Tue, 22 Feb 2005
Sitting in my favourite corner of the Foreign Correspondents Club, I spoon peanuts into my congee as virginal Administrative Officer Winky Ip explains Hong Kong’s demographic problems. By 2030, she tells me, 25 percent of the population will be over 65, compared with 12 percent today. The average woman in Hong Kong has 0.9 children, compared with the 2.1 needed to maintain a population level. Hence our Chief Secretary’s suggestion that we start breeding like fruit flies, lest Homo lychiens becomes extinct.
“Donald Tsang is mentally diseased,” I inform the buxom civil servant. “The average family in Hong Kong lives in a 400 square foot apartment. Where the hell are they supposed to put three kids?” She puts down her chopsticks and looks away, lost in thought. Stupid lateral-thinking gwailo decimates visionary Government policy for breakfast. She was born in a 200 square foot public housing unit, she starts. “Yes, yes,” I interrupt. “Eight to a room, shared toilets and kitchen, school on the roof, everyone assembling plastic flowers all night, scholarship to Hong Kong U – the great Fragrant Harbour success story. Well done. Heard it before.” She nods. “It’s OK for us,” I go on. “We’re single and get lost in our 1,000 square foot Mid-Levels flats. Mr and Mrs average middle class have less than half that space for themselves, her shoes, his DVDs, a five-year-old who needs somewhere to do his homework. Where do two more brats go? In the cupboard under the kitchen sink? No! There’s an Indonesian girl who sleeps there.”
Winky sighs and picks up the newspaper, with its exciting news about Hong Kong’s sole Olympic gold medal winner and queen of windsurfing. “At least San San is having a baby,” she says. I look at my peanuts floating in the porridge as the awful, revolting truth dawns on me. Someone had sex with San San. I push the bowl aside.
Wed, 23 Mar 2005
An email from cousin John Quincy Hemlock in deepest, darkest Appalachia. America’s school shooting season has opened, he laments. Nine people killed in and around a high school in Red Lake, Minnesota by a 15 year old who, as usual, then killed himself. Also as usual, he was a ‘misfit’. Looking through the media coverage, I see a nation wringing its hands in helplessness at the inevitably of it all and its inability to put a gun in a case and lock it. But no-one wants to face the fact that misfits are compulsory in rural high schools in the US. The Hemlocks’ Monongahela hamlet aside, these are neighbourhoods of losers that all-but enforce a strict hierarchy onto their teenage students. At the top are the jocks on the football team. They have huge biceps and acne on their necks from taking steroids. Beside them are the beautiful girls on the cheerleaders’ squad. Beauty in these parts meaning vast amounts of blond hair, perfect white teeth and big breasts. Next down are the wannabe jocks and cheerleaders who struggle hard to be accepted by the elite and whose parents will sue the school board if it helps. Then there are the academic types, grudgingly respected despite their strange ideas about evolution. They will go to college and not come back. Then there are eccentrics – geeks or budding craftsmen – tolerated for their usefulness. And on the fifth day, God made some kids that weren’t good at sport and weren’t very bright. Fat girls and ugly boys, who everyone looks down on. Shunned, they wear black, listen to songs sung by men in mascara, haunt deathly regions of the Internet and loathe everyone back. And sometimes they snap, in little communities where anyone with the brains to know how a gun cabinet works left for the city long ago. It’s just nature, small-town-style.