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
2017-07-04

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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失去靈魂的舍堂文化

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017年6月24日

梁亦華

早前,香港大學接連發生性欺凌的醜聞。3月下旬,港大一名退選幹事遭同學按住,強行向其下體滴蠟。事發不久,李國賢堂亦傳出短片,另一男生遭按在床上,被同學以下體拍打頭部。欺凌事件震驚全港,校方隨即表示事件已交由「副校長領導的小組跟進調查」,並報警處理,聖約翰學院舍監亦發表聲明,指「不接受任何形式欺凌,學院對此持毫不含糊立場」……

表面看來,校方看似嚴肅處理事件,但事實上跟進結果是如何呢?據報道,校方對23名涉事者的裁決結果僅是「3人被取消宿位,19人被暫停入住宿舍,一人被書面警告」。在繼後訪問中,校長不痛不癢地回應:「(校方)希望從組織上的變革,避免不當行為發生……(校方)無意令學生停止他們已進行多年、覺得有意思的活動。」副校長則指即將9月推出非強制性網上預防性騷擾課程,而所謂課程則只是看短片,填寫回饋問卷,以作回應,而傳媒跟進亦到此而止,可是對教育工作者而言,這事件不禁令人反思:為何如此令人髮指的性欺凌,會出現在雲集全港頂尖精英的最高學府?新生營即將於暑假開始,社會和學校的回應與跟進,又能否預防類似事件再次發生?

法不施於尊者?

一直以來,每所學校多少也存在着青少年的欺凌行為,這些欺凌行為的原因很多。心理學的觀點認為,人們在潛意識中存在內心不安,性與暴力則是人們平衡心理衝突的重要媒介。對此,佛洛依德的心理分析學說已詳細詳述;社會學的觀點則認為,如此強制而不人道的性欺凌,只是洗腦儀式,而這往往涉及摧毀對方自尊心及其他防衞機制,旨在更好地嵌入舍堂文化。學者侃侃而談,都有道理,不過兩類觀點都有一共通點:性欺凌者是情有可原的。前者視性暴力為一種恢復心理正常的正當手段,加害者往往被嚴密家庭和學校監控,過度抑壓,無法處理內心充滿衝突「受害者」;後者則視他們為宿生身份建構的過程,加害者往往被描繪成過於盡責,「過火」而不自知的無辜搞手。

筆者並非心理學專家,對學者的理論亦無意否定,但站在教育工作者的角度,只想起特首年前的一句說話:「守法與犯法之間沒有灰色地帶」。如果被按在床上的受害人是女性,學校會否同樣以玩得「過火」輕輕帶過?如果這是一群無業青年當街鬧事,而非港大學生,社會又將如何報道?可見,社會大眾的處理方式並非視乎行為的本身,而是加害者與受害者的身份而定。一言蔽之,便是「刑不上大夫,法不施於尊者」,以及「男性不可能受到性欺凌」的偏執情結。

大學託兒所化

這是因為學生對性欺凌認知不足嗎?性教育課程能預防性欺凌問題嗎?在大學中,直接的暴力攻擊並不多見,更多出現的是社交排擠,又或取花名、嘲笑樣貌身材等為主的言語欺凌。近年關於青少年欺凌的心理研究指出,這並非因為欺凌者有一絲善心,而是因為施暴者會估計社會容忍的底線,了解師長通常低估這些行為的破壞性,一般不會作出干預而作的理性選擇。從這觀點看,犯事學生並非無知。相反,他對事後社會反應的預計其實相當準確。

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」?

筆者認為,真正的教育並非對着一眾精英講解「何謂性騷擾行為及如何處理之認知」,而是幫助學生成長,灌輸學生為自己行為負責的思想。對加害者而言,比起吸取知識,也許他們更需要被教導如何當一個勇於承擔責任的成年人。

撰文:梁亦華
香港教育大學項目主任


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Hong Kong shames itself again by its treatment of domestic workers

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-05-12

Yonden Lhatoo takes a look at the latest revelations about the plight of foreign domestic workers in the city to remind Hongkongers how it reflects on them

In his classic science fiction novel, The Time Machine, H. G. Wells presents an anti-utopian vision of a future in which humanity has evolved into two species, the Eloi and the Morlocks.

The beautiful but spoiled Eloi, descended from the idle rich, enjoy a life free of work on the pastoral surface. The downtrodden, beast-like Morlocks, evolved from the working poor, toil underground in the dark to keep the surface dwellers fed and clothed.

Let’s hope we’re not heading in that kind of direction, the way people in this part of the world treat their domestic helpers from less-fortunate nations. And what a shame that Hong Kong is yet again making headlines in this regard.

How about this for starters: 500 domestic helpers will be sleeping tonight, and every night, in toilets in their employers’ homes. That’s according to a concern group that has just released a survey of the living conditions of 3,000 Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers in the city.

At the same time, 14 per cent of them can’t access toilets when they need them for something other than to sleep in. And about 70 per cent share bedrooms with children, elderly people or co-workers, while 21 per cent sleep in the living room.

In one case, a helper’s bed was fitted into a kitchen cupboard above the fridge and microwave oven. A tiny rooftop room, only 1.2 metres from floor to ceiling, was accommodation for another helper. It makes me ashamed of complaining that I don’t have enough room for myself in my flat.

Yes, many Hong Kong families live in appallingly cramped conditions themselves, but we’re talking here about those who are affluent enough to afford hired help in the first place.

It doesn’t help that the government is an immovable object in the face of calls to ease the live-in requirement imposed on foreign domestic workers, and the opposite of an unstoppable force in making sure they are not treated like something to be folded and stored away for the night.

Now it’s taken a bunch of university students to show us, after their seven-month investigation, that more than 70 per cent of employment agencies here charge excessive fees to domestic helpers, withhold their passports as leverage to squeeze the money out of them, or stiff them in some other illegal way.

“If it’s that tough for them here, they’re welcome to go back home,” the unsympathetic often say. Why such disregard for people who prop this city up on more than one level?

We have about 350,000 domestic helpers serving 280,000 households in a city where families rely heavily on them to look after babies and grandparents while both husbands and wives go to work. They wouldn’t like their incomes halved now, would they?

That’s just the money part. Their other, often unappreciated contribution is the substitute for parenting they provide, and the companionship and care for elderly people who would otherwise be neglected. Like it or not, they are a glue holding the fabric of society together.

Going back to the future with the Eloi and Morlocks, the analogies are not limited to just helpers and employers. It’s about the age-old class divide, the class struggle, and what that could eventually mutate into in the centuries to come.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part of the story. The trade-off for the Morlocks’ life of drudgery is that they get to nip up to the surface at night to grab hapless little Eloi and drag them down into the depths to feast on their flesh.

To the Morlocks, the Eloi are actually livestock to be tended and fattened for food. Karma comes in many ways, I suppose.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post