Made in Hong Kong - Built to Last #36
By Graham Bell
I believe in lifelong learning. I love new experiences. And I have adopted John Maxwell’s maxim – when was the last time that you did something for the first time?
So, my travels across the globe have taken me to Hong Kong. And it did not take me long to begin thinking about what I needed to unlearn, not just learn. The picture above is of Kowloon Station – the new high-speed train hub to the rest of China.
Looking across to the mainland from the Peak Tram viewing point.
As a child of the mid twentieth century my schooling was considered to be very good. I attended what was one of the ‘best’ comprehensives in a nice council area in Glasgow. I realised some years ago that I learned next to nothing about Scottish history so have been steadily educating myself.
But perhaps more insidiously I was also being taught a very skewed perception of ‘our place in the world’. I am not a conspiracy theorist so I don’t believe that there was a deliberate plan to teach me that the British Empire was still alive and would thrive forever. Or that we really were positioned at the centre of the globe.
And that we were always in the right -and the foreigners must therefore always be wrong, but I grew up kind of thinking this way. Not explicitly of course, but it was my underpinning understanding.
Looking across to the South China Sea from the south of Hong Kong Island.
Now my travels are coinciding with the Brexit debate coming to an end following the election and a shift towards ‘making Britain great again’. Plus a rise in support for the Scottish Nationalist / Independence (?) Party. So, trying to figure out just what is going on is no doubt taxing the hearts and minds of many of us.
Trying to take an ‘impartial’ view does help us understand the fears and hopes of the many groups and viewpoints that make up our society. But being plumped into Hong Kong from rural Argyll churns up the brain a bit. That is when I got to thinking about what I needed to unlearn. In no particular order here is what I am setting about expunging from my mind.
Firstly, when I was a boy, Made in Hong Kong represented cheap. Inferior quality. Good for toys and novelty and throwaway. Seeing what Hong Kong has been doing both before and after returning to Chinese rule is inspiring. To be transforming the lives of so many people in a comparatively short time is astonishing.
Looking west from 100 storeys above Kowloon Bay.
Secondly, a capitalist communist country is perhaps not an oxymoron. How it will all eventually shake down in Hong Kong who knows. It is different from the rest of China, but the gap is narrowing – and that gap looks as if it will continue to shrink.
Thirdly, we are not at the centre of the world. Looking back to the early civilisations of the near /middle / far east we see people with a standard of life far in advance of ours at that time.
And while the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution made a huge impact in the world it is but another empire that has come, and is going like many of the great empires of the past.
The 100 Plus year-old tram system remains popular even with an advanced underground rail system.
Finally, perhaps our quality of life is not that great after all. Hong Kong leads the world in longevity – in spite of people living in much smaller and cramped housing than we do. With a population almost 50% greater than Scotland but with a seventh of the land mass it is one of the most densely populated areas in the planet – but it seems to work.
High-rise living above the Soho district, now with a $30million dollar escalator system to get people down in the morning and back in the afternoon and evenings.
“We seldom realise, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
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