Sunday, 22 February 2015

敦煌:說不完的故事,觀不盡的寶藏

爬完獅子山,雙腿痠痛不止,只好小休一天,閉關寫字。翌日正月初三,百無聊賴,忽然省起還沒到文化博物館參觀「敦煌:說不完的故事」展覽。轉眼展期將盡,事不宜遲,於是興沖沖的趕去了。

是次展覽由香港文化博物館和敦煌研究所合辦,規模龐大,共佔二樓五個展廳。博物館的入口、走廊和支柱,俱以放大了的壁畫或雕塑照片布置,讓參觀者踏進博物館的一刻,就感受到濃郁的敦煌文化氣息。從地面大堂直通二樓的樓梯,也貼上了敦煌莫高窟標誌建築九層樓的照片,氣勢恢弘。各個展館外增建的裝飾牆,則貼滿了地圖、歷史沿革、精選藏品的照片及相關說明等,讓參觀者信步經過或坐下休息時,也可以增長知識。

展品非常豐富,包括壁畫、雕塑、手抄經卷、洞窟建築殘件及模具、研究人員手稿等,看得我眼花繚亂、目不暇給。儘管壁畫、雕塑等均為臨摹品,猶幸按照原作尺寸複製,而且摹工精細,幾可亂真,連破損的地方也一從其舊。其中一號展館更仿建了幾個藏有不同雕塑和壁畫的洞窟,連洞頂的藻井也沒遺漏。洞內燈光昏暗,需借用手電筒照明,令人恍如置身莫高窟一樣,確是設計巧妙、製作精良,誠意可嘉。

主辦者也善用現代科技來展示一些內容博奧入微,但難以容納多人同時仔細欣賞的展品如經變圖等。「經變圖」即根據佛經內容繪成的故事畫,性質有點像現代的連環圖,但其畫面的整體布局,以至佛像、人物、飛禽走獸、亭臺樓閣等,未必按照情節順序繪出,所以導賞工作十分重要。除一般文字說明外,這次展覽提供了三段動畫,分別解釋「割肉餵鷹」(也就是《射鵰英雄傳》一燈向郭靖、黃蓉說的那個佛經故事)、「九色鹿」和「觀無量壽佛經變圖」的情節布局、內容特色等。其中我最欣賞「觀無量壽佛經變圖」的動畫和配樂。投射幕牆約三米高,經變圖的各項細節以動畫形式逐一放大至一米有餘,配以扼要的中、英文字幕說明,令人一目瞭然。我參觀時就吸引了數十人駐足細看。更有趣的是,背景音樂會隨著畫面而轉換,幾段配樂的曲風大致幽淡平和,暗合佛家義理;但其中一段「天樂俱作,不鼓自鳴」,旋律倏轉輕快歡欣,居然頗具西域舞曲風味,也教人想起喜多郎為《絲綢之路》紀錄片創作的經典配樂。據報道,這些動畫和配樂均出自香港知專設計學院學生的手筆,費時一年才完成,效果令人喜出望外。第四展廳另有一座可供參觀者自行操作的觸控電腦解說機,分段說明一幅數米長的大型壁畫,如何按照佛經記載繪出釋迦牟尼從降生至出家的生平事蹟,以及各種祥瑞和傳說,並備有中、英文版本。如此種種,再次印證科技與文藝未必勢成水火,一切在乎人類能否心存善意、慎加運用。這次展覽所採用的動畫技術,比數年前香港藝術館的「人間有情:豐子愷的藝術」又邁進了一大步,與展品內容的連繫也更為緊密,誠屬可喜,值得一讚。

敦煌石窟歷史悠久,內容豐富,雖以佛教壁畫、雕塑和文獻為主,但也保存了不少自南北朝至宋、元時期的珍貴文物,為後世提供取之不竭的研究資料。為廣收宣傳之效,主辦當局精選部分展品,放在網上詳細介紹,既彰顯當局對展覽的重視,亦反映了敦煌文物之重要地位。由於當局容許參觀者在展館內不用閃燈拍照,因此我選用一塊大光圈定焦鏡,拍下了一些展品作紀念。茲選數件略作介紹,以饗同好:

頭戴寶冠、慈眉善目的菩薩半身像,那一抹溫煦的微笑,與Leonardo da Vinci筆下的Mona Lisa頗有異曲同工之妙。

盛唐時代栩栩如生的南天王像,表情、頭髮、衣飾等纖毫畢現,雕工細膩。超乎物外的諸佛菩薩,應無喜惡,但工匠一雙巧手,賦予祂們人間的喜嗔怨苦,凡夫俗子見之更覺可親,亦未嘗不是好事。

出自西夏畫工手筆的水月觀音像,意態悠閒、靜中有動,令人激賞。值得注意的是,這位觀音以罕有的男子形象出現,唇上和下巴均留有小鬍子。

南北朝時代的佛經寫本殘卷,墨色鮮麗,宛如初就;筆跡秀雅工整,撇捺之間略帶隸書風格,是同類文物的珍品。字行間那些比髮絲更細的直線不是後人所加,而是原紙上已有的。這些行線有個極優美的名號──「烏絲欄」。《紫釵記》〈花院盟香〉時李益題寫盟心之句的「烏絲欄素緞三尺」,就是指畫有纖幼行線、質地厚密、供書寫用的白色絲織品。

以敘利亞文寫成的《舊約聖經》〈詩篇〉殘卷,估計是元代景教徒留下的經書脫頁。景教即唐代傳入中國的基督教分支,其發源地正是敘利亞。眼看這件幾歷千年的珍貴文物,想起今日敘利亞炮火連天、生靈塗炭、斯文掃地,寧不唏噓?

記得十七年前踏足敦煌莫高窟,雖是走馬看花、驚鴻一瞥,但那份視覺與心靈的無比震撼,至今難忘。古人為了信仰、為了祈福,秉誠心、專意志,排除萬難,創造了如此燦爛輝煌的藝術寶庫,其價值絕非世俗財富所能衡量。當年無數工匠和畫師所付出的心血,即使現代人再費功夫,畢竟旁鶩太多,也未必能與之相提並論了。能望其項背者,想必是數十年來不辭勞苦,日以繼夜,一筆一劃臨摹石窟內壁畫和雕像的研究人員。沒有他們近乎宗教狂熱的自我犧牲精神,碩果僅存的珍貴文物就無法流傳至今;我們遠居千里之外,更沒有機會透過臨摹品一窺敦煌文化的博大精深。如今科技發達,研究人員應可借助科技之便,加強文物保護、修復和存檔的效率,但經費、人力、物力,甚至珍重傳統、守護文物的摯誠,是否足以長期支持這項艱巨的工作,卻是另一個問題了。

清末民初以來,敦煌石窟屢遭浩劫,珍貴文物流散世界各地,從此湮沒不存者未知凡幾,成為中國文化史上無法彌補的傷痕。無論當年在敦煌親聽工作人員講解,抑或今天在香港睹物沉思,仍是滿懷感慨,悲不自勝。誠如敦煌研究院院長樊錦詩教授所言:

我們這些人用畢生的生命所做的一件事,就是與毀滅抗爭,讓莫高窟保存得長久一些,再長久一些。

但願青山不改、精誠不滅,敦煌石窟的寶貴遺產,會得到更多人珍惜和重視,使之發揚光大,不負前人的辛勤耕耘。

Saturday, 21 February 2015

我也來解籤

昨天是正月初二,也是車公寶誕,一眾官紳循例往車公廟為香港祈福、求籤。

這一年一度的「新聞」,雖說是例牌菜,其實滿足了大家好奇、八卦的欲望,所以從來無人投訴。即使有,相信反對聲音也早被口水淹沒了。

一如所料,今年求籤者和傳媒仍然借題發揮,在政制改革上大做文章。鏡頭前後、說的和聽的都煞有介事,穿鑿附會,牽強無比;我在電視新聞上看了,卻覺得可笑之極,幾乎與葉劉淑儀被麒麟碰倒,麒麟接著被人猛力拉開,瞬間消失一樣令人忍俊不禁。

既然大家樂此不疲,玩得那麼高興,今年我也來湊湊熱鬧,認真的做一件無聊事,在新春假期取取樂子。

據報道,鄉議局主席劉皇發為香港求得第二十籤,屬中籤,籤文曰:

晨妝露彩髻邊雲,玉珮朱顏錦似銀。
色則是空空是色,觀音曾勸世間人。

解曰:

不可貪心,自身平平。
家宅平安,求財半遂。

籤文用字淺白,沒有任何艱澀生僻的典故,竊以為儘往政治方向解讀,只是自尋煩惱。「色則是空空是色」一句,出自《摩訶般若波羅蜜多心經》,原文為「色即是空,空即是色」。就算不是佛教徒,相信也曾聽說過。經文本意是指塵世色相皆空,不必貪慕財帛、虛榮,更不應強求。籤文前兩句,正是借用古詩的比興手法為提擘,引出最後兩句的含義──儘管紅顏可愛、珠玉可貴,但其實這些身外之物都是不能持久的一場空,觀音也曾這樣勸戒世人的啊。「不可貪心」、「求財半遂」等解語,也無不緊扣籤文。「貪心」,本來就是指財富或利益上求多務得;然而向共產黨爭取較公平的選舉制度,可以是緣木求魚、癡心妄想、白費心機,或者知其不可為而為之,但「貪心」?「貪心」是這樣用的嗎?

更好笑的是,居然有記者會問誰是勸籲世人的觀音,然後有人答說觀音是女士。

觀音就是觀音,雖然傳說祂曾以不同化身,救護眾生於水深火熱,但始終只是傳說啊。那人不會真的以為今天香港會有個觀音的化身存在吧?即使有,誰有這慧眼識英賢的能耐?誰敢肯定自己沒看錯呢?

至於觀音是女士,更屬無稽之談。據《悲華經》所載,觀音原是轉輪王無諍念的太子。佛教自東漢初傳入中國後,觀音亦以男子的形象見諸繪畫和雕塑中;直至宋代才逐漸改為女性,從此廣為流傳。記得多年前在敦煌的莫高窟,以及其他歷史博物館,也曾見過兩宋之前不同朝代的觀音畫像或雕塑,造像均為男性,有些更留著兩撇小鬍子。所以,觀音不是女士;即使祂可能化身為女性濟世助人,也不能因此而斷定觀音是女士呢。

說回籤文,解語雖有「求財半遂」、「不可貪心」等句,似乎預示今年香港經濟多勞少得、財運欠佳,然而總算「家宅平安」。俗語說:「平安是福」,身心康泰、無損傷、無意外,便是福氣,誠不謬也。所謂「自身平平」,也希望是無風無浪、安穩平緩。看來此籤屬「中籤」,而非下籤,也有一點道理。

遊戲文章,到此為止。清心直說,絕無虛言。引經據典,純屬無聊。博君一粲,開顏是盼。

羊年伊始,謹祝各位身心康泰、萬事勝意、歲月靜好、闔府平安。

Thursday, 19 February 2015

重攀獅子山(並序)

邇來心緒翻湧,猶如濁浪滔天,止息無期。適值乙未正朔,心有所感,重登獅峰,唯盼勞形費力,可換片刻安寧。

青獅信是重情人,感我愁懷動曉昏。
正朔相邀登絕嶺,初春跋涉訪天神。
迴峰鳥盡人蹤渺,古道花開景象新。
凜冽寒風如有意,呢喃細語慰癡魂。

遍野陰霾未惜春,登高眺遠哭紅塵。
愁纏恨繞迷茫日,坐看東風吐海雲。

雨劍風刀日夜侵,凌霄屹立到如今。
遊人不絕碑前過,更有誰憐舊赤心?

附錄:登山路線圖

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Imitation Game

Thanks to a friend's treat, I attended a preview of the Oscar nominee The Imitation Game before it is officially launched at local cinemas at the end of this month.

I must confess that I didn't know much about the film before watching. I only heard that it is based on the life of Alan Turing, the gifted British mathematician who is acclaimed as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. His Turing Machine, created to break the German ciphers during the Second World War, is often considered the first model of modern computers.

Technically, The Imitation Game is a smooth, absorbing historical thriller in which one finds little distraction. Turing's joining to the cryptography team and the development of the Turing Machine at Bletchley Park is both entertaining and breath-taking. Thanks to a great team of actors and actresses led by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in TV series Sherlock) and Keira Knightley (female lead of Begin Again), the acting performance is largely apt and succinct.

However, what I don't like much in the film is the flashbacks of Turing's childhood memories of his unspoken romance for Christopher Morcom, his best friend at school who ignites his interest in cryptography. The flashbacks seem a bit too much and excessively explicit, twisting the episode into a melodrama that fails to touch the heart. Naming the Turing Machine "Christopher" is more than enough to articulate how much Turing misses his best friend, who dies young of tuberculosis. The snapshots of their friendship and hidden romance just seem unnecessarily long and embellishing.

To me, Turing's delicate relationships with his colleagues, including the only female member Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), are the most enjoyable parts of the film. How their relationships change over time gives a vivid account of the misery of solitude of prodigies. While they can be messengers of God to pioneer changes in human life and mind, they are often abused, banished, defamed, destroyed and forgotten by contemporary fellow men and women, simply because they are tasked with achieving something unthinkable and unforeseeable for the ordinary souls. Turing is no exception. In this light, showing how Turing deciphers the German enigma only serves to present his unrivalled talent in logic, mathematics and cryptography. It is more important to explain that his loneliness can be attributed to his incapability of communicating with other people effectively. Unfortunately this seems to be an inborn defect of many prodigies, whom few, if any, truly understand and follow their way of thinking.

In the case of Turing, he should have been honoured for what he has done for the people of Britain, Europe and even the rest of the world. But his intelligence in turn makes him one of the most dangerous men who should not be allowed to live longer than needed. His sexual orientation, something extremely personal and has nothing to do with his career, then opens the door to persecution and leads to his eventual demise. Worse still, he didn't receive a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II until 2013, almost 60 years after his death.

Apparently The Imitation Game is a piece of creative work rather than a truthful account of Turing's life. I believe there are plenty of twists and tweaks to the details, in order to make the plot more entertaining. But if this film were meant to deliver any message or moral lesson, I'd say it reminds us that the genuine tragedy of Godsend talents lies in the fact that they can only live posthumously.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

戲,應該怎樣看?

戲,應該怎樣看?

這不是IQ題,也不是新春大整蠱的搞笑點子,而是自尋煩惱的思考題。

戲看多了,心情就像爬山一樣,經歷了目不暇給、鳥語花香的上坡路,還有登峰造極、博覽群小的心曠神怡之後,不得不移步濃蔭蔽日、冷峻乏味的下坡路。從當初兼容並蓄、囫圇吞棗、應接不暇,到最近屢失所望、乏善足陳、欲說還休,連自己也吃了一驚。是因為看多了,眼力提升了,要求嚴格了,所以愈發吹毛求疵嗎?抑或踏上了緣木求魚、刻舟求劍的歧途而不自知?

上月看了好幾齣不同劇種、不同格調的戲文,卻沒甚麼觸動,回來想寫一點感受也無從著墨。不知是否因為工作太忙和偶沾小恙,導致精神渙散,無法集中,抑或幾場演出真箇未盡如意,總之心裡滿不是味兒。可是同行老友和其他在場觀眾卻似乎樂在其中,絲毫不以為忤。雖說人人審美眼光不同,看戲的感受自是因人而異,但近來彼此的差距似乎愈來愈遠,故而促使我認真檢討。

俗語有云:「外行看熱鬧,內行看門道」,一般觀眾沒接受過專業戲劇訓練,自然只能看熱鬧,我也不例外。至於「熱鬧」是甚麼呢?朱文相先生在《中國戲曲學概論》第七章〈戲曲鑒賞與戲曲批評〉如此說明:

語言生動不生動、扮相漂亮不漂亮、唱腔好聽不好聽、做派好看不好看、開打火爆不火爆等表演的外部美,絕大多數觀眾均能感覺到。這僅是淺層次的「看熱鬧」,從中獲得快感而已。

的確,劇本文字、故事情節、演員扮相、唱腔和動作等,都是看得見、聽得著的東西。除文字和扮相外,我不敢說自己懂得欣賞唱腔和做工之道,只能像朱先生說的「感覺得到」。

然而有時明明演員扮相不錯,唱、做俱佳,演出亦用心和認真,就是無法打動我心,看將下來猶如水過鴨背,轉眼就忘掉了大半。要是印象不深、沒有觸動,於我而言,自然難稱好戲了。

為甚麼會這樣呢?大概是我天生腦袋缺條筋,對聲音、色相等製造「快感」的元素極為遲鈍。有些觀眾會留心演員扮相是否漂亮、穿戴是否美觀,而且能記住每一件戲服的樣式、顏色、圖案等細節,猶如過目不忘,令我非常佩服。我對這些細節幾乎視若無睹,除非戲服不符人物身分或故事情節,或者用色極不尋常,否則總是記不住。另有些觀眾特別注意唱腔是否動聽、合律等,我只知嗓音強弱剛柔、中氣是否充沛、吐字是否清晰,卻連人家有沒有走音也未必聽得出來,只有情況特別嚴重時才能分辨。還有一些觀眾很會欣賞演員的功架,哪個動作做得好、哪個身段不夠標準,一一如數家珍,著實厲害。我卻只會籠統地說動作是否流暢悅目,或者某個動作看來特別費勁或困難,但如果說演員有沒有偷工減料,我就不敢置喙了。

看官可能會問:既然你對聲、色、藝都是一知半解,那你看戲到底看些甚麼?

答案很簡單:故事和人物。

故事,我自小就愛看,無論是書本上的,或是電視和電影裡的,一概照單全收,多多益善,至今樂此不疲。所以少年時修讀文學,特別喜歡古典小說和戲曲的單元,早把文學史裡介紹的故事背得滾瓜爛熟。能瞭解某個故事如《白蛇傳》的來龍去脈,看遍它前世今生的不同版本,互作比較和分析,箇中樂趣真不足為外人道。

說起故事,自然離不開人物。若說情節是故事的骨架,人物就是血肉,而文字就是賦予情節和人物生命與意義的靈魂。把故事搬上舞臺,演員和他們的表演技巧就是讓故事活起來的還魂丹。因此,若問一齣戲好不好看,我總是以情節是否流暢紮實、人物是否鮮明立體、所有表演元素如唱腔、身段、表情、音樂、布景、燈光等綜合起來,能否充分表達戲文的題旨、能否動人以情為指標。如果表演元素不能充分傳遞戲文的生命和意義,甚至獨立於故事以外,在我看來,則不免若有所失了。

可是,愈來愈多人的言行告訴我,戲似乎不是這樣看的。有時只因好奇而選看某齣沒看過的戲文,結果多是爭風喝醋打女人、金屋藏嬌成夫婦、洞房生子上公堂之類的橋段,就像以前《歡樂今宵》的古裝鬧劇一般。滿堂笑翻了天,我卻絲毫不覺有啥好笑,甚至認為如今粵劇已成小眾藝術,若要提高其社會地位,得到更多人認同和尊重,實在不宜搬演太多這類鬧劇。有時臺前幕後用心經營、誠意可嘉,但心血似乎多花在音樂、布景、燈光、服飾等技術細節上,沒幾個故事寫得深刻動人、足堪回味。至於情節犯駁、人物心理轉折突兀等毛病,更是不在話下。有時跟老友結伴看戲,這邊廂我坐立難安,那邊廂她們卻讚不絕口。看輿論嘛,又盡是一片讚譽,很少提及不足之處。這些論調聽得太多,加上自己沒學過戲,只憑讀書和多年觀劇經驗判斷,難免會質疑自己的看法。

然而王國維〈戲曲考原〉云:「戲曲者,謂以歌舞演故事也。」戲行也有句熟語:「戲無情,不動人;戲無理,不服人;戲無技,不驚人。」朱先生又說,看戲可分「欣賞」和「鑒賞」兩個層次──「欣賞」是「領略、玩賞其藝術丰采,感受其藝術魅力,從中獲得愉悅和快感,是一種審美享受」;「鑒賞」則是「一種深層次的欣賞,不只領略、玩賞、感受,而且要更深入地思索、剖析、判斷」,「較之欣賞能獲得更高的審美情趣和精神享受。」我看戲的角度未必普遍,但也似乎不能說完全不對。

那麼,戲,到底應該怎樣看呢?

我愈來愈迷糊了。

Friday, 13 February 2015

春寒獨酌

料峭春寒夜,臨風獨凭欄。
燃城燈火艷,照影蠟灰殘。
翠鳥空勤勉,桃源復渡難。
千杯愁未盡,搵淚夢魂間。

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bottleneck and Censorship

Readers of this blog may wonder why my writing seems to have slowed down recently, producing only two reviews of the same Cantonese opera performance last month. Some may think I haven't been to the theatre as frequently as I used to. Quite the contrary. In January I watched four Cantonese opera, plus two Kunqu opera shows. But it takes longer than usual to decide whether there is anything meaningful to write about, and even longer to complete the task. In fact, the performance I blogged about last month debuted before Christmas, but I had to spend more than a month to gather my thoughts, pick an end from a messed bunch of yarn and navigate my way out of the confusion and puzzlement.

Simply put, I am stuck in a bottleneck of writing.

At the first glance, there are at least two conspicuous symptoms.

For one thing, old tricks are running out, if already exhausted, and new ones have yet to arrive. I found myself repeating the same rhetoric, or adopting more or less the same approach when I started off some years ago. Not sure if Doraemon's inexhaustible pocket of wonders could offer any help, but I am not Nobi anyway. And don't forget that Doraemon has already retired to eternal peace.

Certainly it is not at all a problem to repeat truly important messages on different occasions. Consistent repetition sometimes does help amplify the messages, ensuring that they are clearly heard, seen and understood. But for the reviewer – and that's me – the intellectual challenge of coming up with new angles to discuss a performance has become more daunting than ever. Even though I receive from blogging next to nothing other than an opportunity to connect with people with similar interests, I do feel obliged to offer something interesting and worthwhile, if new, to my readers, however few there are.

The second problem, however, seems more crucial – the perceived freedom of writing as I please seems shrinking.

Apparently the first signal of diminishing freedom came with the malicious and unfounded attacks last year. Probably because I had written something blunt and unpleasant for some a couple of years ago, I was, and still am, mistaken as someone whom I never met and have no idea of whatsoever. As a result, I have been condemned as an insane woman who takes pleasure in spreading rumours, insulting people with slurs and smears. My personal details were thus publicised. By coincidence, at least hopefully so, someone whom I never met or heard of found my office address and wrote me letters shortly afterwards. He even came to a public event organised by my employer, demanding to meet me in person but for no reason. That was utterly scary. Really scary.

The second signal appeared when I came to know that some of my criticisms of individual actor or actress in a particular performance had been misread as mischievous personal attacks, rather than honest and well-intentioned feedback, though blunt and harsh at times, meant to spur improvements. To a certain extent, I suspect, such misunderstanding may just provide new ammunition to the defamatory attacks. Not that I give a damn to what those actors and actresses might think, but a very good friend of mine did make a fair point in our recent discussion: When so many people out there have been blinded and intoxicated by blandishments, my honesty is doing little, if any at all, to change the art scene for good but exposing myself to unwanted troubles. Where flattery is regarded as truth, genuine truth can only be banished as unfounded criticisms with ulterior, evil motives. Just like The Emperor's New Clothes, no one knows exactly what would happen to the little child after he pinpoints the naked stupidity of the despot. In retrospect, there is more than a grain of wisdom in my friend's analysis.

So, what next?

The key question is how I can better protect myself from all those ferocious abuses without giving up writing, which is not at all a bad option as a matter of fact. Stop blogging would spare me so many troubles in this troubled world, where speaking up one's mind often invites physical and mental hazards, as we have seen not only in my case but the horrendous attack at Charlie Hebdo. It will also save me considerable time and effort in order to focus on something else in peace of mind.

While quitting has not been ruled out as a possibility, another voice in my brain protests that there is no reason whatsoever should I surrender my freedom and legitimate rights to such intimidation. Very true indeed, but the risks of writing as I please now seem too immense to be ignored. I am just an ordinary person, so it happens to be a devoted fan of Chinese opera, who wants to help make it better and promote it to a wider audience as far as my capabilities permit. But I am not prepared to do so at the expense of my own dignity, privacy, safety and legal rights. Naturally, the solution lies in the content, which means what I publish and what not. Perhaps it is time for me to re-think the scope of critique, mindful of what I want to achieve by sharing my two cents worth in the first place, and how my personal interests can be best protected if I opt to continue exercising the freedom of speech.

Is it self-censorship? Certainly, because censorship means removing offensive content from creative works before they are broadcast or published, however "offensiveness" may be defined. This inquiry is precisely meant to identify areas on which candid comments are likely to backfire. But what is the better alternative of protecting myself while upholding my freedom and rights? Do I have the time, resources and intellectual power to deal with any abuse or attack that may arise?

Am I thinking too much? Indeed, and this seems a natural instinct by birth. Am I taking those unworthy people too seriously? Perhaps so, but again there seems no better way of self-protection in this increasingly savage world.

It is sad, isn't it? But it is the reality from which we have no escape.