We are not all in this together!

April 20, 2020 09:02
Business activity in Hong Kong plummets amid the virus outbreak. Photo: Bloomberg

The situation is quite bad enough and may even get worse but please oh please can we be spared the avalanche of platitudes and clichés that have become a hallmark of this terrible coronavirus pandemic.

If another person earnestly implores me to ‘stay safe’ or ‘stay healthy’ or, far worse, urges me ‘not to despair’, I may well be forced into doing something I will almost certainly regret.

My response, incidentally, to being urged to stay safe is, ‘Thank you so much but I have other plans’. I recommend you try it as it has the stopping well-wishers in their tracks.

It seems to be the case that if you can emit enough clichés you are somehow doing your bit to fight the virus. This, apparently, falls into the category of ‘we’re all in this together’.

The truth, a messy beast at the best of times, is that we are emphatically not all in this together. Are the landlords in this together when collecting sacksful of rent even when shops and restaurants have no more than a trickle of business? Are the banks all in this together when they foreclose householders’ mortgages? And what about the scammers with their phony cures, not forgetting the gougers who have ramped up the prices of personal protective equipment? I could go on but hopefully you are getting the general idea.

And then there’s the Hong Kong government, never reluctant to underwhelm however big the challenge and never reluctant to use one crisis to produce another.

Let’s start with its insipid attempt to inspire the public with a slogan which poses an interesting challenge to the rules of grammar : ‘Together, We Fight the Virus!’. Oh yes there is an exclamation mark at the end of the slogan, no cliché is compete without one.

The best that can be said of the slogan is that it is not merely ungrammatical but also instantly forgettable! (if the big brains of the government propaganda operation can use exclamation marks, so can this taxpayer).

More memorable but really not in a good way, was the slogan dreamed up by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in the wake of the SARS crisis – ‘Hong Kong Takes Your Breath Away’. You and me, dear taxpayers, paid for whoever dreamt that one up.

Mind you no one seriously expects the dear old Hong Kong government to do anything other than blunder when it comes to capturing the imagination but even I, a fully paid up cynic, really did not expect that the depths of pandemic would be seen as an ideal time to create a new crisis.

Unbelievably the Lam administration thinks that now is the moment to attempt another relaunch of the plan to place draconian national security laws on the statute book.

As ever the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO) acts when her bosses tell her to do so. In this instance it was somewhat humiliating as she was virtually instructed in public by Luo Huining, the new boss at the Liaison Office, who said that precisely because there was a coronavirus pandemic and continued social unrest there was a greater need than ever need for this legislation.

Once Mr Luo had spoken the waxworks and flag wavers were busy scrambling over each other to endorse his view.

What on earth do they think is happening? Do they really believe that the Hong Kong public will be so worried by the pandemic that they will overlook the more minor question of liberty and the undermining of the one country, two systems principle? Do they think that by firing the big guns at this stage, it will somehow reduce the chances of the democrats winning big in the coming Legco elections? Or do they simply not care and reckon that because they have power, it can be used at any time.

Meanwhile the echo chamber is braying for legislator Dennis Kwok to be thrown in jail for obstructing their efforts to get their way in Legco, they are busy mobilising in the streets one day to get a journalist fired, another to punish medical staff for their temerity in proposing the closure of Hong Kong’s borders and then again to get teachers, lecturers and goodness whoever else fired for daring to express an opinion they don’t like.

Oh yes, it can truly be said that we are pulling together. The frivolity of focusing on a life threatening virus that is also killing jobs and decimating the economy takes back seat to asserting control.

So, let’s hear it for the platitudinous – never miss a chance to miss a chance!!

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author