Sunday, January 04, 2009

Political Correctness Can Be A Buzzkill

Saw a very interesting (and agreeable, if I may add) column on HK Magazine* written by Chip Tsao. Here goes---

We’re in 2009, not 2551

January 2nd, 2009

I received a greeting card this year from the SAR chief executive’s office. Or more precisely, I received a card wishing me only “a prosperous new year” without mentioning “Merry Christmas.” It is a popular Western liberal fad these days to think that saying “Merry Christmas” could offend all Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus of the world.

It is no surprise that the chief executive should follow this universal rule of political correctness, especially when Michelle Obama is mailing out greeting cards with the even more neutral message of “Happy Winter Holidays.” But if referring to anything associated with Jesus Christ is a crime, the American president-elect will have an awful lot to “change.” Obama will be sworn in with his hand on the Bible. He will end his Oath of Office with the words, “so help me God.” Should he place the Koran and Hindu and Buddhists scripts together, and specify which god he is seeking help from (Allah perhaps, in order not to offend the Muslims of the world)?

If it should be out of vogue to say “Merry Christmas” together with “Happy New Year,” then why are we entering 2009, a year with a reference to the birth of Christ? Could Hong Kong become the first country in the world to officially adopt the use of the Buddhist calendar? For one thing, there would be no countdown celebration of the so-called “New Year” in Lan Kwai Fong this year seeing as we would simply be in the middle of year 2551.

The fear that wishing a merry Christmas and a happy new year to someone could “offend” all non-Christians in the world is not just a naïve hypothesis, but a subtle act of discrimination in the name of “multiculturalism.” It assumes that all Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus are so narrow-minded and irrational that they would be deeply “offended” and “hurt” by the sheer mentioning of these greetings, and as a result, the implication is that they might be motivated to hatch a plot to blow up the Canterbury Cathedral or St. Peter’s Basilica as revenge. So let’s not “offend” them, just as we would avoid provoking a mad dog on the street—don’t look into its eyes, lest it barks and bites.

Western political-correctionists should pay a visit to Hong Kong. I think they’d be surprised by how many Peter Wongs, Paul Chans and Mary Cheungs there are here, all of them using self-adopted Christian names that make us Hong Kong people likelier to obtain a tourist visa to the US or Australia than the brow-furrowing XYZs of our mainland Chinese countrymen—Xing Xiao-zhong or Zhang Xiao-ying, etc. Maybe it’s also surprising that St. Teresa’s Hospital remains one of the best and most expensive private hospitals in Hong Kong, and nobody has demanded its name be changed to Tin Hau, the Empress of the Seas as worshipped by Cantonese fishermen. So, after a Merry Christmas, a Happy Christian New Year to you all.

Chip Tsao is a best-selling author and columnist.
A former reporter for the BBC, his columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.

*HK Magazine No. 764~ Friday, January 2, 2009~
. (I hope I don't get into trouble because of copy-pasting)