Degrees of familiarity
I heard a joke about two beef steaks. They bumped into each other in the street but didn't acknowledge each other. You see, one of them was rare, or 33% shu (a pun on the Chinese word meaning "doneness" or "familiar with" and "knowing someone") and the other medium, or 50% shu. The reason for their not greeting each other was that they were bu shu, or were not "familiar with" or "did not know" each other.
Familiarity is a relative concept. During the ten years since I came back to the East from the US, I have come to see that one of the chief differences between the East and the West is the way people in Hong Kong and Taiwan claim they are familiar with someone in power as a means to emphasise their own status. This "someone" can refer to an individual, a group of people or even an organisation.
But how familiar are they really?
Here is a typical example. Quite often people claim to be a good friend to someone who is in their prime and gaining in power. But as soon as that power wanes, or some advantage is lost, many of those "very familiar" friends vanish! They can turn away faster than flicking to another webpage, and quickly become just like the 30% "done" steak not acknowledging the 50% "done" one.
Another example involves an appointed official who, facing media reports about a stint as a technical consultant for a mainland organisation, quickly distanced himself from the reports, claiming that the relationship had been "trumped up". When challenged by photos and online material, the official modified his story, saying only a brief meeting and meal with a former head of the organisation had taken place.
It is remarkable how quickly the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and vice versa!
8 July, 2020