Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Having a helper leaves Hong Kong’s young lazy and spoilt

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion

Peter Kammerer

Peter Kammerer says depending on helpers for daily living well into adulthood renders Hongkongers averse to hardship, unable to think for themselves and lacking basic life skills

The 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China raised all sorts of issues, among them whether our city has lost its edge. The conclusion seems to be yes – that we’re gradually falling behind competitors in virtually every area.

There was even a suggestion that our famed entrepreneurial spirit was disappearing, and questions were asked as to why. It’s a complicated subject with rent, education and parental ambitions for children at play, but I’d also wager that part of the problem is because we have too many maids.

Foreign domestic helpers aren’t to blame for the decline of shipping, universities slipping down rankings and Shenzhen lording it over us with innovations and hi-tech industries.

But my argument is less about advantage than laziness. Rather than coming up with solutions to our problems, we’re increasingly expecting others to fix them for us. Younger generations, like the millennials, appear to want everything laid out for them, from cheap housing to the best jobs – all for minimal effort.

It’s easy to see why people aged between 18 and their mid-30s would think this way; many had or continue to have maids to take care of them.

Between the end of 1998 and 2015, the year for the latest statistics, the number of foreign domestic helpers almost doubled – from 180,000 to 340,380.

That’s a lot of youngsters who didn’t need to clean up after themselves, had someone cooking for them, getting them ready for and perhaps taking them to school, and to be on hand to cater for their every need.

They were spoilt as kids and many continue that way as adults.

I know of single people who have full-time maids to take care of them and their pets. A couple with a pre-teen son have decided to move back into the wife’s parents’ home while their helper is on vacation because the thought of taking care of the child, cleaning the flat and cooking is too daunting.

Those raised by maids are readily identifiable at the gym I go to; they ignore rules to return used towels to the front counter and instead drop them on the changing room floor.

In the weights area, heavy plates are left either on the floor or attached to bars, rather than being put back in racks, posing a danger to other users. The toilets are left in a mess.

Helpers are an integral part of the Hong Kong government’s growth strategy. They enable both parents to work and provide care for children and the elderly. As a result, their wages are kept artificially low and exempt from minimum wage requirements.

With the typical Hongkonger earning about HK$15,800 a month, many working couples can easily afford the HK$4,310 salary.

But the influx of maids, at present increasing annually by about 10,000, has a litany of drawbacks.

The government is not under pressure to expand or improve child and elderly care services. Helpers may not be adequately trained to take care of a wheelchair-bound or bedridden person.

Sundays are a popular day for employers to give their maids their weekly day off, which means public places are overcrowded. And then, there is the reliance of families on their helpers to the point that they no longer have basic life skills.

Lazy people don’t necessarily have lazy minds; studies have found they’re often the intelligent ones and have figured how to get by with minimal effort.

But avoiding hard work and expecting something for nothing doesn’t teach us important lessons like success and failure, and finding solutions to problems.

Helpers free us up from what some people would consider the mundane, but the extra time is only worthwhile if put to constructive use.

Judging by our flat economic growth, reluctance to break away from businesses that are fading, and jump on opportunities offered by the Hong Kong and Beijing governments and take a risk, we’re well on the way to losing the ability to think for ourselves.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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10多年前,我就用過《呂氏春秋》中的「刻舟求劍」比喻來說香港的政治發展:「楚人有涉江者,其劍自舟中墜於水,遽契其舟曰:『是吾劍之所從墜也。』舟止,從其所契者入水求之。舟已行矣,而劍不行, 求劍若此,不亦惑乎?以故法為其國與此同。時已徙矣,而法不徙,以此為治,豈不難哉?」




延伸閱讀:Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity(West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)

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再者,教授性教育是否大學的職責?據哈佛大學前校長Harry Lewis在其著作《失去靈魂的優秀》(Excellence Without a Soul)一書便指出,「愛」與「關懷」已佔據大學的價值觀中,而規範(Regulation)以及自我效能(Self-efficacy)則往往被擠到一旁,這直接令大學「託兒所化」,一些本應由家長進行的德育輔導(如性教育),逐漸成為大學的職責,而學生(包括加害者)均被視為「無力控制發生在自己身上的事」,如此職能和觀念,這實在是有違大學之道。

正如作家Eldridge Cleaver所言:「如你不是答案的一部分,便是問題的一部分」(You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem)。各方的「冷處理」,到底是解決問題,還是製造與縱容問題?如果被按在床上的是閣下兒女,你還會覺得這23名犯事者只是「過火」而不自知,又或抱着憐憫之心,認同他們是無力處理內心衝突的「受害者」?



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回歸20年自由講 電影













撰文 : 占飛

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Theresa May must not let the EU hold Britain to ransom in Brexit talks

CommentInsight & Opinion
Grenville Cross says with Brussels likely to play hardball, the British prime minister should make it clear the UK has the will and strength to go it alone, as opportunities beckon beyond the euro zone

After Britain voted last June to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, the Lisbon Treaty’s departure mechanism, on March 29.

If divorce terms are not settled by March 29, 2019, Britain will exit without a deal. European Council president Donald Tusk says “there is no time to lose”.

Despite her election setback, May will oversee Britain’s strategy once formal talks begin on Monday. The negotiations will be tough and tortuous, and probably nasty. May must, however, stick to her guns, as the deal she secures will define Britain’s future.

Many Europeans, given the huge problems caused by open borders, the euro zone and the democratic deficit, now openly praise Brexit. Some in Europe will undoubtedly want to punish Britain for its audacity, and to deter others. The EU, traditionally intolerant of dissent, will play hardball in the talks.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has described how, after Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza government won a huge electoral mandate in 2015, the EU ruthlessly clamped down. Its central bank cut off emergency liquidity for private banks, bringing Greece to its knees. Syriza was forced to capitulate to EU demands, causing untold misery to ordinary Greeks and an unemployment rate of 23.5 per cent.

The EU cannot bully the UK in the same way, but Varoufakis nonetheless warns Britain against the EU’s negotiating net. He predicts a campaign of attrition by the EU, exploiting Britain’s political divisions. Although Varoufakis advises May “to avoid negotiation at all costs”, she must talk to the EU in good faith, while making clear Britain will not cave in to threats.

The European Commission claims Britain may have to pay as much as £85 billion (HK$845 billion) to leave the union. This is a bluff. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales has found that, taking into account rebates owed to the UK and the realisation of Britain’s investment in the European Investment Bank, the Brexit charge could be about £15 billion. Even this could not be legally enforced.

The EU, however, is desperate for British cash, and for good reason. It is hugely expensive, and wasteful.

Apart from its more than 32,000 civil servants, the EU is now expanding its fledgling foreign service, with offices around the world. The patience of European taxpayers will snap at some point but, in the meantime, the UK must not be held to ransom.

Moreover, Britain is not, as some suggest, dependent on EU trade. British exports to the EU have been falling since the euro zone was formed and now only account for 12 per cent of Britain’s economy.

The EU states, however, need to sell their products to Britain, and this will not change. The EU had a £60 billion trade surplus with the UK in 2015, and if it imposed tariffs it would be shooting itself in the foot.

The terror attacks in London and Manchester have highlighted the urgent need for the UK to secure its borders and control who enters, impossible under Europe’s open borders policy. Mass EU immigration has also placed huge strains on housing, social services and schools, and gravely affected the quality of life of ordinary Britons. If Brussels tries to prevent May from reducing immigration to manageable levels, she must be prepared to walk away. She should, however, seek the greatest possible access to the single market, through a new free-trade agreement.

If the EU tries intimidation, May must point out that they rely on British markets, intelligence and armed forces, and that everyone will benefit from an amicable separation. Britain, on course to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030, has always looked outwards, and its future lies in exploiting emerging markets.

At least 14 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and India, want free-trade agreements with the UK. Once EU red tape is cut, the financial sector could save £12 billion a year, and it will be possible to export to millions more customers from the rising economies.

Although the prospect of breaking away from a dysfunctional political union is exhilarating, the price of separation must still be right. If the EU insists on intolerable terms, May must call it quits. The EU should understand that, if pushed, Britain has the determination and strength to go it alone.

Grenville Cross SC was a backer of Vote Leave