Sunday, January 30, 2011

司徒華 and Lu Xin’s (魯迅) Iron House

A man wakes up.  He finds himself in a house, with walls made of iron.  There are no windows or doors.  In other words, there is no way to escape.  He also finds that there are other people sleeping in the house.  If they do not get out of the house, they will soon suffocate and die.  But it is impossible to break out of the iron-clad house.  Should he wake up the others?   On the one hand, it seems impossible to break down the iron walls.  Wouldn’t it be cruel to wake up the others, to alert them to the impending doom?  Wouldn’t it be better to let them die in their sleep?  On the other hand, if he realizes there is an impending doom and do not alert the others, wouldn’t he be implicated in their death?  Perhaps he/they should try to breakdown the walls, however impossibly strong they may appear?

This was actually a story told by my favourite author, Lu Xin (魯迅), in 《呐喊》自序.  The efforts of Szeto Wah and the others, to bring justice and democracy to Hong Kong and China, remind me of Lu Xin’s story of the iron house.  Both are great men that I respect very much.  Both, obviously, believe in trying, even though the task seems impossible.

With God, everything is possible.  I have to believe that.  Otherwise, there is no hope in life. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

司徒華 Szeto Wah

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Family (fights over) Fortunes

Is it simple coincidence?  Or is the editor of the SCMP trying to deliver a message to its readers?  Today on page 2, where one normally finds the most significant news of local interest, all 4 articles involve family conflicts of some sort.

There is the long-running court case of the “milkshake murder”.  Nancy Kissel is being tried again, for murdering her husband after drugging him with a strawberry milkshake.  Apparently an insurance payout of 18 million dollars might have been involved. 

There is also the legal battle between the 2 Kam brothers, over the Yung Kee family fortune of HK$ 1 billion.  

There is, of course, the continuing fight among the three Kwok brothers, over a family fortune of more than HK$ 300 billion.

There is, finally, the fight among the Ho family members, over a fortune of an estimated HK$ 24 billion.  S. Ho have been widely admired for his ability to maintain relative civility among his 4 wives and scores of children.  Now, it is said that some of his children have conspired to divide up his fortune against his will - while he is still alive.  It is quite common that when a rich person dies, family members (and even non-family members) would fight over the money.  But dividing the man's money over his objection while the man is still living is rare and hard to do.  It would certainly make an interesting story, perhaps even a movie. 

Many of us lament over not being married, not having children, or not having a lot of money.  Would such news, I wonder, change their minds?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story”

My daughter A introduced me to Gary Shteyngart’s “Super sad true love story”.  I did not like the story itself.  I could not really identify with any of the main characters.  The only one I have some sympathy for is Lenny Abramov, because he reads.  The book is set in a near-future America, where nobody reads anymore.  Eunice Park, Abramov’s girl friend: “I have never really learned how to read texts, ...  Just to scan them for info.” 

Imagine the worse excesses of America today, and make that twice as worse - and you get Sad Story’s America.  And it doesn’t even sound that far-fetched. 

Abramov works for Post-Human Services, a company that specializes in prolonging rich people’s lives.  By rejuvenating the bodies - of HNWIs, High Networth Individuals. 

People use iPhone-like apparats to broadcast and scan each other’s identity, financial status, credit rating, desirability, ...   Abramov’s girl friend “Major in images, minor in Assertiveness.”   

Countries have names such as HolyPetrolRussia, China Worldwide (with a Chinese People’s Capitalist Party), Tuscan Free State, Stability-Canada, SecurityState Israel, ...   American invaded Venezuela unsuccessfully.  Later Venezuela warships sailed up to New York City. 

American was ruled by a dictatorship.  The LNWI - Low NetWorth Individuals - occupied the Central Park in New York City, and eventually erupted in the “Rupture”.  The LNWIs were suppressed.   But, afterwards, American was essentially bought out by three of the richest countries: Norway, Saudi Arabia, and China.

Friday, January 21, 2011

University Education

The research of scholars are increasingly driven by the pursuit of resources rather than knowledge.  Society focuses on the ranking of universities more than the education of souls.  Professors are rewarded by their “productivity” (in terms of research output) rather than the culture of the person. 

The result is the manufacture of profit-driven individualists rather than visionary, difference-accommodating, needs-perceiving, responsible citizens.  Imagination, creativity, human-relevancy of scientific research, and discernment of truth will become rarer and rarer among the next generation. 

When many countries are becoming richer and richer, we seem to have forgotten that there are still lots of lots of people in poverty, even in the richest countries in the world.  Mother Teresa once said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

Education today stress information and skills, rather than the pursuit of truth and creativity.  Students spend much of their time on memorization, rather then reflecting on and criticizing existing ideas. 

These are not my own words.  These are, almost word for word, 中大校長沈祖堯’s words in 《香港家書》 on the first day of this year.   It was later published in Ming Pao.  It can be easily found by google-ing “沈祖堯家書”.   But I agree totally with what he said. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Catherine Bragg

In the 1960s, liberation theology was popular in the Catholic Church.  Proponents believe that Christians should actively work towards liberating the poor and the oppressed from social injustice.  At the then Maryknoll Sisters’ School in Hong Kong, nuns discussed with the students the Biafran genocide in Nigeria and other social upheavals of 1968.  A young girl was encouraged by a teacher to correspond with a Maryknoll nun in a Latin American country. 

That young girl is Catherine Bragg.  She moved to Canada, got a PhD in criminal justice and worked in the Canadian government in various capacities.  She is now the United Nations‘ Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, serving as deputy Emergency Relief Co-ordinator in the UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

Jesus himself always stands on the side of the poor and the oppressed.  Surely He would like to see us do likewise. 

I have never met Catherine Bragg.  But I have some good friends who also studied at MSS, who have made important contributions to society in their own ways.  They are part of the reasons I have great respect for the The Maryknoll Sisters and the Catholic Church in Hong Kong.     

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart Cafe (刻咖啡)

If you happen to be in Hung Hom and you would like to have a cup of coffee or a sandwich, please consider the Heart Cafe at 紅磡馬頭圍道37-39號紅磡廣場地下18號舖.  The food and price are reasonable.  Additionally, it is a social enterprise helping people make a decent living.  If we are going to spend some money anyway, why not spend it at a place where it will also help some people who can really use it? 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What do we really want?

At the beginning of a new year we often make wishes.  We wish for health and healing, for us and our loved ones.  We wish for wealth, and success, mostly for ourselves. We wish for justice, for the mistreated and oppressed.  We wish for revenge, against the oppressors and evil-doers.

But are these what we really want?

We may have perfect health or be healed from illness; but eventually we all die.  We may be fabulously rich, achieve academic greatness, and be immensely powerful; but we can take none of these to our graves.  We may see the oppressed liberated; but the liberated may turn oppressors themselves when they gain power.  We may see the oppressors punished; but what good does that really do for the oppressed, other than a fleeting sense of gratification?

Ultimately, what we want is peace that is lasting, and strength that endures.  We want to see our loved ones again, after they had passed away.  It is more satisfying to possess the strength to endure and even overcome adversity; rather than never having to face and taste adversity. It is better to see the evil-doers repent; rather than to see evil done to them.  It is actually much harder this way.   It is better to be loved, rather than to possess what and whom we love.  It is truly more blessed this way.  

Who can grant us these wishes?   Certainly not ourselves humans, whose frailties we are all too familiar with.  There is no one but God, the creator of the universe and us humans within, who can grant us these wishes. Without Him, there is no hope.  

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Do Wishes Come True?

At the beginning of a new year we often make wishes.  Do they actually come true?  Do we really believe that they would come true?  Szeto Wah and many others have been fighting for justice for those who suffered and died in the June 4th Massacre for 20 years; yet Szeto Wah died without seeing justice being served.  He has been fighting for democracy in Hong Kong for much of his life; yet he died while true democracy remains a distant dream in Hong Kong.  Many, if not all, of us will probably do likewise.  

Can we truly believe democracy will be practised in the face of suffocating dictatorship and vested interests?  Can we truly believe equality will be achieved in the face of the obscenely wealthy?  Can we truly believe justice will be served in the face of overwhelming power?  Can we believe peace will be realized in the face of consuming hatred and evil?

Knowing human nature as it is, we cannot.  We, particularly many of our leaders, say one thing but do the opposite.  We claim to be compassionate, peace-loving, democracy-wanting and justice-seeking.  Yet our actions prove otherwise.   That’s the premise of one of the most popular books about China, which can only be published outside China.  History has taught us that wishes for equality, justice, peace and love rarely come true.  So why do we still make these wishes?  Are we simply deluding ourselves?  Or are we incurably stupid?

Based on what we know about human nature, there is little hope.  But there is someone more powerful than us humans.   The one who created the universe can do what we are not capable of.  He is the reason why we can hope when it seems impossible to remain hopeful.  God loves us and has proved it by sending his son to die for our sins. 

At the end of  余杰‘s book 中國影帝溫家寶, there is an appendix - a letter.  It is a plea for Wan to repent and believe in God.  It is, of course, practically impossible.  Yet God has not given up on us, and we have no right to give up. 

Monday, January 03, 2011

司徒華 Szeto Wah

Szeto Wah has my utmost respect.  When asked to sum up his life in one sentence, he said he was a patriot.  He is best known working tirelessly to seek justice for those who suffered and died in the June 4 massacre, and in a broader context, for democracy in Hong Kong and China.   But he is much more than that.  He is a great teacher and story-teller.  He is a great interpreter of Chinese culture, through his writings and applications of his philosophy in his work. 

I have read most of his books in the series 三言堂之一言.  The books are collections of articles published in newspapers, and cover a wide range of topics.  I was particularly impressed by his deep knowledge of Chinese history and literature, and his passion in helping students and young people.

He is a Christian who practices his faith outside the church, by fighting for social justice ceaselessly.  Jesus is always on the side of the poor and the oppressed - that’s also where Szeto Wah is at.   

He loves his country.  He criticizes its government and fights for democracy precisely because he loves his country.

His is praised universally by people outside the establishment.  The establishment, on the other hand, tries to ignore or at least play down the significant of what he did.  That is not a sign of dishonour.  In fact, it is the opposite - as the example set for us so vividly by Jesus.  I would also like to choose to stand on the side of the poor and oppressed, not on the side of the rich and powerful.