If you ask me what strikes me most in the last decade on the personal front, I can't really tell because everything seems to be so inextricably interwoven that it is almost impossible to single out anything from the 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
If you press me for a definite answer, however, I'd say I was, and somewhat still am, most bothered by the tragic loss of Godsend talents of pop culture in Hong Kong within three consecutive years from 2002 to 2004.
Those who grew up in the heyday of Hong Kong's pop culture and so-called creative industries (pardon me for my scepticism again, but I'm somewhat uneasy about the word "creative", as the most successful Hong Kong pop culture producers are essentially very skilful adopters rather than innovative creators who make things from scratch) will share my gratitude to the glamorous stars and talents who had made our earlier days more colourful, interesting and memorable than they should have been otherwise. Emotionally, I find those extraordinary men and women as close and attached as my family and friends. Sometimes even more so. I simply can't imagine how different my life would have been should I never have a chance to know them, to enjoy their works and let them be my life-time companions.
Visitors to this blog probably know that I'm a fan of the legendary diva Anita Mui's. She is my pride and so is my privilege to become a loyal supporter of hers.
Crowned "the daughter of Hong Kong" after she lost her bitter battle against cervical cancer in 2003, arguably the darkest year in Hong Kong's history after the city's fall to Japanese invasion from December 1941 to August 1945, Anita deserves the highest level of respect from personal to professional fronts. She is the best-selling singer in Hong Kong with records unbroken for more than two decades. Jacky Cheung and Hacken Lee are not even close. She attempted and mastered a wide spectrum of characters that are unimaginable even for well-recognised actresses such as Maggie Cheung, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. Her sophisticated voice and on-stage charisma, as well as her success story that is often compared to the baby-boomers' Story of Hong Kong, were by no means replicable anywhere, any time.
Indeed, the local economy has changed so much that it is now impossible to replicate Anita's success story. The shabby theatres where Anita and her elder sister Ann performed were torn down. It is now unimaginable for a four-year-old toddler who can barely stand on her feet to sing Mandarin oldies and Cantonese opera live on stage. The lounges where Anita sang night after night before she won the singing contest have now become karaoke bars. Rather than enjoying music with friends in a lounge, stressed out men and women now find it much more rewarding and relieving to vent their emotions out loud in a confined space. The teenagers and students who used to listen to her songs, watch her films and attend her concerts have now become middle-aged souls torn apart in the ever-mounting confusion and pressure of Hong Kong. All they could do is to cling to their sweet memories of their carefree good old days with the hope that Anita might release a new album or a new movie sooner or later.
But their humble hope was shattered in the heart-breaking year of 2003.
The departure of Anita and other talents of Hong Kong's Canto-pop culture was not the end of an era. It was the end of a generation's dream and hope. We no longer have anyone to look up to, to attach our emotions to, and to share our thoughts and feelings with as if they can talk to us through their works. Talents like Anita have spoilt our generation with distinctive vocal authority, unmatched professionalism in performance and the highest possible integrity of mankind. This is why I felt a bit unsatisfied reading the obituary in Time Magazine, which focused on her professional achievements, although it was already much better than the sensational local press that adamantly and distastefully tagged on her private life. Her courage to defend justice and morality in the most challenging times; her genuine sympathy for those who suffer was by all means extraordinary. Those who concede to power and wealth should be intimidated by Anita's courage and selflessness, even though she might not have received as much school education as they did.
Of course I understand that Anita and her true friends shall live forever in the hearts of their admirers. But I still find it difficult to hold back tears when I think of the young souls who left us so prematurely, bequeathing us a legacy of dedication, excellence, integrity and professionalism that we should be grateful for generations.
This is particularly true when the lust for power replaces justice; the greed for profits substitutes respect and empathy; complacence prevents excellence and narrow-mindedness limits the options for common good. Don't you think so?