Monday, 19 May 2008

中國,加油!

四川大地震後第八天,晚上回到家裡,在電視上看到令人難以忘懷的一幕:

成千上萬成都和北京的市民,聚集在廣場上,為地震死難者默哀。三分鐘後,傳來驚天動地的呼喊:

「中國,加油!」

「四川,重建!」

即使沒有在現場,心情還是說不出的激動。只是因為看到了勇氣、堅忍和團結;這些都是人類最崇高、最珍貴的特質。更重要的是,多年來失落殆盡的人文傳統,似乎燃起了復興的曙光。

多少年了,我們都似乎迷失在西洋政治、經濟和哲學的陰霾下,總是覺得月亮是外國的圓,自己的傳統文化不值一哂,就連表達自己愛好傳統文化,也可能換來一臉不懷好意的訕笑。一個世紀之前,幾許前賢在思考中國前途的時候,曾經以為全盤西化,或者借鑑西方的社會體制和意識形態,就能夠讓中國免於被列強欺凌的困局。然而歷史已經證明,民族文化的根源,不會因為外在的體制而帶來根本的轉變;尤其是在中國這種底蘊深厚的國家,外來的東西很難動搖得了傳統文化的核心;因此往往不是給改得面目全非,就是成為某些人鞏固勢力的工具。

一百多年來,很多中國人被外國龐大的政治、經濟和軍事力量迷惑了心智,以為經濟蓬勃發展、政治勢力擴張,就是一個國家的終極目標。其實,沒有了人,國家和政府是沒有意義的。「人」才是國家的主體,才是政府的服務對象。忽略了人的需要,一味追求統計數字上的成就,並不是一個負責任的國家和政府應該做的事。

其實,中國傳統哲學就是「以人為本」的人文哲學。如今「以人為本」已成為老掉了牙的庸俗口號,但卻是中國主流哲學的精髓。在先秦諸子中最具影響力的儒、道、墨家,以至來自天竺的佛教,都是強調人文精神的哲學,把「人」看得很重要。儒家的「仁」、「義」,道家的「無為」、「自然」,墨家的「兼愛」、「非攻」,佛教的「慈悲」,都是鼓勵珍惜生命、尊重人的存在和尊嚴。這與歐洲文藝復藝時代強調尊重個人的精神不謀而合,也是放諸四海皆準的普世價值。

在救助、賑濟四川地震災民的過程中,從政府高層到平民百姓,處處煥發著人性善良的光芒;對「人」的尊重和珍惜,重新獲得了應有的崇高地位。因此,政府高層多次強調救人是當務之急,不但派遣救援人員奔赴各個災區救人,也迅速安排了醫護人員照顧傷者的健康和倖存者的起居。更難得的是,資訊發布的透明度大為提高,絕不遜色於先進國家;而國內外的傳媒得以深入各地採訪災情,有助激發全國和海外大規模的募捐活動,為救災工作提供有力的支援。無數平民百姓自發嚮應募捐和賑濟災民,與其說是被民族感情所推動,不如說是被同情心所驅使。惻隱之心,人皆有之,看外國居民罹受災禍的時候,我們都會感到難過;然而看到同胞吃苦,心情當然更沉重。這種感情,也許有親疏、層次的分別,其實本質都是一樣的。

所以,如果要在這次地震汲取甚麼教訓,我最希望的是各級政府和民眾,重新回到珍視、尊重「人」的傳統中,無論是施政還是日常生活,也不能忘記最終以人的利益為依歸,尊重和珍惜身邊的人。只有這樣,中國人才會真正無愧於天地,無論是貧是富,也能得到國際社會由衷的認同和尊重。

Monday, 12 May 2008

四川地震

今天下午高高興興地抱著一包書回家,誰知扭開電視卻看到四川發生黎赫特制7.8級嚴重地震,連遠在北京、上海、浙江、香港、臺灣、泰國等地的居民都感到震動,不禁大吃一驚。

北京、上海、浙江、香港和臺灣等地,與四川相距何止千里?雖然有專家說震央距離地面不遠,所以震感可以長距離傳送,仍是覺得駭人聽聞。

晚上電視新聞陸續報道四川各地傷亡和損毀的情況,令人心酸。想起半年前在四川九寨溝和峨嵋山遊玩,十分愜意;如今想來,更覺唏噓。

不知是否時間倉猝,手民有誤,某電視台居然說這次地震的強度可以「媲美」三十二年前的唐山大地震。老天,這種天災何「美」之有?

只希望傷亡不會太嚴重,吉人天相。

買書記

很久沒有到油麻地的中華書局買書了。

自從拿到商務印書館的優惠卡之後,老是盤算著要買多少,才能在下一年繼續享有優惠。不過最近因為想多買一點歷史古籍和研究專著,書種逐漸趨向通俗和商業化的商務印書館,已經不能滿足我的需求,只好跑到專門整理出版古籍的中華書局去找。

小時候香港書店不算多,商務印書館的分店遠非今天的龐大網絡可比,所以距離家裡二十分鐘步程的中華書局總店和廟街旁的油麻地公共圖書館,順理成章的是中學時代消閒和搜集資料經常駐足的據點。現在書架上很多絕版書,都是當年從中華書局抱回來的。後來商務印書館銳意發展零售業務,分店愈開愈多,在尖沙咀碼頭旁、面臨維多利亞港的旗艦店更一度是全香港最大的書店。去年因租約問題遷到美麗華酒店的商場中,本來地點也很好,只是書種已經不合我的口味了。不知道商務印書館經營策略的轉變,跟陳萬雄老師多年前晉升為聯合出版集團總裁之後,脫離商務印書館的日常運作有沒有關係?記得當年他仍是商務印書館的總經理兼總編輯,有一次帶我們碩士班幾個同學參觀編輯部,令人大開眼界,至今記憶猶新。可是近年來,商務印書館在出版方面似乎無以為繼,一直以新編人文、歷史書籍見長的出版傳統,彷彿消聲匿跡。九十年代商務印書館與主攻香港歷史、社會文化的三聯書店;著力整理古籍、出版課本和輔助教材的中華書局三雄鼎立、分庭抗禮的盛況,如今已不復尋。

這半年來,為了搜購有關宋史的書,跑了中華書局兩次,結果都沒有令人失望。一口氣買了很多冊「唐宋史料筆記叢刊」,現在尚欠一冊《開元天寶遺事.安祿山事蹟》就儲齊了。今天再去詢問關於中華書局《二十四史》縮印本的細節,才知道店內只剩下最後一套了。微一沉吟,咬了咬牙,決定先訂了再說。因為歷史書一向印數不多,斷貨了就未必會重印,即使重印也不知道要等到甚麼時候。此外,店員茹先生說內地剛發布了環保指令,要求出版社不要隨便重印書籍,只有真正的暢銷書才可重印,以免浪費。這道指令的原意很好,但站在讀者的立場,歷史書印數少,而且永遠不會比流行小說、投資指南暢銷,向隅的機會就更大了。更嚴重的是,暢銷的是否一定是好書?不鼓勵題材冷門、銷路不佳的好書重印,又是否違背多元教育、培訓各類人才的「科教興國」方針?

付款的時候,和服務態度親切殷勤的茹先生聊了一會兒,非常愉快。在香港那麼多年,從來沒有見過一位書店店員像茹先生那樣由衷的喜歡讀書,而且能向讀者介紹符合他們興趣和口味的書籍,更何況是連鎖書店。茹先生看起來挺年輕(至少外表看來年紀比我小),對歷史頗有認識,也有獨特的見解,所以聊得很開心。在香港,讀歷史書的人本來就不多,能有自己見解的更少,沒想到今天在書店卻碰上了,真難得。

聊為之記。

後記:感謝諸葛羲指正,已把茹先生的姓氏更正。

Monday, 5 May 2008

An Analysis of Arrogance

In the last term of my primary school years, my class teacher wrote in my album: "Arrogance leads to failure and humbleness brings benefits." Only until then did I realise that I must have done something terribly wrong that prompted her to remind me such words of wisdom and common sense.

Since then, I have tried to remind myself from time to time to respect for the others, even though they may not seem to have the same level of capabilities. Over the years, I'm increasingly convinced that while I had the Godsend of certain capabilities or the chance to learn something special, some other people would have some other things that I don't. More importantly, I should refrain from thinking that I am any better than anyone, simply because there are plenty of things that I don't know.

If human beings are truly born equal, at least they are equal in the sense that each of them is unique and cannot be fully replaced. There are indefinite possibilities in physical and mental conditions in human beings, and these differences are exactly what make our world as enjoyable, or sometimes awful, as it is.

And this is why I now find those who are arrogant so unbearably annoying. Arrogance assumes someone is better than the others, which is apparently contrary to the truth. What is more, ignorance seems to be a buddy of arrogance, simply because if someone thinks he/she is the best or better, he/she would think there is little to learn from others, if any at all. Worse still, arrogant people often don't know they are at the same time ignorant, simply because they feel too good about themselves. Arrogance strongly undermines our ability to think and reflect, and blinds us from our weaknesses and the strengths of the others.

The refusal to learn from the others, whoever they may be, is often translated into a failure to keep abreast of what is going on, especially in the fast-moving world today. The rapid changes require us to keep up with the pace, though without losing sight of who we are and without the stubbornness to open our minds at least for new ways of thinking that may challenge our paradigms. It is never easy to strike a balance between an open mind and a stronghold of identity. Yet this is precisely where the traditional Chinese wisdom of the Golden Mean sets in.

Another thing I don't like about arrogance is the contempt of individual dignity. When someone thinks he/she is more superior, it is apparent that he/she would pay little attention to what other people may feel. An old Chinese saying gives a subtle and insightful definition of the problem, "A common weakness of the mankind is the temptation to become a teacher of someone else." This is because by telling the others what to do, we can demonstrate our capabilities. Being capable, we think we are important. We feel good. Our ego is satisfied at the expense of the others.

Unfortunately I have seen too many negative examples that only remind me of stupidity. I just can't help sneering.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

제 한국어 공부는 감상

저는 한국어를 배운 지 벌써 이 년이 되었습니다. 그 동안 한국어 많이 읽을 줄 알지만 듣고 말하는 아직 잘못 합니다. 한국어를 재미있지만 매우 어렵습니다. 그래서 공부하기가 힘듭니다. 열심히 공부고 싶지만 일이 너무 바빠서 시간이 없으니까 못 합니다.

내일에 새 학기의 제일 시험이 보겠습니다. 열심히 공부했어서 잘 할겁니다.

Living in a Material World

Should my mother have not complained about the squeaky sound that annoys her too much when she calls my mobile phone, I wouldn't have started to look around for possible options to replace my black Nokia 7270, which I have used for two and a half years without any problem.

Not surprisingly, I couldn't find anything close to my current model. Forget all the bullshit about style and the so-called functions that I shall never use, the price tags alone are scary enough.

Even scarier is the common attitude towards mobile phones. Many friends and colleagues seem to have taken for granted the small piece of metal with integrated circuits should cost several thousand dollars. I can't tell you how big their eyes became when I told them that I have been looking for something not too dumb in shape, big enough to fit my palm but costs no more than HK$2,000.

Perhaps few in Hong Kong would be as fascinated as I am when browsing through the display windows of mobile operators and electrical appliance chains. I always am. I can never understand why there are so many models of mobile phones to choose from. How can those mobile phone manufacturers possibly survive, let alone being as powerful as they are? Does it mean that most of us around the world would buy a new phone every week? Or even more people buy new ones without replacing the old models and simply switching the SIM cards to their new toys? Then where have all those unwanted or traded-in mobile phones gone? I'm sure most cousins and uncles and neighbours in this region are not picking up second-hand mobile phones anymore because they have way cooler and more groovy handsets to choose from, far better than what we are offered here. How can we shamelessly continue to point an accusing finger at our neighbours for polluting the air and water when it is evident that we share part of the blame of creating all those non-biodegradable and non-recyclable waste?

Worse still, putting aside the pressing environmental issues that remain a high-sounding boast for many, even with so many dazzling choices hanging around, I still find it so annoyingly difficult to find something I can't resist.

My recent research on mobile phones also reminds me of what I saw six months ago when I was shopping for my new home. While I was quite happy that every piece of electrical appliances was bought within budget and they meet highest power-efficient standards wherever applicable, I can't really understand why LCD television sets are growing bigger and bigger in size when most homes in Hong Kong are becoming smaller and smaller. Isn't it too obvious that a 50-inch LCD television is disproportionate for a living room measuring less than 120 square feet? Why bother to buy a television set at all if so many of us go home too late to watch any television? What is the point of having a grand and good-looking LCD television abandoned in the living room when most pigeon-hole bedrooms are now equipped with a small LCD monitor for "personal" and "private" enjoyment? Then why should people complain about insomnia and sleeping disorders when they have overloaded themselves with sensual pleasures and electromagnetic exposures?

Marketing doesn't seem to have been nominated as one of the greatest and most powerful inventions of human civilisation, but it certainly is. Marketing has not only changed the behaviour but also the value system of mankind in such a profound way that few of us realise when and how its forces are at work. Thanks to Marketing, we can no longer tell what we truly need and what we simply want. Many of us now define ourselves not by personality or aspirations but what we wear, what we hitch to our shoulder, and what gadgets we carry along. We don't feel good for who we are and what we do, but for what we put on. Economic growth is measured by how much we produce, which is essentially how much we are brainwashed to spend on replacing stuff that may be still working good but have become guilty of losing our favour.

Unfortunately the intangible costs of waste and social ill are still far from being reflected meaningfully anywhere in the account ledgers, let alone in our minds. I can't tell you how sick I feel when people talk about commodities that are worth thousands of dollars as if they only cost a few cents. I can't tell you how annoying it is to see people murmuring that they need something very basic and yet choosing the most expensive model just because it has everything. I'm convinced that smart shopping is not about how little you spend but identifying what you truly need and buying the optimal choice.

Perhaps it is time to rethink and ask harsh questions about the capitalist economy that we have been taken for granted for so many years. Now I can kind of understand why there were so many criticisms of capitalism because its expansionist paradigm can be devastating. Just wondering if there could be any adjustment or revamp to the system so that the vicious cycles of spending, over-spending, bubble-burst and depression can be less painful than they were?

Call me a jerk if you like. I know too well that I'm too different and stubborn to live in such a material world.