Letters to the Editor

Tuesday 22 November 2016, 8.00pm HKT

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FAN MAIL and hatemail from followers, detractors and passersby for Q4 2016.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR is posted 4 times a year or more, selecting the best letters received during the quarterly period.

We welcome letters on all topics, but the management regrets it is not possible to respond to all. All letters received are publishable unless the sender states otherwise. Sender must include name and location in the letter but may request anonymity or choice of pen-name. Letters may be edited for length or clarity. Management has right of choice and manner of publication. Please write via email, or use the Contact Form.

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SHOULD Hong Kong be separate from China? YMF (18 Nov 2016)

hong kong 1960s by yau leungThe Naked Listener writes:—

HONG KONG should remain separate as it is at present from China, no more and no less.

Right now, we are continuing as fine as things could be under the present realities of the situation BEFORE the handover as well as AFTER it.

There are a lot of things about the realities of the Hong Kong/China connection that many of the younger generations don’t quite realise or appreciate that we oldies have lived through.

Water, food and similar other resources are part of the restraints on full separation — but they are the big ones and must not be ignored. Those restraints are incredibly hard to sort out, despite what many might argue otherwise and cite examples of various small places making it on their own (such as Monaco, San Marino, Singapore and others).

The even bigger restraint is of course the politics and the sociopolitical dynamics of China itself.

To be brutally honest, any further separation more than we have now is just untenable and could potentially result in a bloodbath of some kind, leading to even quicker, tighter, more heavy-handed control over Hong Kong. China doesn’t want this; Hong Kong certainly doesn’t.

Right now, we have what could practicably be called the best of both worlds, and it is a bit of a shame that the current arrangement won’t last beyond 2047.

What people ought to be doing is to extend the current arrangement from the current “50 years of no change” to 99 years like things are normally done throughout history — instead of screaming for more ‘separation.’



I’M a Hongkonger feeling desperate about my home city. I don’t see any future here for myself nor my kids. What can I do? — Josh, Hong Kong (18 Nov 2016)

do the hustleThe Naked Listener writes:—

YOU are not the only one with desperate feelings. I’ve met lots of others with similar sentiments — and I’m one of them too. And I’ve seen many down through the decades.

This is Hong Kong, a borrowed place on borrowed time (even now). Do what all Hongkongers do — think of a way out and emigrate to another place.

Or find a way to make so much money that you could afford to travel out all the time and come back once in a while.

Sorry can’t be more helpful.



COULD Hong Kong adopt the U.S. political system? Meaning that they adopt the electoral college, Senate, Congress, etc. — Kagen, Singapore (19 Nov 2016)

lady-justice-blind-with-rifleThe Naked Listener writes:—

NOT the actual American political system, pound for pound, brick for brick — China wouldn’t countenance it for reality’s sake.

Even more importantly (and realistically), the Hong Kong population wouldn’t want it either.

The American political system is just too polarising. This has been analysed to death for decades in almost every law school in nearly all countries. The consensus has always been that the American system works only in the USA.

The politics in Hong Kong has become rather polarised since the 1997 handover — even though our political system structurally isn’t divisive — and we just don’t need a polarising setup.

Anyone who has ever lived in Hong Kong either during the British days or now under the Chinese can tell us the place is actually very free and rather democratic in many social and political respects anyway. Most people will say it’s 10 times more democratic than China even on a subjective level. (I’d say five times, because China is improving.)

But in any case, Hong Kong already has a similar setup to the American system anyway.

Hong Kong already has an electoral college — we ‘vote’ our legislators to the Legislative Council via the geographical and functional constituencies (imperfect though they may be). They in turn ‘vote’ or ‘select’ (or selectively vote) the Chief Executive candidate into office.

Hong Kong has a kind of upper and lower parliamentary chambers — if we view the Legislative Council (lower) and the Executive Council (upper) as those. If they’re not structurally describable like that, then they certainly function in those roles on a day-to-day level.

We have multiple political parties — none any good (just like the situation in many other terribly democratic and undemocratic countries). The USA has functionally only two parties, and they’re like clones of each other on a realistic level.

We have PACs (political action committees) just like the USA has, though under a different name or description and obviously not nearly as influential (or moneyed).

Rub out the names and the description of the Hong Kong political system and it pretty much fits the description for many other democratic countries.

Ask any Hong Kong law student — because their local law schools do this kind of homework exercise for their Constitutional Law module.

Just for the mental exercise, we could take Singapore as a ‘control group’ comparison. It too has a setup that’s not far removed from the American system, with the various institutions and entities called by different names.

The Philippines has a system that’s very similar to the American system too. And Taiwan. And quite a lot of other countries that I’ve seen in my years of living or growing up in 13 different countries around the world.

But when it comes to Hong Kong, the American setup just isn’t on the table because of the China factor — and more importantly the factor of the Hong Kong people themselves.



HOW do you know if you’re cut out for the military?

I’d like to enlist as an infantryman. I’m in a good physical condition but I don’t know if my personality is a good fit for the army. — Anon (20 Nov 2016)

ammunition boots 52 studsThe Naked Listener writes:—

WE all have to operate on some realistic level, as Richard Burton’s character puts it in the movie “The Night of the Iguana” (1964).

The reality is no on really knows for certain if he’s suitable for military life — until getting in.

Can be an unusual kind of communal living

Military life (and army life) is a coenobitic life — a kind of communal living with closed-off practices that benefits only to the community itself yet not always to its individual members. Some people like it, some can adapt to it, others can cope with it, and still others can’t do any of that.

Some things are just a detail

The physical fitness aspects are just a detail. Ars longa, vita brevis (“The art is long, the life is short”) — the military has centuries of collective internal experience and ‘borrowed’ insights to train up all sorts of people for all sorts of things.

If the person is unfit, he could be turned into a fit one in a matter of weeks, no problem. If he’s “stupid,” he could be trained to react “automatically” by the rulebook, no problem.

Inner space and the human factor

But the ‘man’ inside the man (or woman) is a different matter. Some people just discover military life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and then doesn’t like it. We don’t know until we’re in it — because the rest of civilian society doesn’t have the same kind of coenobitic living practices, so there’s no truly real way for a civilian to make a near-objective assessment.

This is why the armed forces in non-conscript countries offer enlistment options of various duration — so that both the enlistee and the military get a chance to experience things for real and whether they like, can adjust or cope, or detest each other.

How you live with yourself with others

I mean, I signed up for short service (three years) in the army, and — while I adapted well to the life — I also found I didn’t exactly like it. I’ve also found I’m entirely ‘unmilitary’ in personality (even though I behaved militarily well on a daily level). So I decided not to renew after serving the minimum 2½ years. It was a fairly good experience, mainly because I could adapt rather than cope.

Are you sane? As long as your degree of insanity isn’t too noticeable or in anybody’s way, you’ll be fine. Squaddies tend to be a bit on the dim side, however. If you’ve got even a little bit of brainpower, do something else that requires it. — An army veteran’s remark (paraphrased)

So the question you should ask yourself is, are you the kind who adapts or copes when things eventually turn out not to be what you expected?

If even in civilian life you tend to be an ‘adapter’ rather than a ‘coper,’ then you may well be good enough for military life.



HOW do I cope with not being proud of my academic achievements?

GPA 4.0 in 11th grade. ECs and teacher reputation are fine. Made very bad choices and my GPA dropped. Out of seven classes, I’ve four mid-B’s — the rest A’s. The semester ends in mid-January. Not proud. As a low-income student, I’m aiming for the Ivies. I’ve been feeling hopeless. I’m struggling to get back on track. — David L. (20 Nov 2016)

On guard - ImgurThe Naked Listener writes:—


It isn’t just semantics — it’s really a state of mind (or a repurposed state of mind).

When we ‘cope,’ what we’re trying to do all the time is to find different ways of living with the fact of poor grades, poor income, poor this, poor that. There are only so many ways of living with something before the options break down and your life starts to crumble to pieces at the most inconvenient time possible.

But when we ‘adjust,’ what we are doing is making a conscious effort to “retrofit” — to put new elements into the old, or put the old to new uses. Repurposing, in other words.

In that sense then, we know there isn’t much we could do about our poor grades — but we can adjust ourselves by using the grades to find the best-allowable jobs open to those grades. Or adjust by developing a realistic plan to get better grades at the next exam sitting or the next course.

Coping is only ever momentarily useful for things that cannot be fixed or too permanent — that’s why we “cope” with life after a friend or family member has died. There’s nothing we can do about death. We cope with the emotional distress and sadness of someone gone. After a while, then we “adjust” to life without that person in life.



WHICH is a better place to start a family, Vienna or Hong Kong?

Assuming same compensation before tax; a couple with a one-year-old kid. — Anon (21 Nov 2016)

Biggles flier's leather flying helmetThe Naked Listener writes:—

I don’t do advice. I do opinions.

And if you accept or follow my opinions, it will affect your family more than mine. Fair warning there.

I’ll divvy up offer some no-frills observations and personal opinions from my experience of growing up in 13 different countries around the world.

Realise the first truth:—

Your kid won’t be living in a world that’s like the one you grew up in. You spent the first half of your life in the 20th century, and now the other half in the 21st. You grew up with values of the last century. You have to use your 20th-century values and learn some 21st-century ones to get by. Your kid doesn’t have to. The kid will be a 21st-century kid, and then on to a 21st-century adult.

And now the juicy, uncensored but biased bits:—

Vienna is in Austria, and that’s a First World place. There, you have the education, social the safety net, personal freedom and democracy, social openness — the whole works smack in the middle of one of the world’s economic and cultural powerhouse regions. You and your kid will lead a First World life with First World life values, and then marry a First World person and give you First World grandchildren. The rest of the world WOULD KILL to be in your kid’s shoes.

I’ll make no bones about Hong Kong. It’s not a First World place. To be brutally honest here, Hong Kong is a socially and physically unhealthy place to bring up children. The education system here is an abortion (even though the various PISA and other statistics say differently). A lot of people grown up and educated in Hong Kong have high educational levels — but that’s on paper. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find there’s quite a discrepancy. The essential psyche of the Hongkonger is a villager’s mind, let put it that way.

So why am I telling you this?

It’s cultural socialisation and sociocultural unity. We take our beliefs, perceptions and values from our surroundings. There’s no escaping those things, never mind what the blasted sociologists might contend otherwise.

Think of it this way:— You’re born in (and to) a certain society. You grew up accepting and internalising the various conditions and values of that society. They eventually form your overall beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and sentiments — about your own self, your own society, and those of others.

Literally every country I’ve ever lived in or been to have sentiments that they are somehow better than the rest — whether based on facts or just prejudices. The other countries, even though they might be ‘richer,’ are deep down still a bunch of uncouthed people or even barbarians just looking at the way they eat, dress, wash, gesticulate — you name it, we’ll classify it.

It doesn’t matter it’s prejudice or stereotyping or whatever you call it. It’s self-worth. It’s like reasonable doubt — it may be reasonable, but it’s still a doubt. We imperceptibly take on the prejudices of the place we spend our formative years in.

After all, like my grandpa once said rather well, we all live on Earth and in the same dirty, smelly boat, like being in—

“… a badly run restaurant that serves shitty food cold, and the surly restaurateur wearing shorts at work doesn’t wash his hands after going to the toilet.” — Grandpa

That is why we have proverbs like “You can take the man out of the country, but not the country out of the man” and the Chinese insight that “bad waters breed bad people.”

Of course, it is also true that none of us are any better (or worse) than the other. But where you stand depends on where you sit too. And so will your kid.

We all have 24 hours in the day; the rest is up to you.

You don’t have to agree with any of this. We draw our own conclusions.



WHAT’S special about a Montessori school?

How can you transition to a Montessori? Is it possible to incorporate it into a religious school? — Joseph F., USA (14 Aug 2016)

schoolsignThe Naked Listener writes:—

SENDING your child to a Montessori school will be the best decision you could ever make whether the time there will be a long or short one.

Yet the Montessori school itself is nothing special.

What IS special is the Montessori teacher.

The specialness is that the teacher isn’t exactly The Teacher. The student is the ultimate teacher, in fact.

The ‘teacher’ teacher is merely a guide — not even a “guiding force” — who’s only there to suggest new ideas or new paths from time to time, and then lead the student through them. The child holds the ultimate reins and makes all decisions to do or not do something.

In that sense then, the teacher is merely a “follower” — the child leads, the teacher suggests and tags along.

That sounds like anarchy or chaos. No question about that — if we look at it from the angle of our more usual, prescriptive, traditional schooling where the teacher is the controller who ‘inserts’ knowledge into the pupil.

Yet the Montessori teacher is probably closer to the original idea of education, which comes from the Latin educoto bring out.

The Montessori teacher helps the child draw out his or her own learning strategies by tagging along and giving advice from time to time. Of course the teacher doesn’t leave literally everything up to the child’s own devices. Children clearly are not great decision-makers. But the Montessori teacher helps the child along to make the decision in various constructive ways.

To achieve that system of measures, the Montessori teacher has to be (and nearly always are) of a calmer, kinder, more patient and more understanding in disposition than the general run of teachers.

By letting the child take the ultimate reins in his or her learning, the Montessori system treats the child as a kind of self-navigating pilot in a self-propelling vessel, with only the teacher acting like a first officer to help out the charts and navigation details at certain points in the voyage. The child remains the captain of the vessel. The child becomes more engaged in the learning, therefore more willing to learn and ask question, and — in the final analysis — learns faster and more efficiently than otherwise would in a regular school.

That is why Montessori schools do have world standing as top schools — which means admission can sometimes be competitive in some countries. It means higher fees too.

For the child, transitioning from a regular school into a Montessori one is often pleasant and trouble-free. It’s the parents who may have to ‘adjust’ — like seeing the child generally getting no homework or need to revise.

How do you enrol the child into a Montessori school?

It’s just like with any school. Not all Montessori schools are created equal and not all are top-notch (despite the general reputation). Do your research on the school and compare it with other Montessori schools in your area or country. The worst thing is to walk into a subpar Montessori (indeed, any kind of school), get a bad impression, and then never look at another Montessori again.

How can the Montessori philosophy be incorporated into a religious school?

This is hard to answer. The whole idea of the Montessori philosophy is to let the child explore paths and ideas. That nearly always conflicts with the basic aims of a religious school — to inculcate a belief and reliance on an authorised philosophy. The child holding the reins does evaluate matters on multiple philosophies — which conflicts with basic idea of the religious school and its authorised philosophy. It can be done, but the process will be difficult.

Don’t bother with incorporating. Just send the child to an actual Montessori school. You’ll have less heartache and have a more pleasant time at the sight of your child enjoying studies.



WILL ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘The Art of War’ be hard to read for a person with a reading age of 15?

I’m 15. My reading age is 15. English isn’t my primary language. However, I read better in English. Will I struggle reading ‘The Art of War’ and ‘The Communist Manifesto’? — A Polish immigrant in the UK (21 Nov 2016)

dissertation booksThe Naked Listener writes:—

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (London: Communist League, 1848) will be a hard read. Even educated adults tend to have problems understanding the purely language aspects of the book. After all, it was written over 100 years and some of the phraseology belong to its own time. It is also in “politicalspeak” — the meanings aren’t necessarily the same as what the words seem.

The good news is The Art of War (5th century BC) by Sun Tzu (pronounced “swan ts’uh”) is a fairly easy read. It’s only 13 chapters. It’s quite straightforward written even in the original Classical Chinese language. Therefore most translations tend to be straightforward languagewise too. Strangely, it’s those kinds of books that gets deeper in meaning on every rereading. In short, it gets harder to read the more you understand it.

Realise that The Communist Manifesto is propaganda material. It is also angry propaganda that’s written in a calm way — so the editorial effort is actually quite good. It asserts its stuff is ‘scientific.’ — yet it has no factual basis for that claim even according to the general rules of science or the scientific method at the bare functional level. Making claims FOR BEING scientific is different from IT BEING actually scientific in nature and essence. Understand that now, and you’ll have a happier time reading and understanding it.

What the best English-language translation of ‘The Art of War’?

The most often used ‘canon’ translation is the one by Lionel Giles (The Art of War by Sun Tzu: The Oldest Military Treatise in the World, London: Luzac & Co., 1910).

Two websites are based on the Giles translation:— The Internet Classics Archive: The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

The one by Samuel B. Griffiths (The Art of War, Oxford University Press, 1963) is perhaps better known among military types, mainly because of the language used.

In my grandpa’s and my own estimation, Giles’ and Griffiths’ versions are the most well-rounded of all translations prior to the ones published after the 1980s.



HOW would you describe your life in one sentence? Short and sweet, please. — Gene L., Palo Alto, USA (03 Sep 2016)

tnl polaroid of me 2013 0211 DSC02017The Naked Listener writes:—

Described already since at least 1978:—

“Disengaged, disembodied, dislocated.”

Additionally since around 1995:—

“Too old to live, too young to die, too slow to burn out, too fast to stay still.”


Tuesday, 22 Nov 2016

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 22 Nov 2016. (B16301)

Images:— Post header artwork © thenakedlistener • Two Hong Kong ladies in 1960s by Mr Yau Leung (Hong Kong Museum) via pinterist • Do The Hustle via Central Home • Lady Justice Blind with Rifle via The Daily Kos • Ammunition Boots via Claymore’s List • On Guard knife stand via Imgur • Biggles flier’s leather flying helmet via Surplus & Outdoors • School sign via 4chan • Dissertation Books via 4chan • Polaroid of author by thenakedlistener.

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