Generation Gap and Knowledge Gap

In Hong Kong, at issue may be a knowledge gap that the Martin Lee event has stoked. Anyone with reasonably good English reading skills would be puzzled at the fuss some pro-Beijing politicians have been making. Apparently various versions of translations of Lee’s Wall Street Journal article have surfaced in the media, with different nuances depending on the medium’s political bias. Courtesy of ESWN, the original article can be found here.

It’s nothing new that the demagogues have seized the chance to start a smearing campaign on Lee, twisting the true meaning and spirit of his article. But it would be really sad if educated Hong Kong people are incapable of understanding the article or gullible enough to be swayed by others without having read the article in its entirety and come to their own conclusion by way of critical thinking.

Back to the generation gap article, translated as follows:-

“Some senior artists have recently held a discussion forum in the city of Beijing, during which they loudly declared: ‘We should do something to curb the bad influence of crass songs played on the internet and promote the healthy development of internet songs.’ One thing certain is that, in the youngsters’ world of music, such words are nothing more than a stone that falls into the bottom of the ocean after causing a few ripples. Very soon it will appear as though nothing has ever happened. If you think this is sad, well, it is the sadness of life itself which is a metamorphic process.

In my view, this is in actual fact an issue of generation gap. And people often confuse such an issue with the dispute over good and bad tastes. Senior artists are often asked these questions: ‘The artists that you think are so cultured, like Li Ju (李谷), not to mention Deng Lijun (鄧麗君), weren’t they considered as crass in the 1980s? Even operas, hasn’t there always been argument as to whether they are artistic or crass? Artist Qu Jian (崔健) whom we used to love but whom the senior artists found hard to accept, has long become an old classic.’

Of course there is good music and there is bad music. There is likewise a difference between honesty and falsehood, between depth and shallowness, and between a virtuoso and a neophyte. But how do you differentiate? Some people think that television should not broadcast certain ‘shallow’ songs, but honestly, I do not think those songs are any worse than a lot of pompous and pretentious songs. And it does not surprise me that such pompous and pretentious songs are often classified as artistic.

Senior artists do not object to those songs because they are familiar with them. To describe songs that one is familiar with as cultured while calling other people’s preference as uncouth is a little awkward to say the least. But if that is what they really think, they have a right to express their thought. What is said is said, we don’t have to get all worked up.

What worries people now is whether or not these senior artists, after hitting a stone wall in their attempt to ‘promote the healthy development of internet songs’, will turn their embarrassment into action to try to convince the authorities to censor internet songs. What we should deliberate on is why the senior artists find it necessary to use such harsh slogans and even mobilizing political support to achieve their end when they can easily convey their ideas and expertise about art to the young generation in a warm, educating and touching manner.

The world belongs to the young. Maybe this is incorrect – the world belongs to everybody of course. Young people should respect history and tradition. Old people possess rich knowledge and experience and should be respected. As much as we claim to be a nation of filial piety with a long history, do history and the older generation mean anything to the young ones, I wonder?

In the arena of culture, I think if the senior folks wish to relay their tradition to the next generation, they have to do it by means of influence rather than forceful imposition, with particular caution not to use political power. The act of mouthing slogans and calling for curbs in actual fact is more like the way of the young people. The power of art is in a sense a reinvention of character. If senior artists can do more to self-examine, to observe others’ feelings and understand society, so as to let young people feel the ardor of justice, candor and kindness, then their influence would be much stronger.”