Generation 40s – 四十世代

Good articles for buddies


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工時過長得不償失

Hong Kong Economic Journal
B08 | 專家之言 | 管理人管理事 | By 李漢祥
2012-02-04

無論是舊同學或舊同事的聚會,若是安排在平日晚間舉行,難免一定有人遲大到或臨時「甩底」。原因很簡單,現在很多在職人士只知準時上班,不知何時下班。

在行政人員的圈子裏,朝九晚五早成絕唱,工時愈來愈長正蔓延至不同階層和行業,某些政府部門和非牟利機構的辦公室,在晚上九時後仍燈火通明。

工作太忙失自由

張三是個大學畢業了五年的年輕人,他在一所非牟利機構任職幹事,月入萬餘元,平均每天工作至晚上八時才可下班。雖然他一直希望攻讀MBA 課程自我增值,但是過長的工時無法讓他實現進修計劃。平日下班時已累得想死,沒有閒暇約會異性,他已預期自己會是遲婚族。

小玲正值不惑之年,是某銀行的高層行政人員,已婚的她有一對就讀小學的子女;不過,每逢周一至周五,她差不多都沒有機會與子女面談。大清早,小玲和她的子女都趕着上班、上學。小玲下班回家時已過了晚上十時,子女已經就寢。此外,小玲一對年屆古稀的父母都常常因為老人病緣故,需要看醫生及定期覆診。

明顯地,小玲沒有時間去照料年邁的雙親。縱使月入十餘萬,小玲根本難以掌握自己的時間,失卻自由。

從整體社會的角度而言,工時過長影響家庭和諧,間接使老人和青少年問題惡化。至於個人事業發展縱有多好,喪失自由,甚是悲哀。

完善配套僱主有責

讀者們若不善忘,應知道筆者常常撰文勉勵年青人要刻苦勤奮,肯捱肯搏,現在卻控訴工時過長,是否自打嘴巴?非也!成功非僥幸,總要付出代價。

筆者認識很多大企業的高層行政人員,他們本着白天上班、夜晚工作的勤奮精神,從低做起,力爭上游,絕不躲懶。他們深知職場上高手林立,稍有鬆懈,便給別人比下去。簡言之,自由與否、金錢多寡、職位高低,全屬個人目標和取向。又想成功又想懶,那有如此走運?

正因為香港有很多優秀的人才能刻苦勤奮,不嫌工時長且願默默耕耘,我們整體社會和人才的競爭力方能位居世界前列。香港的營商成本高昂,租金貴、工資高,但仍然能吸引不少來自世界各地的企業和資金來港投資,旦夕辛勞的「打工仔」功不可沒。

朝九晚七似乎已被新世代所接受,政府應研究和推出相關政策,針對因工時延長所衍生的社會問題。僱主亦應體恤員工,設立恰當的配套和福利,讓員工甘心「賣命」。

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Political overreach

Eric Li says a look at history shows that today’s democracy may not be the best form of government. And, while the West sees it as an end in itself, Chinese see any system as a means to an end

As the US presidential election shifts into high gear, Washington is hosting China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping, heir apparent of theemergent superpower. The world’s most powerful electoral democracy and the largest one-party state meet at a time of political transition for both. Many have characterised the competition of ideas between the two giants as one between democracy and authoritarianism. This false perspective needs to be dispelled.

In the long history of human governance, spanning thousands of years, there have been only two experiments in democracy. The first was Athens, which lasted a century and a half from 6BC to the middle of the fourth century BC – a quick failure really.

The second is the modern West. If one defines democracy as “one person, one vote”, American democracy is only 92 years old. In practice, it is only 47 years old, if one considers the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – more ephemeral than even China’s shortest-lived dynasties. Why, then, do so many boldly claim they have discovered the ideal political system for all mankind and that its success is forever assured?

The answer lies in the spiritual source of the current democratic experiment. It began with the European Enlightenment, which gave birth to modernity. Two fundamental ideas informed its core: the individual is rational and the individual is endowed with unalienable rights. These two beliefs are in essence based on faith, not empirical evidence.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “All men are created equal … and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” And who was that Creator with a capital “C”? God, of course. To further emphasise the divine nature of the claim, the “R” in rights was capitalised as well. Along with claims such as “liberte, egalite, fraternite”, they form the basis of a religious faith called modernity of which the ultimate political manifestation is democracy.

In its early days, democratic ideas in political governance facilitated the industrial revolution and ushered in a period of unprecedented economic prosperity and military power in the Western world.

Yet, at the very beginning, those who led this drive were aware of the fatal flaw inbred in this experiment and sought to contain it. The American Federalists made it clear they were establishing a republic, not a democracy, and designed a myriad of bells and whistles to constrain the popular will. But, as in any religion, faith would prove stronger than rules. The political franchise could only expand, resulting in ever more people participating in ever more decisions. As they say in America, California is the future. And what is that future? Endless referendums, paralysis and insolvency.

With the advent of television and then the internet, whatever excuses the founders of the American republic came up with to contain democracy, such as an ignorant public and a lack of information, fall by the wayside.

After all, if the people are rational and divinely endowed with rights, and all knowledge is at their fingertips, why shouldn’t they be allowed to decide on everything? In the Athens of old, ever-increasing popular participation in politics led to rule by demagoguery. Public fervour whipped up by Alcibiades’ oratory sent its fleet on that fateful mission to Syracuse, and its defeat there by Sparta started Athens’ decline.

Fast-forward to the present, money is now the great enabler of demagoguery. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence phrases it well: America has gone from “one propertied man, one vote; to one man, one vote; to one person, one vote; trending to one dollar, one vote”.

By any measure, America today is a constitutional republic in name only, and an Athenian democracy in practice. Elected representatives have no minds of their own and respond only to the whims of public opinion for re-election; with the abundance of information and the most efficient communication ever known to man, the public believes it knows everything; special interests manipulate the people into voting for ever lower taxes and higher government spending, even supporting self-destructive wars.

Elections become the game through which disparate groups seek rents from the system. Such is the vicious cycle that is in the DNA of the current experiment in democracy based on the faith of rationalism and rights. A similar version of the same movie is showing in theatres everywhere in Europe. In contrast, the Roman republic survived much longer because it never pretended or aspired to be a democracy.

The West’s competition of ideas with China is not between democracy and authoritarianism, but between two fundamentally different outlooks on political systems. The former sees democracy as an end in itself; the latter sees any political system as a means. It is indeed a commonly held faith in America that democracy is a good in itself and the more democratic, the better. Is there a politician in America who would dare say otherwise? Western democracy is inherently incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift.

The Chinese, on the other hand, will allow greater popular participation in political decisions when it is conducive to economic development and favourable to national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years, but would not hesitate to curtail it if the conditions and needs of the nation change.

In this framework, the Americans today are not dissimilar to the Soviets of the last century in that both see their political systems and their underlying ideologies as ultimate ends. The Chinese are on a different path. History does not bode well for the American path. Their faith-based ideological hubris will soon drive democracy over the cliff.

Eric X. Li is a venture capitalist in Shanghai


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政府勿忘中產階級

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A16 | 時事評論 | By 何漢權
2012-02-11

上周日,上下午連續參與兩場候選特首論壇並擔任主持,耳聞目睹,得益匪淺,引發一些思考。上午屬部分高教界和教育界的集會,下午屬中產人士的聚合,兩個論壇場地,參與人數頗踴躍,位置都坐得滿滿的;星期天,有如此的積極參與氣氛,難得!可見包括學界、政界、醫療界乃至中小企業經營者,此一中產階級族群,仍然不乏關心香港前途發展,對未來特首是有企盼的。

一天兩個場合,與會者帶出的問題很多,但讓筆者印象深刻的,是問題背後明顯的渴求,那就是香港社會,特別是中產人士提出的核心價值是什麼、在哪裏?

大學教授問「欽點」、幼兒教育工作者問「十五年免費教育」;中學教師問「如何吸引優秀人才走入學校」;律師媽媽問「雙非產子怎辦」,乃至十分激動的飲食業小老闆問「為何讓領匯橫行霸道, 加租冇王管, 年終將要結業」……。

說實在,當天的發聲,並非只屬於極少數在場的選委,而是代表中產階級的吶喊!

千訴萬求不離教育

綜合中西學者,以及聯繫歷史發展,中產階級的定性,概有如下標準,此即:一、在教育上受過中等或以上教育的知識階層;二、在經濟上,能創造及擁有小康生活的水平;三、在職業上,有專業人士、有個體經營戶或中小企業管理者;四、有長期承擔向政府繳納中等稅款的能力。

事實上,中產階級的成功,在於他們的工作態度和人生價值,筆者嘗試歸納為十點價值:在個人生活方面,當會強調樂觀奮鬥並重視操守;家庭生活,定然重視安居樂業和家庭倫理;至於走入社會,無疑要捍衞公平公義、民主法治、關懷寬容、愛護環境;當然,整個社會的生存、生活乃至生命意義增添、持續發展,必須繫於這裏要有優質教育的提供、而人盡其才方能有社會流動。

對中產階級來說,子女成才方能走進如父母輩的不虞匱乏的行列裏,因此,千條萬條,優質教育的愛慕,是最重要的一條。

「欽點」、「雙非產子」乃至「領匯橫行」等課題,歸根結底,是政府處事態度的問題,更深層次是揸fit人價值教育失落、無法到位的問題。筆者提出,真正表裏如一重視教育的特首,應有每年一度的教育專項重點文告,除說明要領航教育大政策大方向外,面對社會矛盾,因時制宜,將社會價值作重點的聚焦,以正視聽,以帶動整個社會對教育,以及核心價值的高度重視。

「欽點」,合乎公平公義、民主法治的價值嗎? 「雙非產子」所衍生的蝗蟲論、父子論者,有關懷和寬容嗎?還記得東江之水越山來嗎?衝關衝急症室產子又有法治嗎?

「領匯加租」連剩餘價值都要徹底剝奪,這有重視操守嗎?

中產意見應多吸納

確實,中產階級對整個社會能否提供優質教育,十分看重。因此,新任特首如果沒有忘記中產的話,教育方面的施政自會打醒十二分精神。過去七年,政治手段解決教育爭議是主旋律,以為悶聲就可以製造人才,沒有示威遊行就天下太平,教育價值怎樣遭扭曲倒無所謂,通識科可置於高風險的考核中、全面校本評核讓師生生活共同疲憊,七萬多個新高中文憑考生,膽戰心驚赴考,為的是政府提供匱乏的18%的大學學額……對納稅主體的中產人士來說,這樣的教育能被滿足嗎?

特區回歸又十五年,基於要穩定又要繁榮的大政策,政府施政一手是維護大地產商、大財團的利益,互相安慰,鞏固庫房,另一是安撫基層及其政黨代表,以作維穩,多用福利政策對待;但對中產階級是日益忽略,甚且在不知不覺中加重中產負擔,並製造不滿情緒,致使中產連教師群眾在內,走入名副其實的夾心階層裏去。

教育現場,拔尖與補底的工作,很多學校都會嘗試去做,但在校內最受忽略的,就是那些在學業、課外活動,乃至「操行」名次都在中層的學生, 「拉中間」是少有提及,無怪乎不少學生畢業走出校門外,並不向心母校。

學校結構,始終單純, 「拉中間」不力,倒沒有產生太大問題。不過,在政府的施政裏,常常忘記中產階級,後果堪虞,當中產向心力日漸衰退,換回來的,也會是教育、政治、經濟乃至法治的式微;香港優勢不再,在中華大地上,可有可無。

也許,新特首務要珍惜民間中產人士的經歷和智慧,成立高層次的「中產發展委員會」,網羅民間的獨立中產人士,每有如財政預算案或特首《施政報告》之前,認真吸納意見,以為藍本!

歷史說明,建設社會的核心力量是中產,中外皆然,關鍵在政府的識見。

教育評議會副主席
何漢權


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Steady Sino-US relations for the next 40 years will rest on the rapport built today

South China Morning Post
2012-02-16
Insight

Hu Shuli says Xi Jinping’s visit to America should further the countries’ mutual understanding and strengthen their resolve to settle disputes amicably

The first stop of Vice-President Xi Jinping’s current tri-nation tour – the United States – is also the one that has drawn the most attention. One reason is, of course, that the visit comes in a year of leadership changes in both countries, and will be closely watched for signs of developments to come.

Ahead of Xi’s trip this week, the Chinese foreign ministry highlighted both countries’ commitment to strong relations. Elsewhere, commentators say the trip will not only set the tone for future relations, but also provide a chance to develop deeper and broader mutual understanding.

The striking impression of Xi’s itinerary in America is that he is out to make and keep friends. One interesting meeting is with a group of farmers in Iowa he befriended in 1985 when he was party secretary of Zhengding county in Hebei . Undoubtedly, the reunion was set up to emphasise Xi’s friendship with ordinary folk. The vice-president is also, of course, expected to meet extensively with those in US political and business circles.

In the 27 years since 1985, both China and the US have changed dramatically, and so has the world. Mutual understanding has gradually deepened, and Xi’s efforts on this trip will build the foundation for the further development of ties.

The visit will also allow Americans to get to know Xi, and to get to know China better. Xi was born in 1953 and, like the other political leaders of his cohort, was among the group of teenagers whose studies were disrupted by the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution. Their youth was spent in turbulent times, with the world in the midst of a cold war and China in the grip of ultraleftist fervour. The suffering of those years has marked their lives. Then, as they grew into their prime, China began to open up, and they began their political careers shaped by the drive for reform.

Their experience made this cohort of Chinese leaders pragmatic, level-headed, open and flexible. These traits will have a bearing on future Sino-US relations.

Xi’s visit to the US recalls the visit by Hu in April 2002 when he was still vice-president. The two trips share many similarities. Such visits by a Chinese leader-in-waiting have become a feature of the bilateral relationship, and they play a key role in keeping relations on an even keel. The relationship has been through many ups and downs over the past decade, but, overall, the strategic co-operation between the two has continued to deepen and broaden.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of president Richard Nixon’s landmark visit to China, which ushered in the normalisation of bilateral relations. A man at 40, Confucius says, is mature and has sound judgment. In the same way, maturity and stability are now the hallmarks of Sino-US relations. This has been true in the main.

This doesn’t mean that there have been no disputes or conflicts. Rather, it means that in the event of any differences, contradictions or even an outright clash, the two countries can find ways to work things out instead of resorting to a damaging confrontation.

Both sides should realise that the simplistic cold-war thinking of “friend or foe” no longer applies today. Our mutual interests are bound together in this complex relationship.

To many people in both countries, China and the US are strategic rivals. This view persists because both countries are at very different stages of development and, accordingly, have different strategic priorities – one is a superpower keen to protect what it has, and the other is a rising power eager to grow. The differences in culture, political thought and history are also substantial. These factors can easily lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication and misjudgment. But, so far, both countries have found more room, not less, to co-operate.

The idea of a G2 for the 21st-century world may be an exaggeration, but the continuing collaboration of the world’s two biggest economies is undoubtedly the cornerstone for a stable global economy. To a large extent, the international order will be shaped by Sino-US ties, the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

Many issues continue to be troublesome: the renminbi exchange rate, the return of America to Asia and the US arms sale to Taiwan. Most recently, China’s veto of the UN resolution on Syria also sparked dispute. These flashpoints have cast a shadow over Xi’s visit. Especially in a US election year, China will be a focus of America’s media and public opinion.

But problems create the need for resolution, and only through dialogue can both countries understand each other’s concerns and how solutions could be developed. The past 40 years of relations have shown that disputes aren’t necessarily a problem; more crucial is the attitude to those disputes. If both sides could discard the vestiges of a cold-war mindset, their zero-sum mentality and their conspiracy theories, then every deadlock can be broken, and every barrier overcome.

The Sino-US relationship is a relay, not a sprint. It’s unrealistic to expect total harmony, but the good news is that the capacity of both countries to deal with differences is continuously being raised. At the same time, the need is now greater than ever that the two should find a strategic balance. Under the care of a new generation of leaders, this relationship must grow more mature and more stable.

This article is provided by Caixin Media, and the Chinese version of it was first published in Century Weekly magazine. http://www.caing.com


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讓「閃耀之星」綻放光芒

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A12 | 時事評論 | By 曹啟樂
2012-02-04

音樂界多神童,有些是曇花一現,有些雖則成名,但下場不甚美滿。在農曆年假,重聽美國天才小提琴家米高韋賓(Michael Rabin,1936-1972)錄音,感其琴藝精湛,哀其生平慘淡!十四歲在卡內基音樂廳首演,奏的是柏格里尼的《第一號協奏曲》,翌年展開連綿不絕的登台旅程;在那年代,超過八十次跨北美南美洲演奏,全澳洲登場,在意大利十八天內演出十五場……無數旅程、錄音、電台、電視台亮相,直至六十年代中,星光趨暗,傳出他濫藥、精神出問題的消息,終於在一次「意外」中隕落!論者認為,他的生命是被「音樂工業」榨乾,在演奏以外,其他社交發展完全停頓,只能悲劇收場。

另一位是結局未定的是英籍中泰混血兒女提琴家陳美(Vannessa Mae),她十歲出道,以古典音樂跨界流行樂,九十年代中後期推出多張暢銷光碟,榮登2006 年英國賺錢最多的青少年藝人榜首。在香港回歸時來港演奏自己的作品,名為《跑馬地幻想曲》。

奇怪的是近五年銷聲匿迹。

最近看到一套紀錄片才知道她早於21 歲後與母親(一直當其監護人及經理人)鬧翻,彼此互不往來,並決意發展自己另外的才華,搬到瑞士一個滑雪勝地苦練,期望代表泰國參加奧運。她在訪問中透露兒時的不快,其母親自然是拒絕回應。

這不知給那些預備當「虎媽」的人帶來什麼訊息?陳美可幸堅強,能掙脫成人的枷鎖,做些自己喜歡的事,但願她有美好的下半生。

上述事例引人思考資優生的培育問題。

資優教育成效待證

回到香港教育現場,資優教育引起關注是近十多年的事。1994 年已故鄔維庸醫生與同道創辦資優教育基金,得到教育署支持,翌年舉辦了一屆,也是至今唯一一次的世界資優與天才兒童教育年會。其後教署得到馮氏家族資助,成立馮漢柱資優教育中心,開展相關課程,回歸後,由香港資優教育學院取代馮漢柱中心的角色,每年接受中小學提名資優生,安排不同課程予各類領域有突出表現學生參加,涵蓋數理、人文、語文、領袖才能等。

至於歷史悠久的柏立基爵士基金,亦以獎學金形式資助中小學生攻讀相關的課程,涵蓋藝術、體育、多元媒體等。在大學方面,現時中大及浸大定期舉辦收費課程,亦頗受歡迎。在中小學方面,是各自發展,缺乏體系,當然也無從評估其成效。

限於篇幅,這裏難以全面檢視香港資優教育發展。初步看來,進步是要肯定的,例如資優範疇的界定較前寬廣,由傳統的數理、音樂,以至人文學科、領袖才能、表演藝術等;對象也由高小延伸至高中。

然而,隨着社會的進步,大眾對教育期望的提高,資優教育須要深入的檢視,對正反經驗要好好總結,一些困難與局限須要正視與克服。例如如何協助一些家境有困難,文化資產較弱的資優生突破困境,盡展所長;如何協助資優生改善社交能力,建立較強的心理素質,甚或擺脫自我中心傾向,開拓較遠大的視野等方面,現時所做的工作是遠遠不足的。近期筆者參與的一項計劃,也許對此有一定參考作用。

協助建立社會資本

上文述及的資優a 教育基金在沉寂一段長時間後,近期又活化起來。在九龍西區扶輪社及兒科醫生基金支持下,於去年底首次舉辦了名為「閃耀之星」才華拓展獎學金計劃,對象為家境須要支援,但在不同領域有才華及潛質的高小學生。經學校提名,通過面試後,共有二十四名學生獲頒獎學金5000 元。與其他獎學金不同處是學生在家長、老師指導下,可在一年內自由運用獎學金,以完成個人自訂的學習計劃。

基金引進了社會資本(social capital)的理念,刻意為這群家境一般的學童廣織社會網絡,希望透過不同的活動,例如師友計劃、企業參觀、社區參與等,讓他們可以開拓視野,走出自己的生活圈子,體認到社會對他們的關懷,也逐步養成服務他人的心志。

在面試以至頒獎禮當天,我們見到獲獎者在家人、師長陪同下,滿懷喜悅的參與。

他們的作品,包括畫作、詩歌、書法、機械人得以展示。部分閃耀之星更深情演出,包括武術、芭蕾舞、英詩朗誦、歌唱等。一位繪畫領域的得獎者大方地表示要捐出部分作品,以拍賣形式籌更多善款,讓日後更多學生受惠。另一位則表示要讓出部分獎學金予弟妹進修興趣課程。

在場的眾多成年人,包括教育界、商界和其他專業等人士深受感動,在思考除了金錢以外,這些閃耀之星其實更需要的是什麼?也就是說,在捐款以外,我們成年人還可以做更多的事,而協助他們營建社會資本,讓他們發展更充實的生命,也許才是重點所在。

作者為教育評議會執委
曹啟樂