Even the fattest, dumbest, most blindingly pale skinned, sandal & sock wearing, giant backpack schlepping, big gulp gulping, upside down map studying, legionnaire hat wearing, souvenir obsessed, ‘I won my Hong Kong holiday in a meat raffle back home’ moron eventually looks beyond the gaudy promises of endless neon lit shop fronts, deliciously dirt cheap Asian FOOD and the almost impossible to resist lure of exotic Ladies Market type trinkets, to ask himself:
‘Holy fucking shitballs…what’s wrong with these rude, loud and selfish Hong Kong people?? Have I stumbled into some kind of parallel universe where fundamental human decency and respect for your fellow man have been bludgeoned to a horrible, horrible, bloody death and remain nothing more than a dark stain on some footpath of filth?’
No matter who you are, if you’ve ever asked yourself these kinds of questions of Hong Kong…ever felt far away from a sense of humanity…downright disgusted, out of sympathy, down on your luck or unable to harmonise…well…unfortunately there’s nowhere to really turn because in Hong Kong life’s about survival of the fittest…and that means me…not you.
Hong Kong has a reputation for being a pretty nasty place to be. Its people are rude and selfish; the environment rides in the backseat of a filthy car, its head pushed down between its knees choking on fumes and bleeding from the ears…and culturally poor old Hong Kong has one leg in a bowl of rice, one leg over in McDonald’s and its ball sack all but split down the middle on a barbed wire fence. It doesn’t take a testicle specialist to see that there’s something wrong with Hong Kong…something very, very wrong. But has it always been a place of such sack splitting tension and pain?
Hong Kong was a small community of fishermen and farmers before the days when China and Britain became desperate or compelled to shake each others hand…without extending their arms too far. (Or more accurately…since the days when Britain forced China to receive the import of the drugs they were pushing…but that’s another story.) Try as they might, since those days, to put a positive spin on this cosmopolitan, east meets west, corporate paradise…it’s been nothing but a dirty old whore bought and sold in the name of silver, opium, tea and whatever else has been worth a couple of bucks over the years. Hong Kong’s excellent harbour condemned its local people to the kind of frictional existence that medical specialists might find in a schizophrenic’s brain. The east meets west nature of Hong Kong is harmoniously portrayed on the surface these days…but deeper down there must be a degree of built in trauma, distress and derangement if you’re a Hong Konger.“A feeling of insecurity colours nearly everyone’s life in Hong Kong – individual workers are never sure of work, housing, food or even the right to stay in Hong Kong. No one knows how long Hong Kong will exist.” – a visiting British labour advisor, 1958. .
All but abandoned by its parents and with British culture and rule becoming more and more prevalent, the first signs of mental illness and insecurity would have quickly worked their way into Hong Kong’s head. Love for your father country must be at least a little tainted when you’ve been sold to drug dealers for a handful of magic beans. And it’s probably quite difficult to get to know and assimilate among new overlords who don’t speak your language and who really aren’t there to do business with you, as such, at all. So what do you do? Where’s your sense of belonging? Who do you trust? Who can you rely on? Do you roll over, beaten and weak or do you become resourceful, calculating, and wary? When a population of simple fishermen and farmers are treated like pawns in a jumbo game of chess…when they’re pimped by their own…plundered and raped by eastern and western imperialists…I suppose that simple little population learns to trust no-one and learns to get tough…mean…cunning…and self-reliant.
A rough guide to the history of Hong Kong tells us that its fatherland, China, sold it to Britain for 6 cents. I wonder what was done to help local people understand the sale. What was done to prepare or acclimatize the local population for this virtual orphanage? To what extent was a growing Hong Kong tormented by its cultural ties to China and its savage political struggles and by the rule of Johnny-come-lately foreign imperialists and theirs? Apparently, during the first half of the 20th Century, the local Chinese population had little contact with the wealthy community of Europeans settled near Victoria Peak. Hong Kong people only knew them as aloof ‘big shots’. In the early years of British rule, Hong Kong men were required by law to carry a lantern during the night so as not to frighten delicate expatriates. Failure to do so resulted in public floggings and other assorted punishments. Not as bad as the mainland penchant for straight up public beheadings…but still. Whichever way you look at it, the whole east meets west myth as we know it today was built on a foundation of mistrust, suspicion, cruelty and aggression…in other words – business. Neither cultural group really wanted much to do with the other…until trade grew and a service city opened the door for all kinds of host/ parasite (hard to know who’s who) business partnerships, mutual back scratching and opportunity.
Hong Kongers both love and hate China…and it would also seem that they kind of respect yet resent the European culture that was pushed on them. It depends on the circumstance, whether they choose to give a nod to the Union Jack or salute the five star red flag. It’s good business to do both. The basic fact is they are what they are because the birth of modern day Hong Kong was a traumatic one…a Caesarean section in which the mother was sliced open and poor little Hong Kong pulled out by the foot kicking and screaming, directly into a cool corporate world of dollars and cents. No wonder the local people are so abrasive and materialistic. When you have to fend for yourself in a crazy world of communist, capitalist, corporate, imperialist, invading, war mongering, manipulative, exploitative, cloak and dagger skullduggerist, fat cat, big shot, deal makers and swindlers all clawing and gnashing their teeth at each other…you have to get busy living or get busy dying. To their credit, Hong Kongers learned how to survive in the world created around them. Suspicious and wary…ready to trust no-one but themselves and to do whatever it takes…in Hong Kong you’ve got to look out for number one. If that means being rude and selfish, compassionless and cold-blooded then…FUCK YOU!
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