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New-speak, old-memories

As a rule, I avoid introducing personal matters or experiences in these comments. Today is an exception. It will shortly become clear why I will break the rule today and what it is all about. First comes the story. Almost twenty years ago, I made my first trip to Beijing. As it was mandatory under […]

As a rule, I avoid introducing personal matters or experiences in these comments. Today is an exception. It will shortly become clear why I will break the rule today and what it is all about. First comes the story.
Almost twenty years ago, I made my first trip to Beijing. As it was mandatory under the circumstances, I visited the Forbidden City. I went with some Chinese friends. Because it is relevant to the narrative, I was the only foreigner in the group, and it was the first time they had visited the place with a foreigner.
As they were buying tickets, they realised that I would be charged more than them, the locals – because I was, well, a foreigner. So, they were “positively discrim­inated” in favour of. Mind you: they did not appreciate the privilege!
In fact, they started arguing with the ticket seller, stressing how much they felt such treatment was unfair and unjustified. More than that, one pointed out he had never encountered such favouritism in other countries and would feel affronted if he did. Either out of sympathy for the argument or because the fellow was just not in the mood to keep listening to an argument about which he possibly couldn’t care less, it all ended up with me paying the local tariff. The practice was later discontinued.
Fast forward to Macau, late 2017. There is a government suggestion that there will be an increase in the bus tariffs, and that non-residents will start paying more than residents. As a result, the most underprivileged, those with the lowest incomes and most diminished in their civil and labour rights, will benefit from further “distinctions”. The proposal is upsetting; being hailed as “positive discrimination” makes it only more so.
Discrimination it is, no doubt about that. It is also unfair and unjustified; and in no acceptable usage of the expression can it be deemed as “positive”. People can debate if positive discrimination is an appropriate tool to correct the effects of past social wrongs. But in no part of the world is discrimination in favour of those who are already more advantaged seen as desirable, fair or described as “positive” in any morally defensible way.
The faster the idea is shelved, the less moral and social damage will be caused. We may then keep the focus on more important and deserving matters. Namely, if those fee increases are needed, justifiable or wise.

OPINION

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