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The Post-80s Movement

A Value War

by Jeremy Chu

Jeremy Chu is a member of SCM Hong Kong and one of the authors of the book Post-80s Self Delving Youth published by SCM Hong Kong.

In the past two years, there’s an ambiguous term called “Post-80s” arisen in the Hong Kong society. I call it ambiguous because there are at least two distinctive meanings for the term. First, it seems to refer to all young people born in the 80s, this is exactly how the mainstream media is using it. However, the gang who uses the term to self-nominate seems to have a different view on its meaning. As a member of the society, we see that the mainstream churches appear to be confused about this growing “Post-80s Movement”. Hence, SCM Hong Kong launched the “Post-80s Self-Research Program”. With qualitative interviews, thorough media research and analysis, we summarized our findings and published them in our book – “Post-80s Self Delving Youth”, as a little round up for the first phase of the Program.

Like Jesus says that new wine should be poured into new wineskins, to understand the current “Post-80s Movement”, we may need a new theological framework. It’s not simply about learning new concepts; most importantly, how it leads us into everyday practice. As the relationship between orthopraxis and orthodoxy emphasized in liberation theology, biblical hermeneutics is not only about the methodology, more crucially, it is the theological examination and reflection on self-world-view as a whole. It’s not simply gaining more knowledge but as a guidance for our thoughts and livings.

We cannot have any practical theological reflection if we don’t understand our surrounding, i.e. de-circumstanced makes orthopraxis impossible. After 1997, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred from United Kingdom to the PRC, since that,

Hong Kong people are experiencing a downstream of social position. Through the collusion between the governing and the business sector, and the unbearable “toppling property hegemony”, the social immobility in recent years is undeniable. With more and more people fall below the poverty line and increasing Gini-coefficient, people starts to recognize there’s something structurally wrong in our society. From various government-proposed infrastructure projects, to the implementation of public policies, the people starts to realize whenever there is conflict between public interest and private profit in Hong Kong, the former one is always sacrificed. In such a time, a group of loosely organized youngsters—the Post-80s, stood up to pinpoint the deep-seated problems and advocated that changes are needed.

The actions and discourses from the Post-80s are challenging the unexamined knowledge of the public. From the past two years, I witnessed many people being awoken by the drumbeat of the Post-80s, their kneeing and bowing caused strong spiritual impact for the passers-by [5]. As if hearing the wisdom shouts in the street, lifts her voice in the square. At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters the instruction for righteousness, justice and equality. If anyone has as ear, let him hear.

However, when this self-declared term entered the mainstream media, it is twisted into something else. It is no longer about the conflict between different ideologies, but stunted as simply economical struggle among generations. Post-80s becomes just a biological identity.

Through in depth studies and close interaction with the “real” Post-80s these two years, I conclude the flag of Post-80s have at least the following characteristics: The real Post-80s are those actively mobilizing social movements; those who continuously contribute in local identity construction; those against the sole “value of Central”[1] and deliberate possible non-urban sustainable lifestyle. They are against the global exploitation of capitalism and class privilege; and believe the citizens have rights to participate in community planning. The Post-80s feel extremely unpleasant when being undemocratically represented in major issues in the society. As long as there is a fair platform, they are willing to discuss all topics in rational ground. They are direct activists, who believe social movements can bring real chances to the society. The Post-80s Movement is a dynamic, continuously sublimating, spontaneous people crusade. It’s never a war among generations, but a war among distinctive values.

Unfortunately, we found that even the major social-caring Christian organizations in Hong Kong failed to identify the true characteristics of the Post-80s Movement. Some of them even turned the problems the youths are facing into the problem of the youths. SCM Hong Kong wishes the published book can act as an introduction of the Post-80s Movement for the mainstream churches, and hope the churches can learn from this positive and dynamic crusade. Hence, together, we can build a fairer society for everyone and let God’s kingdom demonstrates on earth. Following are some stories we collected in our book.

In “Master of Job Maintenance in Living”, Wilson, the author gave us a brief review on the education-landscape of our city. He said many friends only continue their studies after graduated because they want to keep their job. As everyone is being expected to obtain a post-graduate degree or diploma, you will be sifted out if you have none. When such demand for higher education arises, the education suppliers, i.e. the university and other educational institutes are more than willing to help fulfill such demand by “producing more certificates”; unfortunately, not in a proper way. In recent years, it’s generally agreed that anyone capable of paying the tuition fee, can basically obtain a higher-diploma, associate degree, or even a taught master degree with minimal effort required. Universities or educational institutes become shopping malls of certificates.

What about those incapable to pay the tuition fee? Another interviewee, CL might give us some insight. As a young man aged 27, CL didn’t attend college. Without a college degree, CL can only work as a low-skill-labor; he just got off work from a fast-food restaurant when Dan interviewed him. The interview took place at CL’s “cube”. Dan called it a cube because it’s too tiny that it failed to accommodate the two of them (i.e. approximately 3ft. x 6ft.). CL alleged that even though the living situation is bad, it’s still better than living at “home” because of his terrible relationship with his violent dad. Repeating meaningless job tasks and receiving disesteemed salary, CL said he doesn’t dare to dream for a lover or to build a family in foreseeable future.

CL’s story is not something extraordinary in Hong Kong. In “Creative Life Planning”, our interviewee who is a young scholar, Kim-ching Chan pointed out that the Post-80s witness the sovereignty transferal of Hong Kong, the disappearing living space for the poor, and the decline of fairness in our legal system. “They can no longer play the game their parents played as the rules had changed,” he said.

After the “wheel-turning” of the Democratic Party in 2010’s Political Reform[2], we saw many citizens cried because the political party that they have supported for years betrayed them in such an important issue. In “The Radical Post-80s”, as a diehard supporter of DP, Ka-ling expressed her deepest disappointment on its betrayal. She said from now on, the collusion would go all the way through. The circle of social movement had broken up because of it too, since most of the Pan-Democrats believe they can no longer trust these past-comrades after the Reformation.

After all, the Post-80s are not the naive and greenhouse-youngsters as the mainstream media described. They born in hardship, faced the transferal of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, Asian Financial Crisis, SARS, Article 23 crisis, and the recent Global Financial Tsunami, etc. They are not simply the witnesses, but direct sufferers as well. From education to career path, from living space to place for sex, from the economy to basic human rights protection, freedom is significantly lessen gradually in all these areas.

Some Post-80s in churches are echoing the social Post-80s Movement too. If Post-80s truly want to regain what are originally belongs to them, and refuse to be undemocratically represented, this “deadly seriousness” is exactly the attitude we should devote in our faith. Our interviewee, Yu mentioned the church leader could no longer monopolize the right to interpret the Words in “Everything Begins in Happy Bible Study: You Have the Call on What the Bible Says”. He shared his Bible study experience with SCMHK, said the discussion is very open-minded; everyone can have his own view. But of course, only those “make sense” ones will be left for consideration. Lai in “Guarding the Church Tradition on the Boundary” commented many churchgoers or even ministers are not respecting the tradition of their own denomination today. Many of them only depend on the pastors on Bible interpretation or theological explication; they are not willing to take up their own responsibility for any theological reflection.

As I stated in my research article, “The Ignorant Church and the Unfinished Post-80 Movement”, except for a few scholars, the majority of the church leaders failed to understand the true characteristics of the Post-80s. They only used the biological identity as the mainstream media does to analyze this dynamic war for alternative values. Some of them even problematized the youths from sufferers to troublemakers. In facing the real problems the Post-80s bought up, such as land justice, globalized capitalism, non-urban living style, etc., the mainstream churches are sluggish and failed to respond.

In “The Theological Meaning of the Post-80s Movement”, Frankie emphasized that experience is the primary source for understanding the truth. When facing uncertainty, Hong Kong people need to confront it with our subjectivity to prevent from being colonized or re-colonized. And for our subjectivity, it must be built according to our domestic experience. In the past, when the Hong Kong’s theological circle mentioned the concept of domestic, it’s always related to traditional Chinese culture, which has nothing to do with our political or economical structure. Our pop-culture, agriculture and fisheries, grassroots culture are always ignored. It’s time for us to rethink about structural injustice encountered in our society. In the chapter on comprehensive analysis, Kim Ling said the Post-80s refused to only focus on the traditional distribution justice and step forward on intergeneration justice. In church content, the major opponent of the intergeneration injustice is the arrogance of the church leaders. Frankie believes in understanding the praxis of the Post-80s, we need to first unravel the myth of adultism[4]. He wishes more brothers and sisters to join our crusade, and we can help develop this theological-paradigm-shift together.

The actions and discourses from the Post-80s are challenging the unexamined knowledge of the public. From the past two years, I witnessed many people being awoken by the drumbeat of the Post-80s, their kneeing and bowing caused strong spiritual impact for the passers-by[5]. As if hearing the wisdom shouts in the street, lifts her voice in the square. At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters the instruction for righteousness, justice and equality. If anyone has as ear, let him hear.

Footnotes:
  1. The value of Central refers to an urban myth of capitalism in Hong Kong. It praises consumerism and worship “successful” capitalists. It believes all privation in society is simply due to the laziness and incapability of individual and has nothing to do with local social or political structure.
  2. During their 2008 Legislative Council Election, the Democratic Party (Hong Kong) promised the voters they will fight for universal suffrage in 2012. However, after secret meeting with the Beijing side, they voted for the government’s 2012 constitutional reform package in the council which has no indicator for universal suffrage in the near future. The move divided opinion in the pan-democratic camp but ultimately allowed the bill to pass. 30 of DP’s members left the party, and accused their leaders for betraying the people and slowing the pace towards universal suffrage since the reform package has no promise for the content or timetable for universal suffrage. During July 1, 2010, the annual rally for democracy, many voters shouted, “Shame on DP, you guys sold out Hong Kong people!”
  3. Law, Wing-sang. (2010 Jan 9). Happy Fight: Everyone is Post-80. Ming Pao, http://news.sina.com.hk/news/1119/3/1/1388313/1.html
  4. According to John Bell, Adultism is defined as “behaviors and attitudes based on the assumptions that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without agreement”.
  5. You may refer to the following photo album of Mr. Benson Tsang, a Christian photographer who stays very close with SCMHK’s actions: https://www.facebook.com/media/se t/?set=a.258529264933.142082.572574933&type=1; https://www.facebook.com/media/se t/?set=a.405588954933.182737.572574933&type=1