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那不僅是郵筒,它也代表了我們的歷史價值 More than a Post Box: that which blinds us to the value of our own history

方禮倫寫道,香港的郵筒不僅標誌著我們過去的殖民歷史,更是我們香港身份的一部分。任何「去殖化」的行為不應被強加於香港人身上,而須由他們自己來決定和執行。譯文由 Sally 提供,英文原文在譯文之下。

Evan writes that Hong Kong’s postboxes are more than markers of our colonial past, but of our Hong Kong identity; and that any process of decolonisation can not be imposed, and must be defined and enacted by the people themselves. The Chinese translation is provided by Sally.

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本週由兩個故事開始。 2015 年 10 月 5 日(週一),國際新聞網站上傳送著古城巴爾米拉 (Palmyra) ,即現今的敘利亞的寺廟遺址被破壞的畫面。進行這些罪行的伊斯蘭國 (ISIS) 信徒,盲目地只容他們所選擇的意識形態存在,而無視其他人類的共同的歷史。

我第一次接觸到這些圖片時,是從一個朋友的智能電話裏看到。那朋友問:「為什麼我身體的一部分感覺如此強烈,有想哭的衝動?」

我答:「我也是。」

我們兩人都不曾造訪敘利亞,或對當地文化有任何關係。我們也知道被破壞的只是一片廢墟——那是來自一群不復存在的民族和文明,為他們經已放棄的信仰而遺留下的建築結構而已。儘管如此,這種破壞仍是很切身的且不容忽視。

就在同一天,地球的這邊廂,本地新聞報導了香港郵政決定將全港剩餘的 59 個殖民時代舊郵筒的徽號遮蓋。被指有問題的徽號是英國皇室的冠冕,它結合了英國和中國兩地的特點,而且是香港獨有。

他們說,移除徽號是爲了避免混淆,而該行動是香港郵政一個更全面的「去殖化」計劃之一。值得一提的是,香港郵政早已更名,那些具歷史意義的郵筒之前已被決定將以原有形式保存。這以前從沒有被視為一個問題。

作為一篇新聞故事,這件事第一眼看來似乎並重要。沒有發生爆炸,也沒有世界遺產遺址被破壞。然而,這個消息卻引來了本地輿論的強大迴響。

在我的家族和社交圈子裏,我沒聽到有哪一個人支持郵局的決定。雖然沒人爲此掉淚,但聽到這消息的人很多都有種茫然若失的感覺。保留這些歷史徽號沒有也不會影響服務,也不可能有人會因此無法辨別郵箱。做出這決定的動機顯然不是爲了避免混淆。

幾年前參觀鯉魚門時,有一位老居民向我展示了這樣的一個郵筒。記得她把自己的手放在郵筒上面,彷彿在撫摸著一位老朋友。她說: 「它在這裡的日子比我還長,我們一起看到香港的變化,並一起垂老。」讀到本週這段新聞時,我仿佛又聽到了老太太的臨別時的那句話:「在我離開後,這個郵箱還會長存在這兒,標記著我和香港的故事。」

把那些爲數不多的郵筒上的標誌更換掉,程度當然比不上巴爾米拉的破壞。香港郵政不是伊斯蘭國,那些做決定的人也不是原教旨主義者。但這兩個動作同樣是盲目的,都是因意識形態的驅動,而冷待我們的歷史和身份。伊斯蘭國的短視,使他們的視線無法超越自己認同的伊斯蘭歷史框架;因爲被操縱的民族故事,使香港這些人不願也不敢面對歷史的事實。

貝爾神廟 (Temple of Bel) 的破壞對我們的實際影響也許不是建築實體上,而是它標誌了我們共同認識的歷史被毀掉。這或許不是我們自身經歷過的故事,但卻代表了我們身處歷史洪流的一部分。女王塞諾維婭 (Queen Zenobia) 可能早就死了,古代的絲綢之路城市可能早已失去光彩,但它們的意義卻仍活在我們的記憶中。嘗試消除這種記憶,蓄意破壞舊有的自由意志,強加新的意識形態,才是根本錯誤的地方。

巴爾米拉的寺廟,跟殖民地時代的郵箱一樣,在我們眼中是美麗的,因為他們代表的是真實。所以破壞他們這種行爲極端醜惡,是赤裸裸的、本能的、深刻的、殘酷的根本錯誤。

伊斯蘭國的真正的恐怖不在於他們的行動,而在他們否認歷史的動機。可悲的是,這些也是他們自己的權利。歷史的留痕,對他們來説不是種喜悅而是一種威脅,這種拒絕歷史、拒絕真相的態度是如斯可怕。

巴爾米拉的破壞和香港郵政去殖民地標誌兩件事在規模上或者不能比擬,但他們所代表的罪行是如出一轍。兩者都是不以事實為據,而被當權者的意識形態驅使,強行作出的罪行。這些行爲既非愛國也非虔誠,而是盲目和狹窄的。

大家都知道,那些舊郵筒的徽號不代表英國郵局,也不代表英國皇室,即使它們曾經確實如此。他們就像港式奶茶一樣,是一種殖民遺產,代表當時的一種狀況,和香港本地的身份特色。那在鯉魚門的老太太說得對:那將被遮蓋的,被指責為代表殖民地的徽號,其實標誌了我們的生活和香港的故事。

辛辣的指責令這種強行的「去殖化」,特別令人難以下嚥。難道我們真的可以說外國勢力不再左右任命、又或是控制我城的管治?外國人不再霸佔有影響力與責任的位置?不管他們的好意,在文化、道德以至語言學上,你敢說他們沒有影響決定嗎?殖民主義是建基於一個地方的人無法有效地管理居住地的假設之上,並在某程度保証貿易和投資的條件;有一個「正確」的方法向大眾交代、一套「正確」的理解方法。對於許多人來說,這些思維仍然在我城扮演重要角色。

最終,其實只有經歷過殖民時期的人才可定義什麼是殖民主義。只有這些人能決定(不論過去或是現在)仍然是種負累的事物,以及應如何解決這問題。在香港的任何「去殖化」行為,只能由香港人自己來定義和實行。

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This week began with two stories. On Monday, 5th October 2015 international news reverberated to the story of the destruction of temple ruins at the site of the ancient city of Palmyra, in present day Syria. This crime against our common history was carried out in the name of Islamic State, and justified only in the eyes of those who are blind to anything existing outside their chosen ideology.

I first became aware of the news when I was shown images on a friend’s phone. “Why does a part of me feel such a strong urge to cry?”, he said. “I feel it too,” I replied.

Neither of us had visited Syria or relate personally either to the place nor the culture. We were also aware that was destroyed were ruins – abandoned structures devoted to abandoned beliefs of a people and civilisation that no longer exists. And yet, we felt that their destruction represented something both personal and of great importance.

On the same day local news was dominated by the story that Hong Kong Post would be covering up the colonial era insignias on the remaining 59 historic post-boxes in the city. The offending cyphers feature the British royal crowns set to a design incorporating a mix of both British and local Chinese symbolism, and are unique to Hong Kong.

We were told they had to go to “avoid confusion”, and that the action was part of a wider plan to gradually “de-colonise” the postal service. It is worth noting that the Hong Kong postal service has already been substantially rebranded, and that the preservation of a few historic working postboxes in their original form was not before seen as an issue.

As a news story this may at first consideration seem of little importance. There were no explosions, and no world heritage sites had been destroyed. And yet the news generated a strong and vocal reaction.

Among my familial and social circles I have not heard one person support the Post Office’s decision. And whilst no tears were shed, their is an unmistakable sense of loss. The retention of these historic cyphers has not and will not affect service, nor is it likely that anyone will fail to correctly identify a working postbox. There is no confusion on what motivated this decision.

A few years ago whilst visiting Lei Yu Mun I was shown one of the offending postboxes by an elderly local resident. I remember her running her hand over it, as if caressing an old friend. “It’s been here longer than me,” she said. “We’ve seen Hong Kong change and have grown old together.” Reading the news this week I again heard the old lady’s parting words:

“This postbox will be here, as it is, long after I’ve gone; a marker of my life’s story. And a marker of the Hong Kong story.”

Replacing an emblem on a handful of historic postboxes is as an action not comparable with the destruction at Palmyra. Hong Kong Post is not ISIS, and those who initiated the decision are not fundamentalists. But behind both actions is a blind, ideologically driven callousness to the truth of who we are. The myopia of Islamic State to see beyond the framework of their own version of Islamic history is mirrored by a centrally imposed national narrative blind to the realities of a history they do not wish to acknowledge.

The destruction of the Temple of Bel affects us less for what it represented as architecture, but for its significance as a marker of our shared understanding of history. It is a story I may not have personally shared, but it bore witness to a history of which I am a part. Queen Zenobia may be long dead and the ancient cities of the Silk Road may have long ago lost their lustre, but their significance lives on in our conscious memory. It is the attempt to eradicate this memory, to impose a new ideologically driven reality by the deliberate destruction or discretion of the old, that makes these acts so fundamentally wrong.

The temples of Palmyra, like the colonial era postbox, were beautiful in our eyes because they were true. Thus their discretion is an act of extreme ugliness – and act that feels, instinctively and deeply, not only brutal but fundamentally wrong.

Thus the real horror of ISIS lies not with their actions, however deplorable these may be in their own right, but in their motivation. It is the denial of history, and the desire not to know that is feels so instinctively wrong to us; when evidence does not enlighten but is instead understood as a threat.

The destruction in Palmyra and the removal of colonial era insignia on Hong Kong postboxes may not be comparable in scale, but the offence they represent is identical nature. Both are physical imposition of a predetermined and ideologically driven narrative, driven not by the realities of what a people remember, but by what an ideology demands. These actions are neither patriotic nor pious. They are blind and intolerant.

It is public knowledge that the offending postbox cyphers are not symbols of either a British post office nor specifically of the British crown, even if at one time they may have been. Like milk tea, they are a colonial legacy, shaped by a local context, that have become central to the Hong Kong identity. The elderly woman in Lei Yu Mun was right: what is being covered, and what has given offence as colonial, is in fact a marker of our own lives and of Hong Kong’s story.

There is an added poignancy to this argument for forced decolonisation that makes it especially hard to swallow. Can it truly be said that a foreign power no longer appoints our governors, nor controls the administration of our city? Are positions of influence and responsibility no longer occupied by a class of foreign people who are, regardless of their good intentions, culturally, morally and linguistically apart from those on whom their decisions have sway? Colonialism was founded on a presumption that a local people are unable to effectively administer themselves to a degree that would guarantee the conditions requisite for trade and investment; that there was a “right” approach that need to be exported, and a “right” way of understanding. For many, these dynamics are still very much at play.

It is ultimately only the colonised who can define what is colonial. Only the people themselves can decide what was and still is an imposition, and how this should be addressed. Any process of decolonisation in Hong Kong can only be defined and enacted by the people themselves.

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About the Author

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Born and raised in Hong Kong, Evan is a writer, essayist and commentator. He has written and been published on a broad range of topics, from art, literature and aesthetic, to social and political commentaries, with a particular focus on issues of culture and identity.

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