Perfection. The Lie of the Century.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong, LifeTags: , ,

The truth is that everyone wants to be happy. The reality is that apparently, most people are very confused about how to be happy.

For years, advertising agencies have been using images and movies of seemingly very beautiful and happy people to sell products, everything from beer to jewellery. The core of their message is that you'll be happy too if you consume or own whatever they're selling.

The reason that this advertising works is a deep-seeded psychological need for people to be part of a community, to be accepted, to be 'one of the gang'. Many organisations use this need to their advantage. Beer and cigarette commercials imply that if you're not drinking their beer or smoking their cigarettes, that you'll not be welcome by others in the community, or at least if you do drink their beer or smoke their cigarettes, you'll have 'better' friends and more of them. Many young people have come to believe these messages.

Unfortunately, materialism has become a major influence in today's world. We as a society are becoming more and more materialistic, and consequently more and more superficial. Over time, people will lose themselves. They will forget the true value of their lives and despair and hopelessness will ultimately ensue. Perhaps this is the reason that so many young people commit suicide in Hong Kong when relationships fail or when they get unsatisfactory results in their exams. I wish someone would tell them that there's more to a person than what they're wearing, smoking or drinking, and there's much more to a person than the prestige of the school they're attending.

The reason I'm writing this article; the trigger that made me sit down and begin typing, was an article in today's S.C.M.P. titled "Alarm bells ring over cosmetic surgery push". Corporations in Hong Kong are arranging cosmetic surgery tours to Korea where the surgery is cheaper and reportedly more advanced than that available in Hong Kong. Company's are paying big money to hire spokespeople and perform non-trivial surgery to become walking examples of their work. One such corporation by the name of Be a Lady recently paid one million Hong Kong dollars to a former Miss Hong Kong lady (吳文忻, Miss Hong Kong 1998) to have surgery done and become one of their spokespeople. Just the name of the corporation upsets me (colourful language would be more appropriate than 'upset' but generally speaking, I don't use colourful language). It implies that if you're not perfect, then you're not a lady. Unbelievably pathetic!

One of the procedures that Miss Hong Kong 1998 had done was the straightening of her nose. I feel sorry for her. The one million dollars will probably be useful to her, but I very much doubt that any of her operations are going to make her any happier, especially in the long term.

People seem to forget. What the surgeons and corporations are referring to as perfect features in people are in actual fact not attractive. Perfection is boring. Imperfections; the way her nose slants to one side, the way his left eye is slightly smaller than his right eye, or the unusual shape of her lips; make us special. Our wrinkles represent our past; the joy, the laughter, the pain, the hardships and the toil. They also represent our pride because we survived that pain, those hardships and that toil, so why hide them?

We are who we are. Our looks are a very important part of who we are, and that we all look different and perhaps curious is what makes us interesting. It's what makes us human. To infer and teach that people will be happier if they have 'perfect' features is perhaps one of the biggest lies of the century. I wish people would wake up.

The Devaluing of Human Life

It's not unusual in a newspaper's account of a young person committing suicide to read of elder family members or friends struggling to understand why today's young people undervalue their lives. I have my suspicions.

When our parents were growing up, advertising of the variety that implies that you'll be accepted and happy if you use a certain product were minimal. Newspapers were basically text with very few pictures. Television was in black and white and advertising agencies were still learning the psychological side of advertising. Admittedly, they too used pictures of smiling 'happy' people in their advertisements (and 'cool macho' men in the Marlboro ads) but it was harmless for the most part. Most people from that generation worked very hard to make a living and raise their families. Many did it without grudge or complaint. It was an accepted part of life and life itself was to be treasured.

Today, advertising, television programs and magazines now have almost every young person convinced that they'll never be happy if they're not beautiful and don't own all of the latest fashions, accessories and gizmos. The situation is probably further complicated because most parents today are working long hours at the office to pay the household bills and rarely have time to spend with their children, teaching them the value of the family unit, and hence the true way to find value in themselves.

Unfortunately, since we live in a very capitalist world and money controls what we see and read, I don't see a solution to this problem. Materialism will continue to increase. Our society will continue to commoditise and debase humanity. People will continue to buy into the lie of perfection and those people will inevitably arrive at a point in their lives where they'll feel alone, disillusioned, betrayed, degraded and devoid of self-worth. The future doesn't look good for humanity.

If you're considering cosmetic surgery in an attempt to perfect a certain feature, please stop and remember. You're perfect just the way you are. If anyone tries to say otherwise, it's certain that they don't respect you, they don't love you, and they're not worthy of your friendship.

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26 Responses to “Perfection. The Lie of the Century.”
  1. Edwin says:

    Gregory, thanks for your post. I cannot agree more with you on this one.

    I believe there is more than just cosmetic surgery in this phenomenon. The advertisement business is taking advantage of 2 syndromes of the Hong Kong culture: the ‘follow the crowd’ syndrome and ‘popstar effect’ syndrome, both I personally think are more severe in Hong Kong than in some other places in the world.

    In other words, cosmetic surgery is just one instance. I bet they can lure the crowd to do anything they want by applying the same formula.

  2. Christ-Follower says:

    Thank you for your sharing. I agree fully that youngsters today are very keen on materialistic affluence to the extent that they are ignorant of the core values of life. Inadequate parental guidance is one of the main reasons. But bad social influences, especially those from the irresponsible mass media, are also to blame. People with much media attention, people like you, can affect youngsters with their speech and behaviour. Unfortunately, few are mindful of what they say or do. I am, therefore, particularly appreciative of the message your article conveys. I hope this enlightening blog posting can help more people to reflect on their attitude towards what perfection actually means and to learn to appreciate the beauty implied in our imperfection.

  3. Mark says:

    Greg, I too can't agree with you more!

    Like father like son, the Mr. Siu's, bosses of Be A Lady, are very smart and brilliant people and they are taking the advantage of this human weakness to make big bucks! Thank god we are amongst those who are least vulnerable to advertising. God did make some mistakes in the creation of mankind. His creations are far from perfect. He is as fallible as we are!

    Money makes this world go around. Without advertisting money there won't be free TV, Yahoo, Google... Newspapers, internet and many other basic necessicities won't be as afordable as they are. Many people would also become jobless. There is little we can do to change it, unless you can find yourself a cave to live in!

    C'est la vie!

  4. Allen says:

    Hey! 河國榮! I like your acting at TVB. Your most recent work I saw was 隨 時 候 命! Perhaps you are not the main character. But I think you are doing a very good job everytime! I can see that you respect your work and you are very serious about it! HK people don't respect anything anyways. So don't you take it personal and feel discourage. A lot of people love you out there! Even Leslie didn't get recongize until he has found what people want to see him doing. That's right, I remember everybody hated him in the early 80's. But he began to find a position that need to be filled in 1984. That was when Monica came out and it has become a big hit. People were still hating him at that time, not until a year later that he keep proving himself to be a big star! I think you have got the talents too. (As Anthony Wong and Simon Yam.) But you have to find that someone who can bring it out from you! A director who's willing to do that! You've been kind a too soft in some ways. Kind a like Leslie in the beginning. But later he act tough! That's what has take everyone by surprise! He was too friendly before and people don't want that in him. You sure can act tough too! I believe you can! If I ever became a director (that's one of my dream!), I sure wish I could work with you! Your fan, Allen from Chicago!

  5. small_leafy says:

    Perfection. To me, nobody is perfect. Well, everybody knows that, but utmostly, people trying their best to let their 'perfection' wins over them. There is some pros and cons in this topic here. Supporting the fact that being natural is beauty, cosmetic surgery after all does bring more bad effects rather than good ones. You may look 10 years younger, but when the 'bad' start to take effects, you will know how beauty you are previously. Of course, this excludes cases where people need cosmetic surgery due to medical purposes. But afterall, deciding to do a surgery a not, it is very up to the individual alone. As long as the individual feel fine and happy with it, that's fine.

  6. MeLazyACYing says:

    aye aye!

    I guess it's because of the human condition. Who wants to be left out? We - the human being are built to be a social creature. How are we to argue with our DNA? Standing out of the crowd, and not following everyone else needs tremendous effort and courage - which not everyone can do.

    But if you can walk against the flow, the efforts are not wasted.

  7. Esther says:

    hey there...

    I got your blogs from my gmail. I didn't realise that it was you, i meant, a well-known star (eventhough i don't really watch HK shows and movies). I was in fact impressed by your thoughts and thinkings. I always have the thoughts of stars would always go for plastic surgeries. In fact, we could always see in the newspaper - the advertisements of the slimming beauty salon using stars showing off their slim body!

    So, I think this is just a culture of Hong Kong people. They like to be pretty and handsome. It's the culture and too bad, the disease has contaminated Malaysians too! You can see Malaysians also will go for plastic surgeries. Further, there're more and more of these kind of surgeries clinics growing in malaysia like mushrooms.

    In my point of view, I think we should stand up together, waking up these people...maybe the Stars should start to boycott these slimming salons - stop becoming their spokeswoman or man.

  8. shaw says:

    Thanks for speak out what's in my mind, Greg.

  9. blues says:

    It's undeniable that we live in a world of competition. People are being molded by society and enviornment. This has become a trend that everyone wants to be equal or close to what they see. They're so caught up by the media and fashion and sometimes forget what is it that they really want or be. It has changed people's view about themselves. As the old saying goes 'beauty is in the eyes of the beholder', in which beauty is subjective. You are a unique individual. Loving and accepting who you are is a process to self actualization. Unless you embrace this idea, you will never identify yourself as being a truly happy individual.

  10. Joyce says:

    I absolutely agree with you. I cannot think of something more pathetic than being ashamed of who you are and of your individuality. I don't think most young people in this generation can realize how important it is to be their own person and to love themselves for the way they are, an unique individual (I think I have a right to comment on these young people because I am one myself). I can't imagine something more horrifying than being a sheep amongst the crowd free of individual opinion, thoughts and aesthetic values. What media portrays as beauty should not be followed by all. Needless to say, how one looks on the outside is nothing, to me those who are ugly are ugly on the inside. Unfortunately, most has already been brain-washed into becoming worshippers of materalism and values that being thin (or anorexic) and "perfected" is the ideal way of life.

  11. June says:

    Pretty strong words, Mr. River:p But wouldn't you agree that in some cases cosmetic surgery do justify? For example for people who were born with deformity and burn victims?? How about just the simple fact that someone may feel more confident and much happier about him/herself just to make his or her nose smaller?

    After reading some of your posts, I think you're quite an idealist; unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world. Especially in Hong Kong where everyone are so pragmatic and relentlessly chasing for tangible things in life such as money and looks. :)

  12. 河國榮 says:

    hi June.

    There are indeed many instances where cosmetic surgery is necessary. For example, I will need to see a plastic surgeon to replace the skin on my left shin because it has never repaired since an injury sustained 30 years ago. Without replacement, my leg may one day become infected or gangrenous. Not a good thing!

    So there are legitimate reasons for cosmetic surgery. Cleft lip and other birth deformities also require cosmetic surgery to be 'normalised' but note the difference: normalised, not perfected.

    More confident after changing a nose? That's quite possible and the confidence will help that person immensely. Perhaps it's warranted in such a case, as long as it's done for the person's own requirements and not so that others will like or admire them more. The problem is that while cosmetic surgery may help people to look perfect or better, the overall affect on that person's life will only be temporary. Requiring the surgery is usually a symptom of a lack of self worth and dignity which unfortunately cannot be increased by building a perfect nose, at least not permanently.

    My feeling is that many of these people will feel happy about their adjustments for maybe a few years, but they'll either then require another adjustment to boost the happiness level again (many cosmetic surgery clients go back for regular 'checkups' or 're-adjustments' as they get older) or they'll become miserable over time. If you don't like yourself, or if you don't know who you are, no superficial adjustment is going to help you in the long term.

    Idealist? I had to think about this for a while. My conclusion is that I'm a perfectionist and a realist among other things but definitely not an idealist. I'm much too distrustful of corporations, governments and powerful people to be an idealist.

    regards,
    Ho Kwok Wing

  13. bronney says:

    pfft.. easy for your to say Greg. If I look half as good as you I'd be "happy"! lol.. just kidding mate. Nice post and I agree completely. Who wants to work in Gattaca?

  14. Candy Mok says:

    Dear Kwok Wing,

    Your blog link was pop up at the sponsored section of my gmail tonight. Therefore, I clicked in and found a very meaningful blog entry about cosmetic surgery trend in Hong Kong.

    Thank you very much for your sharing & keep up the good work!

    Love,

    Candy

  15. MY says:

    Greg: Thank you very much for this meaningful posting. All I can say is, "Just learn to be yourself. You'll be happier in the long run." :)

  16. Akie says:

    I only recently read your blog about the little kitty you saved. I had the same experience a few years back when I took a kitty home in Shatin. She cried all night in the kitchen and how miserable I felt when I closed the door on her each time trying to got back to bed to catch some sleep.

    I can't agree more about your feeling towards the name of the cosmetic surgery company Be a Lady. What an insult to our sex and how do you define perfection anyway? You might as well resort to cloning if you want to have the same straight nose or certain lip shape of someone.

    I have single fold eyelid and I'm proud of it. Doesn't make me feel less pretty. Like you said, this is who I am and my friends don't love me cos I'm beautiful or more advantaged in any physical or material sense.

    Akie

  17. Cockoff says:

    I have never heard a more ridiculous pile of shit in my life. Christ man, get over yourself for a bit. People have cosmetic surgery all the time, not just becasue they don't like the way they look - they just want to look better for fuck's sake. This is teenage drivvle and you need to grow up, wake up and shut up.

    You daft fucking moron.

  18. 河國榮 says:

    Dear 'C',

    that "people have cosmetic surgery all the time" doesn't make it right. it just makes it common.

    I don't think the surgery itself is as much a problem as the trend that it represents. That more and more people are seeking out cosmetic surgery to 'improve' their appearances means that more and more people are judging their self-worth on the way they look. that's a very unhealthy way to live. unfortunately, today's magazines with their Photoshop 'perfected' models only serve to propagate the trend and I don't see an end to this.

    in the weight-loss industry, you can profit by convincing people that they need to be thin to be accepted by society and then help them lose the 'excess' weight, but you cannot profit by educating people that it's ok and in fact healthier to have a little fat on them. similarly in the cosmetic surgery industry, it would not profit corporations to educate people that it's ok to be themselves, to be 'less than perfect. as such, I don't foresee very many people standing up and voicing the 'not perfect is ok' message.

    sincerely,

    Ho Kwok Wing

  19. Christ-Follower says:

    Dear Mr.Ho Kwok Wing,

    I admire the well-mannered and even-handed way you handle this matter of controversy whatever the provocation. We may hold different views towards an issue but it is important that we put forth our viewpoints in a cultured manner. We can be assertive, and even aggressive, but definitely not provocative.

  20. Angelina Chiu says:

    I am a hardcore fan of your blog, but nothing induces me to leave a message until this post. I can't agree with you more about the Miss Hong Kong's surgery. She may look prettier from the mainstream standards, but it is simply too artificial! She may get more exposures and attention from the media, more jobs and more income, but I am not sure if all is worthy, she lacks character and so many press workers commented her interviews were all the same. She may get more opportunities in one month or two, but what next? All I know is she is going to have to go back to Korea again to have surgeries again and again every 9 months.

    I wish this would not become a fashion in HK. If you could spend tens of thousands or even millions of dollars on shaping your body or appearance, why not give the money to the needies who are starving and could hardly care about how they look.

  21. Janice says:

    oh god I am soooo backwards that I am completely oblivious to this trend in Hong Kong. Having tours to Korea for cosmetic surgery is just scary - hell, having cosmetic surgery alone is scary!

    As a human being who carries the XX chromosomes, I really resent the idea of having cosmetic surgery - it's as if backing down to 'social norm' which is utterly abnormal and wrong. So what if I do not look perfect? No one does anyway - even Scarlett Johansson has her haters!

    Why should anyone pay huge bucks to change their appearance? It's just as if admitting to the entire world that I am sick of how I look.

    HK's mass media on some level should be responsible for such trend though - if they weren't soooo over reacting with every single gossip on who and who may have had cosmetic surgery. People may never have such idea in their mind. People aren't very smart, it's somehow very easy for us to link the two words 'cool' and 'cosmetic surgery' together without even thinking.

  22. Fiona says:

    Cckoff,

    So.. is using foul language part of teenage drivvle too?? What else is teenage drivvle, drugs and abuse?? How much surgery did you get done? You're the one who needs to grow up mate, cos no matter how you look, with or without surgery, with the way you present yourself in words you're just a piece of rubbish to most people.

  23. Winnie says:

    The 'C' person was quite rude, I'm surprised the comment wasn't deleted.

    I totally agree with Greg. I recently scanned a magazine article and asked a relative to translate it for me. This girl in China had plastic surgery to look like this famous Korean Actress. I think there are too many people trying to copy other's looks or the perceived 'perfection' that when you look at someone now, you would think she's nothing special. Its when you see girls who's different from the perceived 'perfection' but has her unique attractiveness thats appealing and captivating. The 'perfection' is now the norm and nothing spectacular.

  24. anne choi says:

    Hello Ho Kwok Wing,

    I also like your acting at TVB and you act better and better. I am a big fan of you!

    Anne

  25. Eddy says:

    Sorry I didn't read all the comments above, so if there's anything I've missed I apologize here. And if I offended anyone here I apologize again. I agree and respect what Mr. Ho wrote here, so I just wanted to share some of my own thoughts for my respect to Mr. Ho.

    Apparently it seems obvious that the media is to be blamed for all the bad influence on the society, but don't most of us more or less feed this media ourselves? The action of just watching TV already encourage the broadcast of materialistic contents. So is reading a magazine. So is surfing on the internet. So is judging someone for their appearances. Etc. If we know the consequences of doing things, I suppose we all would do things differently.

    And that so called "beauty" was never meant to be agreed, it's only permitted. Say for some body features that two actresses shared, if actress A is favored by the public that feature would be accepted as cute. Meanwhile actress B who is not favored by the public, that same feature would be considered as horrible. Wow. Not "why's that?", but "how's that?". Well, one suggestion would be there exist one or more or even all of us are blinded. We don't really see what we see, don't we?

    And that so called "talent" is granted, by authorities. If they like you, then you have the talent. Vice versa. Having dedication doesn't offer you more opportunities, but having relationships does. Suddenly things seems to get more diplomatic and business wise. It all come down to either getting the benefit or money or both. Of course this doesn't apply to everyone nor every group.

    Personally I think Mr. Ho is too nice and too friendly in this world that its majority no longer teach the people to think for others. Being in a culture that doesn't encourage people to have good virtues. There's an extremely scary saying in Chinese that kind of mean, "if a person doesn't think for him/herself, the sky will put genocide on him/her and the earth will destroy him/her." This saying is probably more accepted by the general public than anything else in the Chinese culture. In the what we so claimed civilized culture.

    It's not hard to distinguish who's helping other and who's not. For sure we don't see that the beauty salon, brand name stores, weight-loss center, etc, provide us with their services nor products for free. And for billionaires that donate huge amount of money, I suppose they could have kept a low profile. Recognition, fame, benefit, money, I just don't see they have anything to do with helping people. And if they're not helping us, why are we giving what they want to them when it's not necessary?

    I hope I didn't offend anyone here and I apologize if anyone found what I wrote stupid. May there be peace for everyone even if the sky falls down. And if possible, may what I've just wrote be all wrong. Take care Mr. Ho, I wish you with better circumstances.

  26. ordman says:

    Hi Kwok Wing,

    I can't agree with you any more on this subject. What makes a person is not his or her appearance but the soul inside.

    The culture of HK is getting more weird and it can be difficult for a Sydneysider to fully comprehend it, despite I grew up there.