Plunge, Retake

Wes thinks we should blame Hong Kong’s lack of music/art scene and shitty dating on “women who consider the starving artist type undateable“.  Frankly, I disagree.

We can make these women public enemy #1, seek them out in Soho and throw rocks at them.  Actually, I also feel like throwing rocks at the douchy bankers these women sought after.   Now the question is, which came first, the douchy bankers or the women who find starving artist types undateable?

Hong Kong is one of the financial capitals in the world, expected to surpass London and New York in the very near future.  The city attracts and recruits the brightest and the shrewdest to work in its thriving financial sector.   As a result, it is a materialistically driven, superficial city.  People living and working in Hong Kong have high earning potential, they are able to afford luxury goods and have large, comfortable accommodations.  In this highly competitive environment, people have to demonstrate that they are the best of the best.    Men will flaunt their earning potential by wearing an expensive suit, driving a luxurious car, living in a penthouse of a fancy building in a trendy neighbourhood.  Women want men with high earning potential because walking around with expensive handbags and having the newest gadgets that you did not have to earn is high status.   Having a rich man provide for you, so you can sit around and look pretty, is high status.   To attract these men, women also need to play the part by conforming to the conventional standard of beauty.  In Asia, the golden standard of beauty is slenderness.  The mothers of daughters groom them to be submissive, uncritical, to dress and act conventionally in order to be pleasing to a man, with the dream that one day, their daughter will become a mute, beautiful trophy wife to some wealthy executive that will also look after them in their old age.   This is the Asian dream.

The worst thing that could happen to a woman in Hong Kong  is fall in love with a man with low status.   God forbid she might have to work so her artist husband can hopefully become the next Picasso.  An artist can only gain high status when his art sells for a lot of money, like Picasso.  Before an artist becomes famous and starts raking in millions, they are undateable.  (Note the galleries in Central and how expensive bad art cost.  It doesn’t matter if the art is bad as long as it fetches a lot of dough). Artists have poor earning potential and by default, low status in Hong Kong society.   As do people working in education and NGO sectors.  The “hipster” status, the idea of being “cool”, or the idea that you might be doing something with your career other than just making money, seems impractical in Hong Kong.  It might be desirable to have a “cool” job as a game designer because you make decent money but your career is also driven by passion or a geeky niche.    Being passionate, geeky, or cool is not practical, it does not make money, and therefore not valued in Hong Kong.  This is why the creative types in general are less likely to come to Hong Kong, and this is why the music and art scenes are rather pathetic here.

I don’t blame the women who find artist undateable.  I don’t really blame the douchy bankers either, but I find their vanity plate extremely distasteful.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

The Rise of the Eco-Douchebag

Douchebag: a man who dresses and uses products in a way characterized by conspicuous consumption, a man who tries so hard to look stylish that he becomes tacky. Eco-douchebag: a man who dresses and uses products in a way characterized by conspicuous smugness, a man who tries so hard to look eco-friendly that he becomes wasteful.

The cornerstone of eco-douchebaggery is the unexamined belief that environmental problems can be solved by consuming different and slightly more expensive products rather than simply consuming less.  The eco-douchebag typically has enough money to pay for slightly more expensive, “environmentally friendly” products and therefore the switch isn’t really much of a sacrifice, and it has the added benefit of allowing the eco-douche to show off his superiority using products, the only way a douche knows how.  What would be a sacrifice for a douche of any kind, is consuming less.   Just as the traditional douche often thinks he’s being original and edgy with his fashion choices while he’s really just wearing a uniform decided for him by corporations, the eco-douche is also unwittingly supporting someone else’s agenda.

I live in Hong Kong, and for years now I’ve been trying to figure out why Hong Kong generates more solid waste per person than anywhere on earth, nearly twice that of Japan and Korea.  My first instinct in answering a question like this is “who benefits?” and one doesn’t have to look too far (north) to find some beneficiaries of HK’s wasteful culture.  Most of these plastic bags, plastic forks, wooden throwaway chopsticks, styrofoam etc. is produced in China.  If HK became less wasteful, it would be bad for China’s spectacular economic growth.  And therefore bad for the Chinese politicians who depend on economic growth to justify their “mandate of heaven,” and therefore their legitimacy.  In China, as elsewhere, waste is good for economic growth.  When the status quo is wasteful, and waste benefits those in power, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that wastefulness persists.

I’ve been eating at this trendy vegetarian restaurant in Central, a restaurant that advertises it’s ecological ethics as part of its branding strategy.  It is also by far the most wasteful restaurant in the area.  Pretty much every restaurant around, except this one, uses reusable metal cutlery, and reusable plates and bowls for all dine-in orders.  They do this not because of environmentalism, but because it’s cheaper than using throwaway packaging, which they do use for takeaway orders.  My trendy vegetarian spot very smartly blends a hippie and yuppie aesthetic and uses 100% biodegradable (a.k.a. made from paper or corn) packaging, even for it’s water cups (which nobody ever takes out of the restaurant; they just get used once and composted).  When I asked the owner, a proud vegan sporting a leather man-purse, about this, he basically responded with “wer’re getting there, but it’s hard,” not being extra wasteful that is.  I think this guy totally made the right business decision.  Faced with prioritizing the appearance of environmentalism vs. actual environmentalism, he chose the former.

The reason this was such a wise decision is that eco-douches vastly outnumber people who actually consider through the environmental impact of their decisions in a thoughtful, honest way.  This is because people like to feel good about themselves, particularly guilt-ridden, privileged people, and thinking about the real consequences of our actions makes feeling good about ourselves hard. So rather than question an ecologically disastrous economic paradigm, the eco-douchebag merely switches products, and looks cool doing it.