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Blog // Thoughts
March 15, 2008

Four Pieces Of Wreckage From The Car-Accident Of Modern Journalism

The local English broadsheet, The South China Morning Post, fits the old cliché about a car accidents – it’s horrible, but somehow you can’t look away. Here’s a few crimes against good journalism from yesterday’s edition. “The failings he outlined are a direct result of British colonial rule.” That one comes from a editorial with […]

The local English broadsheet, The South China Morning Post, fits the old cliché about a car accidents – it’s horrible, but somehow you can’t look away. Here’s a few crimes against good journalism from yesterday’s edition.

“The failings he outlined are a direct result of British colonial rule.”

That one comes from a editorial with the subtle title, “Hong Kong’s failings took root in colonial era.” Apparently outgoing British Consul General, Stephen Bradley dared to say that Hong Kong isn’t quite the equal of global cities like London or New York. I’m not one to defend colonialism in any way, but the argument that Hong Kong’s failings are all the result of British rule are not just tired and hoary, they are also mendacious. The vast land reclamation to build more roads (with the concomitant lack of will to reduce traffic, congestion and pollution), the serial underfunding of local arts and culture, the disregard for local commercial culture in the razing of markets, the mass shopping mall-isation of commerce (together with the concentration of wealth that brings) – these and other issues can’t be blamed on the British because they represent current government policy going forward. We have a pretty clear roadmap for where Hong Kong is heading. It may well be a city that will continue to increase in wealth (for some) and comfort (for most). But, to claim there is any reason, based on current and outlined future policies, to suggest that Hong Kong will have the cultural and creative engine of a global city like London, New York, Milan or Tokyo in our lifetime, is absurd.

“A law, on it’s own, cannot wipe out racism.”

That’s the title of a very revealing piece by Bernard Chan on Hong Kong’s controversial Race Discrimination Bill. I’ve chosen not to comment much on this blog about Hong Kong’s racism problem. Part of Chan’s argument is that racism can be addressed by increasing access to Chinese language education for non-local and immigrant students. Whilst that may well help some kids who stay here long term to find jobs, it doesn’t really address the bulk of the problem. When I was growing up in Australia, my English-language skills were better than most of my fellow students – that didn’t make an ounce of difference on the playground when it came to racism and bullying. It also didn’t help in dealing with the small percentage of teachers who were clearly racist. My careers advisor at school suggested I would be suited to a trade or manufacturing job because of my ethnic background – that had nothing to do with language skills and everything to do with his prejudice!

Clearly, if education is going to make a difference, then it has to be mostly about educating the majority with regard to their attitudes and behaviour.

“In many parts of the United States one sees the same ensemble of sneakers, tube socks, khaki shorts and XXXXL t-shirts on six and 60 year olds alike.”

I was hesitant to include this one, from Daniel Jeffreys, the editor of the Style:Men’s Fashion lift-out magazine. The editorial it comes from is a good piece on the dumbing-down and juvenilisation of Men’s fashion. I agree there is something unfortunate in Men dressing like their sons or, to recall Wynton Marsalis’ controversial comments on the attire of Jazz musicians, like “garage mechanics.”

But, what caught my ire was not the lack of editorial focus on the risible phrase “six and 60” (please – six and sixty, or 6 and 60!). No, it was the comment about XXXXL sizes in the context of Hong Kong “fashion.” I’ve typically not been all that sympathetic to complaints about size-ism, in part because I don’t see fashion designers as being under any compulsion to make clothes for “larger sizes” but also, to be honest, because the problem has seldom hit me! The fact is, most Europeans and American designers will fit men in the standard S,M,L range and in trouser sizes from 28-36 inches (or at least 34). That said, here in Hong Kong many (maybe most) really upmarket stores will only stock S and M sizes and trousers up to 32. The argument is that it fits the local market, which is interesting when you stop and watch the number of guys who walk out without a good fit! A failure to provide a range of normal sizes will encourage the dumbing down of clothing and poorly thought out lines about extra-large sizes only contribute to that. Men won’t try to look better if they perceive the fashion journey as one that is guaranteed to end in failure and embarrassment. The problem isn’t just the choices men make, but the attitude of the industry that fails to woo them.

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