Saturday, 24 November 2012

Democracy Debate and Chinaman's House

Recently watched a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared (Square Intelligence?) on Hidden Harmonies. The motion was “Western Liberal Democracy would be wrong for China”. Those who still believe content matters in debates would be hugely surprised by the result which overwhelmingly (like, 100 to 1) favoured Anson Chan’s cliches. 

In a way, it demonstrated the depth of prejudice against China in the “West”. Perhaps it’s understandable. Many in the audience are facing deeply threatening social uncertainties without a leader in sight. The great minds in their countries have been marginalised by their brand of politics designed to select opportunistic and photogenic followers who would gladly promise everyone their own moon if elected. By contrast, China’s experimentations, though far from perfect, have served the country comparatively more effectively, at least more rationally, a fact that the Democracy faithful must find uncomfortable to admit. Those “against” the motion therefore had an overwhelming emotional advantage.

Young members in the audience grew up with TV news. They have been conditioned to make judgements based on “watching” rather than reading and thinking critically. Complex conflicts in unpronounceable places, between tribes with names they can't spell, are presented and “analysed” in 40-second clips, concluding with the presenters suggesting in tone, if not actual words, who the bad guys are. Next: messages from McDonald’s and Durex. 

If Anson Chan had learnt anything from her colonial masters, it was the art of uttering gibberish with confidence, in a haughty tone, nearly public school with Chinese characteristics. Contemporary patsies are much more comfortable with her style then Zhang and Jacque's boring substance and logic. They used only part of the head, namely the brain. Anson Chan used the whole thing, including ostentatious dimples. Let’s face it: Why should rationality matter here any more than in presidential debates?

Ultimately, every society deserves the government it gets. The puzzling thing is China has never been interested in competing with the Democracy Empire for an international award in government design. Yet many in the “West” seem more concerned with China’s imperfect political model than their own mounting problems.

My Conspiracy Theory alone cannot explain. Perhaps cultural shadows from a religious past are still lurking in the “Western” psyche, incubating a neo-Missionary Complex? Democracy, after all, has evolved into an amorphous “faith based” belief. And could there be an element of escapism as well?

Inspired by bewilderment, I wrote a flash fiction “Chinaman’s House”.

Chinaman’s House

Timothy took the sherry from Adam, his neighbour and buddy. “Cheers,” he toasted. 
“Mmm. Nice and dry.”
“18 year. We bought it at the airport.”
“Good God.” Impressed by its age and origin, Timothy took another sip.
“Have you seen that monster on the east side, at the turnoff to airport?”
“That red and white house? Of course. How could anyone miss it. Fred’s doing the plumbing. Apparently fresh off the boat with a ton of gold from China.”
“I figured —” Adam was interrupted by his ten-year-old barging through the basement door: “The basement’s on fire Dad!”
“Is that how you greet people Simon?”
“Uncle Timothy.” Simon obliged, forcing a polite smile.
“Hi Simon.” Against the window light, a waft of pale blue smoke escaped Simon’s curly blond hair. It hung above his head, as if pausing to find out what was being discussed, before dissipation.
He returned to his father. “The socket’s smoking and sparking Dad, making your old desk smoke too.”
“Can’t you see Uncle Timothy and I are having a conversation? We have the best sockets in this house, Simon, before everything was made in China. Now go back down to play.”
“It’s smoky down there Dad.” 
“Well, go to your room then.”
“Chaps these days are easily alarmed.” Adam beamed with unwarranted parental pride as Simon disappeared into the haze, after giving a “whatever you say” shrug. “So, that’s why. A Chinese house. That explains it. They have very different tastes when it comes to colour don’t they?”
“Rather bold if you ask me,” Timothy smirked. “Fred said it has six bedrooms. Probably another shipload of mothers and third cousins expected.”
“Good grief! I thought their police castrate men with more than one kid in the market. The Council should pass a law against gaudy building colours though. They hurt my eyes. I almost ran off the road.”
“And limit the number of bedrooms,” Timothy dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief. “This smoke’s getting pretty bad Adam.”
“Oh quit whining like a Frenchman!” Adam waved a hand. “We have four bedrooms here. Two only collect dust. Someone should talk to the Chi —” he was stopped by a fit of cough. The smoke spewing out from the basement was getting darker and thicker. Simon left his room, eyes on his iPad as he walked outdoor. 
“Jesus! This damn smoke. Want another one?”
“Twist my arm mate. Nothing like a good dry sherry. We still make them best don’t we?” Timothy handed the glass to Adam, then covered his nose with the handkerchief. He leaned back and squeezed his eyes shut to lessen the sting, wondering why on earth would anyone paint his house red and white. 

James Tam @ Guo Du, 24.11.2012

民主辩论与 ”中国佬的豪宅”

網上看到一個由 IQ2 的辯論會。辯題是 「西方民主不適合中國」。經過一個多小時的爭論,陳方安生的反方以大約1001的比例大勝。對尊重邏輯理據的人來說,不論個人意向屬正屬反,都可能會覺得現場觀眾的判決出乎意料,難以理解。我認為這種 「超自然」 現象日趨普遍, 見怪不怪,實在有其原因。

首先,辯論結果充分反映了英美國家對中國的深度誤解和歧視。「公道自在人心,硬道理可以說服一切」 這個硬道理,在「民主普世價值觀」面前,也得軟化。



有層次地把事態分析對他們來說是「老一套」。在鏡頭前面,事實難勝狡辯:三言兩語的精句,平易近人的嘴臉,瀟灑的風度,端正的樣貌,比十個愛因斯坦的腦袋更有說服力。所以陳方安生憑著誇張的酒窩,運用從殖民地主人身上學來的一套詭辯術,便可以輕易大勝光靠腦袋的正方講者張維為教授和 Martin Jacques


利用一頭霧水孕育出來的靈感,寫了個微型小說,英文的所謂 flash fiction;我覺得翻譯為 「閃靈短篇」 較過癮。故事名稱是「中國佬的豪宅」。基於氣氛上的考慮,故意帶點「翻譯作品」的味道,與我平常雙語寫作的原則相反。




「我的好上帝哦!」 驚嘆之余,添姆再呷一口。



「怪不得 —— 阿當十歲的兒子從地牢衝出來,嚇了他一跳。「爸爸,地窖著火了!」










「現在的小伙子就是大驚小怪。」 阿當老懷安慰地看著西敏消失在煙霧之中,才恍然回頭對添姆道。「原來是中國暴發戶。怪不得。怪不得。他們對顏色的品味好像,怎麼說呢,有些與眾不同吧。」

「簡直大膽創新呢!」 添姆諷刺地歪著嘴笑道。「老費迪說裡面有六個大房,可能一船船大大小小的娘家親戚隨後便到。」


「房間數目也應該限制才對,」 添姆說著,從褲袋里掏出手絹來抹淚水。「老當,這煙很厲害哦!」

「你今天怎的像個法國佬一般羅嗦啦!」 阿當用手在眼前撥了幾下,繼續說道:「這裡只有四個房子, 我們也用不著。兩個在養塵。我們應該派人去跟那中國—— 他說到一半,被肺里衝出來的一陣咳嗽打斷了。從地牢湧出來的煙,越來越黑,越來越濃。小西敏由房間出來走到外面去,眼睛沒有離開過手上的遊戲機,邊走邊打殺著電子妖怪。


「你知我是捨命陪君子的咯!這酒真好。看來釀雪利酒,我們還是天下第一吧!」 他把酒杯交給阿當,然後用手絹捂著鼻子呼吸。添姆閉上被熏紅了的眼睛,心裡依然困惑:那中國佬為什麼要把好好的房子刷得又紅又白的一副怪模樣呢?

呐喊 2011

人间正道是沧桑。转眼间,差不多一个世纪,一个多事的动荡世纪,又尘土飞扬的过去了。我想怀旧一下,借用21世纪先进败坏的眼光,重温 “呐喊” 这个问题,看看是否依然切题。
首先,一群精神上昏迷入睡了的人,有些什么症状呢? 我想,第一是无知无觉,对身处的客观环境,窈窈冥冥,昏昏乎不知所以然,既不了解,也不想去了解, 其实境界甚高。第二是充满幻觉;人在梦境,再没有必要去界定什么谓之“可能”,什么谓之“不可能”,海阔天空,任意飞翔。第三是盲目;沉睡的人,双眼一闭,与死人无异,眼前的景象,是眼不见为干净。
间中,历史的巨轮,会横冲直撞地滚到了下一个转捩点:这个时候,平民吃无可吃,而贵族们负债累累,再无能力大动干戈,指挥老百姓为国,为神,为皇权,去别国抢掠劫杀。 这个时候,人民才感受到胃酸的煎熬,忍无可忍的滋味。结果,可能是革命。成功的话,改朝换代。不成功的话,不被活埋打死,也生生的饿死。不过除了肚子快要饿穿个洞出来,怎样才算得上是 “忍无可忍” 呢?这就不好说了。你可能觉得日本人入侵,忍无可忍,但支持 “东亚共荣圈” 的,也大不乏人。1931年的 “九一八事变”, 是否忍无可忍呢?国民党的抗战,竟然可以在六年后的 “七七事变” 算起,可见蒋介石对外的容忍力,超乎常人。
帝国霸权,当年的殖民精英,表面上老早已经息微撤退,不再明抢豪夺,改了行搞民主人权,自由贸易。是否发财立品呢?在民间的层面,的确有如此迹象。但在政治的层面,他们只不过总结了经验,改头换面而已。八国联军的厉鬼阴魂,借尸还魂之后,在国际之间,掌握了三大战略重点:金融,军事,传媒,排名不分先后;但总体来说,传媒的力量不小,也较持久;原因是贱民的脑袋好洗,培养一个汉奸或小黄狗,比起监禁一名顽劣战俘容易;更凑效,更便宜。简化来说,帝国大佬的杀手锏不外是:哄骗,造谣,丑化,武力“解放”,继续洗脑;其中的每一步,都需要 “自由传媒” 的参与,积极发挥作用。
看看跟美国气脉相连的英国吧:面对严峻的财政困难,还要打锣打鼓吹喇叭,斥资替女王娶孙媳妇。大部分的人民,不但不觉得在21世纪搞 “王子娶老婆”,属于过时浪费兼荒诞无稽的宫闱闹剧,还为这双注定下半生无所事事的新人高兴。蚁民,就是这个心态;现代贱民,虽然天天冲凉,穿皮鞋,打领带,但心态依然。香港更妙,有人看得感动,眼泛泪光呢!时至今天,香港还有不少自鸣才子的小黄狗,整天长吁短叹,摇头摆尾想当年,在大英帝国膝下觅食的光辉日子:哪个时候?嘿!我一举一动,都有主人赏识,认真乖乖的时候,他会摸头赞赏喂饼干;现在?哎。
现代的穷家人民,基本上是同一个心态。 不少完全没有条件的国家,也有样学样,在权贵帝国的漂亮口号催眠怂恿之下,要吗来个 “人民力量”,要吗来个 “自由经济”,把自己赤裸裸地无私奉献,做个没有生殖能力的小妃嫔,最终的下场,多年下来,有目共睹,十分可怜。稍有骨气,但命运不济,资源丰富而力量单薄的,还随时被人 “武力解放”。奇怪的是,以上的惨痛经验,不胜枚举,但很多的人,可能看多了CNN 和 BBC,导致双目失明,所以视若无睹,只顾得在嘴边不停的重复着主人公的训示:贵族疾呼民主人权,贱民低头小心聆听。至于经济嘛,也一定要自由,要向着主人公的利益,一面倒自由下去!


过渡于 2011年 5 月 1日  劳动节


有关以下的美国听证会录像 ( 我要破例吹嘘一次: “非看不可”。

看了之后,你会对美国金融监管的荒谬程度有更具体的了解。可能由于事情太过离谱,严重的 “无助感” 造成了大部分人的“集体逃避”心态吧;如此严峻的局面摆在眼前,很多人却不愿知,不愿想,不敢想。以前的人民,无权议政,任由当权者摆布, 只有听天由命。现在的西方人民,理论上拥有至高无上的民权,可惜结果一样。
美联储数以万亿美元的资产,不知所踪(平均每个美国人,由婴孩到较幸运的临终人士,负责3万多美元),没有交待。大部分的人,竟然毫不知情,安坐家中,对着电视看打仗,吸取主流传媒散播的“非官方意见”: 外面的世界,充满恐怖,杀机,缺乏美国认可的道德标准云云。不合作的年轻人,把国家机密,在网上信手拿来,制造混乱,必须严惩。IMF 的老人家们,越发放肆,不与美元配合,罪该万死。
穷家人民的孩子,当了兵,一边占据伊拉克,阿富汗,搞屠杀,玩逼供,残害自己的生命和心理健康,一边在和平奖得主的指使之下,攻打利比亚,教训卡扎菲的独立非洲货币妄想,并即时设立利比亚中央银行(难道真的没有人觉得这情况之下,首要工作搞中央银行,有点匪夷所思?)然而,不由你不信,不少人真的相信攻打利比亚,是 “正义之师” 要从卡扎非的”魔掌“中把利比亚人民拯救。哎,当人们基于无知,恐惧,或无奈,而要自己相信一个谎话的时候,根本就不需要什么合理的情节。逻辑,理据,只不过是小部分精英的玩意。从民主的角度看,根本可以不理。

English: America's Missing Trillions

The Artist Dilemma

Zhou Mi Mi’s Chinese novel “Wen Qu Pu” is cleverly built around the vicissitudes of a group of mainland artists living in Hong Kong. In this haven of quick money, where superficiality is efficiency, a fine painter works as a stagehand, poets become bums, getting stuck in self-romanticised chaos, writers mass produce fatuous scripts for local TVs. One woman writer even prostituted physically to keep food on the table, but never stopped writing. 

It’s a small circle. They all know each other, getting into each other’s way competing, loving, hurting, caring, despising and helping.

Artists’ struggles are touching because they are driven by passion, and perpetually haunted by a professional self-doubt and insecurity. After having dedicated years of their lives to practising music or dancing or painting or writing stories, desperate artists are vulnerable to unscrupulous agents, producers, publishers or employers. An artist’s strive for excellence is against severe odds. In the end, he depends on the judgement of those who may not have nominal appreciation for their hard work and talents.

The dilemma is that most artists need an audience, but are forever exasperated by how little anyone knows “true art”. However, if there were a sudden enlightenment en masse in his art, he would become a craftsman. Of course he could move on to a higher plane or different artistic dimension. But if he does, and succeeds, he would again leave his audience behind, and relapse into grumbling about nobody knowing anything about his art. 

Beauty cannot exist without vulgarity. Similarly, wisdom and vision are meaningless without a critical mass of stupid people.

Art is not alone in being ruled by the “tyranny of the Average” though. Being exceptional in any area unfortunately means being surrounded by mediocrity, getting irritated like a fish which hates to be wet.

Diao Yu Tai conflict - an opportunity for peace?

I don’t normally comment on specific political issues because of an inability to figure out what people are arguing about. But I’d make an exception for Diao Yu Tai. The crisis is at best an opportunity to secure longer term calmness between China and Japan, at worst a mutually destructive trap that they step into open-eyed.

The situation in summary: Disturbing status quo has always been a clear bottom line to an overwhelming majority of Chinese, regardless of political inclination. Beijing knows that. Inability to face down this challenge would seriously damage their legitimacy, Chinese style. 

On the other hand, Japan might have taken too many steps by now to retract with face and dignity intact. Most Chinese and Japanese don’t wish to see further escalation of this conflict. Many worry about Japan regressing back to militarism in a general sense, but that would be overlooking the fundamental changes they have gone through since the last war. Sure, they have quite a few right wing nut bars; which country doesn’t? Their politicians maybe self-serving opportunists but that’s a universal trait in their profession, especially those who depend on votes for a living.

What could be done to untangle this stalemate?

The Japanese government will purchase the Diao Yu rocks from What’s-his-name. Concurrently, their parliament will pass a bill declaring it a special conservation area, forbidding visits or development of any kind for the next fifty years. This would in effect officialise the hitherto unofficial agreement between the two countries, and keep the kamikaze samurais legally restrained. Isn’t this the intention repeatedly emphasised by the Japanese Government?

China will declare the purchase invalid, of course, but with the legal assurance of a development freeze, Japan’s declared intention of purchasing the island to keep it from the lunatics would be proven sincere. China can also promulgate similar legislation to protect Diao Yu Tai for the sake of the record.

Let’s hope this conflict can be resolved sensibly. Now that the US has redirected their benign attention back to Asia Pacific, we should no longer take peace and harmony for granted.