Thursday, 23 October 2014

Between Lives




I’m wedged against the corner by a flabby middle-aged woman and a scrawny old man. Her bare arm, damp and pallid, quivers as if resonating with the rising elevator. The old man stares trance-like at the digital display as it jumps from 12 to 15, skipping the unlucky numbers 13 and 14. They both breathe with a shallow hiss, bizarrely synchronised.
Ding! Seventeenth Floor, announces an irksome robotic voice in English and Cantonese.
“Excuse me,” I try to find a path of least resistance through them. They ignore me and push their way out silently instead. Looks like they’re together, probably father and daughter, visiting the dying mother. The female geriatric ward here is full of dying mothers. 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.
They turn left. I turn right, and 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.

生死之間



一名肥胖的中年女人和一個身材瘦削,狀似枯樹的老年男人,把我逼在電梯一角。那女人肥大的手臂,表面一層黃油,好像和電梯共鳴,不住微微震蕩。那老人家則中了邪般盯著顯示板,看著它由 12 一下子跳越中外顧忌,直達15。兩人的呼吸都很淺弱急速,出奇同步地沙沙發響。
「叮!十七樓!」 電梯用機械人扮溫馨的聲線,以英粵語宣佈位置;梯門隨即打開。
「對不起!」 我急於在門關上前,找個空隙穿越。一肥一瘦的乘客卻沒有理會。原來他們也在這層登陸。我跟著他們的屁股擠了出去。大概是父女,同來探望垂死的媽媽吧。位於17樓的高齡女病房,到處都是垂死媽媽。其實17減去避過了的 4,13,14 後,仍然是十四樓。看來 「偷號法」 騙得過人,騙不過現實的建築結構。
在當值櫃台前,他們轉左,我拐右。護士用奇異的眼光望了我一眼,但我沒有心情解釋我每隔十分鐘出入一趟的原因。
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。
余下兩位較清醒的老太,其中一個不停把面上的氧氣罩拉掉,戴上,再拉掉,再戴上。另一位四天來都不見有訪客,清醒的時候,經常憤怒地自言自語,像在跟自己吵嘴。
一進房門,一種醫院獨有的醫藥氣味,混上六位老人家糞便尿袋釋放的隱約味道,撲面而上。這經過消毒的老,病,死,苦,很令人嘔心。
黃昏的陽光,透過窗花,在地上撒了幾道金黃影子。
阿媽還是幾天來的老樣子:插滿了塑料喉,微微張口,大聲呼吸。她眼皮下陷,好像眼珠被人挖走了。唇邊白白黃黃的,粘滿風乾了的口水皮。我用紙巾濕水替她拭擦,希望枯竭的口唇能夠吸收一點水份。我伸手時順便看看腕表,立即感到內疚:還未坐下,心裡已經急不急待計時。
兩分多鐘過去了;還剩下差不多八分鐘。

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

民主國際標準


佔中支持者,很多都忘記了佔中的聲明目標,是爭取符合國際標準的自由和民主。自由嘛,還好辦。香港是全球最自由的城市之一,這是大佬們說過的,沒有自吹自擂。既然現行的自由度較大,向著國際標準下調的空間也便較多,應該辦得到。

但這批未來的社會棟梁和導師們教我們特首要由公民提名,然後一人一票直選,否則就是假民主!假選舉!支持者都拍手叫好!

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 http://www.martinjacques.com/books/when-china-rules-the-world/. However, economic development isn’t everything. It shouldn’t be.

雨傘革命和中國特色的極權主義


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: http://www.martinjacques.com/books/when-china-rules-the-world/. 但經濟發展雖然重要,社會發展還須以人為本。