HK’s disgraceful older generation

The South China Morning Post’s regular columnists obsessively demonize Hong Kong’s student and other young activists. Obviously, the pro-Beijing paper does not pay them to churn out positive commentary on idealists defending their city from the Communist Party’s tightening grip. But the incessant sniping and goading suggest middle-aged has-beens who are bitter, resentful and jealous of those whose best years are still ahead.

So it’s refreshing to read one of these columnists whining abouthow awful Hong Kong’s old people are. And it’s true – the city’s seniors are famously pushy, aggressive and ungrateful. Their roughness is especially noticeable because they never seem to go home or sleep: from 5am to midnight they are out doing exercises, collecting cardboard, hogging seats in teashops, or just gossiping and elbowing their way around. Don’t mess with them.

However, the columnist is wrong to merely dismiss them as exasperating. They are living proof of Darwinism.

Hong Kong has pretty much the world’s longest life expectancy. But this is not just because of modern public health, good lifestyles and traditional diet. It’s because – if we want to be blunt – a lot of people born in the Pearl River Delta region before, say, 1945 died young.

As elsewhere in the world, there were no antibiotics. But by any standards, the region in the 1920s, 30s and 40s would have been unhealthy and unsafe. There was extreme poverty, disease, hunger, civil strife, Japanese invasion, civil war and famine. Those who were physically weaker or lacked resistance would have died as infants. As they grew older, those who weren’t tough or fast enough would have succumbed. Ultimately, the hardiest, nimblest, grabbiest and meanest had the best chance of surviving. Hong Kong’s old people are the way they are because the ones who were generous, polite to strangers or waited their turn didn’t make it.

I declare the weekend open with a reminder to shut up and get out of their way.

(Oh, and this.)