Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hong Kong's spoiled young people are a menace to society

The problem of spoiled and immature young people in Hong Kong is not only a real problem, but a widespread one. Some people think only rich children are prone to this. They cannot imagine how poorer families can have an indulgent lifestyle which also leads to children being spoiled. The truth is this phenomenon is quite common and takes the form of a decadent mindset. This is the urge to pursue wealth and comfort at the expense of moral integrity and a healthy attitude to life. If this is not addressed properly, it can do real damage to society and ruin many young lives.


In the great Chinese literary classic "Dream of the Red Mansion", there is an almost comical but rather pathetic character called Liu Laolao (Granny Liu). Her son-in-law Wang Gou'er is the personification of a morally and socially inept young man who gives up easily when life gets tough. Liu is the widow of a peasant, who left her a small piece of land to feed her family. She has to move in with her daughter's family for help when her son-in-law turns to alcohol. He gets into drunken fights and does not work hard. The old woman tries to give her son-in-law some sensible advice as well as taking care of her grandson. Some of the wise advice she imparts is that "honest farmers always feed their families through their own hard work".

One day Wang Gou'er suddenly remembers his grandfather had once agreed with the grandfather of Lady Wang, wife of a local aristocrat, that they were related by a common family name, which is of great significance in Chinese culture. He then convinces his mother-in-law to pay Lady Wang a visit and try to "reconnect" with her on his behalf. She obliges and pleases the women there so that she receives 20 taels of silver. This is equivalent to a year's living expenses for a poor family. Although Granny Liu is depicted as an illiterate snob at the mercy of circumstance, her honesty and practical attitude ultimately make her successful, while her son-in-law serves only as a bad example for young people.

There is a much more recent true story, which is also very revealing. This happened in Hong Kong. A young man and his grandparents were assigned a public housing unit. The housing authorities allowed him to live there after the elderly couple died based on the understanding he would get married and have a family of his own. When he failed to do so, more than a decade later, the government assigned him a smaller unit in accordance with the existing rules. He had the option of applying for a larger apartment when he is married and has a child. He is without question one of the luckier beneficiaries of Hong Kong's public housing system. But he felt he had been "mistreated". This grudge ultimately made him resent the SAR government and support the illegal "Occupy Central" movement. That is just one example of how the mind of a spoiled young person has been corrupted. This is not unusual in Hong Kong today. Indeed, there is a derogatory name for young people who remain dependent on their parents instead of supporting themselves: "parent-consumers". They are a serious problem for working-class families. These selfish grown-up children feel no shame that their parents still have to feed and support them. Some of them blame society for their predicament. In some cases, the parents are probably to blame for indulging them too much. But these young people have no excuse for being so irresponsible. These situations have led to quite a few family tragedies, which have shocked Hong Kong in recent years.

Another example of selfishness and a decline in individual responsibility can be seen in the growing number of college students applying for public or subsidised housing before graduation. While there are many reasons for this "unnatural" phenomenon, many of these young people have been spoiled. In any civilised society it would be a disgrace to demand privileges from the public before contributing something first. But some young Hong Kong people are quite happy about doing this. They then get very upset when their unreasonable demands are rejected. Some of them then find it necessary to "get back" at the society and even do real damage.

A number of young protesters admitted in interviews during the 79-day illegal "Occupy Central" campaign that resentment over "unfair experiences" was the real reason for their protests. They said they wanted to "strike back" at the authorities. The real cause of their anger was selfishness. Such anti-social attitudes were also encouraged by certain irresponsible "law scholars". They wrongly told these young people it was acceptable to break the law in pursuit of absurd political ideals.

Such examples of morally compromised youth hating society out of selfishness show us just how bad spoiling children and corrupting their minds can be - even for a sophisticated society like Hong Kong. This only reinforces the importance of moral education to ensure a better future for everyone.

The author Leung Kwok-leung is a veteran journalist based in Hong Kong.


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