Sunday, 27 May 2007

The Absence of Mind

Perhaps it is a bit too late to write about the controversy of the "erotica" section of Chinese University Student Union's newspaper, but, as an alumnus, I feel compelled to jot down my thoughts having read about the developments in the local media over the last couple of weeks.

Pardon me if you don't understand what I'm talking about. I just can't help running out of words when I try to come up with a precise description of how I feel.

It is certainly not anger. Perhaps it is some sort of frustration mixed with a large pinch of contempt and disappointment.

To date, I still find it difficult to believe that such a ridiculous farce could have ever happened in Hong Kong. What is more difficult to believe is that nobody seems to have a pair of clean hands. Without their enthusiastic participation, the farce would have never happened in the way it has.

While it was not surprising at all to see how arrogant the students were when they were first criticised of printing indecent materials, I was somewhat shocked at the level of ignorance and self-complacence they demonstrated throughout the farce. They insisted that they had done nothing wrong. They insisted that they were trying to encourage discussions on a social taboo, of which the discourse has been monopolised by patriarchy over the centuries. Fair enough. I appreciate and support your intention. But please stop the sheer hypocrisy of making splendid excuses when you didn't even bother to set the right context by providing some theoretical framework for the discussions. Simply asking the readers tasteless questions that intrude in their privacy doesn't mean anything. Neither does having professors to write on this topic as someone suggested. And I shall never forget your bold statement in the newspaper, "Just don't wanna pretend to be really academic." Okay. If you didn't plan for serious academic discussions, shut up and stop all those disgusting excuses to position yourselves as the victims of patriarchal conventions.

Yet, ironically, at least one of the editorial board members demanded monetary assistance from the university to cover the costs arising from the legal proceedings, saying, "We are students. It is a learning process for us. The university should take care of us." Come on, where have your senses gone? Did you mean to ask for assistance from the patriarchal powers that have suppressed your freedom of speech to fight against them? If you are really convinced that what you had done was right, why should you ask for help from those who disagree with you or even look down upon you? Why should you be afraid to defend with bare hands what you truly believe?

To be absolutely honest, the students are not even qualified to tease the goliath, let alone challenge it. They are just cowards like the people with whom they have been dealing.

I wonder why so few people out there realised that the biggest mistake of the students was their lack of taste and competence. Their great idea of challenging conventional assumptions about sex was tragically spoilt by their failure to set the right context and framework for discussions. Well, perhaps in a highly sensational community like Hong Kong, a logical analysis just doesn't sound good enough for a sound-bite or a headline for the mass media.

Obviously another disappointment came from the university, which wasted no time to launch the disciplinary procedures against the student union's editorial board before the Obscene Articles Tribunal promulgated its ruling. Perhaps the university's consultants believed that the university could be spared of any legal liability, so as to preserve its well-established reputation by taking prompt actions to contain the issue. However, sheer selfishness can hardly be disguised with a grand excuse. As we have seen, the quicker they took actions against the students, the greater the damage was done to the university's reputation. The failure to demonstrate their tolerance and understanding of the ignorant students actually created as much harm as the cheap and vulgar students' paper did. In the public eye, the deeds and words of students reflect the quality of education they receive from their schools. Selfish teachers who can think of nothing else but take immediate actions to protect their own interest in the name of reputation are precisely why the students could be so incredibly arrogant and ignorant without any sense of responsibility.

In a highly opportunistic community like Hong Kong, it is not surprising at all to see that politicians, mass media and interest groups had taken sides within a split second. For those who support the students, the issued has been escalated and interpreted as a matter of freedom of speech, a futile but respectable attempt to challenge traditional patriarchal discourse of sex and so on. For those who joined the bandwagon to condemn the students and their paper, the reluctance to talk about sex disguised in the form of moral values was repeated in dreadful frequencies. The repercussions from conservative Christian groups were particularly annoying.

Nowadays I find it unbearably frustrating to see that public discussions on a controversial subject in Hong Kong often end up with nothing constructive that would have made our lives better. If the students were a bit smarter, they would have launched a meaningful discussion on the patriarchal assumptions of sexual discourse in Hong Kong, which might have helped create a better community with less discrimination but more mutual respect and understanding between the sexes.

Unfortunately, however, I am still to be convinced that the ongoing farce would be able to lead Hong Kong to anywhere meaningful. The struggle between two opposite sides for their own benefits will achieve nothing for Hong Kong. Now the issue has already been hijacked by the vested interests either as a pretext to blast at the Government or a defence of what they want people to believe as they do.

Essentially, everyone involved in the controversy seems to have lost their mind. I can't be bothered less, yet I can't help giving a big sigh of frustration.

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