Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sticking out.

Made the circuit last night. Kolwoon, Lan Kwai Fong, Wanchai......waking up this morning has been slow to say the least. This is my third attempt to get moving after my second shower of the morning. Back home tomorrow and I know I'll be able to sleep there.

Saw lots of Sailors out last night. It dawned on me again, how obvious and out of place they looked there. The ship had its shore patrol out, but they don't call it shore patrol anymore. They call it the SLG (Ship liaison Group) and instead of black and gold armbands on a uniform, they wear golf shirts. They still stand out though.

Lan Kwai Fong was packed and as the evening wore on, saw some real sweethearts. Nice girls, dressed well in skirts and "f**k me" pumps, being hit on my guys in T-shirts and hats worn backwards. Most of the guys were getting shot down right and left. If you are going to pick up women, one should at least dress up for it.

Like I said, may be I am conditioned, but Americans stand out in the crowd. I could tell instantly who was from the ship and who was a local resident. It actually became a game of sorts to see how right I was. It makes me wonder if folks take the messages about blending in seriously or not. In Hong Kong, sticking out is just a minor annoyance, someplace else it could be the difference between being attacked or not.

Its clear though, from talking to folks that going on liberty has definitely changed from my day. Now the Sailors have to have a designated buddy and one has to go and come together. The old days , where your humble scribe here, would peel off and go prowling on his own are not allowed any more. That's a shame in my humble opinion.

However its in keeping with the trend these days. The US Navy is guilty of a creeping paternalism, just like the government as a whole. I even saw a brief a couple of months ago that talked about teaching Sailors to be "more moral". What the heck does that mean? I know why they are doing this but it seems out of place in an organization who collectively exists to do something very immoral, namely the organized mass murder of other human beings. So it seems appeals to a higher morality is a bit out of place. Probably the better question to be asking is "What gets in the way?" Those things that do, prohibit. The rest, well let the buyer make the decision. That includes by the way, meeting and greeting free-lancers in Wanchai. I wondered how the SLG dealt with that. Did not make it to Neptune but I wonder what they did with Sailors going in there.

The Economist did a story about this tendency to over protect:

As the magazine points out, thinking Americans need to reject this trend. Its the road to ruin:

LIBERALS sometimes dream of a night-watchman state, securing property and person, but no more. They fret that societies have instead submitted to the nanny state, a protective but intrusive matriarch, coddling citizens for their own good. Economists, with their strong faith in rationality and liberty, have tended to agree. As many decisions as possible should be left in the individual's lap, because no one knows your interests better than you do. Most of us have gained from this freedom.

But a new breed of policy wonk is having second thoughts. On some of the biggest decisions in their lives, people succumb to inertia, ignorance or irresolution. Their private failings :obesity, smoking, boozing, profligacy are now big political questions. And the wonks think they have an ingenious new answer a guiding but not illiberal state.

What they propose is "soft paternalism" (see article). Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourselfif only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind. But unlike hard paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aim only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice. Technocrats, itching to perfect society, find it irresistible. What should the supposed beneficiaries think?

If they are wise they will say no thank you. For real freedom is also about the freedom to make bad choices as well as good ones. As the writer of this article points out:

Its champions will say that soft paternalism should only be used for ends that are unarguably good: on the side of sobriety, prudence and restraint. But private virtues such as these are as likely to wither as to flourish when public bodies take charge of them. And life would be duller if every reckless spirit could outsource self-discipline to the state. Had the government deprived Coleridge of opium, he might have been happier. Then again, there might have been no Kubla Khan.

I'll enjoy my own road thank you very much. I've had personal experience with useless do gooders who thought they had the right to tell what I could and could not do and how I should live. Every time I go up in to Lan Kwai Fong I think of them. And then I hoist my beer and given them a hearty , "F**k you" in my mind. "I'm still here you greasy bastards!" and I'll keep standing up to you. I've seen what these folks are selling and I'm not buying it. I'll be at work on time thank you very much. But the rest is up to me. That's the way it is supposed to be.

And now I go drink beer in Stanley Bay...........

Ja ne


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