Same old, same old

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am

Did you have a nice holiday season? Mine was terrible. Actually that's not quite accurate. It was simply uneventful - no wild parties, no getting drunk in Lan Kwai Fong, no kissing on the lips at midnight on New Year's Eve to Auld Lang Syne.

I had toyed with the idea of going to church on Christmas Eve even though I am not religious. But I was forewarned that the churches would be packed with Filipino domestic helpers. I found the comment rather derogatory. It seems all those government adverts on TV telling us to be tolerant of others aren't working. We're still as racist as ever.

People go through this silly ritual of making New Year resolutions which they never keep. Among those habitually broken resolutions must be one about being tolerant of others, that is, if anyone even bothers to make such a resolution. Racists see no need for it, nor do those who are not racists.

Someone high up in government told me that the black travel warning against the Philippines has less to do with safety than political vengeance against Manila. But, of course, you know that already.

What you may not know is that some executive councillors - Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's inner-circle advisers - are adamant that the travel warning remains as a punishment.

That borders on bigotry. Most Hongkongers consider the Philippines to be an inferior nation - not only economically but also racially - which gives our policymakers a mandate to be bigots. Would these executive councillors dare dish out the same treatment to, say, Sweden, where there had been a recent terrorist attack? I think not.

I usually return to the US for the holidays but didn't this year. After landing in Seattle last year from Hong Kong, I overheard the conversation of two Americans who had been on the same flight as me. They were ridiculing the Christmas lights that blanket our office buildings. I asked them what was wrong with the lights. It's way overdone, they laughed.

I didn't tell them they only saw the half of it. The Christmas lights will soon come down to be replaced by Lunar New Year lights. Since this was my first Christmas in Hong Kong in well over 10 years, I was exposed to the lights daily, for weeks. It made me think about all those government TV adverts urging us to save energy, live green, switch off idling engines and conserve water.

But there isn't one that urges building owners against an excess of Christmas lights. Every year, we say to hell with living green and revel happily under those lights.

Our chief executive even once said the flashing neon lights that illuminate our city year-round are our trademark. Go figure.

Still, maybe we complain too much. Sure, our air is filthy. And at times it seems greed is the only driver of our engines. We have derogatory names for every ethnic group and think nothing about publicly using them.

But is Hong Kong really that bad? I stuck my neck out two years ago and said 'no'. I compared how it took Seattle four days to recover from a snowstorm while I was there for Christmas to how quickly we always recover from even powerful typhoons. I was promptly labelled a government shoe-shiner.

Not that it bothers me. I've been called worse - a China stooge for calling the West hypocritical for linking China's behaviour in Tibet to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, even though the West itself had invaded Iraq under false pretences.

Should I stick my neck out again and say that awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize had more to do with politics than peace?

Wouldn't it be nice to believe that, a year from now, people wouldn't mind churches being packed with Filipino maids on Christmas Eve, that sanity rules when it comes to Christmas lights, our air is breathable again, and people won't call me a China stooge for speaking my mind? But that's not going to happen, is it?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and broadcaster