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Terence Mclaughlins View On Dirt Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1629 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the Brand Hong Kong campaign, the HKSAR Government always depicts Hong Kong as a diverse city with an open, tolerant and pluralistic community. It says, people here are free to air their views and follow their religious and political beliefs. Hong Kong’s diversity is also reflected in its mix of old and new, Western and Chinese architecture and the array of international cuisine on offer [1] . However, these features can only show Hong Kong is a multicultural city, but not a diverse one. In the reality, Hong Kong people still fail to tolerate and accept somebody or something which go beyond their limit. Therefore, it is doubtful that Hong Kong is actually a “diversity city”. In this essay, Hong Kong people’s ideas of what is dirty would be analyzed with an outsider case, based on Terence McLaughlin’s arguments on dirt.

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2. Terence McLaughlin’s View on Dirt

According to McLaughlin, there is no such material as absolute dirt, whether a thing is dirty or not is only our judgment. Dirt can be almost anything that we choose to call dirty. It has often been defined as “matter out of place”, in other words, something can be dirty in one place but not dirty in another place [2] . When a person is being asked about what is dirt, probably he or she may instantly reply things that contain bacteria or germs would be dirty, for example, worms, mice and waste.

This ideology could be attributed to the concept that everything in the civilized society has to be clean or pure. It is not good to have things that are “bad” or “dirty”. Nevertheless, as suggested by McLaughlin, there is no absolute dirt. In some countries, worm is an ingredient for cooking typical cuisines. Mice are widely used in scientific experiments. Some waste can be biodegraded to produce methane, so as to generate electricity. People classify these things as “dirty” just because they are usually appearing out of place.

It is an entirely relative concept that dirt can be tolerated or not be tolerated. Slimy and sticky things are dirty because they are hard to remove and unpleasant, people are afraid that the boundary between self and other is being blurred. And thus they will be contaminated by other people whom they do not like. The concepts of pollution and purity, dirt and cleanliness are social constructs [3] , they are related to given society’s view of contamination. They are not based on bacteriology, but on avoidance of defilement by others. Beliefs about dirt are therefore ideological, they are related to power relations in society. Theories of dirt are tools for understanding and investigating inequity and marginality in our society.

3. Hong Kong-Mainland Conflict

It is common for Hong Kongers to see “outsiders”, i.e. people who are different from our population, as dirty. Mainlanders from our motherland – China – are one example and it will be analyzed and discussed in depth in this essay.

Since the implementation of Individual Visit Scheme in 2003, numerous mainland tourists have started to visit Hong Kong every day. Hong Kong people like to describe them as “rude”, “unhygienic” and “arrogant”, due to their biased impression. Although the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China has already taken place for more than 15 years, many Hong Kong people still refuse to consider themselves as Chinese subconsciously. The main reasons are the difference in language, culture and living environment. They tend to recognize their nationality as “Hong Kongese” rather than “Chinese”. These differences even lead to some conflicts among people from the two territories in past few years. The stem of the problem is not only the difference mentioned above and unhygienic issues, but could be explained by McLaughlin’s view on dirt in the following aspects:

3.1 Dirt is Ideological

According to the “one country, two system” idea proposed by Deng Xiaoping, the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China, there would be only one China, but independent Chinese regions such as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan could have their own capitalist economic and political systems, while the rest of China uses the socialist system [4] . Therefore, Hong Kong continued to maintain a capitalist economy as it was a British colony, while that of China is a socialist one.

This capitalist economic system allowed Hong Kong to be more economically prosperous than China in the 20th century. From the flourishing textile, watch and jewelry industries in the 1960’s, to the switch of main economic sectors to retail, finance and real estate in 1980’s, Hong Kong people were generally having a higher level of income and living standard than people in mainland. Also, as a well-developed entrepot, Hong Kong plays an important role in the Asian financial system. This might make Hong Kong people build a mindset of they are superior to mainland Chinese. On the other hand, Hong Kong is still reserving the British law and tax systems, but not using those from China. People may therefore have an idea that their economic and political systems are more civilized, since corruptions and black-market transactions are not commonly found in Hong Kong [5] . Unlike the case in China, human right and freedom of speech are highly protected in Hong Kong. These factors made Hong Kong people to feel that they are superior.

3.2 Matter Out of Place

When mainland tourists spitting, throwing rubbish everywhere, eating or drinking on public transport, sitting on the floor, letting their children to excrete in public areas, probably most Hong Kongers will classify them as dirty. This is because those are out-of-mainstream behaviours. In the eyes of Hong Kong citizen, mainland tourists might have already become a sign of dirty. However, in the eyes of businessmen, mainland tourists are VIPs due to their high purchasing power. Their visit undeniably boosts Hong Kong’s economy and generates more occupation vacancies. Mainlanders are contributors but absolutely not dirty in this case.

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In a more extreme situation, in the Olympic Games, when a Chinese athlete wins a gold medal, many Hong Kong people will celebrate the victory immediately, and be proud of being a Chinese in this short moment of time. Both mainland tourists and the Olympic athletes are Chinese, Hong Kong people discriminate the former but see the later as idols. This is caused by matter out of place.

3.3 The Concept of “I and Other”

Because of the unpredictable political change in 1997, many Hong Kong people purposed to migrate to foreign countries rather than staying in Hong Kong before that year arrives. During that period of time, Hong Kong people frequently questioned about their identity. The fear of facing the chaotic change and the pride of being a citizen of the prosperous city reaffirm their identity as a “Hong Kongese” instead of a Chinese.

Besides the self-identity crisis, the moral and national education (MNE) is also being strongly opposed by Hong Kong citizen. They are afraid that the young generations will be brainwashed by the contents of this subject and therefore become a Communist. If this comes true, Hong Kong will be a city identical to those in mainland very soon. This is what Hong Kong people not willing to see, as they are afraid that the boundary between self and other (Hong Kong and mainland) is being blurred.

3.4 Be Tolerated or Not Be Tolerated

Another issue concerned by Hong Kong people is their resources and welfare are being exploited and snatched by mainlanders, from anchor babies to the fight for milk powder. Hong Kong people cannot tolerate the privilege which originally belonged to them to fall into the hands of others. They protested and requested the Hong Kong Government to set up laws to prohibit mainlanders to continue taking benefits from their city. On the contrary, Hong Kong people would not argue that their neighbours are using up their resources. This is because they see each other as compatriots, while mainlanders are not.

4. Conclusion

Mainlanders are not necessarily dirty. Hong Kong people are having bias and discriminations to them, dirt is only the excuse to discriminate them. Describing people, things or practices as clean or dirty is not a socially neutral act, it is created and constructed by the public. Hong Kong is in fact not as open and tolerant as mentioned in the “Brand Hong Kong” campaign. The behaviours of mainlanders may not be correct and do cause harm to Hong Kong people. No one can judge whether Hong Kong people’s opposition and accusation towards mainlanders are reasonable or not. This is because different people have different angles of view. The only thing could be concluded is that, Hong Kong still has a far way to go to achieve a real “diverse” city.


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