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January 14
2013年1月14日

一樣文化兩種態度 — 台北
國際馬拉松

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十二月中,我與一百三十多位師生員工、校友去台北,其中近百位參加了十二月十六日的台北國際馬拉松賽事,我則參加了九公里賽。訪台北期間遇到三件事。

參賽前一晚,我發現忘了帶運動短褲,就問遠東大飯店康體部門的服務員,附近可有地方買條短褲應急。令人驚喜的是,一位年輕員工知道我想買褲「應急」,便告訴我可以借我一條乾淨的運動褲,並建議我不用買了。這樣令人感動的經歷在香港不知會否出現!

其次是在台北搭計程車。在台灣,計程車車費合理,司機(台灣叫「運將」)和藹友善,還會邊開車,邊聊天。然而我經常發現,計程車司機竟然還同時在欣賞駕駛座邊小影幕上播放的韓劇。如此一心三用,讓人好不緊張。

就在馬拉松參賽當日,賽途中遇到一種令人吃驚的現象:居然有市民推著自行車,橫著穿越跑馬拉松的人潮。再往前跑,更發現在密密麻麻參賽者的路邊,有好幾輛計程車正蓄勢待發、隨時準備穿過人潮。因此,我提醒指揮交通的義警注意管制。沒想到義警跟我說,好好跑步,不用擔心。然而,說時遲、那時快,一輛計程車已經穿過人群、直駛而過。我猜想,義警可能得意地想,「你看,不是沒事吧!」。不過,這還不是最令人嘆為觀止的事。回程途中,在出發後約五十五分鐘,離巿政府約一點五公里處,交警竟然阻住成千上萬個參賽者,讓好幾輛汽車堂而皇之地先行通過。如此這般的國際賽事,還真讓人感到不自在。這種嚇人的路況,絕對不會出現在香港的春季馬拉松賽場上。

以上三種不同經歷,正好反映了今天台灣的一部分現況:人情味濃厚,社會平和,政治民主,中產階級強大,可惜公權力執行不徹底,安全性值得擔憂。香港與此截然不同。香港的現狀是:社會井然有序,法治具公信力,但是貧富懸殊、階級分明,還好執法嚴謹,工安較有保障。

比較台港兩地,可以誇張地說:一地可以讓你快樂生活,同時卻充滿較多的工安危機,甚至有可能死了還不知道怎麼死的(最近台灣發生的幾起糊裡糊塗離奇車禍,正好說明這一現象);另一地工安有保障,社會有序,公民守法但不見得有禮,富裕的百姓不一定快樂,貧困的百姓愈加貧困(根據香港近十餘年來的統計資料)。台灣像是受儒家思想熏陶的小康世界,香港則更像法家治理下的冷酷社會。

台北巿巿長郝龍斌在十二月十六日的馬拉松開賽前致辭,秀了秀英文。至於在香港,很多人更大有視英文為母語而感到自豪,甚至有以講牛津英語為傲;這一㸃與光復後的台灣,許多人以講日文為榮,有異曲同工之味。

台港兩地鼓吹國際化,格外重視英文。其實,語言是一個交流的工具和手段,為了國際交流,必要時說、寫英文,可以說得過去。然而,關鍵在於到底想運用語言成就什麼事情、達到什麼宗旨。講國際化,就該遵循現代化行事準則,以求達到更高的品質標準。今天,台港兩地分別存在的問題,如貧富差距、社會公權力不彰、工安維護散漫、難以就事論事等等,都跟英文沒有關係;跟先進標準相比,台港或多或少都存在一些距離。

台北行、馬拉松比賽,又一次為「國際標準」的真諦做了注腳。

張網不提其綱,理毛不挈其領,迷戀英文是推行國際化的盲點。與其逐末捨本,不如就事論事,在工安上多做些管制,在培植中產階級上多花點心血,在日常生活中少講點大道理、多做點實事。

 

A tale of two attitudes: a few thoughts from the Taipei Marathon

In mid-December, I went to Taipei with over one hundred and thirty CityU staff members, students and alumni. Close to a hundred of us participated in the Taipei International Marathon held on 16 December. I ran the 9K race. During my Taipei visit, I encountered three incidents.

On the night before the event, I realised that I had forgotten to pack a pair of running shorts, I asked a staff member at the Health and Leisure section of the Far Eastern Hotel if there was a place nearby where I could buy a pair for use the next day. To my delight and surprise, the young staff member, upon learning that I needed the shorts as a stop-gap measure, offered to lend me a clean pair of sweatpants and suggested I not buy a new pair. I wondered if similar incident would even happen in Hong Kong!

Taking taxis in Taiwan, I found taxi fares are fairly reasonable and the drivers are usually quite amicable, and would chat with the passengers while driving. I soon discovered on several occasions, however, that the taxi drivers were also watching a Korean TV drama on a small screen by the side of the steering wheel. To think that a driver would allow himself to be distracted in this way is enough to wrack anyone's nerves.

On the day of the race, I witnessed a scene which could only be described as shocking. Along the route of the race were some local people who pushed their bicycles across the stream of marathon runners. Further down the route, I saw quite a few taxis waiting on the side of the road, ready to rev up their engines to cut across the road packed with runners. I tried to point out to the volunteer officers to pay attention to the traffic, only to be told that there was no need to worry and that I should just run my race, At that very instant, one of the taxis took off, wove its way through the crowd and drove away. But more hair-raising scenes are in stall for me. As we headed for the starting point about fifty-five minutes into the race and one-and-a-half kilometers away from the municipal government building, the traffic police stopped thousands of runners to give way to several cars. An international event like this indeed made one feel uneasy. I am sure such chaos will not be seen in the spring marathon in Hong Kong.

The three incidents above happen to tell us something about the present-day Taiwan: a peaceful, and politically democratic society, with a strong middle class that is rich in human touch. Public authority is unfortunately not thoroughly exercised and safety is a concern. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is totally different, with an orderly society run by the credible rule of law. The gap between the rich and the poor is, however, wide and class difference distinct. It is nevertheless blessed with strict enforcement of the law and a relatively safe workplace environment.

Comparing Taiwan and Hong Kong, one may draw an exaggerated conclusion: the former allows one to lead a happy life but exposes one to potentially more workplace dangers. One could die even without knowing the cause. (A number of odd traffic accidents that took place in Taiwan recently best illustrate the point.) The latter safeguards one's workplace safety. In this orderly society, where citizens live by the law, people are not necessarily better mannered. The rich are not necessarily happy and, according to Hong Kong's statistics in the last decade or so, the poor are getting poorer every day. It would seem Taiwan is a moderately affluent society shaped by the Confucian ideology while Hong Kong is like a society ruled by the legalists devoid of human warmth.

In his address on 16 December before the marathon, Lung-Bin Hau, Mayor of Taipei, gave a little display of his English. And in Hong Kong, many people are similarly proud in regarding English as their mother tongue and some even take special pride in speaking with pure Oxford accent, recalling the days of post-war Taiwan when some people saw it as a batch of honour to be able to speak Japanese.

Both Taiwan and Hong Kong promote internalisation and therefore put special emphasis on the use of English. Yet, language is just a tool of communication. For the purpose of international communication, there is no avoiding using English when necessary. Nevertheless, the importance of a language rests in the use it can be put to. When we talk about internationalisation, we should adopt best international practices in order to achieve higher standard. The various problems we find in Taiwan and Hong Kong today, such as the disparity of wealth, the failure of public authority to manifest itself, the half-hearted observance of workplace safety, and the unwillingness to address the real issues for what they are, have nothing to do with English. Set against the advanced international standard to which we like to measure ourselves, both Taiwan and Hong Kong still have some catching-up to do.

My visit to Taipei and my participation in the marathon have once again provided a footnote to the essence of "international standard".

Obsession with English in the promotion of internationalisation is comparable to focusing on details while being blind to the essential principles. Rather than pursuing wrong priorities, it is better to deal with the real issues, work more on regulating workplace safety and put more effort on developing the middle class. Let us talk less about lofty but vacuous principles and do more practical work in our life.

January 14, 2013

 

 

 

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