I Wish, I Wish

Keith Morrison

Author and Educationist

The new year would be so refreshing if only a few more ‘if only’ statements were really to come to life. For example, here are a few entries from my ‘if only’ list for Macau: 


  • Life would be so much more enriching for everyone if only the impeccably polite, obedient, compliant, conforming, domesticated employees were to take the initiative sometimes, to see what needs to be done and then do it without waiting for ‘permission’ or to be told what to do, when and how, i.e. to be proactive, even to take a risk. Outsiders coming into managerial positions in Macau are routinely frustrated by having to spend time micro-managing delightful but silent, passive staff.  
  • If only the alacrity with which staff yield to given agendas as if these were uncontentious, were to give way to the unsettling voices of crouching commentators and thinkers who, fearful for their safety, question and challenge the status quo, but in whispers from dark corners. 
  • If only a new order would emerge, whose canonical requirements would replace ‘do as you are told’ with ‘try something new’ or ‘break the mould’. ‘Mould’ is a wonderful noun and metaphor; the Cambridge dictionary’s definition articulates with Macau startlingly well: ‘a hollow container with a particular shape into which soft or liquid substances are poured, so that when the substance becomes hard it takes the shape of the container’, and ‘a soft green or grey growth that develops on old food or on objects that have been left for too long in warm, wet air’. Macau shapes people and makes them stale. 
  • If only, in the face of the mythical ‘harmony’ of Macau, some polyphony, even creative dissonance, of multiple voices and the atonality of disruptive serialism in everyday life were not silenced. 
  • If only Keats’s ‘negative capability’, and doubts, uncertainties, inspirations, mysteries, and ‘what if’ imaginings were to flourish in face-conscious, mundane-rich, creativity-starved, imagination-limited, opportunity under-nourished, straitjacketed, philistine Macau. 
  • If only the mentality of ‘don’t do anything unless and until the law enables you or tells you’ would change to ‘only do not do things if the law prevents you’, thereby releasing creativity, originality and ‘freedom to’ as well as ‘freedom from’. 
  • If only the culture of top-down, all-pervasive, paternalistic, regulate-and-control mentalities would give way, even if only in part, to emergent, divergent, self-organized order and employee voice in organizational life. 
  • If only some descriptive statements – ‘this is what happens’ – would not be used as normative statements – ‘this is what should happen’ – in organizational life, and if only some tendentious statements and personal preferences from bosses were not treated as absolute truths. 
  • If only some articles of faith, e.g. ‘the blind, unplanned, uncoordinated wisdom of the market’ were not regarded as being empirically true or truthful. 
  • If only holders of high office in Macau would not cavalierly trot out statements such as ‘we will abide by the law’ and behave ‘in accordance with the law’, as though this satisfies any challenge to their actions and lets them do almost anything except giving substantive, meaningful answers. Why even raise the issue of ‘abiding by the law’? Surely this should be taken for granted? 
  • If only ‘social order’ and ‘social stability’ were not treated as if they were given, uncontested, primitive concepts, irreducible to other concepts, self-explanatory and self-justifying, and in whose name shows of discontent are silenced.  
  • If only quality of life discussions were not at risk of atrophy or Legislative Assembly irritable bowel syndrome, gushing out the same specious dross. 

If only, if only. We hear so much organization-speak of ‘dreams’, ‘vision’, and employees’ existential self-realization and self-fulfilment. But back on earth, here, now, in lame, tame, unique Macau, are Eliot’s potent lines: ‘midwinter spring is its own season/Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown’. 

Happy New Year? A platitude; champagne that all too quickly goes flat.