Book review: Free Will by Sam Harris

The late Christopher Hitchens was once asked whether he believed in free will. His reply was classic Hitchens. “Well I have to say yes.”

Sam Harris, a friend of Hitchens, would no doubt have laughed approvingly. Whilst Harris may lack his friend’s witt and encyclodepic knowledge, he does have a focus and a sombriety that does add substance to the argument. His style is simple, engaging and unashamedly popular. What he lacks in detail and supporting argument he makes up with a tight focus on what is relevant to what he is proposing.

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As Catalans call a referendum, we dare not risk China’s wrath in Hong Kong 加泰羅尼亞人號召公投,但香港人不敢這樣做

Evan looks at the parallels between the Catalan referendum and the 2014 poll, and the following Occupy protests. Whilst he sees many similarities, he stresses that there is a fundamental difference: the relationship of Hong Kong people with our national government is defined by fear. We dare not have a referendum. And our “pragmatism” is not pragmatic, but really a sign of oppression.

編按:Evan 審視加泰羅尼亞公投、香港 2014 年民意調查,以及之後的佔領行動,雖然從中看到很多相似之處,但 Evan 強調兩地人民有根本區別:香港人與政府的關係是由恐懼所決定的,我們因此不敢公投;我們所謂的「實用主義」並不務實,而是真正被壓迫的跡象。

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The Eurasian Face

“Where are you from?”

As a Eurasian I am often asked this question. I do not believe it is because I am for any reason particularly noteworthy in either my looks, habits or actions. I’ve tended to be one for blending in to a crowd. I do not stand tall, model-like, proclaiming my desirability with a toothy smile and tight jeans. So it pains me to admit it’s unlikely to be a chat up line.

And the question where I am from is often followed by a guess.

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The Two Worlds of Times Square

At Times Square in Causeway Bay there are two long flights of escalators. The first carries people from street level up in to the atrium. The second carries shoppers further up and on to the first of several shopping levels.

I got to know Times Square and the surrounding neighbourhood twenty years ago when, as a secondary school student, I made some extra pocket money running errands for a company whose offices were in Tower 1. Each day that summer I would take the escalators.

The first flight of escalators brought me to the office lifts. It was a Times Square that I slowly discovered – a place of drab cubicles, laminated desks and hissing photocopiers; and a place of work. The second escalator brought me to the Times Square I knew. It was a more familiar and welcoming place. My mother would buy tennis shoes for the family here, and a few storeys up was the games arcade where I would meet friends. I never particularly liked the mall, but it was still an environment I recognised, and a place I could understand within the context of living in Hong Kong.

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Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movement: a Reflection of Hong Kong 佔中與雨傘運動 — 反思香港局面

(編按: 3 年後的今日, Evan 反思佔中和雨傘運動帶來的改變,在本文他亦突顯香港凝聚的各種身份和價值觀。 展望未來, Evan 警告如果香港政府和中央繼續害怕人民講述真相,「河蟹」當年所發生的事情,那麼香港回歸祖國所建立的關係將會支離破碎,香港再次淪為移民、難民和帝國製造者的殖民地。)

3 years after the protests, Evan reflect on Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movement, and the way our reactions to it has come highlight the various identities and values that are together Hong Kong. Looking forward he warns that if our government and Beijing continues to fear the truth and to censor what happened, the relationships that have made Hong Kong home will be broken and it will regress to once again being a colony for immigrants, refugees and empire-builders.

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Patten Shows How Governance Has Changed, But How Much Is Carrie Lam Allowed To Do? 彭定康到訪顯香港管治變化,但林鄭又可被允許作出多少改善呢?

(編按:Evan 在本文指,香港殖民地時期最後一住港督彭定康最近訪港,突出了我城管治情況有多大變化。他認為彭定康對批評和反對意見的尊重,以及建議多與民接觸,不應被視為一個驚喜。 Evan 最後提到,香港人要問的真正問題是,不斷分裂的社會底下正在影響政治時,林鄭是否被允許作出選擇呢?)

In this essay, Evan argues how the recent visit of Hong Kong’s last governor Chris Patten highlights how much governance has changed in this city. He argues that Patten’s respect for criticism and opposing views, and his advice to engage with people, should not come as a surprise. He says the real question Hong Kong people must ask is whether in defining the divisive politics that afflicts the city is Carrie Lam allowed a choice at all?

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Britain may regain some dignity by speaking up for Hong Kong 英國為港發聲或仍能挽回一些尊嚴

編按:方禮倫在本文指,當年英國政府很可能不期望「中英聯合聲明」得到兌現,但仍執意與中國簽署聲明。 他認為,儘管看似無能為力,但英國有法律和道德上的義務維護聲明。為港發聲不僅可使英國在北京獲得更大的尊重,也表現出英國人的價值觀。

Evan writes that it was likely the British government knowingly signed the Joint Declaration with no expectation of the treaty being honoured. He argues that whilst Britain may seem powerless, it has a legal and moral obligation to call out a wrong. Doing so would not only likely earn Britain greater respect in Beijing, but also represent the values of the British people.

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