There is little enough good news in the world, what with the financial Sword of Damocles sitting again over some of our heads as the threat of a second dip recession worries us all, plane crashes, the growing evidence of the dangers being posed by our population growth – and amongst it all, the too close to home impact of the tragedy that befell some innocent citizens of Hong Kong who were supposed to be enjoying the last hours of a probably hard earned holiday in the Philippines capital.
So much has been written already about the event. The grief has been recorded and the condolences given. I add mine, totally.
This was not something that was meant to happen, and it seems that this was an occasion when the tragic outcome could have been avoided. Even as a foreigner in Hong Kong, and therefore perhaps a step removed, my tears join yours. This after all is my home too.
Of course, you sympathise with innocent Afghan women and children whose lives have been destroyed by forces external to their country. You hear of the atrocities being carried out in various parts of Africa; rape and “ethnic cleansing” killings and, although you acknowledge the tragedy, it is not so close to home that it moves you to passionate outpourings of grief, such as we have seen in Hong Kong.
But I keep arguing for perspectives to be maintained, even in the face of serial idiocy, and this is a case where – amongst the rage and anger at what has happened – we need to also be rational. I doubt, for example, that there is anyone amongst the 150,000 or so Filipinos who have sought work and a life in Hong Kong who thinks their Government services have done well. And yet I hear of Filipina domestic helpers being sacked by their employers because of this outrage, and that of itself is outrageous. It adds insult to the injury suffered by a good number of these same Filipinas who are exploited in Hong Kong - and come on let’s not be coy, it does happen – who are made to work appalling hours for less wages than even the set minimum.
But allow me to add a different perspective to the discussion and turn this at least into something positive.
When you are wondering whom next to lash out at in the Hong Kong Government. When a policeman gives you a ticket for illegal parking and you get cross because you think they should be out chasing criminals, (or you slap them in the face and get away with it!!). When your children are out in Hong Kong at night and, actually, you generally know that many of the streets are safe. Then the incident in Manila that has affected Hong Kong lives so tragically should make us realise just how lucky we are.
We enjoy living in a city that is reasonably well managed – although yes, sure, we all have our complaints. A city that is, at least from my experience, corruption free, and a city where our own security services have proven their worth time and again – even when faced with such people as militant Korean farmers, and demonstrations many hundreds of thousands strong where the major feature of the demonstration has been the quiet and confident manner of our police.
It should make us proud of what he have in real terms, although it takes a tragedy like this to make us appreciate that what we have in Hong Kong, and which we consider normal, is not enjoyed elsewhere.
May I quote from some of my own words taken from a longer piece that I wrote almost exactly 40 years ago, which just seemed appropriate for Hong Kong today,as it tries to recover from its loss:
The world seems far away, at present.
Everything so completely divorced from reality,
Yet still it all goes on around us.
The earth revolves in its everlasting pattern
Never stopping or pausing,
Changing day into night, night into day,
Spring to summer, to autumn and winter.
But though the pain endures,
And the memories remain,
The world still revolves
And we live on.
To the memory of those who died in Manila, and to the hope that is Hong Kong’s future.