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【獨立書店 每周一書】未來城

2019/9/7 — 17:56

有想過我城未來會變成什麼樣嗎?成為中國其中一個普通城市?還是會擁有真正的民主自由?

解憂舊書店推薦的《未來城》,作者詹姆斯.特非爾以科學角度檢視一座城市的過去與未來。《未來城》出版於20年前,當中一些假設已成現實,但它提醒讀者,反省城市發展必須具備科學知識,作者指出人的決定最具關鍵作用,追求永續發展的城市真正困難在於人、政治與社會脈絡。

序言書室介紹艾倫.沃夫《自由主義的未來之戰》,此書論及自由主義價值怎樣堅持「自主」、「公平」及「平等」等原則,值得我們日後借鑒。清明堂則選擇了被稱為後工業時代大師 Alvin Toffler 的著作《Future Shock》,作者指出個人、組織或國家都會因變革太快而超載,成為未來衝擊的受害者。Alvin Toffler 寫道:「我深信對未來的合理探索也可為現在提供許多有價值的借鑒。倘若不把未來當作一種習慣性工具而善加運用,我們將更難把握個人及社會的問題。」

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民主自由之路漫長難行。但願除下口罩相見的那天,早日到來。

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解憂舊書店:詹姆斯.特非爾《未來城》

這是一本以科學家的角度檢視城市的過去與未來的書。雖然這本書是廿年前出版,當中一些假設已變成現實,但這本書提醒我們,反省城市必須具備科學知識,否則出現如葉國謙與葉劉淑儀的笑話。書中以自然科學之物理材料、能源,以及運輸與資訊等層次分析城市發展,當中作者說出人的決定才是最複雜最具關鍵作用,追求永續發展的城市真正困難在於人、政治與社會脈絡。今天城市發展與保育經常發生對抗,有權力的人若忽略保育,也意味沒有把人放在眼内。

序言書室:艾倫.沃夫《自由主義的未來之戰:如何正面迎擊保守主義,構建新世紀的政經版圖與公民生活?》

曾經,當英國人開墾北美新大陸時,他們對這片自由處女地灌注了多少憧憬,然而在美國立國兩百多年後的今日,美國又代表了甚麼?一方面,她仍被視為自由的堡壘,另一方面,她以霸道的全球資本主義制度,主宰全球。雖有多元主義的加持,但在面對移民衝突和恐怖主義等議題,今日美國又不得不建起與立國精神相悖的高牆。昔日,當美國人提到自身價值時,必然津津樂道的自由主義,今日彷佛已成了明日黃花,左翼和右翼政客都從激進的民粹主義詞彙中,尋找國民的支持。另一方面,左翼知識份子多指摘自由主義視平等、公平如無物。作為全球第一大經濟體和強權國家,究竟美國的自由主義傳統是否狹隘過時?它有沒有未來?艾倫.沃夫的《自由主義的未來之戰》寫於川普支持者和左翼聲音厲聲抨擊歐巴馬政策之時,作為為歐巴馬申辯之作,此書看似過時,但其中一些論點,如自由主義價值怎樣堅持「自主」、「公平」及「平等」等原則,在未來的歲月裡,仍值得有志之士討論,亦可作為篤信自由價值之鬥士作為參考。

清明堂:Alvin Toffler 《Future Shock》

‘Change is essential to man, as essential now in our 800th lifetime as it was in our first. Change is life itself. But change rampant, change unguided and unrestrained, accelerated change overwhelming not only man’s physical defenses but his decisional processes -- such change is the enemy of life.’ -- Alvin Toffler in ‘Future Shock’ (1970)

By now we’ve all heard of the saying that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. To that list we should add ‘change’. Change in our natural environment, change in our political and family structures, change in our living habits. The list goes on.

In the mid-1960’s Alvin Toffler coined the term ‘future shock’ to describe the kind of invasive, disorienting, and even destructive effects such change can have on individuals and society at large. This phenomenon later became the basis for a bestselling book of the same title, written by Alvin Tofller and his wife, Heidi Toffler. In addition to making predictions as to the kinds of changes that would be visited on humankind in the future, the Tofflers offered their own solutions on how best to minimize the disruptive effects of those changes.

One such solution had to do with technocrats and their top-down governing style.

We all know that most governments are dominated by technocrats, the Hong Kong government being no exception. Indeed, one can say that Carrie Lam is the prototypical technocrat, the kind of individual who, in Toffler’s words, suffers not only from ‘econothink and myopia’ but ‘from the virus of elitism’ as well.

None of this has been lost on Hong Kongers, of course, especially among the youngsters whom we’ve seen at the frontlines of the many protests that have taken place here in the past few months. ‘[B]y calling attention to the growing ineptitudes of the[se] technocrats, today’s young radicals do us all a great service,’ said Toffler who himself came of age in a time of great political upheaval.

Yet those who advocate for change -- the ‘young radicals’ as Toffler called them -- are equally prone to myopic behavior, whether through a kind of anti-capitalistic, econocentric belief or through their own brand of ‘virulent elitism’.

Sooner or later society again finds itself under the rule of the few who believe they know what’s best for the masses. A very anti-democratic outcome in the kind of complex, ‘super-industrialized’ society we live in today; a society that demands democracy. As Toffler put it, ‘democracy becomes not a political luxury, but a primal necessity’ in such a system.

Why? Because a political democracy enables mass ‘social decision-making’, which, in turn, ‘facilitates feedback’; the kind of feedback that is ‘essential to control’ over not just the direction but the pace of change.

None of this is possible in a ‘top-down technocratic’ system in which ‘goals [are] set without the participation of those affected….’ Such a system, Toffler astutely observed, only ‘leads to social instability, less and less control over the forces of change; an ever greater danger of cataclysmic, man-destroying upheaval.’

Future Shock was published in 1970. We are now nearing the end of 2019. Toffler’s observations have, more or less, become reality, as Hong Kong finds itself consumed in a never-ending cycle of violence and turmoil as people continue to voice their displeasure at a government unprecedented in its econocentric, myopic, and elitist behaviour.

The future is near. The only question is how quickly we will be consumed by it.

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