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  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 1:37am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 2:32am

'Beautiful souls' blinkered to reality

A distinctive Hong Kong identity politics is emerging. As it is still developing, it is hard to pin down and put your finger on. But one important aspect seems clear enough: demonise China, idealise Hong Kong. Yes, yes, I know. How can that be when the city is part of China? But it's that very inclusion since the handover that is being called into question.

At its most obvious, this involves accentuating the negatives on the mainland while ignoring the positives. And doing the reverse when it comes to Hong Kong. So there is this uncritical celebration of local culture and so-called core values, which can mean anything depending on who you ask: Cantonese language, rule of law, open economy, tolerance (unless you are a Filipino maid or a South Asian) and what not.

Hong Kong is the fountain of goodness, our young activists think. Across the border, it's bad land. And it is leaking badness and contaminating Hong Kong with corrupt officials and "locust" visitors, sometimes literally, like urinating and defecating in public, or spreading a potential flu pandemic.

An expat critic of mine thinks Hongkongers have a bad - and accurate - impression of the mainland because of hands-on experience - by making regular visits there. This elderly retiree has obviously not kept up with current surveys such as those by his former Baptist University colleague Michael DeGolyer, who finds that younger people - incidentally those most prone to identity politics - rarely visit the mainland, if at all. They do, however, read the corrosive, rabble-rousing Apple Daily.

For these people, the state power of the central government is incurably corrupt and dirty. Hong Kong is that little island of light and goodness constantly under threat from that monster. I am not defending Beijing, but we are getting a tad paranoid. You try governing 1.3 billion people with dozens of different ethnic groups. Or at least imagine the immense challenge that it entails.

"Beautiful souls", Hegel calls them, those good and pure critics of power, idealists who play an easy moralistic game. They represent a type that recurs in politics everywhere. For the Hong Kong variety, the Chinese state is pure evil. The mainland is another country; we certainly don't want to dirty ourselves with it.


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This article is now closed to comments

Reader jve said, "Reader whymak seems to make the curious assumption everybody in China knows each other. Would he care to elaborate on his basis for this?"
If one doesn't know schoolboy algebra and simple calculus, how do you explain a more rigorous treatment of political science? And I don't mean the touchy feely, dogmatic Democracy assumed in Op-eds written by political science academics for 8th grade readers.
I answer this question strictly for the benefit of readers who are intellectually curious.
In economics, one uses preference (utility) function for all matters of choice, e.g., consumption, production, etc. Each preference represents the choice a subset of one or more objects (variables). And each point of this function for a group is some average of individual preferences. And for each average there is a probability density associated with this average. Each individual interacts with one another through the probability distribution. Comprendre? Kapish?
Of course, yours truly is ignorant about many things. I stand to be corrected. But "jve" has contempt for knowledge, facts, science, logic and reason.
My criticism of economists is they often aggregate individual preferences - the micro - into a group one - the macro. The "law" for peer-to-peer interaction hasn't been discovered. For expressed consumer choices or satisfaction with a government, group preference is not the sum of its parts. This is what's wrong with pseudo scientific surveys.
Reader whymak has so far only conclusively demonstrated that the square root of nonsense is idiocy, compounded by an inability to use the Reply button.

1. 'Each individual interacts with one another though the probability distribution [of utility preferences].' No they don't. They interact with the distribution. A change in preference of or an action by one person alters (ever so slightly) the distribution, and by proxy this will influence others' preferences (and actions). But this does not mean they interact with one another directly. They interact, but not with one another. When I dive into the swimming pool, a perceptive person at the other end of the pool might notice the ripples and an (ever so slight) increase in the water level, but that does not mean we interact with one another.

2. Reader whymak's assumption that there are [Combinations (2, 1.3bn)] direct relationships in China therefore remains false. China has more people. Its markets (implicit and explicit) and their utility probability distributions hence contain more information, sure. But this is a linear relationship, not an exponential one. It is a matter of increasing scale, not one of increasing complexity. In fact, I would go so far as to argue there is a marginally declining influence of a single individual's preferences/actions on the whole. A larger scale therefore would imply that a single individual could have more freedom, not less, without having much impact on society as a whole.
You have already demonstrated ignorance in the exponential law of network connections (to the power 2 in the example quoted) and your inability to do a simple problem in arithmetic progression, which is middle school algebra. Right this moment, you're still arguing it's linear while at the same time making a contradictory statement to your spurious claim. Just reread what you wrote. I rest my case. No more arguments. You have no place in my freshman class, let alone a graduate seminar.
One last point to satisfy my curiosity with your reasoning style of Sarah Palin, an English native speaker. Aside from the irrelevance of your examples in the discussed model, all your examples given as analogs to this "debate" are scientific nonsense, e.g., swimming pool, information, etc.
Do you know the scientific meaning of a unit of information? What is meaning of more information as opposed to less? What kind of mathematical function is a utility function? Once when you could answer these questions, you would realize your ostensibly fluent statements in English convey nothing but contradictions from a logician and scientist point of view. In Chinese we call this 狡辯.
3. Regardless of the issue of whether a larger population also necessarily means greater complexity (it doesn't, but moving on...), reader whymak still fails to demonstrate any theoretical link, let alone empirical proof that such a larger (allegedly more complex) population needs stricter 'governance' and can't afford to have the same freedoms a smaller population has.

Again I note there is nothing that supports this. Reader whymak is conveniently ignoring that we have 2000+ years of longitudinal data and a current cross-sectional dataset of 180+ countries. There is no correlation between population size and degree of freedom. Not over time, and not comparatively. If reader whymak thinks there is, let him demonstrate this please.

There are plenty of relatively small (by population), oppressive countries in the world (North Korea, Cuba, Syria etc). There also plenty of small, very liberal countries (Luxembourg, Finland, South Korea, New Zealand etc). Likewise for big, populous country, with China and India being the most obvious contraposition.

It is a mystery why reader whymak, with his fanfare about the scientific method and mathematical rigour, completely ignores this data. Furthermore, the real lunacy begins when not only he claims there IS a relationship (based on his flawed understanding of political-economic theory, see above), but even reaches a prescriptive conclusion: China is big, therefore it must oppress its people's freedom.

I rest my case.
Jve: Just one last word about common sense. If you are a task worker, your life is simple. Let's say your only skill is skinning cats and that's all you're asked to perform, everything will be hunky dory. But if you're a manager in charge of 5 department managers - each of whom heads a distinct functional area, relationships become complex. There are interfaces among your subordinates, who in turn have workers under their charge. When this layer within a hierarchy multiplies 4 or 5 times, we are talking about a huge corporation. A low level worker usually doesn't have the foggiest of functional relationships.
A country is a lot like that. You take away the management structure, the firm is worth nothing.
In a democracy, many blockheads are deluded into a belief of being empowered to govern.
America is a great nation. People go to the polls to pick their leaders. While elections satisfy the delusion of freedom of choice, there are unspoken ironclad constraints that things people ask for could never be realized. Yet politicians time and again give false promises but never deliver. Regular elections are a waste of management resources. Yes, they satisfy emotional and spiritual needs. But they also obstruct governance.
Considering its population size, America is a great success.
America had better governance at her inception because the Founding Fathers' great intellects were subject to fewer constraints. There was less power sharing then both in substance and rhetoric.
What relevance does your comment have to what I said above? In a college debate, you will be booted out of the debate team. BTW, did you have a college education?
Jve: Should I argue with someone who can't do middle school algebra? BTW, did you ever reach HK School Certificate level?
Start with the first person out of one billion, there are 999,999,999 links. Onto the next person, who is already linked with the first, there are 999,999,998 links and so on. Add up these numbers, 999,999,999+999,999,998+...+3+2+1=499,999,999,500,000,000.
All 14-year olds at St. Joseph's College could do my posted problem in the algebra class!
Students with low IQ often have trouble solving "word" problems. It’s due to them not being able to translate a language problem into a mathematical one. Why the need for translation? Because doing so allows one to reason a complex language problem – provided it’s “quantitatively” reducible – to a successful conclusion with mathematical tools. Of course, math proofs are the only gold standard of “TRUTH.”
Your subsequent arguments are totally irrelevant because you fail to understand my statements and how I framed a relevant question.
I use a simple model of identical links, which highlights the difficulty in governing a billion people. Real life complicates things by more than one kind of links. To overcome the intractable large number constraint – the need to more or less satisfy the population, creative alternative governance instead of Democracy theology is the only way.
Democracy mob's ignorance is enemy to all good governments for the people. Have a good June 4 chanting 平反六四 slogans with other morons.
Reader Sunny: Allow me to point out why your argument is ideological wrongheaded and deficient in logic.
You refute Mr. Lo's 1.3 billion "level of difficulty" while launching into mindless clichés of undefined morality, etiquette, etc.
Each kind of freedom comes with constraints. Speech freedom conflicts with others like property rights, education freedoms, etc. Rules must exist to avoid anarchy. Thus authority and responsibility take on different meanings when the scale changes. A reduction of this macro statement to math is as follows.
Among 3 distinct objects, there exist 3 direct links or relations. A relation between two people creates a rule for engagement, or constraint. From 100 objects, there spring 4,950, not 100, constraints. For one billion, the answer is 499,999,999,500,000,000. Is this number of relationships manageable? Now you have to admit giving every one EQUAL freedom without imposing an astronomical number of constraints has to be nonsense. Is Mr. Lo right?
If a nation has 10 times the population of another, it is actually doing a good job if ceteris paribus, its people are only 1/10th as free.
That's why America is such a great nation because its people, with some qualifiers, are just as "free" as countries with only a few million.
The only way I know how to measure human rights violation is not by he-said-she-said anecdotes but by rate of incarceration. China imprisons only 1/6th as often as the US per 100,000. What does this tell you?
Your observation seems to agree with business acquaintances, Chinese American and Hong Kong friends who split time between Greater China and the US. Some are born and raised in this former Crown colony. While they are enthused about China, where they visit regularly for recreation and business, they don't wear rose color glasses. We often engage in discussions of Chinese system strengths and weaknesses without the impassioned pros and cons.
for some, once committed to a belief, will reinforce an insurmountable barrier for facts. It is a sad human condition.
What motivates them to demonize China? Ideological and religious dogmas, need for scapegoat of personal failures, and blame for competitive pressure with China looming large are some good reasons. Read my rebuttal to another reader above.
I am for good and believe
that we must constantly try to do better
We may clarify the standard for measuring good and better later
I think “democracy” is good but it isn’t god
I think “democracy” is good for HK
if we can liberate its advantages and curb its harms
to bring overall benefits to the city’s welfare
I could dream of HK as Switzerland of Pacific west coast
But I realize that it’s an impossible dream
HK is too colonial,
While middle class and “elites” often evidence Stockholm syndrome
the younger generation is afflicted by – I dislike the term – “Dutch disease” :
pampered by an over-caring mainland government,
HK’s much envied "natural" resources
Without “good” leaders, democracy becomes demagogic mob rule
For abilities, look at HK’s multinational corporations recruitment,
they prefer HK or mainland executive trainees?
In the international arena, you find more HKers or mainlanders?
What's happened to the HK “advantages”, that not too long ago
the city was a metropolis and the mainland was but
peasants and factory workers in grey and blue?
If HK’s “democratic” LEADERS were any “good”
the city’s democrats won’t be matching under
silly kids’ ridiculous banner of “scholarism”
HK identity?
Claudia M, you're a sad joke
I’d comment on that later.




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