About McPherson's Rant


McPherson’s Rant is an old Scots Folk Song about a Robin Hood Type Character who was hanged.

There is no connection, unless you count the “rant” part.  The world’s a strange place and sometimes a “rant” at absurdity and unfairness is just what’s required.

Here you can expect to find examples of stupidity, irony and idiocy , especially relating to Hong Kong, and with particular attention to the SCMP, and its’ letters page. A common problem with many blogs is their failure to find something new to say, I find the SCMP, and it’s letters page, provides plenty of ammunition on a daily basis and will reference them frequently. If you have your own letter not getting published, put it on our comments section.





Tag Archives: General

Calum’s Road

I recently read a book called Calum’s Road, and it impresssed, depressed and moved me. I just learned it is to be made into a film which and should make a fascinating human interest story.

I recommend it to anyone who is interested in a forgotten type of character, and it motivated me to give you a synopsis.

The journey is a common motif in literature, witness Homer’s Odyssey, Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, or more recently Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Each of these, and countless others, generally subscribe to a simple format, the protagonist embarks on his quest and through trial and tribulation, learns something about himself.

If the journey is a parable of adventure and self-discovery, what can we make of a man whose journey is to build the road, with no other allegorical intent other than he wishes it to revive his community?

Calum MacLeod was a Gael, living on an island off the West Coast of Scotland, the Hebridean Island of Raasay, and Calum had watched his community on the South side of the Island wither and die for want of a two-mile stretch of road until there was only himself and his wife left. Calum would tell of when there was a thriving community in Arnesh, his native village, and how for more than 60 years, he, and his father before him, petitioned the various government departments to build a road to save the community. To no avail.

And so it was that sometime in the middle of the sixties, a man in his fifties, set out from his croft, with a homemade wooden wheelbarrow, a pick, an axe and a shovel as well as a copy of a book called Road Making and Maintenance, written by a fellow Scot and published in 1900. He walked two miles before he laid down his tools and commenced his return journey that would take the best part of 20 years as well as 3 wheelbarrows, six picks, six shovels, five sledge hammers, four spades and one crowbar.

Calum MacLeod built his road and it’s known the world over as Calum’s Road. He was a man of a dying culture, and Calum was of a type of man we see ever more rarely, a type of man extinct in the material excess of the Western world, found only, still, in those areas where men toil by the dictates of the seasons and where the time is measured not by any clock or timepiece but by phases of life, where there’s no television or internet to while away the hours in dumb passivity. This toil is not in pursuit of leisure time, but for improvement, both his own, a characteristic of the poor but educated community that existed in Scotland at the turn of the 19th century; and his immediate environment.

What can we make of man this man of fortitude? Some called him stubborn, some called him determined and some called him an anachronism. Indeed Calum was dismissed as eccentric, but only in that he differed from conventional behaviour.

If there were a single word to define this man it would be indefatigable. It’s estimated that the largest single boulder he moved weighed nine tons: “He used a jack to lift it, then packed it in place with stones, then jacked it up again, then repacked it with stones, then jacked it once more… until it had been heaved out of the way and had fallen, defeated, into the sea.”

He was the very definition of an autodictat, a self taught polymath who learned both academically and empirically. He was an accomplished essayist in his native tongue, a prolific contributor to newspapers and a poet, as well as being Master of the local lifeboat, lighthouse keeper, part-time postman and crofter.

Calum was a living reminder of the peasant crofting culture of the Gàidhealtachd, a man who put his own desire for knowledge above all else, a man who trusted only in himself and who would continue his self-education till the day he died. He exemplified what was once known as a ‘Lad O Pairts,’ he left school at 14 and was largely self-taught, but his education was broad, a symbol of the best education system in the world at the time, a system that taught you how to think and that learning was a virtue unto itself.

The depopulation of the highlands is well documented, but in Calum’s mind it wasn’t Patrick Sellar or The Duke or Sutherland, absentee landlords or even sheep that finally did for the Gael, he blamed well intentioned but miss-judged socialism. In 1970, in the the Stornoway Gazette he wrote “Socialism was responsible for remote authoritarian units that have no consideration for, and are mainly ignorant of, local factors essential to benefit those concerned,” he went on: “During the last two decades, this system was pursued by it’s advocates in education, police, postal and transport facilities in rural areas and islands… the whole North Western seaboard from Shetland in the North to Arran and Bute, including the Hebrides – were subjected to the downgrade system.”

That Calum watched this happen is clear, when his daughter was 12, the local schoolhouse was closed and, like many others from remote communities, she became a boarder in far off Portree; on graduation, many of these boarders never returned to their communities.

Again Calum wrote in one of his lengthy essays: “ Is it any wonder Scots emigrate? The decline and fall of the system of education they prided themselves of, and which was unsurpassed in the world, began with the closure and downgrading of the local one and two teacher schools, wherein was a high degree of individual tuition and responsibility.”

Calum would be burling in his grave to see the continued demise of the Gaelic culture although it must be said there is hope yet for his language. But what would he have thought of the continuing centralization by Governments and homogenization of society?

Calum raged against the dying of the light, he didn’t succeed, but his road stands as a testament to the spirit of one man determined to fight for what he believed was right.

Calum died on 26th January 1988, he was 76 and was working his croft the day he died. He was resolute to the last that the depopulation of the highlands could be reversed and his culture could be revived, but he was the last man to come out of Anish, in a hearse, driven on the road that he built himself, ironically, he had never driven the road; he never sat his driving test.

Quotes from Calum’s Road, by Roger Hutchison

Part of a Ballad Written by Calum MacLeod

Yet I was Undismayed,

With peg and line and level too

Its course was then surveyed.

No bulldozer was to be got,

No crusher and no digger

Just brawn and strength to do the lot,

and, working like a nigger.

For six long years the work goes on

by crags or mossy hollows.

The tourists are amazed to find

a road they now can follow

Round many a curve and rocky cliff

the road does now meander

and you will find a motor-car

where only sheep could wander.

And, when at last it is complete,

The battle will be over,

And walking will be obsolete

We all go by Landrover.

The road a monument will remain

In memory of one fellow

who saw his countrymen swept away

By the heirs of Patrick Sellar.

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Hong Kong Scottish RFC

“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” So said Dr. Samuel Johnson, that renowned Scotophobe.  Johnson, being rather parochial, chose to ignore his own Scottish father’s journey down that road, but it’s a road well traveled for generations of Scots, generations who made an astounding impact in London, and all over the British Empire, the Colonies, Australia, New Zealand… and of course Hong Kong.

The mass of émigré’s took with them many aspects of their culture, witness the curious popularity of the Great Highland bagpipe all over the world, but they also took with them their passion for sports, notably Football and Rugby.  To this day there are teams playing worldwide who pay homage to their Scottish ancestors, from Durban to Dubai.  Most notable is London Scottish, a team who has provided Scotland with over 220 Scottish Internationals as well as four British Lions Captains.

In Hong Kong, from the beginning of next season, there will be a rugby team playing in Division One called “Hong Kong Scottish.“ An independent entity, but one with the blessing, backing and support of their London Brethren.

London Scottish have been very supportive of the idea from the outset, and Hong Kong Scottish will proudly wear the London Scottish badge and share their colours as a mark of their new relationship.

As Tony Copsey, London Scottish Director of Rugby says: “London Scottish are delighted to be able to support Hong Kong Scottish, and we’re looking forward to discussions about how we can work together going forward. “

Behind this adventure are the HKRFU, the Nomads Rugby Club and a group of Scottish expats in Hong Kong.  Chief among them is Stewart Saunders, ex COO of China Light and Power, and Roy Kinnear, an ex-banker who is leading the drive for funds. The original idea for the team came from Dave Whiteford, formerly of Melrose RFC and now playing his rugby in Hong Kong, and the marketing and fundraising is headed by Jacqui Donaldson, Managing Director of Communique, a PR firm.

As part of the initiative to launch Hong Kong Scottish, a trip to the Melrose Sevens was chosen as the ideal ‘coming out’ for the new club.  Both Hong Kong and Melrose are closely associated with Sevens, with Hong Kong being at the forefront of the global expansion of the game that was created by the famous Borders club.

This Hong Kong Scottish team for Melrose  included players of Scottish Heritage such as ex Scotland international sevens player, David Tait, as well as former Glasgow Hawks Centre Ally Maclay and Melrose old boy Dave Whiteford. and also some local Chinese Development players.   Their coach, Joe Shaw, formerly of England’s Sevens world cup winning squad, claims a tenuous link to Scotland saying: “Newcastle, where I spent most of my career, is only English because they put the border in the wrong place.”  The team acquitted themselves well and have been invited back next year.

There are long standing links between Hong Kong and Scottish rugby – in the current Scotland squad both Graeme Morrison and John Barclay were born in Hong Kong and Jim Hamilton has a Hong Kong grandmother.  There are two ex-Scotland internationals working for the HKRFU, Sam Pinder and Andy Hall. There is also a very large and active Scottish expat community here, The Highlanders Society, The Scottish Business Group and The St Andrews Society who organize annually their Burns Supper, Christmas Ball and a local Calcutta Cup rugby match against the Auld Enemy, the St Georges Society!

With such a pedigree, both historically and currently, Hong Kong Scottish seems to be an idea whose time is long overdue and should offer a great addition to the local rugby community and act much the same way as London Scottish does in England.

Gavin Hastings, ex-Scotland Captain, has also added his weight to the project, and will be a key figure in the club going forward.  Hastings’s had this to say: “I’m excited to be involved with the Hong Kong Scottish project – over the past few years Hong Kong has become like a second home for me, and I love the idea of being able to show my support for the local rugby community here.”





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Reading the riot act

When I was a kid, my mother used to say to me: “If you don’t behave, I’ll read the riot act.”  I never actually knew what she meant, other than, there’ll be trouble unless you do as your told.

Later I discovered that there was indeed something called ‘The Riot Act” on the UK statutes.  It could be read out in any public place where there was an assembly of more than 12 people who the authorities wanted to disperse and it contained this warning:

“Our sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King.”

Penalties for failing to disperse were either three years penal servitude, or two years hard labour. Scary.  The last time the riot act was read was in Scotland, in January 1920, during what became known as the Battle of George Square, when striking workers clashed with the Army and the Police.  The act was only repealed around 1973.

So what is the point of the ramble, nothing really, just that I’ve been watching the riots in the UK and wondering how they can stop it.

I hate to think that I am turning into my father, or worse into a reactionary old Daily Telegraph reader shouting: “Bring back the birch, hang ‘em all”, but surely anyone can see that we have a very serious failure of discipline that in areas of the UK is almost structural and  is going to take a long time to overcome.

Years ago, I wrote a piece on how to re-connect with the idea that you are a part of your community and have a vested interest in it.  I can’t in all honesty support a return to National Service, as it offends my liberalism, however, surely there are other options.

I would advocate a form of National service but not wholly restricted to the Armed Forces, sure that can be one option, a second option could be care in the community, whereby young people are encouraged to work with the elderly, or mentally handicapped or other community service like working in foster homes.

A last option would be environmental service, working in rural areas, rebuilding dry-stane dykes for example, planting trees, cleaning up beaches.

And the clincher could be, each individual between the ages of 18-23 has to opt for one of the three, for one year.  In return, there are incentives for study or travel abroad, and if you haven’t completed one year, you get nothing from the state.

Alternatively of course, you could take the advise offered on this old episode of ” Not the Nine O Clock News”:

Off with their goolies

Because it is plainly obvious, listening to these two girls:

Idiot Girls

that even tho they have no goolies, some drastic action is required.

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Racism; a critique

Please note, I did in fact write this article for a magazine, many many years ago. I have resisted the urge to edit it, preferring to leave it in the words of that younger individual rather than temper it to my more aged, if not mature self. I do realise that I have gone off on one over the last few days on issues of race, so I hope this article can draw a line under it, and of course I must emphasise, Hong Kong is full of wonderful individuals who have no issues with race, although I couldn’t in all honesty, say the same about government here. Apologies for the length, it was a magazine after all.

Growing up in Scotland, there were many confusing terms one had to deal with given the peculiar regional dialects, the Nordic influence and the teuchters – those from the highlands, who were a bit different, and we believed a bit slow. But the phrases that really confused me were the ones relating to colour or race.  The first time I was ever accused of playing a Chinese snooker, I failed to see the relevance.  How could a ball have black hair and a Mongolian slant?  Further confusion was wrought by the cricketing term bowling a Chinaman – I knew the Chinese were supposedly small but bowling them is a bit of a liberty.  As I got older I began to understand that these declarations were, in some way, analogous, and in fact I was being exhorted not to be sneaky, to play up, play the game.

Slowly I began to realise that there were metaphors and similes that directly related to race and how we perceived each other.  I, in fact, used many of these terms.  The only problem was, up until secondary school I’d never met anyone that wasn’t white and even then the first two non-white people I met were both half coloured.  No inscrutable Chinese for me to eye carefully for evidence of nefarious intent.

Did my use of these terms make me racist?  I don’t think so.  How could I be racist – I had never met anyone not like me, but in my ignorance I used terms that are now perceived as racist but were merely learned behavior, behavior, that is, learned from my peers, my family and more importantly, the media.  Now of course, all of these terms are no longer socially acceptable in much the same way as nigger, and no doubt any child using any similar terminology in the playground would be severely reprimanded.  I suppose we should note here that nigger is still acceptable, not for white people but for some people.

That these terms are no longer used in the West is of course a positive thing, as using racist terms, in however innocent a fashion helps to reinforce prevailing prejudice.

However this newfound Western-awareness does not seem equally applicable and therein lies the rub.  While Caucasians and the West in general have made every effort to expunge the type of racism that was once commonplace the same cannot be said of other, mostly non-white countries.  Is it only pale-faced, “roonieks” that can be accused of racism?

Amongst the major industrialized countries, Japan is one of the most ethnically homogenous, they have a insular society with an manufactured distrust of all things foreign, a society where only 3% of the population is of non-Japanese decent and the government through legislation, while not banning the notion of naturalization, actively discourages it through archaic rules and stringent regulations. Of course there is no real offence intended by those signs outside bathhouses saying “no foreigners.”  I’d love to see the UK or the US even attempt to emulate this degree of homogeneity: just to hear the strident screams of outrage and indignity from those whose perspective is predicated on dislike for all Caucasians and their belief that the West can never apologise enough for historical injustices, both perceived and wholly legitimate.

Up until recently the Chinese would only grant a Chinese passport on the basis of Chinese ethnicity – I tried to find out if this is still the case but no one would actually tell me – so assume – they will attempt to dissuade you.  Additionally, try asking your Chinese friends how they can still seek accommodation with the legacy of Mao and you’ll be told the West does not understand: “We Chinese”, “We are different!” And don’t forget the much vaunted Asian Values, or in America “Asian Pride” – google them – if they were white they’d be called Aryan Nation or White Brotherhood.

In a book called ‘Songlines’ by Bruce Chatwin, an aborigine explained that the dialect word for ‘meat’ is the same as that for white man, literally meaning that you can live off of both.  Not in the sense of veal for dinner, but that he will provide.  Of course this is a result of pathetic but well-meaning efforts to turn indigenous people with a singularly different approach to living, into good little white men.  It still remains a racist statement, and a statement that has echoes throughout Africa today.
Is it only white people that can be racist?  Why do I have to bear this burden when I see extreme racism about me every day around the world and in Hong Kong?

There are a number of interpretations of what exactly racism means, for the sake of this article, here is one:

“Racism refers to a system of oppression that is based on the idea that one race is superior to other races. A system to discriminate against and/or marginalize a class of people who share a common racial designation. The term “racism” is usually applied to the dominant group in a society, because it is that group which has the means to oppress others, but readily applies to any individual or group(s), regardless of social status or dominance.”

Reading this definition makes me worry about the rise of Chinese nationalism. Which has as it’s predominant characteristic, a belief that China or more specifically, the Chinese race is once again approaching its superior place in the world, and it’s just a hop skip and a jump before we have to find out the Chinese word for Blitzkrieg. Why?  Because nationalism and racism are intimately aquatinted with each other and always end up sharing a bed.   The term “We Chinese” implies a racial set of characteristics, as does “Asian Values,” this coupled with feelings of superiority is an exact definition of racism no different than when the British believed that God was an Englishman.  The irony  is of course, that the West is becoming so corpulent, lazy and obsessed with leisure time that I do indeed see the day when the Morlocks change places with the Eloi, but then that’s what empires do – collapse.

If we can talk about Hong Kong for a moment, it represents a reasonable empirical study for my contention.  Hong Kong is a society made up of many different nationalities, some of whom have been here for generations.  Longer in fact that most of the ethnic Chinese – yet these people are treated appallingly and have the worst jobs.  I was not aware until I came to Hong Kong that all Indians smelled.  I did not know that women from the Philippines are all ignorant and only fit for servants.  I did not know that black people are monkeys; I did not know that I was a “stupid gweilo,” and although I don’t mind this one – it is still racist.  I did not know that people on the mainland were backward and not very smart, in short, I did not realize just how wonderful the local Chinese are, how superior and how well educated.  Hong Kong maintains that it is not racist therefore no anti-racism legislation is required, leaving aside the issue of legislating against human nature which should never be condoned, the letters page of the SCMP proves our racism every day. Our community is for the most part fragmented and divided along racial lines.  Witness the never-ending debate about wages for helpers and see the “line in the sand clearly drawn”.  Further, one can’t help but conclude, locals firmly believe that helpers should be thankful for what they get and this attitude is made manifest in the callous way many of them are treated.  Or on the environment, study the names that advocate sustainable issues and then look at the silence on the other side.  Or look at some of the letters from local Chinese who seem to be implying: “ If you don’t like it Johnny foreigner – then go home. Yet these very same people fail to realise that this is home for all of us.  Hong Kong is not Chinese; Hong Kong is one giant refugee camp, although the Chinese have the numbers – they are the dominant group – Oh where did I read about dominant groups practicing racism.  I love the failure of the local Chinese to see the irony in looking down on Mainlanders, most of these locals escaped here less then 50 years ago – they won the colonial equivalent of the lottery.  Here is a not so very extreme example of racism I pulled from a blog:

“Typical overbearing gweilo mentality, thinking the whole world revolves around you. In reality, the vast majority of local 
Chinese population in HK sees most issues quite different than 
you do.

God was an Englishman in the good old days. But it’s always 
true, at least to a certain extent that whoever has the gold 
makes the rules. England just doesn’t have much of anything 
these days.

Sad as it is, you live in this tiny, dwindling, and socially 
separated (from the native Chinese) community here like a whole 
bunch of frogs watching a round patch of sky from the bottom of 
a well — as a group, isolated from power, no longer have any 
meaningful economic or political influence, not to mention your 
ignorance and unwillingness to understand the hearts and minds 
of the majority Chinese natives. Now resort to call the local 
Chinese racists when things don’t go your way.

The people who have the political power to affect your life here 
one way or another are not reading the Standard or the SCMP. 
For your information, they read the local Chinese papers in our 
native language.”

Xi Hu. (http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/125064.php)

Leaving aside the poor English, the clichéd philosophy and the historical inaccuracies, it is clear to see that the correspondent is suffering from a severe case “go home gweilo”, however, I do agree with him that the vast majority of locals see things differently, it’s just that some of them see so many of them in terms of race and are blinded by their hatred of colonialism.  If you need any more examples, google the name Pierce Lam and find out how much this guy hates white people and specifically the English Schools Foundation.

We live in one of the most racist countries I have ever been in, but it is not even discussed.  It is not there.

I am not racist. But have been described as a misanthropist, not to be confused with a misogynist although I’ve frequently been assailed by females who are not sure of the distinction.  A misanthropist is not really that fond of his fellow man, or woman, in general, regardless of skin tone and so I’ve been heard to cry: “I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally.”  In fact I reserve my special ire for stupid people – but George Bush and Regina Ip can wait till next issue.

As a misanthropist, I have little concern over the truth about racism.  But it’s important that if there is a truth then that truth be universally recognized, the West and specifically those of us who won the pigmentation lottery are being asked to accept a universal double standard – I mean for fucks sake, last year a white university professor in the US was hounded out of his senior position because he used the word niggardly – this has no etymological root to nigger but the accusers were too dumb to know that.

History abounds with racism, in the past the white man was the main culprit but has been apologizing with what appears to be genuine remorse for a long time – well listen up folks – some of us have nothing to apologise for – Some of us were not there and revisionist history is about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.  And do I hear the Jews apologizing for being isolationist and discouraging mixing with other races, or what about arranged marriages, or the Muslim Council for Great Britain calling for a Muslim assembly. These instances might appear to be cultural but the suspicion remains that it’s about race and racial purity.

If multi-culturalism is our goal then we should all be playing by the same rules. The West is not perfect, and has a long way to go – but the point is – the West recognized a problem and has made inroads in addressing it.  Every Hong Kong taxi driver, and I like these guys,  will insist he is not racist – but see if he’ll stop in the pissing rain for a ‘gweilo’ if there is a ‘local’ further on.

So in light of the previous definition, here’s my contention, we are all innately racist – whether you act racist is up to you but denying it exists merely creates uncertainty, confusion and double standards.  Fear of people who are different is normal behaviour, probably stemming from Neolithic mans fight or flight responses.  Racist terminology is learned behaviour and as such can be unlearned – but not if you don’t think you are guilty.

We are all racist – black, white, yellow and those of indeterminate colour – accept it.  Accept it as a fact. An innate biological response to people who are different. And having accepted it.  Then get on with assessing your reactions, reassessing them and adopting modified behaviour – it is not natural to “love thy neighbour” but it can become second nature – you just gotta work at it.  However if we blithely maintain our perfections and pay lip service to equality then the games a bogey and there’ll be fighting in the play-ground forever more.

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Jimmy Reid RIP

Yes. The previous post referred to a speech given by a Scottish Socialist.  The segment posted referred to a speech he gave at his inauguration as Rector of Glasgow University in 1971.  Reid was elected by students after successfully leading a work-in at Upper Clyde Shipyards and forced the government into an unprecedented climb down.  His speech was hailed by The New York Times, who printed it in full, as: ” The greatest speech since the Gettysburg address.”  ”A rat race is for rats,” Reid said in his speech. “We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice, lest you jeopardise your chances of self-promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ puts it, ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?’

Full Rectorial addresss here

Obituary Here

I suppose my point in posting, was just to illustrate how things stay the same.  Everything he railed and rallied against in the ’70′s is equally, if not more relevant today, and could have been written yesterday by a erudite, concerned journalist in Hong Kong, if there was such a person.  Socialism failed, capitalism is king, but can we not have capitalism without the obscene greed and wealth gap?

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Apologies for the long delay.  But here goes.  You’d think the following was written just yesterday, or at least within this year, and was about Hong Kong… read on, and I’ll identify the who and when tomorrow…or google it!

‘Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in [removed by me] today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people. It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics. Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised.

Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially de-humanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well-adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else. They remind me of the character in the novel, Catch 22, the father of Major Major. He was a farmer in the American Mid-West. He hated suggestions for things like medi-care, social services, unemployment benefits or civil rights. He was, however, an enthusiast for the agricultural policies that paid farmers for not bringing their fields under cultivation. From the money he got for not growing alfalfa he bought more land in order not to grow alfalfa. He became rich. Pilgrims came from all over the state to sit at his feet and learn how to be a successful non-grower of alfalfa. His philosophy was simple. The poor didn’t work hard enough and so they were poor. He believed that the good Lord gave him two strong hands to grab as much as he could for himself. He is a comic figure. But think – have you not met his like here in [removed by me]? Here in [removed by me]? I have.

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A New Beginning

“An unleashed lust for wealth and power turned them into aggressors…society had evolved too many elites, all demanding excessive baubles, a culture wobbling under the weight of an excess of desire, nobility is expensive, non productive and parasitic, siphoning away too much of society’s energy in frivolous cravings…”

Close your eyes and you can imagine this quote referring to the excess of the super rich, those with mega yachts, private jets, Caribbean Islands etc etc.  Or it could refer to a decadent corpulent west gorging on Welfarism and trash TV.  A declining, increasingly illiterate society, who prefer the images of illusion over critical thought processes.

Open your eyes now.  It’s actually from a book called: “The World Without Us.”  I bought it on impulse. A misanthropic impulse of course.  I enjoyed it!  The author is referring to the decline of ancient cultures,  the  Mayans or the Easter Islanders.

Do you have to be a misanthropic pessimist, part Malthusian,  part Hobbesian, to see the parallel here, or did I just smoke too much at University?

I don’t know why, but the idea of a new beginning appeals to me, I know it appeals to most of us, fortunately, most of us don’t get a chance to exercise our impulse for clean slates.  Most religions are about a new beginning, as are  Fascism, Stalinism, Communism and dare I say it, James Lovelock, darling of the Green Terror.  I think it puts me in bad company.  Fortunately I only want to be like Greta Garbo… why won’t they all just leave me alone!

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Scots Abroad

Someone famous, or perhaps not so famous, as I can’t remember the name, actually I can barely remember the quote but it went something like: “Of all the races, the Jews and the Scots have had the largest impact on the world economy, per capita.”  I have no idea why this should be so, I’m sure the Armenians and the Dutch should get a mention but I’ll ponder that later.  Suffice to say I am going to a lecture on Saturday by Professor Tom Devine, an incomparably smart individual from Edinburgh University. The lecture is entitled: “An Empire of Commerce: Three centuries of Scottish Enterprise in the East.”  Here is an introduction, at the bottom is a link to reserve tickets:

By 1914 the British Empire could claim dominion over 750 million people or around a quarter of the earth’s population. Yet, remarkably, much of the governance, commerce, banking and military engagement of this vast worldwide enterprise was managed by Scots, a nation of only 4 million at the time. Scotland in fact claimed not simply a reasonable but a quite indecent share of the imperial spoils.

Nowhere was this more true than of India, South Asia, Hong Kong and China in the centuries after 1700 where such giant businesses as Jardine Matheson, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Mackinnon Group, Guthrie and Company and the Burmah Oil Company were all of Scottish origin.

This lecture, employing the fruits of recent scholarship and research, will seek to describe the extraordinary scale and impact of the Scottish commercial empire in the east, explain its expansion, especially in the Victorian era, and finally account for its relative decline in the twentieth century.”


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Seoul Law To Protect Actresses

Did you know Seoul was passing a law to prevent their actresses from being exploited after a survey showed 60% of them were pressured to have sex to further their career?

Ok on the face of it, good idea!  But the casting couch is nothing new, ask Marilyn Monroe, and I’m really not sure how you can enforce it.  However, I would like to see a similar law in Hong Kong, if only to save us from the pathetic talentless pseudo stars that are the “canto pop up tartlets” of today.  It’s common knowledge in this town that the industry is controlled by two companies, who shall remain nameless here in case I fall out a window by accident at some point, or even get stabbed in my hospital bed as happened to one journalist.  These companies don’t have tattoos, but there’s tattoos in the background, and every single wee tartlet from one twin to another and beyond, got where she is today, by not insisting on remaining vertical at her interview!

Such is life.  Sorry Seoul.  The law is unenforcable.  But I wish you every success.  And do you want to borrow some canto pop tartlets?

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7/11 Business Model


You want to open a bar?  So you find suitable premises. Pay an intolerably high rental to a rapacious landlord.  Spend a couple of million fitting it out. Navigate your way through a meandering maze of archaic legislation which is over seen by 400 different departments, all of whom send a different case officer for every inspection.  But eventually, after complying with some pretty dumb criteria that defies all logic they finally deem you worthy of a Liquor Licence… provisionally of course.  But you’ve got it, the Holy Grail to profitability.  Now there’s a chance you might get a return on your investment, although up to 70% of new ventures don’t… ever.  But you’re on your way to success.

And then bastards!  Seven Eleven scum open up next door.  They don’t need a liquor licence.  The don’t need fire escapes or toilets, or any of the other mundane criteria required by the Liquor Licencing fuckwits.  They’re allowed to sell alcohol which is fair enough, IF it’s for taking away.  But they break the law with impunity!  They allow people to drink on the premises, they open the bottles for you, they’ll even supply you a paper cup if you fancy sharing a bottle of wine, they sell to kids and drunks… all of which are against the law… but no authority will do a thing about it.  Meanwhile you just kissed goodbye to your investment thanks to the motely crew hanging around your venue, scaring custom away, or worse, buying from Seven Eleven and sneaking in unnoticed.  But hey, it’s Hong Kong and someone will be profiting by looking the other way.

As I said!  Bastards

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