2014

中國人必讀


Link to the Article

撮要:

"............究竟這班年青人為大家爭取民主 - 生而為人最基本的權利和尊嚴 - 在哪一點上冒犯了大家?以致人們對學生的憎恨可達至違反基本人性的程度?學生們,你們不欠香港人甚麼,你們還在替這班人爭取民主,爭取基本尊嚴?你們錯只是錯在是太美麗太善良的青年。"

"代代傳承,這淺薄歹毒的劣根竟深植在我們的土壤裡——即使如我們這片聲稱受西方文明管治逾百年的土地,即使是一個我們一直引以為傲以為是最富國際視野的亞 洲城市。《藥》中百姓痛恨嘲笑為國為民犧牲的夏瑜,是因為看見不見自己同樣身處險地,看不見長遠救國並且自救的方法是要徹底的政制改革,他們嘲罵夏瑜一如 大家今天對阻街「廢青」的指責,而小說中人們對可治病可解華小栓病危之困那血饅頭的迷思,亦一如今天很多香港人仍然膚淺短視地對「經濟增長」「安定繁榮」 所有的眷戀。"

"..........香港人,你們被中國人那自私自利輕薄無知的根牽著了,牽得根深蒂固,動彈不得。魯迅說他決定棄醫從文,是因為他看見紀錄片裡,一個將要被日本人斬首的中國 人,竟被圍觀的中國人恥笑,在那些嘲弄的眼神裡他看見中國人靈魂深處的悲哀,他發現中國人的心比身體病患更重,更需要醫治。........"

" 一場雨傘運動仿如一個放大鏡,讓我們把身邊的人、身處的環境都照得輪廓分明。無疑,我們在這段日子發現了很多美麗的香港人,只是,我們確要認清一個事實, 這些美麗的人們是我們社會裡碩果僅存的一群,而我們社會的真相是——即使沉重也要面對的是——民智未開,人們對身處險境的認知以及道德感召這回事,一如當 年晚清時在華老栓茶館裡吃著茶咬著花生恥笑革命志士的無知淺薄的人民。"

"...........一代總有一代的革命志士,一代總有一代有胸襟有承擔的仁者最後能成就大事——歷史是這樣讓我們走過來,只是我相信,少點責罵多點關愛,我們的社會可走得更快一點更遠一點。而我,只盼望我,從未讀懂魯迅。"


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Elucidating Analysis of the Generation Gap

The Umbrella Movement seems to have brought Hong Kong's older and younger generations to an irreconcilable position in terms of values and world views. This article is one of the best that I've read so far that has shed a light on the dichotomy between the two camps of thoughts. (See my translation of the salient passages further down).

Here's the link to the InmediaHK article

Here are the salient passages:-

[那班扮似「理性」「中立」之「沉默大多數」的世界觀,當然包含很多想法與立場,他等亦非人人一樣,但大概而言,總能找到某些共通想法。佔領爆發後,諸君必定聽過有人發表以下論述,均是基於那種世界觀:

一)同學如果真心要建設美好的香港,就讀好書,然後加入政府,在建制內帶來改變;
二)有理想是好事,但做人都要實際,要懂得妥協;
三)香港一直以來都繁榮穩定、自由開放,不要破壞社會和諧;
四)你們還年輕,被政客利用了也不知道;
五)特首很難做,不可能完美的,大家應該要寬容一點;
六)不要出去「搞事」吧,用心一點讀書,關心一下自己的前途;
七)佔領是犯法的,總之犯法就是錯,請不要再錯下去。

然後只要你到佔領區隨意問一位年輕人,對以上論述有何看法,相信其可以毫無困難地逐一反駁:

一)我等真心想香港好,因此希望改變整個政治制度。無在外抗爭而建制自行改革,歷史上從未有之;
二)我等確實有理想,但查實人人皆應有理想。我們不是不顧實際,而是嘗試打破現狀,建立更美好的家園。歷史告訴我們,現實是可以改變的;
三)香港七、八十年代經濟起飛,確實帶來繁榮穩定。但近年制度的漏洞逐漸浮現,貧富差距日益擴大。而北京政府肆意要赤化香港,打壓我們的自由,港府又無視港人的民主訴求,已經到了不得不反抗的地步;
四)我們很清楚自己在做甚麼,如果以為泛民政客可以煽動、利用我們,實在太天真。他們已經過氣了;
五)特首確實難做,但我們爭取的不是換特首,而是換制度。你們對擁有公權力的政府可以很寬容,為何對無權無勢的示威者卻如此嚴苛?
六)抗爭、佔領不是「搞事」,而是爭取公義、改變社會。自己個人的前途固然重要,但香港這個家園的前途更重要。讀聖賢書,所學何事?就是盡義至仁!
七)公民抗命本身就是要認罪的,不違反法治。犯法不一定錯,如果法律阻礙我們尋求公義,就不需守法。即使不談公民抗命,試問歷史上那一場追求民主之群眾運動,乃靠嚴守法律而取得成果?假若東歐群眾均不犯法,可有所謂「蘇東波」?

以上兩大套論述之衝突,就是本人所謂「世界觀」之衝突。當然每項論述均頗為粗疏,難免過分簡化。要深入討論,可逐一研究。然拙文的目的不是要爭論佔 領之對錯,而是展示當今之爭論,不是純粹的口舌之爭,或一般意義上的「政治爭拗」(「政治嘢,各有各講啦!」),而是兩套價值體系的衝突「沉默大多數」 所秉持之信念乃「維持現狀」、「穩定」、「繁榮」;佔領者之旗幟則是「改變」、「自由」、「公義」、「自主」。有人說此乃世代之爭,大概而言也算準確。不 願變者, 不一定就是既得利益者。責罵年輕人、反對佔領者中,也有生活艱難的。不論貧富,那種世界觀就是固定在其心中,牢不可破。此種價值體系,何以建立?所有世界 觀、價值體系,均是知識、所受教育、所接收之訊息,加上個人經歷糅合而成。大家成長經歷不一,很容易煉成相異之世界觀。呂大樂的《四代香港人》大概有類似 論述,雖非嚴謹之作,仍值得一讀。明白了「世界觀」之衝突如何煉成,則不難明白為何佔領發生後,不少父母與子女爭論不休,大家彷彿活在平行時空裡:我看到 警察冤枉記者,你卻看到記者打警察。

「沉默的大多數」不願走出自己心中那安穩的世界(縱使其實那只是殖民地植入的、虛妄的安穩),不願當家作主。現在不是很好嗎,何必自找麻煩?只要有 人照顧餵飼(縱使那是惡徒),大家安安穩穩,那就好了。佔領人士和不少年輕人卻要成長,想要打破框框。成長是很痛苦的,但人必須成長,方能有明天。每當我 等適應了一環境,就不想改變,想留在那裡,直到永遠。但成長就是要跳出那comfort zone,自己前路自己揀,方能走得更遠。現在是年輕人想成長,而以中年人為主的「沉默大多數」卻拒絕成長。]

Brief Translation:-

The two opposing camps of thoughts (or values/world views) are:-

(From the Silent Majority camp):

1) If the students truly want to build a better Hong Kong, they should study hard and then find a government job and bring about changes within the establishment.
2) Having an ideal is a good thing, but one must also be pragmatic and be ready to compromise.
3) Hong Kong has always enjoyed prosperity and stability and is a free and open city; don't destroy the harmony.
4) You students are still young and can easily be misled and used by politicians/demagogues.
5) The Chief Executive's job is not easy - no one is perfect; we have to be more tolerant.
6) Concentrate on your studies and don't go out to stir up trouble; you should care more about your future. 
7) Occupying public space is illegal; an illegal act is wrong, period. Please stop your movement.

If you had a chance to stroll through any of the protest sites, you would most certainly hear these counter-arguments to the above points from any of the youngsters:-

(From the Umbrella Movement camp):

1) It is our cherished wish to make Hong Kong a better place. The only way is to reform the whole political structure. History shows us that the establishment cannot be expected to reform of its own will without being instigated by struggles from the outside.
2) It's true that we do have ideals. Everyone should have ideals. We are not being impractical - we are only striving to change the status quo and build a better home. History tells us that change is possible.
3) Hong Kong did enjoy prosperity and stability when the economy flourished in the 70s and 80s. But in recent years systemic weaknesses have become obvious and the wealth gap has been widening. At the same time the Beijing government intends to mainlandize Hong Kong and suppress our freedoms while the Hong Kong government plays deaf to our democracy demands. We have been forced into a corner where we have no alternative but to resist.
4) We are absolutely clear on what we are doing. If you think that the Pan-Democratic Party politicians are able to influence or use us in any way, you are just being naive. They belong to the past.
5) We know the CE's job is a difficult one. But it's not just about changing the CE - it's about changing the system. Why is it that you can be so tolerant of the government who holds all the power, but you are so harsh towards the protesters who are without power or wealth?
6) A protest or occupying movement is not an attempt to stir up trouble - it is a struggle for social justice and for change. Our own future is certainly important to us, but the future of our home city is even more important. This is what education is all about - we have to be civil humans who care about our community.
7) Civil Disobedience implies that participants are ready to admit their guilt - this does not contradict the spirit of rule of law. Committing an illegal act is not necessarily wrong. If the law impedes a citizen's pursuit of social justice, then he/she does not have to abide by that law. Civil Disobedience apart, is there any democratic movement in history that could have taken place effectively with participants strictly abiding by the law?

In sum, the stance of the "Silent Majority" is about keeping the status quo and letting stability and prosperity rule, while that of the protesters is about pursuit of change, freedom, social justice and autonomy.  All world views and values are formed from education, knowledge, receipt of information, combined with personal life experiences and backgrounds. They thus vary according to a person's growing trajectory.

It seems that the Silent Majority are the ones who refuse to leave their "comfort zone" to seek change and to grow, while the students and protesters are eager to change and grow. Change and growth entails pain, and that's why most people try to avoid it.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Police Violence Will Not Solve Political Problems

Things had started to take a turn for the worse when Hong Kong Police tried to forcibly clear the Mongkok protest site using excessive violence last week under the guise of helping bailiffs to carry out an injunction order. Clashes had turned into a "gauwu" (a Putonghua term which means shopping) movement (in response to C.Y. Leung's advice for people to go shopping in Mongkok after the roads are cleared), with protesters marching from Mongkok to Tsimshatsui (a high-end shopping district) and police chasing after them throughout the night. Many protesters had been hurt and dozens arrested (including student leader Joshua Wong).

Angered students decided to call for support at the Admiralty protest site on Sunday (November 30) evening. Riot Police rushed to the site in hordes and charged violently into the gathered crowds. As usual, Police were fully armed with pepper spray, metal batons, riot shields and even water canons. Contrary to what Security Chief Lai Tung-kwok said on TV (that protesters were charging Police), students and protesters were unarmed and always on the defense. It was not the first time that Lai has tried to smear the students and protesters.

Why can't the authorities understand that it is coward and irresponsible to use police violence against people whose only aim is to assert their fundamental right to representative government? Repression is never going to solve political problems.