Monday, 15 July 2019
Dissecting Monster Parents
The anti-China self-hate-racists in Hong Kong have reached a new level of absurdity and violence, ransacking police stations and the parliament (LEGCO). Pundits have offered many explanations for their pathological behaviour. The vague consensus seems to be that Hong Kong has failed miserably in three sectors: the media, judiciary, and education. I pointed out exactly these subverted areas in my satirical Cultural Revolution Posters seven years ago. If these losing “war zones” were obvious to me then as a casual observer, one would think the government must have had noticed as well. It’s puzzling why it has done nothing, and continues to do nothing except offering apologies to everyone. Perhaps in an institutional form, the government is also a “monster parent”?
Monsters breed monsters, naturally. Hong Kong’s monster parents — be them individuals or institutions — cannot deny responsibility for having raised a generation of junior demons.
General affluence and small families tend to turn busy urbanites into mindlessly indulgent folks. It’s not unique to HK. But far more detrimental than material indulgence is “detachment from reality”. Political philosopher Eric Voegelin defines “stupidity” as a “loss of reality”. It’s a good definition. People who fail to grasp verifiable facts and objective reality are stupid, right? HK monster parents, in their desperate desire to appear “liberal and western”, have neglected to help youngsters understand reality. Their children are stupid by upbringing.
A monster is something which has deviated grotesquely from its natural form. Before dissecting monster parents, let’s first review what I call “natural” parenting.
“Natural” parents instinctively care about their offsprings. They feed and protect their children with all they have, including their own lives if necessary. More importantly, they prepare the kids to face the future on their own. They pass on survival skills. They help the young to find their feet or wings, know their territory and the environment, telling them everything they know about danger and survival. Do this, don’t do that. Here are the limits. Be careful, but also be brave. Hey, listen, this is reality. Natural or not, parents nag. Then, one day, they let go.
“Natural” parents are neither “good” nor “bad”. Like our mammalian relatives in the Animal Kingdom, they are guided by instincts, not ethics or theories. But human societies are sophisticated. With time, well-tested values and traditions become part of “natural” upbringing.
Some parents don’t have much valuable insights or useful skills to pass on. Some never let go; their kids must kick free, or suffocate. Some parents are not worth learning from. In human communities, traditions and social institutions — from schools to prisons — provide the necessary back up. The arrangement is far from perfect, and not always fair, but such is life. Homo sapiens have been practising something like that for millennia, generation after generation. The results are reasonably good. We have been eating at the top end of the food chain without sharp teeth, poisonous glands, or huge muscles, taking it for granted for a long long time, from human’s brief perspective.
Yet nothing can change the social nature of humans. Most of us need to belong. Understanding and engaging with society is at least as important as learning survival skills and knowledge. It establishes the starting point from which we engage, progress, settle, innovate, improve, rebel, or revolt. Without understanding the current reality, we don’t even have something to revolt against, unless resorting to blind tantrum, such as what HK is going through.
Among affluent middle-class urbanites, parenting has become trendily unnatural. Every interaction between parents and children is governed by some theory in child psychology or nerve-wracking legality. Hongkongers are furthermore complicated by an acute inferiority complex. It’s the legacy of a colonial past, sometimes called Stockholm Syndrome.
Most HK monster parents were raised with traditional values. It had served them well, but they nonetheless feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, about being Chinese. In their formative years, they learnt that traditional Chinese values suck. “Western” values, whatever they are, are progressive and superior. They looked at HK’s expatriates, and saw indisputable evidence. They had much better jobs, living in expensive areas. They were individualistic and confident good drinkers. They wore suits in sweltering heat and never got heatstroke. Their parents, on the other hand, were always working, head down, back bent, sweating without a necktie, embarrassing.
The choice was clear. If they could not become thoroughly westernised themselves, they will raise kids who can. Meanwhile, they declared to each other “hehe, my Chinese is so very lousy lah” with quirky pride. The more radical even made English their children’s motherless tongue at home, making generational communication ineffective and awkward.
As usual, copycats replicate superficially. HK monsters are not exceptional in their Westernisation process.
A recent example: HK teachers visit Finland every year with tax money (in the summer, not the dark winter, I cynically assume) to learn from its famous education system. Year after year, they note that Finnish kids spend more time in the playground than their HK counterparts, thereby becoming smarter. Our visiting educators, detached from traditional learning methods, are looking out for something “innovative” — anything different. Invariable, they fail to note the characteristically serious, stern, and respectful teaching and learning attitudes of the Finns, which could be the real but simple secret of educational success.
In politics, HK monsters eagerly adopt all “Western” ideals and soundbites without understanding the limitations in application, if indeed applied. Freedom of expression or protest is utter nonsense without limits. There’s no such thing anywhere, no matter how “west” one goes on our spherical planet. No functional civilised society would tolerate the riots we’ve witnessed in HK. Worse yet, the monster government’s preposterous and irresponsible tolerance is turned around by the monster mobsters into “police brutality”! The government says what?! huh? uh, hmm, okay, sorry. Are we witnessing an Orwellian Ministry of Truth, operated by mobsters? Or two giant lizards duelling clumsily in a Godzilla movie?
At home, monster parents study a list of modern childrearing instructions with a dictionary. Feeling enlightened, they treat their kids as friends, and are afraid to generalise, or judge, or discipline (especially discipline, which is very despicably Chinese). They embrace “freedom and democracy”, of course.
Even an intelligent child would understand that he needs support, guidance, education, and (reluctantly) disciplining from the grownups, not middle-age “friendship”. When I was ten, my oldest friend was twelve. And judgement is a critical trait of our species. Clever animals are clever because they have good judgement which helps them to stay on the lucky side of statistics. And “freedom and democracy”, if they bother to research, is only…. oh well, I won’t get into that again. Read my old posts if you like.
With great nurturing patience, monster parents have raised their kids to be even more rootless and clueless than themselves. And when these injudicious youngsters have completely lost grip of reality, becoming officially stupid, loving monster parents share their illusions, rather than help to restore reality. When the family liberal dream finally turns into a nightmare, they blame anything and everything but themselves. At this critical moment, after all that “Westernisation” efforts, China enters centre stage, evolving with incredible speed, leaving them further and further behind.
Monster parents are furious. Shit! Like Donald Trump, they chant, frothing, wagging finger: China China China!
HK monster parents (and social institutions) have bred a generation of rootless creatures which are culturally betwixt and between, narcissistic, petulant, lost, and insecure. They’re unhappy, but can’t say why. They’ve lost grip of reality, or never had engaged with it. They’re officially stupid and useless, feeling pissed off, hopeless, angry.
But mass stupidity will take years, even generations, to correct. Meanwhile, Hong Kong provides a vivid negative example for the rest of the country, demonstrating how monster parenting can ruin a community. However, thanks to all the Godzillas, youngsters who have remained sane in this monstrous social mutation will have the opportunity of the century. I’ll take a look at that next time.
James Tam 14.07.2019