Tuesday, 15 September 2009

平靜的一夜

昨天傍晚,颱風巨爵襲港,天文台於下午五時五十五分懸掛八號風球。十五分鐘後,已經走在回家的路上。由於天文台早有預警,不少上班族已提早下班,地鐵車站和車廂也不見特別擠擁。幾年前車站裡人潮如海水倒灌般的場面,已不復見。

晚上七點左右回到家裡,窗外的風勢還不算大,心裡一陣踏實的感覺,心想這個晚上總算可以早些到家,好好休息了。匆匆做了晚飯吃完,收拾好碗筷的時候還沒到八點。

洗了澡,在書房裡一邊聽音樂、一邊寫blog,難得全神貫注、心無旁騖,很快就九點半了。窗外風勢趨強,狂呼怒號,把街上的雜物、枝葉吹得如群鴉亂舞。站在窗前,只見雨點隨著風勢灑落街上,在昏黃燈光下,街中猶如鋪上一幅幅飄逸的輕紗,捲起波浪一般的圖案,起伏有致。

這麼閒適平靜的夜晚,真是久違了。

平日總是不明不白的忙亂紛擾,就算回到家裡,也別指望有充足的時間調整心情,更遑論是做自己喜歡的事。只有在天災肆虐的時候,才有片刻的恬靜,但前提是自己住在密不透風、風雨不侵的石屎森林裡,而不是與大自然正面交鋒的郊野。對於都市人來說,天災居然是值得歡慶的假期賜予者,到底這是諷刺,還是詛咒?

Monday, 14 September 2009

A Thought about Drug Abuse

Perhaps it is a bit too late to talk about the proposed pilot drug tests at schools in Tai Po, which have met strong opposition from students and teachers. Like many other issues, the Hong Kong Government and general public are often too much obsessed with the operational details. The overwhelming focus on feasibility and operational perfection often overshadows the original intention and positioning of the proposed actions, leading to their doomed failure.

The proposed drug tests are no exception. Notwithstanding the debate on whether or not the drug tests should be implemented, and how, few seem to have asked the crucial question: What is the purpose of having the drug tests? What are they meant to achieve?

This is a fundamental question to which an answer must be given in order to provide a meaningful basis for debate on the operational details and for that matter. The failure to set the scene in the first place only demonstrates how poorly the programme is planned and positioned.

To be honest, I find the Government's proposal and its intentions incomprehensible. Nothing I have read so far gives me a clear definition of the objectives of the pilot test in Tai Po schools and a quick overview of what has been proposed. Neither the official web site of the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau bothers to provide this important information. All I can find on the web site are links to fragmented information and responses to criticisms and questions about the proposed drug tests.

Let me do some wild guessing here. If the Government wants to know how serious the problem of youth's drug abuse has become, why not push forward a compulsory programme whereby all young people under 18 or 21 are required to undergo the test? Why is it positioned as a voluntary programme that can be overridden by parents' written consent?

If the Government wants to issue a strong signal against youth drug abuse, why will those students found to have abused drug be spared of any legal action? On what assumption or basis can we grant this generous leniency to the youth? If the teenagers do not have to shoulder legal responsibilities for their misbehaviour, how strong can the anti-drug message possibly be?

If the Government really wants to combat youth drug abuse, why just focuses on secondary schools? Does it mean the Government officials think only secondary schools in the so-called grassroot districts like Tai Po are affected? Does it assume that young adults like university students will not abuse drug? How valid is this assumption? In any case, what kind of measures will the Government take to address the problem of drug abuse on university campus, if any?

If the Government is serious about combating youth drug abuse, how effective will the drug tests at school be in identifying the root causes of the problem? How much will the tests contribute to nipping drug abuse in the buds?

Can someone please answer these questions? Thank you.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

悲涼與希望--《遍地芳菲》觀後


看香港話劇團重演二十多年前的舊作《遍地芳菲》,沒想到竟是一陣悸動,百般滋味在心頭。

事隔一星期,還是覺得千頭萬緒,難以下筆。

在經濟掛帥的香港,搬演以黃花崗起義為題材的《遍地芳菲》,以紀念九十八年前推翻帝制的革命前賢,不知能引起多少香港人的共鳴?戲裡的革命者,拚著一腔熱誠,為自己堅守的原則和信念而浴血奮鬥,至死不悔。在觀眾席上,不知會否有人覺得他們戇居無聊、自討苦吃?革命者為了推翻滿清,建立自己夢想的烏托邦,不惜千方百計偷運軍火,有組織有預謀地向朝廷動武,又會否有人認為他們是恐怖分子、顛覆國家的造反勢力?

戲中滿清貴族孚正與革命烈士林覺民激烈辯論,一個說漢人應該感謝滿洲統治了中國二百餘年,一個說滿清朝廷喪權辱國,理應改弦易轍,其實都沒有說到節骨眼上。真正的問題是,清末國勢日蹙,列強侵凌;朝廷無道,民不聊生,這個局面應該怎樣收拾?滿清實行了三十年的內部改革為何失敗?有沒有捲土重來的機會?革命又是否中國當時唯一的選擇?革命之後,成立民國這個新的政治體制,真的能夠拯萬民於水火嗎?如果我是孚正,我會如此這般質問林覺民,這場辯論才有意義。如今林覺民義正詞嚴,孚正只是另一個歷史課本中庸碌無能、只懂捍衛八旗子弟既得利益的滿洲貴族,理不直氣不壯,不過是編導頌揚革命的陪襯而已。

我無意否定辛亥革命的歷史意義,光是結束自秦始皇以來二千多年的帝制這一點,就應該讓十月十日成為現代中國真正的國慶。可惜的是,革命之後成立的民國,並沒有像當初期許那樣振興中華,反而一次又一次的令人失望。我們當然無法只憑後果來否定前因,但有時也難免會猜想,到底是哪裡出了問題?當時除了革命之外,是否別無選擇?

看著戲裡的人物對革命滿懷熱誠和憧憬,深信只有推翻滿清、建立民國的革命能夠救國,心中不勝唏噓。有小孩在辛亥革命成功後,對著黃花崗的荒塚叫喊:「革命成功了,我們不用再挨餓了!」沒來由心裡一陣悲涼,鼻子一酸,掉下淚來。

信念堅定是一回事,現實殘酷卻是另一回事。要是壯烈犧牲的革命英雄倖存下來,看到後來國勢蟺變,不知又有何感受?革命烈士身後遺下了老弱婦孺,一邊守護著他們荒涼的墳塚,一邊目睹至親以性命建立的功業,就那樣悄無聲色地變質腐朽,心裡又是怎樣一番滋味?辛亥革命成功,距今已九十八年,可是還有多少人中國人吃不飽、穿不暖?更值得深思的是,當年無數中國人奮不顧身的愛國熱忱、因公忘私的高尚情操,如今都跑到哪裡去了?

哭,不單是痛惜前人的血汗被糟蹋,也是因為看到自己的軟弱和卑微。前人生活艱苦,朝不保夕,但對未來往往充滿希望,甚至不怕犧牲,但求造福後世,所以成就了永垂千古的典範。我們生於太平年代,卻對現實諸多不滿,又不願身體力行,為改變現狀做些甚麼。也許我們都被政治鬥爭和社會動盪嚇怕了,所以學乖了。也許我們對千瘡百孔的現實早已失去信心,甚至懷疑自己的存在價值。也許,這才是愈來愈多青少年吸毒、賣淫,愈來愈多高學歷的成年人知法犯法的根本原因。

杜國威在〈引言〉裡說:「中國人是草!」因為中國人頑強奮鬥,剛毅不屈;生生不息,希望長存。但願我也能像前人一樣,重燃對人生的希望,做一個樂觀勇敢的中國人。

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A Threat to Stability (Part 2)

If the repressive DNA is the fundamental threat to stability, arrogance and complacence derived from one's power and authority is the root cause of stupidity.

The latest classic example can be found in what the information office spokeswoman of Xinjiang delivered on Tuesday (8 September).

It's just unbelievable. She simply reminds me of what State Council spokesperson Yuan Mu said 20 years ago about the bloodshed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

While it is a common trick to blame the others when someone finds himself/herself under attack, governments and organisations are rare beneficiaries of this privilege of evasion. Few could escape the limelight. And if they do, it requires state-of-the-art communication skills and, more importantly, a seamless manipulation of the current state of affairs. Apparently this is a form of art to the finest delicacy that few can master.

At this point of time when information flow has been made so easy and effortless, and arguments and perspectives can be invalidated every minute with the emergence of new information, I simply cannot understand why any authority would point its fingers at someone else without providing solid evidence. Worse still, they told lies so casually and easily as if the accused would be intimidated to speak up and counteract. In which period of history do the local government leaders think they are living? Who they think they are? Do they still believe they are in such an authoritative position that everything they say, right or wrong, would be taken as truth unconditionally?

When I watched television news on Tuesday night I found the spokeswoman extremely nervous and uneasy. To me, her facial expression and body language suggested that she personally does not agree with what she was asked to articulate. I really wonder how much time she had prepared for her presentation that was designed to be a blunder.

To remedy the situation, the Xinjiang authorities have no choice but to apologise and present the full picture of what happened. Those who abused their power must be punished. But this best scenario seems very unlikely. Otherwise the Xinjiang authorities would not have made such a disastrous mistake one after another.

What intrigues me most is the reaction of Beijing. The Beijing leaders have remained silent over the past few days, although they did try to address people's resentment by replacing a few party and government chiefs. However, the reluctance to remove Wang Lequan, reportedly a protégé of General Secretary Hu Jintao, can be devastating to Beijing as well, especially in the countdown to the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic.

God knows what will happen. I just keep my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

真情真美--舞劇《神鵰俠侶》觀後


連續看了兩場相當不錯的表演,就像吃了兩頓美味豐富的心靈饗宴,滿足得很。

首先是星期六晚去看香港舞蹈團的新作《神鵰俠侶》。這是他們第三次改編金庸作品,個人認為也是最成功的一次。因為編舞總算比較成功地掙脫了情節的羈絆,更著重發揮舞蹈的所長,以肢體語言訴說原著中的悲歡離合。之前改編《笑傲江湖》和《雪山飛狐》,頗有捨長取短之嫌,就是因為以交代情節為主。試問抽象傳意的舞蹈,又怎能表達金庸小說如此曲折迂迴的劇情?如果要看故事,又有哪一種改編版本比得上原著的精彩紛呈、目不暇給?

身為金庸迷,其實我並不喜歡《神鵰俠侶》。這些年來,原著只讀過一次,並沒有太大的感受。但看完舞劇,心裡居然有點翻騰的感覺,纏擾多日不散,可謂難得之極了。

相比鄧樹榮和邢亮的《帝女花》,《神鵰俠侶》的改編更符合原著精神。《帝女花》順序保留了原著的場次,但卻虛有其名,只是借用原有的名目,敷演創作人員對《帝女花》的詮釋和體會。〈庵遇〉裡身披緇衣的公主,對著以前穿過的宮裝戀戀不捨,就是其中的明證。在創作人員眼中,國仇家恨、悲歡離合,只是人性的反照,跟原著是兩碼子事兒了。

負責改編《神鵰俠侶》的梁國城和冼振東,大刀闊斧地重組原著情節,上下兩半場分別以楊過斷臂後的回憶,以及小龍女在絕情谷底回思往事為骨幹,把故事的重要人物穿插其中,甚具創意,只是未竟全功。例如〈相爭〉、〈殺性〉兩場,還是有點偏重交代情節,其實可以利用大勝關武林大會的背景,描寫楊過與小龍女不理世事,只求相聚的心情。王林飾演金輪國師賣弄那個飛轉自如的金輪,似乎又流於江湖賣藝的意味,我差點兒沒笑出聲來。還有〈心經〉那一場,不知道原意是否想描繪小龍女被尹志平乘虛而入的迷惘不安,但視覺效果絕對不佳,露骨有餘、美感不足,看得我渾身起滿雞皮疙瘩。最後那一段紅色縐紙從天而降,揭露小龍女迷惘、驚詫、不知如何是好的神情,才算挽回一點分數。

猶幸瑕不掩瑜,我最喜歡小龍女在谷底回憶初遇小楊過的片段--眼前的她,倚著大樹,滿臉思念情郎的嬌羞旖旎;可是回憶裡的她,卻是漠然冷淡、飄逸出塵的古墓派傳人。至於楊過那一段,看起來比較瑣碎繁雜,感情沒有小龍女那麼純粹。仔細想去,也許因為楊過平生際遇跌宕,即使心裡只有小龍女一個,但與他恩怨糾纏的人也不少。除了郭靖一家,程英、陸無雙、公孫綠萼等也鍾情於他。在楊過斷臂之後,苦等小龍女歸來的悠悠歲月,回首前塵,大概也是在所難免罷?

這次《神鵰俠侶》以兩組舞蹈員擔任主角,輪流演出。這樣安排想是為了更平均地分配演出機會,值得一讚。不過,我還是挑了蘇淑和劉迎宏合演的那一場。

自從《笑傲江湖》之後,就對蘇淑留上了心。看過《木蘭》之後,更喜歡她了。這次她飾演小龍女,無論造型和氣質都很符合原著,爭取了像我這樣的金庸迷不少感情分。她的舞固然跳得好,更難得是臉上也有戲,令表演的層次更豐富。無論是冷漠、悲傷、溫馨、震驚、惘然、纏綿,都極具感染力。以前讀原著、看電視,對小龍女都沒甚麼感覺,但看完蘇淑的小龍女,真的有點感動,才驚覺小龍女原來如此可愛可親。

也許,我應該拋開成見,重讀一遍《神鵰俠侶》了。

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Time to Appreciate, Not Destroy

When I read news reports that the Urban Renewal Authority would invest HK$100 million to "revitalise" five streets in Mong Kok, arguably the most dynamic and energetic area in Hong Kong, I couldn't help wondering again what kind of species those working in the URA, or, any government agency in Hong Kong are. They seem to have come from another planet and their minds are so incomprehensible and annoyingly stubborn.

The narrow streets and small business circles in Mong Kok known for selling birds, fish and sportswear are achievements of organic growth and natural selection. The everyday life in those areas is so real and interesting that any artificial touch-up would seem unnecessary, if redundant at all. Entrepreneurs do not need any government support or intervention as long as there is a solid framework of legal and regulatory compliance. People should be allowed the greatest extent of freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want within the legal framework. Too much intervention from the authorities, as we have seen in the relocation of the Birds Street, which was forced to give way to the construction of the mammoth called Langham Place, was nothing more than the ruthless persecution of local culture – confusing, hybrid and difficult to generalise as it may seem, it is the essential characteristic of Hong Kong.

Look at the conceptual design presented on the URA web site, and you will find the so-called revitalisation can only serve to destroy the unique and indigenous but eroding character of Mong Kok. Why would the extravagant decorations of the undersea be effective in attracting people and tourists? Most people come to the area to enjoy the visual and behavioural experience provided by individual shops with distinctive characters of their own, not the lousy banners and signage. The only way to enhance the experience may be cleaning up the streets more frequently, making it more easily accessible by public transport, and promoting the colourful and local experience as something no visitor should miss when they stay in Hong Kong. But this requires the concerted effort of various government departments rather than the initiative of any single organisation. Unfortunately, as we have seen the past years, coordination seems to be the weakest link of the Hong Kong Government and it would take them forever to achieve anything.

If anyone at the URA bothers to listen, I would suggest that they withdraw this well-intended programme and focus on what they are meant to do. Better still, they should at least spend a year or two studying what culture actually means and learn to appreciate the unique colours of Hong Kong. Remember though, the monetary measurement does not work when it comes to measuring the value of culture.

A Threat to Stability

Many public administrators in China seem to have forgotten the basics these days. While harmony and stability are the buzzwords, few seem to understand what these important concepts mean and what make them happen.

Harmony and stability does not imply homogeneity and single-mindedness. Harmony is achieved only when different elements are fully respected for their roles and values. Consider the example of a piece of great music. It can only express human emotions to the fullest extent with the skilful composition of different musical notes. In the case of a symphony, it also requires the collaboration of a wide range of musical instruments to make it good for the ear.

Therefore, oppression is by no means a truly viable solution to harmony and stability. It can only make things worse, even though it may seem effective to a certain extent in the short term. Turning a blind eye to the problem or stepping aside from the core issue doesn't help either.

What happened in Xinjiang last July and over the past day or two provides yet another example of how poor and foolish actions can ruin well-intended plans and, worse still, trust and understanding of the people.

I couldn't help being puzzled by what I saw on television news over the past two days. The scene of thousands of Urumqi citizens chanting slogans demanding the step-down of Xinjiang's party chief was by all means astonishing. It only reinforces the magnitude of the deep-rooted tensions between Han and Uyghur peoples. It only reminds people of the ill-advised and misplaced ethnic minority policies of China, which sowed the seeds of hatred, prejudice and misperception decades ago.

Nevertheless, the use of violence against three Hong Kong journalists was by no means forgivable. It is simply disgusting. Local authorities in China, be they Sichuan and Xinjiang, simply have lost their sense. They are actually creating more troubles than resolving problems, if any at all. There is no worse blunder than exposing one's shortcoming in front of the news camera.

While China's obsolete and authoritarian regime is often blamed and criticised of being repressive in nature, to a history buff like me, it actually denotes something much more than ideology. The negative approach can be traced back to late imperial China when Ming and Qing dynasties began to adopt an inward and conservative approach to state affairs. In contrast with their predecessors, China in Ming and Qing was far more conservative and repressive, because all the rulers wanted to do was to secure their regimes, regardless of the price and sacrifices. Unfortunately modern Chinese regimes, be it capitalist or socialist, ended up as loyal followers of the Ming and Qing legacy of ineffective government and repressive rule.