Parents Pamper Children to Become Big SpendersTranslated by Nathaniel Suen, Written by 假啞港女 (Atsuna)
|(The Headliner, 15 December 2010)|
He who distributed iPhones to schoolmates for the sake of being honoured in name is a teenager from Tai Po; she who visited Taiwan and Korea seven times in nine months just to see her favourite pop star is a secondary schooler from Kwun Tong; she who spends a thousand dollars on make-ups monthly is another secondary school student from Kwai Fong … The phenomenal emergence of young spenders worries social workers for adolescents’ poor ability to manage themselves financially, for which indulgent parents should be accounted.
"Daddy has promised me a pocket money of ten thousand dollars if I am admitted to the Diocesan Boys’ School. I can get an iPad for myself that way," a kindergartener told me.
In a society where toddlers are busier on their tutorials than adults working for their jobs, this is no news to me. Even so, as I noticed he endured the arduous study for the sake of getting an Apple producer despite his fatigue, I realised it was just one amongst all those "free-spending fledglings" revealing himself, whose life is extravagant but empty.
It has been reported earlier that a primary six schoolgirl in Hong Kong committed suicide pressurised by academic expectations. While some may impute the cause of this tragedy to Hong Kong kids' poor resilience, I would say that they are no difference to us, Hong Kong adults – the kids and we all work our fingers to the bone to earn living. Leisure time to play games on an iPhone is their equivalent of our salary. We, on the other hand, might have inherited exploitative genes from our bosses to assign tasks unceasingly to our children.
Overindulgence by parents is not the culprit of the phenomenal "Hong Kong kids" problem because this alone is inadequate to cause the predicament. The average weekly working hours of Hong Kong employees far exceeds 40 hours, which is the recommendation by the International Labour Organisation – Hong Kong kids' is no milder case. They do not need self-care and self-respect since they fully understand the act of making endeavours studying and can trade themselves attendance and respect.
Japanese writer Uchida Tatsuru had provided an insight to why teenagers in his country have poor academic attainment in his work Karyū shikō (The Orientation to Go Downstream). He wrote:
A contemporary society shaped by economic mechanism has predominant consequences in the development of children. They started their process of identity construction in the context of convenient stores, which means "consumer" is the first identity constructed. This results in a kind of "consumption behaviour" in learning, which intertwines cost with return. This consumerist perceptual pattern in learning has weakened the children's moral values and led to the idea that education is useless, as its values are hard to be seen. (Uchida, 2007)
If Uchida's logic applies, we shall see Hong Kong kids being as endeavouring as their parents, who possessed the "below-the-Lion-Rock" mentality, because "labour" should have been the first identity constructed. However in reality, the return for children’s labour is dollar bills in lieu of compliments and encouragement as it used to be. It is the very way we raise our children has contributed to their lack of innocence, lack of patience and understanding, and their opportunist temperament.
In fact, the concept of childhood in developmental psychology had not emerged until 400 years ago. During the Medieval Period, seven-year-old was set to be the end of childhood because children at that age were able to master communication and their language. Yet, as the technology of block printing came to Europe in the 15th Century, a new definition of childhood had been introduced – "children" referred to those who did not read whereas "adults" referred to those who were able to read. In that sense, adulthood was "earned" through hard work because one would not be qualified as an adult until he or she had been literate. This is why Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, or On Education that "reading is the scourge of childhood, for books teach us to talk about things we know nothing about". The modern definition of adulthood was conceived upon the creation of mass-printing books. Reading opens the door to abstract knowledge for people meanwhile classifying those who do not read from those who do.
When none of the adults in Hong Kong behaves like one, please spare university students for not acting like a grown-up. In spite of our ability to read, we are nothing short of a bunch of "educated illiterates" who scarcely read or think. A mature adult should have a good sense of citizenship apart from an intelligent ability to understand profound concepts. Nonetheless, there seems to be no sign of intelligent life who does not proclaim that "I hate politics" in Facebook status in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, the distinction between an adult and a child lies upon an adult can access to PG-18 information which includes the likes of sex and death topics. These topics which children were barred from accessing were unsealed as televisions and the Internet were popularised. Dirty words, a taboo children should shun, has paradoxically become one adults should shun when primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze was criticised for swearing in public. We read cheap magazines stuffed with sexual implications but we refuse to confront sexual topics in front of our children. Children learn not only from formal education but also from the reflections of our behaviour. As a result, they mock at sissy classmates in the same way how we discriminate homosexuals.
Confucius condemned those who "get older in age with lack of virtues" as "parasites"; I would denounce Hong Kong adults or kids who "get older in age and be not maturate" as "Hong Kong lads". They read and read a lot, but they do not think and seldom use their brain. They have diversified talents and all-rounded skills, they even know the meaning of complicated words like "dextrorotatory" and "Halappino"; nevertheless, they abstain from fighting for universal suffrage simply because "politics is boring".
The rise of "Hong Kong kids" and "Hong Kong lads" is a prevalent phenomenon. Both kinds act like the know-it-all smartass we met in our sixth grade class. It is undoubtable that they know a lot – in the sense of skills and information – not knowledge, let alone wisdom. There no longer exists a distinction between adults and children in Hong Kong because we think and act equally naïve. In which, the race of "Hong Kong kids" is becoming extinct while the race of “Hong Kong lads” is thriving.