Generation 40s – 四十世代

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There’s more to life than making money, even in Hong Kong

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Peter Kammerer

Peter Kammerer comes to terms with his son’s decision to give up a well-paid job for love, overcoming the typically Hong Kong attitude that prioritises work and making money over life experiences

When my 26-year-old son told me he was going to throw in his well-paid job as a personal trainer to go to live with his girlfriend in Paris, I went nuts. Had he bothered looking at the unemployment statistics for under-30s in France? Was he aware of how difficult it would be getting a job in a place where speaking fluent French was essential in his line of work? Why wasn’t his girlfriend doing what so many of her country men and women had done and come to Hong Kong instead?

But my son is single-minded when it comes to what he wants. He also has an EU passport, which makes handing in his resignation letter, buying an air ticket and packing up straightforward. To placate me, he argued that he wants to see the world before he’s married and besides, in his line of work, it’s relatively easy to find business. Anyway, if things don’t work out in Europe, as a Hong Kong permanent resident, he can just return and pick up where he left off.

It’s the same logic that took me to Britain and then Hong Kong in the 1980s. I’ve never regretted those decisions, the enjoyment and knowledge gained being, as they say, part of a rich tapestry. Yet, after all the arguments with friends and work colleagues, it’s only recently I’ve been convinced. I believe it’s because having lived in Hong Kong for so long, I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that making money is more important than life experiences.

It’s a conclusion apparent from the starkly different opinions of people born and bred in Hong Kong and those raised elsewhere I’ve broached this with. The Hongkongers typically believe anyone who puts fun before money has their priorities wrong. Those with an overseas upbringing wondered what I was worried about, contending that when someone is young and financially unburdened by a mortgage or children, they should make the most of it. Besides, the latter group says, in a world of borderless job opportunities, what’s the problem?

I’ve a feeling Hong Kong has made me narrow-minded. Certainly, it’s the way many young Hongkongers seem to have been raised. They want the government to assure they get meaningful jobs, homes of their own, a decent standard of living and the rights and privileges of Western democracies. They are being unrealistic.

The cost of living in a city is naturally going to be high for anyone low on the employment ladder, as most recent school graduates are. Hong Kong’s housing prices appear steep for those who are just starting out, but if the widely accepted gauge of paying about one-third of income on rent is applied, shared accommodation or a subdivided flat is affordable for the majority. Experience, hard work and dedication improve circumstances, as my son well knows. Political aspirations are something else, though; there’s no perfect system of governing and there will always be those who are dissatisfied, which is why governments have to be as inclusive as reasonably possible when it comes to making decisions.

But for those who feel stifled or don’t see hope, there’s also a big, wide world beyond Hong Kong’s 2,755 sq km boundary. It’s full of possibilities. A foreign passport isn’t necessary to access them; all that is required is a sense of adventure. The mainland has far more than Hong Kong can hope to offer and it’s even in the same country, if biases can be set aside.

But there’s something else for younger Hongkongers to keep in mind; there’s more to living than making money. My elder son is following that principle as he plans the next chapter of his life. In his case, it’s about love – and who am I to argue with him about that?

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post


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以貌取人 失之子羽








西方最早將面相學看成「科學」的,要算十八世紀的瑞士人黎華達(Johann Kaspar Lavater)。他認為面孔一如書本般可讀,只須很短時間便理解內裏意思。看一眼陌生人,在多少時間內就能「得知」其為人呢?普林斯頓大學心理學教授托道洛夫(Alexander Todorov)做過實驗,人只須33毫秒(一毫秒是1000分一秒)看真人或照片一眼,就可斷定這個人是否信得過。黎華達且認為,以貌取人十分可靠。他的面相學,跟中國的《麻衣相法》相比,只是小巫見大巫,而國人卻有句老話:知人口面不知心。


正因人有這個本事,電影才事半功倍的成為最受歡迎的娛樂。最早提出這個說法的是匈牙利電影美學家巴拿薩(Bela Balazs)。

他在1924年發表的《看得見的人》(Visible Man)中指出,書本令人走向抽象。讀者要憑想像才能進入書本的世界。電影卻剛剛相反,由抽象的心智走向看得見的身體(From the abstract mind to the visible body)。



影像盛行,現代人愈來愈習慣「閱讀」面孔,亦愈來愈受面孔影響。可惜,《史記》中孔子說的「以貌取人,失之子羽」,現代心理學家已證明是對的,但錯不在面相學,而是人的「認知陷阱」,比如著名的「光環效應」(Halo Effect),便是指人習慣「以偏概全」的從局部印象推論出整體印象。女子眼大大、孩子臉、眉目姣好,很容易被認為天真、無邪念、無歪心卻蠢笨。電影《出貓特工隊》中,學業成績出眾的女主角,單眼皮而貌寢。她的閨蜜雙眼經常睜大,笑容甜美,便是讀書不成的蠢美女。反之,學業成績好的男主角(賓爺),卻是俊秀的小鮮肉。電影往往不自覺地強化了性別主義的標籤。

撰文 : 占飛

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Could rude Hong Kong please learn from commuters in Japan? Thank you

CommentInsight & Opinion
Peter Kammerer says the urban crush can’t be blamed for common courtesies missing in Hong Kong, seeing that decency is a way of life in ever-crowded Tokyo

It’s saying something that one reason Hongkongers like visiting Japan is that the people are so polite. Another way of looking at it is that there’s so much rudeness in our city, it’s refreshing to go somewhere where citizens respect one another.

But this isn’t a matter of culture or living in a busy, crowded city. Rather, we’ve become so wrapped up in ourselves that some of us have lost the ability to care about others.

Evidence abounds of how dismissive of others we’ve become. These aren’t matters that would seem to hark back to bygone eras like taking off hats when indoors, addressing people older than us with respect rather than calling them by their first name, or saying please and thank you.

Instead, the handful of things I’ve noticed are common courtesies, and the offenders are often of younger generations. The most apparent are people talking loudly on mobile phones, smoking while walking along footpaths, not giving up seats on public transport to the needy, and closing lift doors on those approaching.

I’m especially familiar with how people treat the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled on buses and trains. There are dedicated seats, with signs and announcements to remind. Yet commuters, especially during rush hours, can seem oblivious to the courtesy to give up their seat. An elderly man or woman is left to stand feebly clutching a support, while a young person sits in the dedicated seat, eyes glued to their smartphone.

I was once caught up in an argument over such a seat. On buses, the row behind the stairs is reserved for the needy, and a woman had guided me there as I was boarding, having noticed my blind cane. She found a mother on one side and her child, perhaps three years old, sitting on the other; when asked politely to put the child on her lap to make room for me, the mother refused.

An argument along the lines of she had been there first and wasn’t giving in for anyone ensued, and eventually I was shown a seat further along the bus. I didn’t need to sit for the 20-minute journey and told my Good Samaritan so, but she had been insistent on the principle of the matter.

There’s been discussion on social media of late about priority seating, with some people contending it isn’t necessary, as giving up a place to someone in need should be automatic.

Painting a few seats red and putting smiling faces on them to indicate they are for the elderly and the like, as the MTR does in its train carriages, only shows how ignorant we have become, the argument goes.

Priority seats on MTR trains have sparked comments that giving up one’s seat is a courtesy that should be automatic. Photo: Edward WongPassengers who don’t give up their seats are sometimes condemned, their pictures being put on internet sites, leading some people to tag priority seats “condemning seats”. One widely circulated image is of a few boy scouts taking up the seats playing with their phones while several elderly women stand nearby.

Of course, there are also those who defend the youngsters, suggesting that they may have been tired after a tough day of training.

No such debate would be taking place if we were in Tokyo. There, the rules are strictly followed by all but unaware foreigners, and they quickly get the hint from the dirty looks they get from other passengers.

Japanese trains have priority seating sections and they are reserved exclusively for the needy; even when it’s rush hour, commuters will not use them. Equally striking is the rule against carrying out conversations on mobile phones, with culprits being made aware that it is taboo and impolite by the disapproving frowns of fellow passengers and announcements every 10 minutes.

This carries over to restaurants, cafes, bars and other places where people are trying to relax.

Etiquette varies from country to country, and some may consider that Japanese go too far with politeness. But when in public, we should respect others and be courteous and well-mannered. There’s nothing archaic about giving up seats or opening a door to those in need, smoking in a place where we’re not disturbing others or keeping our phone conversations quiet; it’s just common decency.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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學業壓力一直都是香港社會的問題。最近,世界健康組織與多個志願團體先後發表的報告指出,青少年心理健康情況正在惡化,因此不少國家都紛紛提出改善教育的新方案,希望從教育去解決青少年身心和學習問題。新的見解主張加強「正面教育」(Positive education),或以「正面教育」作為教育核心。





「學會學習」是學校課程的重要目標, 把共通能力(例如批判思維及自我管理能力)及生活態度(例如堅持和尊重)納入以往科目為本的課程。而當時教育委員會亦宣揚全人發展,鼓勵「樂善勇敢」的精神:「樂於學習,善於溝通,勇於承擔,敢於創新」。「求學不是求分數」,老師以往只作打分評估,現在卻透過評估反饋支援學生學習。



雖然近年香港的學校教育改革政策滲透着「正面教育」的元素,並意圖改革考試文化,但是由於香港主流文化的功利競爭主義主導,青少年亦偏向追求外在的利益(例如財富及成就),且相信成敗得失是零和遊戲,成就是個別精英的努力,取決於考試成績高低,所以考試文化的流弊及學習壓力並無多大改善,近年有關學生壓力及自殺問題的調查報道正正反映教育失效。要成功革掉考試壓力而真正愉快學習,政府需要積極推動新的文化價值,全面支援每一個人發展「正面教育」,扭轉功利競爭主義對教育的干擾,而「社會支援」(Social Support)的見解可以作為有用的参考。



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Millennials are just misunderstood, and divisive coverage is not helping

CommentInsight & Opinion
Kelvin Lee says media and social stereotypes of Gen Y only deepen the generation gap, when it can be easily bridged with dialogue and empathy

It is possible to make fun of millennials over almost anything these days. Take Tim Gurner, an Australian millionaire property mogul who recently took millennials to task. His preferred “angle”? Avocado toast. “When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 dollars and four coffees at four dollars each,” He told Australia’s 60 Minutes. If only that “avocado money” could buy you a flat.

In case you have not been keeping close tabs on the “millennial beat”, our generation is portrayed as one that just can’t seem to get it right. Time suggested in its “Me Me Me Generation” edition that millennials are more narcissistic because of modern technology, while the Post’s own Peter Kammerer suggested that millennials are lazy because Hong Kong employs too many maids. We are, in no particular order: insecure but, as aforementioned, narcissistic; vacation-killing but work-averse; “more generous than you think” but still selfish. If there is one consensus, it would be that our generation is simply the worst.

But just what is a millennial? While “young people” might seem like an intuitive answer, it might not be precise enough. According to researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss, millennials are people born between 1982 and 2004, aged anywhere between 12 and 35. This roughly 20-year difference in age means that while the oldest among us might very well have married and had children, the youngest are just getting started in secondary school.

Not many will disagree that today’s 13-year-old and 35-year-old have had vastly different upbringings. When the 35-year-old was born in 1982, Hong Kong was still under British rule, personal computing was still in its infancy, and Madonna was still a thing.

The cultural, economic and political shifts in this 20-year window mean that characterisations based on the age group of millennials are just broad-stroke stereotypes that hold little truth, and that social commentaries blaming millennials for killing anything, from cinemas to department stores, are, in reality, intellectually lazy arguments that oversimplify social phenomena.

Indeed, “Gen Y” is not the first generation to be at the receiving end of these unfair, ageist comments – New York magazine dubbed the ’70s the “Me Decade”, while Time later likened the 20-something Gen X’ers to Madonna’s hit song Vogue, noting they know how to “strike a pose”, so implying their superficiality. But with online journalism and the media’s incessant need for clicks, coverage these days has only grown more whimsical in tone and outlandish in content.

These divisive articles have created a schism between millennials and practically everyone else. In Hong Kong, for example, articles on “post-90s” and “post-80s”, the preferred description of millennials here, have proliferated in recent years. Millennials are condescendingly labelled “rubbish teens”, a term that describes young people as slackers that demand much from society but don’t contribute, and are judged for not having the same value set as our parents.

Even the most innocuous stories can fire up generational warfare – stories and videos documenting how some young people refuse to give up priority seats on the MTR [5], and how a civil discussion on domestic workers can turn into a full-on attack on our values and our supposedly morally decadent lifestyle. This knee-jerk response of blaming it on the young has been anything but constructive in bridging differences in our communities, and will only continue to perpetuate intergenerational misunderstanding.

Perhaps it is time for this trend to end. While millennials should be more communicative with other generations, we should not be treated with condescension, or simply dismissed for our youth and inexperience. We don’t need special treatment – we just need to be treated like everybody else.

Each generation faces challenges that are unique and might not be understood by those with a different upbringing, even people within this “millennial” umbrella might have had different experiences growing up. Only dialogue and an appreciation of differences could bridge the generational gap.

Kelvin Lee is a business student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology