Monday, 8 December 2014

The Second Enlightenment - Debunking Democracy

More people seem to be waking up to the fact that
populist democracy controlled by money is a political dead-end. 

However, just as otherwise enlightened individuals such as Galileo and Newton dared not deny God, modern-day democracy skeptics are hesitant to challenge its sanctity. Without God, one’s doomed. Without democracy, life’s unthinkable. That’s the mantra. Don’t question.

Capitalistic liberal democracy (let’s call it Democracy with a big dee) bears many resemblances to its religious predecessor. God and Democracy are similarly upheld by faith rather than reason, analysis, or benchmarked assessment. Democracy, a virtual replacement of God in most of ex-Christendom, is equally absolute and elusive, impossible to define. Politics in the USA, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, India, Switzerland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. differ in form, substance, and spirit. Even buddies like the US and UK have markedly different political structures. But as long as they hoist the Democracy banner, all is fine. Like God, Democracy’s good by tautology. Details are unimportant. 




Sunday, 2 November 2014

How Beijing Can Reoccupy Hong Kong

To most people, it has been painfully obvious from the onset that the ostensible objectives of Occupy Central don’t stand any chance. After more than a month of chaos, it’s perhaps time for Beijing to make a move, and use the opportunity to start Hong Kong’s reunification, belatedly, 17 years after its official return. 



Thursday, 23 October 2014

Between Lives

Ding! Seventeenth Floor,” the elevator announces in its cloying robotic voice, after having skipped all the inauspicious numbers in Chinese and Western superstitions. 
“Excuse me,” I force through the sombre crowd, most of them absorbed in their phones, unwilling to move, oblivious to my impatient elbows.
Every time I step into the lobby of the female geriatric ward, I feel instantly depressed by the morbidity in the air. Come to think of it, 17th is actually 14th, after adjusting for the missing 4th, 13th and 14th floors. They can fool numerology but not structural reality, or the embedded curse.
I nod to the duty nurse in passing, again. She’s starting to look curious. I’ve been coming in and going out every ten minutes today. I head straight to Room 1704. For some reason, they have not deleted inauspicious room numbers as well. For the past four days, the room’s been fully occupied by the same six patients. Four of them, including Ah Mah, are semi-comatose, similarly hooked up to waste collection bags and monitors.
The other two are conscious. One has an oxygen mask which she puts on and takes off incessantly. The other mumbles to herself a lot, mostly belligerent monologues. Ironically, both don’t seem to have visitors.
A collective whiff greets me at the door: drugs, urine, faeces, the raw stench of old age and sickness, sanitised death. The late afternoon sun has cast beautiful golden shadows between their beds. 
Ah Mah’s immobile form, covered by a blanket, breathing noisily, mouth slightly open, eyes closed, sunken, is becoming familiar and surreal after four days. Is her condition steady? Greyish flakes of dried saliva have formed around her mouth. I wet some tissues with the drinking bottle and wipe carefully, hoping her desiccated lips will soak it up. I glance at my watch, but immediately feel guilty for noting that only two minutes have passed — eight more to go.


「叮!十七樓!」 電梯用機械人扮溫馨的聲線,以英粵語宣佈它的虛假位置,梯門隨即打開。
「對不起!」 乘客都在低頭看電話,對我焦急的手肘反應緩慢。
17樓的高齡女病房,有種濃濃的消極氣氛。看來17減去避過了的 4,13,14 等中英忌諱後,仍然是十四樓。「偷號法」 騙得過迷信的人,騙不過建築物的硬現實。
阿媽的房間是1704。院方把兆頭不佳的層數殺掉,卻把有4字的房號保留,做法有些不一。過去四天來,1704 住滿了六個病人。其中四個,包括阿媽在內,都局部昏迷。他們同樣被接駁到類似的儀器,吊瓶,和糞便袋。

Wednesday, 22 October 2014




Int'l Standard in Freedom and Democracy

Occupy Central protesters demand freedom and Democracy (In case you haven’t noticed, I habitually capitalise Democracy due to it’s sacred status) according to “international standard”. I believe the freedom bit should be easily achievable. Hong Kong has been one of the freest cities in the world in many respects: economic, personal movement, expression etc. etc.; a downward adjustment to meet international standard shouldn’t be too challenging. 

The protestors and their mentors also tell us that candidates for the Chief Executive should be nominated by the public, and voted on directly without any form of screening whatsoever. Otherwise, it’d be a sham! Now, this could be more problematic according to “international standard”. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Umbrella Revolution and Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Freedom Fighters can’t possibly be fighting for “freedom” in one of the most indulgent communities on earth; it’d be like fish keep asking for more salt in the ocean. If succeeded, it’d turn them into anchovies. 

A popular reason cited by supporters is that China’s an authoritarian state, therefore to be loathed unconditionally. Anyone who reads mainstream newspapers would know that much. If this fear is indeed the real cause, I’d like to take this opportunity to examine China’s authoritarianism by reviewing some known facts:

1. In 1949, when the Communist Party took over, average life expectancy in China was about thirty-five, illiteracy was 80%, and GDP was lower than Qing Dynasty’s. After a century of pillage and plunder by colonial powers, the country was struggling to recover from near-fatal wounds inflicted by opium, corruption, barbaric invasions and civil wars. Sixty-five years on, it’s the world’s second largest economy. In the past thirty years, the miraculous transformation (GDP growth, productivity, urbanisation of population etc.) of this continent-sized country is comparable to (relatively tiny) Britain’s evolution after the industrial revolution, which took about 200 years. Martin Jacques’ book contains a lot of hard data for comparison, in plain English However, economic development isn’t everything. It shouldn’t be.


香港的雨傘革命家們並非真的在追求民主自由。香港是世上少有的自由社會,程度近乎放縱。在這裡搞革命爭取自由,實在太玄,難以信服。當我問他們革命成功後,有了自由民主,打算如何改變社會時,答案都有些離題:中國是極權國家,定要反對! 哦,原來這才是真正原因。

習慣了西方 自由傳媒” 招牌菜的人,都知道中國是 極權國家,令人心寒。我希望多些瞭解,於是決定反潮流,實事求是探索一番:

1. 當新中國在1949年成立之際,中國的人均壽命不過35歲,文盲率高達80%GDP 比清朝時期還低。經過一個多世紀的鴉片荼毒,貪污腐敗,列強侵掠和內戰,中國當時處於垂死邊緣。做夢也想不到,65年後會翻身成為全球第二經濟大國。毛澤東的超英趕美,現在看來一點也不虛幻。過去30年的成績,相等小英帝國工業革命後200年的演變,是人類歷史上的奇跡。英國作家 Martin Jacques 蒐集了大量數據,作出客觀比較,可供參考: 但經濟發展雖然重要,社會發展還須以人為本。

Monday, 29 September 2014

My take on Occupy Central

It’s human nature to react emotionally rather than rationally whenever there’s some kind of mass disorder. The Occupy Central movement, misplaced in Admiralty, is of course no exception.

A friend has a valid point: Most if not all student movements have underlying reasons that we should not simply shrug off. So, what’s Occupy Central about, and what could be the extreme outcomes?

Underlying Frustrations

Hong Kong craves the reset button for a few reasons. Education (both at school AND home) is a key one. Having popularised the university degree in the 1990s, everyone feels entitled to a better job. Ironically, quantity has achieved the opposite. We now have many graduates aspiring to be managers, but stuck with making telephone sales calls. Today’s mainland China has many more poor kids. But they have dreams and hopes to soon become nouveau riches. Most of them are (relatively relatively) happy and self-driven. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s social permeability has dropped significantly. Poor kids feel stuck. Middle class ones growing up without having learnt to tie shoe laces feel their enormous sense of entitlement denied. They’re unhappy. 





Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Superstition in Science


Two erudite correspondents have been engaged in a thought provoking e-mail debate over the merits of science. They both have taught science subjects at university level. One thinks science the most elegant approach to universal wisdom. The other regards it yet another grand human illusion.

I actually agree with both and, paradoxically, don’t think they have much disagreement in their passionately divergent viewpoints. Perhaps they’ve set aside a huge swathe of worldly commonality to expostulate over a philosophical posture? Academics and intellectuals love to do that you know.

There are ample examples how applied science and technology have improved the lives of many over the past century. Science could have been indisputably beneficial, had we not overused and misused it (once again!), rendering it destructive — self-destructive — to humans.


兩位筆友,最近經電郵激烈辯論科學迷信這議題。一位認為科學是探索宇宙最高智慧的優雅手段。另一位認為科學無非人類又一偉大幻覺,與最終現實拉不上關係。兩位都是僑居海外的教授級學者,都曾經在大學教理工科。我覺得他們兩位的論點精辟, 而且分歧不大,只不過抓住了一兩個原則上的分叉,爭論一番而已。老九們,不論香臭,都有這份嗜好!


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Beautiful North (3) - Finland Special Lights 美丽北国(3)-芬兰之光

Long time no see Finland. I saw light everywhere, gleaming, glinting, blazing, more dramatic than before, enchanting as usual. And thank you for the rainbow. . .


Did I say "Let there be light"?  

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Currency War for Idiots

Why is it a big deal for the 0.001% to maintain the Dollar’s reserve status and petrol prerogative? And why should we commoners even care? 

To answer the second question first, a currency war could end in physical ones, with missiles crisscrossing above head, and our children ruined in the battlefield without knowing why. Even if it doesn’t escalate into major military conflicts, having some idea about the rise and fall of currencies may help to reduce personal losses.






Saturday, 21 June 2014

Ulpotha — An Enchanting Retreat 斯里兰卡迷人的瑜伽静修村

Ulpotha has been named the “Best Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka” for good reasons. It’s a truly unforgettable experience for anyone seeking a retreat from urban life, rather than a resort to indulge in alternative excesses and over-packaged pampering. I don’t have much to add to Ulpotha’s beautiful website ( Magical Ulpotha leaves little room for exaggeration or false advertising.

However, I do think there are at least ten reasons why one shouldn’t go anywhere near Ulpotha. Before my analysis, first a few supplementary photos:

斯里兰卡的 Ulpotha 瑜伽静修村被称全国之冠,是名符其实。对真心希望暂时摆脱烦嚣,尝试返璞归真的都市人来说,是难得的乐土。Ulpotha 的网站(上的漂亮相片,丝毫没有夸张,我也就不重复了。

Ulpotha 的魅力虽然一点不假,我却认为由于种种原因,很多人应该敬而远之。在我分析 Ulpotha 的敝处之前,先看几张补充图片:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014



Friday, 30 May 2014

Impressions from Iran (5) Final Episode: Iran! Iran! 伊朗印象(5)终结篇: 伊朗!伊朗!

Isfahan Square
Two weeks in Iran showed me the extent to which a country can be savagely demonised by the corporate free press. I was surprised by the contrast between what I saw, and what’s commonly portrayed in TV and newspapers. I hope my pictures have said at least a few words.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Impressions from Iran (4) — Heroes 伊朗印象(4)- 英雄篇

Persia’s Achaemenid Empire once kinda stretched from Turkey in the west to Pakistan in the East. Its founder Cyrus the Great (circa 600 to 530 BCE), and legendary capital Persepolis (eventually razed by Alexander the Pyromaniac) may evoke a glorious past, but are no match for Hafez and Saadi in capturing the soul and passion of Iran. Few other people revere their poets like Iranians do. The mausoleum of Hafez is still packed with admirers after more than 600 years. They seek solace from his philosophical love poems, even use them as soothsayings to calm the mind and heart. Saadi Shirazi who lived a century before Hafez is similarly remembered. 

大约两千五百年前,波斯的阿契美尼德王朝疆域辽阔,西包土耳其,东含巴基斯坦。王朝的缔造者居鲁士大帝,和被希腊纵火狂阿历山大烧毁的著名古都 Persepolis,虽然标志着古波斯帝国的文明和强大,但对伊朗人来说,魅力还不及哈菲兹萨迪。看来没有一个民族比伊朗人更爱慕伟大的诗人。六百多年来,伊朗人到哈菲兹的陵园凭吊,冥想,找寻灵性,修补创伤,络绎不绝。他充满哲理的情诗,甚至被用来占卦。

The ruins of Persepolis, capital of the largest empire 2500 years ago
2500年前世上最强大繁荣的古都 Persepolis

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Impressions from Iran (3) — Mosques and Morgues 伊朗印象(3)- 上帝与波斯

Visitor Contemplating a 1500-year-old Fire behind glass
in Zoroastrian Temple in Yadz
在 Yadz 拜火庙的火盘,供人隔着玻璃观赏参拜。


Religion and the Middle East are inseparable. Iran is no exception, though the average Iranians are not nearly as devout as they appear to outsiders. Started out as monotheistic Parsees (Zoroastrians) in the 6th Century, ancient Persians worshipped a God named Ahura Mazda (unrelated to the Japanese car) with an unremitting fire maintained by a keeper. A few centuries later, it was replaced by Islam, brought in by Arabic conquerors. It has since dominated the spiritual side of Iran, especially after the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago. Zoroastrian has survived as a minor religion, and some fire temples are still in use. 

宗教在中东有历史性的中心地位,伊朗当然不例外。不过对一般的伊朗人来说,宗教无疑是历史文化和生活的一部分,但信仰并不狂热。波斯人在六世纪创立了拜火教,教义极为简单合理,不外正念,正言,正行。拜火教中文译名有些误导。教徒拜的不是火,而是与日本汽车同名的真神“万事达” 。崇拜祂的工具是薪火不断的“火盘”。伊斯兰教由阿拉伯侵略者大概一千年前带入波斯,自此成为主流,但仍然有部分人信奉拜火教。

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Impressions from Iran (2) — Persian Bazaars 伊朗印象(2)- 波斯市集

Tehran Bazaar 德黑兰市集 

Whenever I visit a strange place, I like to see its markets. They tell me a lot about the locals’ lives, habits, social order, living standard, and behaviour towards each other. For example, supermarkets are efficient, impersonal, and cold, while advertising “organic” produce. I wonder who invented them. 

Persian Bazaars are colourful, personal, and busy, but clean and quiet comparing with their Far East counterparts. Iranians do bargain, but not at the expense of sanity and composure. They don’t scream and exchange curses ritualistically before finalising a deal. The bazaars open early in the morning, then take a long nap after lunch before resuming in the late afternoon. Normally, there’s a seemingly incongruous tomb of an imam and/or a religious school in the midst of fragrant herbs and sticky candies, probably to remind people of their spiritual needs while depraving the bodies with yummy food and colourful fabrics.



Saturday, 17 May 2014

Impressions from Iran (1) - SMILING FACES from Bush's AXIS of EVIL 伊朗印象(1)- 布希 “邪恶轴心” 的善良嘴脸

When newspaper-reading friends first learnt of my plan to join a few retirees for a trip to Iran, their common reaction was: “Iran? You be careful huh.” As departure approached, I became slightly nervous about adventuring into Bush's “Axis of Evil”, braving a “yellow travel alert” dutifully echoed by the Hong Kong Government. I even considered buying insurance for the first time. However, anxiety was no match for my curiosity about the only other ancient civilisation which still thinks reasonably independently.

前阵子有几位退休朋友自己组团游伊朗,我立即报名参加。除了中国,当今世上还能基本上思想独立的文明古国就只有伊朗,非要看看不可。 但很多经常看报纸的朋友们知道之后,都面带忧色地警告我小心。“踏足美国的邪恶轴心非同小可,惟望三思而行。” 可惜退缩已经太迟,最后只有鼓起勇气,与家人拥抱道别之后,战战兢兢地登上飞机。

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Justice of Sin

Slightly edited version of "The Sins of Sin",
Originally anthologised by Hong Kong Writers Circle 

Sin went through the morning’s news clippings for the fifth time, sucking desperately at a fibre of lunchtime chicken lodged between molars, making loud slippery tzits! He stuffed his half-finished lunchbox into the paper basket without closing the lid, then searched fruitlessly for a toothpick. 
His secretary Flora was returning from lunch, shuffling past his open door to take position behind her desk for another two hundred and ten minutes before she was free to go. Though only a few metres from her, he summoned her with the intercom as a matter of principle: “Flora. Do you have a toothpick?”
“No Mr. Sin,” she replied in an intimidated voice that some suspected was a result of having worked for Sin all these years.
“Can you first look?”
“I know I don’t Mr. Sin but I can look anyway if you wish.”
“Forget it. Just come in.”
She entered, goggling him in silence, not wondering what he might want. She had given up on that long ago. 
“Can you make a copy?” He eyed the news clippings on his desk, picking his teeth with a straightened paper clip. His “media contact” Winnie Poon had asked a few questions outside the courtroom yesterday, mentioning his new title, just as he had skillfully hinted. Her question on cross-border corruption had been a surprise, but he had handled it well. He was extremely pleased with the result: “No Territorial Boundary  in the Battle against Corruption”, said Senior Assistant Director. Fantastic, he thought. Visionary, bold, and righteous. It would attract many “likes” if he could share it on Facebook. 


英文版本原名 "The Sins of Sin",
收录於 Hong Kong Writers Circle 

冼福音把吃剩大半的叉烧油鸡饭盒,盖也懒掩便塞进了身旁的废纸箩,眼睛未离开过办公桌上的新闻剪稿。他今早已经把剪稿欣赏过四五遍,但仍意犹未尽。他传媒界的“关系” Winnie 潘诗菲昨天在法院门外的突发问题,他当时毫无准备,只好凭急智对应。哈!想不到效果甚佳,连他的新职衔也上了标题:“高级助理刑事检控专员冼福音资深大律师认为打击贪腐不应有国界之分!” 说得好!假如放上Facebook,肯定会招引一大堆 “赞”。他一边看剪报,一边猛力吮吸一条卡在牙缝的鸡肉,剔嘁有声,可恨效果不大。刚巧他的秘书午饭回来,脚下无声地溜过他的房门,回到座位等放工。她还有两百一十分钟才可重获一天的自由。


“冼蛇,没有。” Flora 微弱的声音,不但充分表露了信心崩溃,还隐约带了一种重拾无期的绝望感。有人怀疑这是她多年来与冼福音共事的副作用。




Flora 花了好几分钟才拖着脚跟游移到冼福音之前,一言不发地等候发落。
“影一份,” 他用鼻尖指了指桌上的剪稿,一边用拉直了的纸夹剔牙。
Flora 拿起剪报,刚准备转身时,他突然改变了主意:“三份吧。” 心想:多印两份没坏。


英文版本原名 "The Sins of Sin",
收錄於 Hong Kong Writers Circle 

冼福音把吃剩大半的叉燒油雞飯盒,蓋也懶掩便塞進了身旁的廢紙籮,眼睛未離開過辦公桌上的新聞剪稿。他今早已經把剪稿欣賞過四五遍,但仍意猶未盡。他傳媒界的“關係” Winnie 潘詩菲昨天在法院門外的突發問題,他當時毫無準備,只好憑急智對應。哈!想不到效果甚佳,連他的新職銜也上了標題:“高級助理刑事檢控專員冼福音資深大律師認為打擊貪腐不應有國界之分!” 說得好!假如放上Facebook,肯定會招引一大堆 “贊”。他一邊看剪報,一邊猛力吮吸一條卡在牙縫的雞肉,剔嘁有聲,可恨效果不大。剛巧他的秘書午飯回來,腳下無聲地溜過他的房門,回到座位等放工。她還有兩百一十分鐘才可重獲一天的自由。
“冼蛇,沒有。” Flora 微弱的聲音,不但充分表露了信心崩潰,還隱約帶了一種重拾無期的絕望感。有人懷疑這是她多年來與冼福音共事的副作用。
Flora 花了好幾分鐘才拖著腳跟游移到冼福音之前,一言不發地等候發落。
“影一份,” 他用鼻尖指了指桌上的剪稿,一邊用拉直了的萬字夾剔牙。
Flora 拿起剪報,剛準備轉身時,他突然改變了主意:“三份吧。” 心想:多印兩份“無蝕底”。

Friday, 11 April 2014

Questioning Democracy Goes Mainstream?

What’s going on? Criticising the occult of Democracy has suddenly gone mainstream?

Just within the past few weeks, I’ve read, with utter disbelief, first in The Economist, then The Washington Post, warnings that Democracy could collapse unless reformed. Even Professor Francis Fukuyama, writer of “The End of History and the Last Man” who declared liberal democracy to be the ultimate political model of mankind, has joined rank. It’s like witnessing the Vatican expressing doubt over the Genesis.

I’ve listed the links of these incredible but excellent essays below, plus a couple of my old blasphemous pieces which questioned the viability of Democracy, especially when coupled with extreme capitalism and mass petulance. Hey, these “eccentric and cynical” views are now kinda mainstream! I still find it difficult to take in, and wonder what the catch is. . .


世界真的变得越来越快,快得有点儿不真实。几个星期前,我根本不能想像 “民主” 这神性不可侵犯的大迷信,会被西方主流传媒认真批判。

这几周内,首先是超保守的英国 “经济学人”,然后是 “华盛顿邮报”,轮流对西方肆意式民主的前途作出前所未有的认真检讨和批判,甚至坦然承认若不改革,整个制度可能会面临崩溃。现在甚至连曾经预测西方民主将会成为人类 “终极制度” 的福山教授,也改变了看法,承认民主发展下去是个大死结。


Monday, 31 March 2014

Mini Memories and the Significance of Snowden

Modern memories, like attention span, are fashionably short for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which being incessant shrinking and conditioning by the mass media. Another reason could be mental overload. There are way too many baffling issues, some real, some fabricated, designed to confuse.

Many survivors of WW2 are still alive with their scars and memories, yet the denial and reinvention of history have commenced before their eyes. No wonder Iraq has been largely forgotten. But countless Iraqis are still dead, for reasons that never existed. They are the relatively lucky ones though. Thousands of deformed children, DNA warped by depleted uranium bombs, are yet to face life in a broken country. What about Guatanamo Bay, the 21st Century torture camp operated by the most vociferous lecturer of human rights and rule of law, offering indefinite detention without bothering to stage even a show trial?