I Should Learn Kung Fu

Shaolin kung fu Hong Kong is a safe city in which to live.

As long as you keep your nose clean and stay away from activities that may spawn hostility, you'll be insulated from violence.

Regardless, I should learn Kung Fu.

Most news of violence appear to be isolated incidents of madness. Attacks against foreigners are rare.

At times violence is brought about by carelessness: a 23-year-old man brought home a large amount of cash he won while gambling in Macau. When he returned to Hong Kong, he held a celebration dinner with friends. Soon afterward, he was knocked unconscious in a washroom and relieved of his winnings and an expensive gold bracelet.

"Many violent acts are perpetrated within the triads."

Many violent acts are perpetrated within the triads. Members are often stabbed, slashed with machetes or whacked with large Chinese chef knives known as choppers.

Attacks come late at night, in retaliation for offenses both real and imagined. Triad aggression doesn't affect the average person, unless he instigates it. When an ordinary person commits a violent act, it's a result of a lost temper. Not content with physical assault, the aggrieved party becomes inventive. One of the strangest forms of retribution I've read was when someone sprayed a victim with paint thinner and threatened to strike a match.

What's a Big White Guy to do when violence, or the threat of violence, occurs but five feet away, and twice in as many days?

I should learn Kung Fu.

As I waited for a train, two inebriated twits, one Chinese and the other Caucasian, staggered onto the platform and became unruly. The Chinese fellow gave people the finger, screamed vulgarities and even howled. Wouldn't you know it, no cops were in the station.

At one point, the Chinese guy invaded the personal space of a waiting couple and stared at the man in a threatening manner. I don't know why he singled out that fellow. The only reason I can think of was the man may have voiced his disapproval of the drunk's boorish public behaviour. Meanwhile, his white friend did nothing if not encourage his friend to continue being an ass.

When the train arrived, the tension dissipated as everyone boarded. The Chinese fellow continued to spout obscenities, and the other commuters in that compartment either sat in silence or moved away.

At my stop, I was relieved to see the two idiots had quieted down.

· ƒ ·

The next evening, again in the MTR, I witnessed another edgy moment.

A young Chinese man became enraged, claiming another man had purposely shoved him. He screamed and cursed in English; his accent and lingo led me to believe he'd spent time in the United States or Canada.

His mother tried to restrain him, talking in soft tones to calm him. Oblivious to other riders, he verbally and physically threatened the other man.

Meanwhile, the rest of the passengers were engrossed by the unfolding drama, watching in silence while simultaneously being appalled, shocked or embarrassed.

The angry young man had lost face, but he also caused his mother to lose face. His outburst and total disregard for her and the other passengers was bad form.

At that point I wondered if the flare-up would escalate into something uglier, and whether or not I should step in to assist the mother in her attempts to pacify her infuriated son.

"... pure, testosterone-fueled macho stupidity."

The more he stared at the other fellow, who by that time was trying in vain to become invisible, the more livid he became. He stripped off his jacket, revealing his muscular physique to intimidate the smaller, meeker man. It was pure, testosterone-fueled macho stupidity.

The situation resolved itself when the threatened man stepped out at the next stop. At that instant, the spell was broken and the angry young man calmed down, apologising to everyone for, in his own words, "being an a$$hole".

I was relieved, because taking action under those circumstances exposes one to the risk of harm, perhaps at the edge of a knife.

Hong Kong is much safer than Los Angeles or New York. We don't have drive-by shootings. We don't have disgruntled workers who go on rampages with automatic weapons.

Most people are docile.

But I should learn Kung Fu: to be prepared in the event they aren't.

February 26, 2000

Next Tale: The Joy of a Cold Toilet Seat

All Tales: Index