Cultivate respect for others
Iam a believer in liberal arts education, and I see the spirit of liberal arts education lies in BRIGHT, which stands for Bold, Responsible and Respectful, Inquisitive, Globalist and Generalist, Humble and Humanist, and Tolerant. This acronym is easy to remember, and serves as a good reminder for myself as a person and as an educator. It is also a standard against which hope my students will set themselves. Against this background, I find it unfortunate and disturbing that the Alpais Lam Wai-sze incident ever occurred; the clash between a teacher and the police, when the latter were performing their duties. Given that it occurred, it is important that we all learn from both the incident and its aftermath. What are the lessons?
First of all, it is all too clear that Ms Lam directed abusive language at a police officer and did not give him the respect he deserved as a fellow citizen. She “apologized” to the parents of students in her school and to the school, but she refused to apologize to the officer that she offended. This is strange, because her wrong was directly done to the police officer, and not to the school or the parents of students attending that school. Despite her refusal to apologize to the police officer, the school only reprimanded her, instead of dismissing her.
I would have no complaint about the way the school handled the case if she had apologized to the police officer. Certainly we should be forgiving, for human beings are all apt to do wrong things. However, by refusing to apologize to the police officer, Ms Lam is suggesting that her invective was justifiable. Lacking the courage to apologize to the police officer, she is setting a bad example to students and has undermined the sincerity of her apology to parents and the school. I think the school’s decision to retain her as a teacher is wrong.
Ms Lam said her foul language was an outburst caused by the biased way the police handled the conflict between the Falun Gong group and the Hong Kong Youth Care Association in Mong Kok. But if she is so unhappy with this alleged bias, she could complain to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC). The entire incident was videotaped and the recording can be used as evidence to substantiate her allegation. The IPCC will look at it and have to hear from the police officer before making a judgment.
When Lam was interviewed by D100, an Internet broadcasting operation, she said: “I really feel very bad about the reprimand. Isn’t it true that anyone under these circumstances will feel bad? I feel sad but I am sure I will overcome this before long.” She was not happy with the fact that the statement did not indicate that her outburst was a result of the “biased” way the police handled the case.
To me, the worst mistake is not to admit one’s mistakes. A mistake is a mistake and it cannot be justified. If a wrong has been done, we need to admit it, and if an apology is due, it should be made.
Sometimes the perceived picture may not be the complete or real picture. Perceptions are often flawed. That is why we should only make tentative conclusions on many things. You may think that there was bias; but the police may have a justifiable reason to do what they did. Shouldn’t we allow the police to tell their side of the story?
Unfortunately in Hong Kong these days, perceptions are everything. People often refuse to use their best judgment on specific issues with an open mind. People say that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has difficulties in handling the development of North East New Territories, the garbage issue, and housing issues, because he was dishonest about the unauthorized structures at his home and because several of his cabinet members have been embroiled in “scandals”. But quite apart from the fact that some “scandals” remain unsubstantiated, would things really have been different if someone else were in charge? Would the villagers who insist on “No removal, no demolition” change their minds? Would the garbage problem suddenly disappear, or the residents in the affected regions hold back their objections? It is high time we get our minds together to deal with the real issues that we face, instead of finger pointing, which never helps any cause.