Statement of the Generation: 00 - PreambleTranslated by Chen-t'ang 鎮棠, written by The Undergrad session 2015, HKUSU
This is the change of an era, and we are in this whirlpool. The disputes between generation have not stopped, but the struggle of this era has begun. No one can arrogantly neglect the aspiration from the society. No one can be trampled cowardly by the authority. We might not win the cruel reality, but we have the responsibility to respond to this era. From “Greater China” to localism, from democracy in China to autonomy in Hong Kong, from resistance to awared, comprehensive revolution – we are trying to prove that these are values that all Hongkongers deserve, and also our Zeitgeist. As Immanuel Kant said, “Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be carved”.
So we drafted this statement – it began with the difficulties encountered by Hong Kong youth in this era. We described our characters and what do we want our Hong Kong to be. We know the inter-generational conflicts, and dare to point out the problems of them. We are like expecting the birth of a Hong Kong constitution, so we have prepared well to talk about the spirit, the character, the values, the facets and the vision of this code. We are like providing policies, laying the foundation for the council politics in a new generation. We are more like giving us a firm promise, that the blueprint we are having now and the sparkling aspiration will follow us for the whole life that we dare not forget.
Out of a crooked man, we must carve a straight path from it. Hong Kong needs to be under the test of the era. We Hongkongers must create a unique identity too. We Hong Kong youth need to show our strengths and determination. A generation of youth might eventually be old, but the proposals and spirits in this statement will be continuously under critique, debates, as well as developed and practiced – eventually, gaining roots across this territory.
The “Character” of This Generation
We are the best of generations, we are the worst of generations.
We are not born in chaotic times, but rather a moment when the sovereignty of Hong Kong was not transferred to China. The little us were not as perturbed as our older generation. The far and happy childhood was our imagination to Hong Kong: after school, kids ran along with their friends in parks; assignments, tests or exams were never a burden to us; we loved the estate shopping mall where we could buy our daily necessities in grocery stores or markets, or get capsule toys in stationery shops; on holidays, we could go to the Space Museum, Science Museum or Ocean Park, which were not yet cramped. As we grow, we see Hong Kong degenerating. These good old images are becoming the “Old Hong Kong”. Under this political darkness, catastrophes keep on pushing Hong Kong to the brink of death: the bogus One Country, Two Systems; a dysfunctional council; an ineffective horde of law enforcement agencies; a deceitful bunch of media; “white elephant” projects draining on and on... We have entered the worst times of Hong Kong when ridiculous things become normal. We are the generation hung between desperation and hope.
We did not choose Hong Kong, we choose Hong Kong.
Being born in Hong Kong was never our choice – we were born in British Hong Kong but raised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and are now living in the Hong Kong which is seemingly ruled completely by the PRC. Some may say if we do not like this identity, we can leave. We have no absolute responsibilities to be loyal to a place, but we have innumerable feelings to protect a place that raised us, and to protect Hongkongers as we share the common language and memories. This is the verity of “being born and raised in Hong Kong”. Even some may see Hong Kong as a temporary place to live; even some may be nonchalant on current affairs and live in the tiny existing freedom; even some may not be willing to resist the authoritarian regime for their homeland, we – amid political, economic, cultural fall – are willing to shout. We are mavericks who are unwilling to succumb to the authority nor interests.
We are the molded generation under competitions.
Our paths have been set since we were small, and pretty much the same one: interest classes, studying, taking exams, getting into colleges, finding good jobs. “We” might begin from different starting points on the running track, be it rich, middle-income or grassroots, but we are heading to the same destination. We compete for educational resources. We have to run faster, better, or even nastier to get others out of the track if we have to win. The last generation said “poor results means failure” and “not getting into colleges means meaningless prospects”, so we study and study for a good job with high salary. We spare no efforts in getting into schools they want us to get in, because education is the tool for social power and wealth allocation. Therefore, if they can afford, we have to go to different interest classes, learning different languages, musical instruments, sports or other art activities, so as to get into the “top-notch schools”. We are exhausted – brains and brawns: tutorial classes after classes make us sharp in exams so as to cut weaker ones away. We are in this competition. Those who win will say this is fair, because the winners are superior and the losers are lazy; the losers think this is fair too, because they have fought hard. Then we are thrown into the attritive society. To survive, one must compete; to compete, one must step on others' failures.
We refuse to live in such monotonous and gruelling society, nor follow the values shaped by the last generation. Even though it sounds hard, we have the courage to break the box. Every possibility exists in our Hong Kong, where artists and athletes can be a good occupation. Everyone should have the chance and possibility to paint and realize their dreams, and choose their own ways. In the Cantonese film “She Remembers, He Forgets”, there is this line: “Dream is things you think you must do before your last breath”. Our dream is to change Hong Kong. We are good at calculation, but failed at too much calculation. From taking means of transportation to life partner, we are too adept at turning things which can or cannot be quantified into numbers, treating success or failure with this so-called rationality. “Either you step on others' bodies, or you'll be stepped”, and one will fall into this endless cycle. In a narrow living space, people are afraid of being stepped on and have become self-protecting. This has in turn become a bigger nightmare.
We resist uncertainties, including resistance. It tampers our “calculators”. The “monochromatic screen” cannot tackle complicated geopolitical questions, so when we saw people taking it on streets, we stood with folded hands. We are not afraid of no fruits. No fruits might even be good, but if those self-deceiving fruits – hope – were gone, who would comfort such wound? Even if I decided to throw away the “calculator” and take on the road against the authority, I might the only one on the road. Who would comfort this solitude? We are domesticated as “rational animals”, but must it be so? “The calculator” shows the arrogance to include the world in a machine. The evolution of men and the advances in the society do not rely on the “calculated” success, but the unknown – which cannot be “calculated” at all.
Since we were small, we were taught that obedience, instead of arrogance and obstinacy, will help one merge in the mainstream. We follow the mass because we know what comes with that is the pride from the society. The recognition, acknowledgement and status of ourselves can hardly be outside the box of criteria set by the society. When they say “you are elites”, we are elites; when they say “you are wasted youth”, we are wasted youth. The criteria on personal values brutally remove the right to define ourselves. “I” am no longer elaborated by “me”.
The last generation told us we can feel safe when we react in a way everyone likes when appropriate, if our emotions can follow the social ethics. But are we real if our behaviour is not based on real feelings but “set as default”? Are we real if we cannot face our true emotions and suppress how we really feel? There are only two kinds of things in the world, your business and none of your business. The former one needs us to tackle, and we have no stance on the latter one. On one hand we dislike the bland side of ourselves, on one hand we are glad that we are those who are recognized by the society. Every day, we are struggling between self-abhorrence and arrogance, and the only status we have is youngsters in Hong Kong. We have nothing left besides this. Albert Camus, in his book The Stranger, wrote “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother's funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.” We do not want to live in the society of Meursault, we want to live our lives.
This generation lives in the “blissed tree shades” of the last generation. We have more resources and are enjoying their economic fruits. They make Hong Kong famous and part of the “Newlonkong”. A beautiful city with bright lights indeed, Hong Kong has become a place chasing after figures. There is no big change in the game rules – survival of the fittest. But the last generation has not yet found out that those on the top who hold most resources are the “survivors”. The last generation has not yet realized that the fairy tales of “Lion Rock spirit” (which says hardship will be repaid well) no longer exists. The social mobility of this generation is low. Hardship can barely get economic fruits in exchange. Justice means following the original game rule. Lessons and preaches such as “What have you done for Hong Kong except messing around?” have become part of our lives. In their eyes, we are but ungrateful wasted youth sitting there; we are useless trash. After the Umbrella Revolution, the values differences between two generations become more and more obvious. Parents or teachers no longer stand with us. Following the “work - eat bread - save money for down payment” chain after graduation, giving seats in MTR compartment, obeying rules set by the last generation are the path for removing the “wasted youth” label.
We do not want to see our society tearing apart. We are sick of bickering with the seniors. We once tried to talk rationally to the last generation but no one seems to comprehend the real world. Some of us came out and strived for changing problems that the last generation failed to against all odds. We carried the sin of “wasted youth/rioters” and neglected the backfire from the last generation. We stood until dawn on Nathan Road or Connaught Road Central. We threw bricks with anger and despair, because we do not want Hong Kong to die.
This generation does not only crave for richness materially, but also the say which is controlled by the last generation, and the freedom we have not had before. We hope Hongkongers can live happily afterwards and continue to be under the “blessed tree shades” brought by the last generation. Maybe we might not be acknowledged by the last generation, but we can only “wilfully” chase after the light at the end of the tunnel amid this storm. If this is what a “wasted youth” do, we are absolutely “wasted”, because what we are after is freedom.
The society sugarcoats the truth, rottens in the hands of officials and gags us all. The society domesticates us, and we can no longer give anything else other than the model answer. We started to refuse and reject because some changes are irrevocable. Our Hong Kong is no longer what it was. It can no longer be tormented. We are restricted by doubts and fears, but we see our weakness and constraints, and try to overcome them. We are talking about things others dare not to. We are pointing fingers to the injustice. More people might enjoy in their comfort circles, but we would rather live painfully because our eyes are no longer blind.
In the face of a ridiculous society and so-called masochistic peers, we have to see hopes in desperation. Wong Pik-wan, a local novelist, wrote: “Hope is like air and light to God. When you say there is hope, and there it is.” We are standing on the cliff and have no alternatives. Let us say “there is hope, and there it is”. We have to see hope, we have to grasp hope.
THE UNDERGRAD 2016 FINALE Editorial Board
Editor-in-chief: Marcus Lau Yee-ching
Deputy editor-in-chief: Chan Hoi-ying; Chiang Min-yen
Statement of the Generation