Happy New Year dear Bloggers. I wish you a year of health, happiness and peace.
I’d have liked to announce that 2014 was a fabulous year, but I can’t honestly say that with a straight face. Much of 2014 news was tough to stomach. Two Malaysian Airlines planes went down, along with the most recent AirAsia one over Indonesian waters, killing most likely everyone on board. Then there were the natural disasters – extreme cold, storms, floods, and typhoons. The sadness stems from the seemingly random loss of innocent lives – and it could have been any one of us or our family members had we been at the place and time. If we go on this tangent much lament could be cast upon the wars, civil and international, that take on the lives of innocents. The spread of attacks in the name of religion, holiness, or terror, occurring in pockets across the world, brings a chill down my spine. Every time a shot is heard on the TV screen about a terrorist seize, reporting on normal people going about their jobs, getting their morning coffee, and suddenly finding themselves caught amid gunfire, shot at, or taken as hostages, I think: that could have been any one of us. You only had to be at the place and time. More country specific were the shootings of black lives in America that sparked half a nation into protests. The video showing Eric Gardner’s killing was infuriating as was the subsequent grand jury decision not to indict despite the overwhelming presence of objective evidence. It seems that everywhere, everyday, you cannot avoid bad news of dying, war, killing, injustice.
Back here at home we’re fighting our own ‘war’. After 79 days of the Occupy Central movement it has finally come to a dwindling end – not by a dramatic Police clamp down as one would have expected, but rather, by executing a court order filed by a transport company to clear out road ‘obstacles’ to let them resume business. While the Chief Executive (CE) along with his government remain silent and ambiguous, ignoring students’ demands for a conversation, Hong Kong citizens became increasingly divisive and antagonistic amongst themselves, with pro-protests camps developing on one end and anti-protests groups growing on another. The protest was important in nurturing awareness within the Hong Kong population on the status of democracy, freedom of speech, universal suffrage and our own role in governance post-Handover. But alongside the fight for universal suffrage it also brought to the surface inherent controversies: can we maintain our city’s prized rule of law amid the pressure to conform, placing loyalty to the ‘country’ above all else from the one-party state? Can we say what we want and report the truth as is, without fearing backlash and unjust punishment? Can we rebuild trust in, and rely on, our Police force to maintain the rule of law, after witnessing the violence committed against students and protesters that we’ve seen with our own eyes/on TV? Will our self-censorship continue and deepen, as we’ve already experienced with people screening their Facebook updates and taking caution when discussing matters of politics over the dinner table, in light of the Police arresting people for minor comments made and branding anything they dislike as illegal? The protests may have come to an end for now, but the future of Hong Kong remains uncertain if not bleak.
Do you think you’re safe(r) because of your physical geography, class, or skin colour? Think again. We are all living on the same globe, using the same resources and facing the same terror, hard as it is to believe. It’s comforting to feel like turmoil is happening and will only happen in someone else’s backyard, until such turmoil one day arrives at your doorstep unannounced and you shockingly find yourself the victim. A man-made country border, strong armies and abundant natural resources may give you the false impression that you are safe, that no bad shall ever come. Truth is, we are all fighting the same war – the war of survival, of deciphering what’s good and evil, and battling what we deem as evil to preserve and spread peace. No longer are we the isolated continents separated by vast expanses of water, but an ever-interconnected world where people migrate, ideas spread, and good and evil are done and undone on a global scale. We are fighting our own ‘war’ here to preserve the rule of law, to elect our own leader so as to empower someone who actually cares about Hong Kong’s well-being and longevity; not someone who goes into power because he was told to. We want someone who wants to help us live better, to live. What war are you fighting at home?
Don’t take your democracy for granted. We are all, in fact, fighting a daily war to preserve our freedoms and livelihoods without realising it. How you live influences how others live around you, and what you value, collectively with those who share or support your values, in turn shapes the value system in your community. Don’t stop trying, don’t halt that quest to seek what is good and what is true. Continue that responsibility to fight the forces that undermine peace, and work hard to elevate the role of tolerance and understanding within your community. Don’t take your current safety and comfortable existence for granted – the woes from another side of the world may seem far away, but they are in fact closer than you think. Don’t be caught off-guard when turmoil arrives at your doorstep.
On that very sombre note, like Stephen Hawkin once famously said, “where there is life, there is hope”. As long as we have life we can work together to build a better world, despite the seemingly hopelessness of it all. I don’t know how to change the world, but I know I can start with myself. I’m hoping to start small – first and foremost being kind(er) whenever a mean thought seeps into my mind. I can be quite judgmental when it comes to people who I brand as arrogant, stubborn or not very bright. Maria Popova’s article (no. 3) reminded that everyone is human – there’s flesh, blood and feelings behind every interaction. Be kind. Try to put myself in someone else’s shoes.
There’s also so much to learn about the world – it’s richness in culture, diversity in language, the lovely variety in how people live and what they believe in. We can only be accepting of another culture when we understand it; and it’s not a bad habit to reexamine and challenge one’s own beliefs. That’s why one goal this year is to travel to one foreign country and stay there for a meaningful period of time, and learn another language. Traveling, if done mindfully, makes people better people – it opens your eyes to how people live and helps you place your own worldview more relatively to the world. I also hope to finish Professor David Christian’s course on Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity (available via audible). I’ve started and it seems to be a wonderful series of lectures on the history of the universe. Hopefully, this will help me put humanity and human history into perspective.
Small steps…one at a time…
And you? What plans for 2015 do you have?