Does Hong Kong make you rage?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 December, 1995, 12:00am

YES The secret to a successful life in Hong Kong is lying. You lie to people about how you feel, you lie to them about how much you enjoyed their party, you lie to them about their work, play, wife, daughter, car, suit, nose and personality.

Maybe I've met you and said it was good to see you again. Chances are it wasn't. No prizes for originality here, but the fact is that most of the time we tell people what we think they want to hear. It facilitates social intercourse. But the pressures of maintaining this facade of untruth are immense.

When you are asked for the umpteenth time: 'How long you have been in Hong Kong?', you are not only aware that you are dealing with a conversational half-wit but you immediately go into your well-rehearsed spiel made up of good-sounding lies to help you get through this brain-dead conversation.

There is another option. You can rage. Let yourself go, throw social caution to the wind and let the unfortunate recipient have it.

The real answer should be: 'I've been here long enough to know you aren't worth talking to, pondlife, now get the hell out of my sight before I take your pet spaniel and shove it where the sun don't shine ... and take your pig-ugly children with you.' It feels great. It's rude, socially unacceptable and arrogant. How many things can you say that about? But raging goes deeper than just blowing your top. Every once in a while the blood boils, the heart rate increases and you find yourself indulging in the most dangerous pastime known to man: telling the truth. That is the definition of a rage, saying what you really think. Isn't it true that most of the time we lose our temper we end up telling the truth? This is why raging feels so good. It is a sort of personal confessional, working on the principle that being abusively truthful for no reason at all atones for the all the lies you have told everyone else.

Obviously it is possible to rage anywhere. It doesn't have to be Hong Kong. But does Hong Kong make me rage? Definitely. So would Stratford-upon-Avon or Little Grinstead (population 89) or the most peaceful hamlet on earth. Why? Because it feels so refreshing to just bite someone's head off for little or no reason. Make them suffer, ruin their day, confuse them, irk them, irritate them and piss them off.

Sometimes your own state of mind has to come before that of other people and being randomly nasty to people who do not deserve it is not only immensely pleasurable, it is necessary. I am baffled that anyone could live in this psychotic city - this Asian Twin Peaks - and not, just once, shake down their hair and let go with a sustained, vindictive and thoroughly unjustified character assassination for no other reason than you felt like it. Be good to yourself: rage.

DAVID IBISON NO This week's news that both the United States and Britain are increasingly filled with enraged citizens is not exactly red-hot. I remember being in Florida a few years ago when a sniper was picking off freeway motorists in Jacksonville ('Just avoid that area, folks!' said the newscaster breezily), in a serious fit of what would now be classified as road rage. And I once saw a man dancing in a London street because he wanted to make a phone call and I was in the booth - a combination of telephone rage and pavement rage. People are currently snapping like elastic bands in the West. Why isn't it happening here? OK, before you draw disbelieving breath, there are occasional stressful moments in Hong Kong life. Everyone, local and expatriate, has experienced certain twinges of frustration ... It's not easy when you have six million people crammed on to a humid pile of rocks, all battling with commerce and impending history. Given the claustrophobia and the climate, however, the relative lack of rage is truly remarkable. The longer I live here, the harder I find it to imagine leaving (and I'd just like to say that on a journalist's salary, it's not the money that's detaining me).

Take the MTR, for example, I do, happily, all the time. If you want to know what real rage is, hop on to the London Underground or the New York subway in the summer. Ever tried to find a cash dispenser that works on a Sunday night in Britain? Or a store that's open after 6 pm? Or an unvandalised, graffiti-free public telephone? No wonder people there have taken to gibbering with fury. As for walking around the streets after dark ... well, I'm prepared to put up with the minor hassles of living here in the knowledge that I'm far less likely to encounter a frothing maniac who wants to work off his women rage.

A psychiatrist might say that it's wildly unhealthy not to express fury - the pressure-cooker syndrome - but I'd say that's a psychiatrist who hasn't been bashed over the head by a client suffering from therapy rage. And I've never been a subscriber to the theory that emotional explosions are good for you. It seems to me that you end up making everyone around you really, really mad, and then you have to live with the inconvenient consequences.

The closest I've come to fury was one wet day last summer when my purse disappeared on the KCR and the woman at the bank asked to have a look at the card I was reporting as stolen. Fiscal rage suddenly seemed an option. But I kept my temper - just - which means that now I don't have to crawl into the branch in kinks of guilt about my behaviour. What a canny concept the Asian notion of saving face is; maybe it should be exported to the West.