It is my belief, that the decline in the sense of history among the young is neither a consequence of demolishing this or that artifact, nor a consequence of the want of democracy, but (perhaps) a consequence of a gradual and long-term shift in the way we uphold or not uphold certain values and standards. For the sense of history comes not from the sheer presence of a thing, but from the desire to connect the present with the past, the desire, that is, to see ourselves as inheriting a culture, as being bidden to live up to it.
Two or three decades ago, educated people were expected to write elegant Chinese; writing, they also felt that they were living up to a traditional standard; those (educated or not) who wrote uglily, would not boast of that ugliness (say, as fashionable, or expressive of their idiosyncracies), but feel shameful. When an essay was to be judged, people would readily compare it with a classic; they would make references to tradition, to values which were not, as are today, grounded in this "theory" or that "framework," but nourished by a communal history going back to many generations before.
Permit me to take the Jews and the Japanese as examples. Two ethnic groups both having a very strong sense of history, they do not develop that sense by democracy, nor maintain it that way. It is when the Jews try very hard to ascertain how a certain word in the Torah ought to be interpreted, feeling that they are engaging in a dialogue with rabbis many centuries before them; or when the Japanese endeavor to decipher a certain ritual, or a certain text, endeavor perhaps even to include historical references in their political speeches or commentaries; it is in these moments, that the sense of history is kept alive. Nothing to do with democracy whatsoever.
It is in fact a GROSS ERROR, commonly found among commentators on this Forum, to see everything so intimately connected with democracy; as if democracy would be the solution to most problems besetting HK. No. If one accepts, that the sense of history was in fact quite strong in HK before the eighties, but declined rapidly since the early nineties; then one must at least grant that, that ebb and flow does not correspond in any clear fashion with the rise of democratic sentiments or the building of democratic institutions.
Dissociating democracy and the sense of history is, I take it, the first step to a better diagnosis about why the younger generation, while part of which seems to care about cultural artifacts quite passionately, does not, on the whole, show more than minimal interest in upholding certain values and standards. "To appraise how much sense of history young people nowadays have, we do not interview them how they look upon the clock, or whether they believe that the clock should be demolished or no," I wrote on another occasion. "We instead listen to their conversations in university canteens, on the streets, in private gatherings, in public pronouncements, in the way they relate themselves to the totality of meanings (and not only visible and tangible artifacts) from the past."
I do not think that a genuine sense of history is to be promoted by more theories about culture, more post-colonial discourses, or more attempts at fitting bits of culture into academic categories. It is much more promising, I would say, to try to uphold the standards (first in educated communities, and then in society at large), to let young people simply immerse themselves in the HK before the decline of the sense of history. It is only when writing wrongly or uglily is no longer deemed an act of emancipation, but truly something to be ashamed of; only then, I say, will it be possible to cultivate the desire to see history as relevant.
I shall append below a newspaper article which deals with the same themes I wrote of here in a specific case, namely, the Chinese language. I simply cannot see in what way more democracy could ever prevent the problem from worsening; nor can I understand, why there are so few protests against this very unfortunate development. But fancy that there be really such a protest. Who would be the target thereof? Perhaps chiefly the young people themselves. I cannot avoid the impression, therefore, that while there are indeed areas of social life where young people, like the protesters in the recent Incident, can do quite a bit, if they will so, to revive the sense of history, they are rarely inclined to demand of themselves this way.
To blame colonial rule, capitalism, developmentalism, the Government, the Establishment, and all that, for the decline of the sense of history in HK, seems then simply an easy way out: Nothing need be changed on the part of the young people themselves; for every change must be sought elsewhere. This mode of thinking is, I hasten to add, well sustained by a theoretical discourse, which channels day and night all the energy towards fighting that which it names Power. But the spread of this theoretical discourse is, I gather, yet another cause of the decline in the sense of history. How this might be, I can only explicate on another occasion. But taken thus, then the whole discursive edifice, much invoked in the recent protests, needs probably a very serious re-examination. The much promoted solution (the discursive edifice, I mean) may, at the end, turn out to be part of the problem. Not a small part indeed.
其次，「追求卓越」一辭甚為突兀，是從英文的strive for excellence翻譯而來，屬於陳雲君所說的「趕西洋時髦」，是不成熟的媚俗辭藻。傳統漢語有「自強不息」一辭，用之無損文意，如要文雅一些，可以說「為臻善境，孜孜不倦」，或者「孜孜以求完善」。這當中其實涉及漢語辭彙如何健康發展、新舊用語如何取捨的問題，大學的語言專家未知思考及之否？
「深厚」不能配對「資源」，說「豐富」則可。「本土」可用固有的「本地」一辭，不必標新立異。故改之如下：「粵語根基深厚，源遠流長，與本地生活息息相關。」類似情況還有許多，茲不細論，如果要自討苦吃一讀全文，可從互聯網將之下載﹙www.cuhk.edu.hk/bilingualism/ b5/report. htm﹚。