ENTREPRENEUR HERMAN HU Shao-ming looked up from his beer at a popular bar in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay one Friday night and noticed something that made his eyebrows rise.
He knew that there was growing concern around the world about the bitter polarization of societies, including in his beloved home city.
But right in front of him were happy clusters of people solving the world’s problems with cheery, good-natured conversations over drinks.
What made the difference?
Friday night: The setting, the time, the atmosphere, the mood.
Ding! And that gave him an idea.
Hu, a Berkeley-educated Hong Konger with a range of businesses (including the bar in which he sat) and a civic role in encouraging sports, phoned friends around the city.
The brainwave was to create a calm, good-natured news agency, which would be “chill”, Asian, and non-political—rather than taking the confrontational, over-politicized click-seeking stance of mainstream media. The alternative group could do calm, unpoliticised events, too.
It turned out that there were a lot of people in the city who disliked the polarization of society, including author Nury Vittachi. The friends soon had literally hundreds of offers of help and support, from people young and old, local and foreign, political and non-political, rich and poor.
The result is Friday Culture, a group that will share stories and hold regular live events, aiming for a good-natured, co-operative, problem-solving mode of operation.
DETACHED AND REFLECTIVE
“Our media unit, Fridayeveryday, will be the first ‘zen’ news operation,” said Vittachi. “Instead of politicizing everything for clicks, we’re going to be good-humored, detached and reflective. Less Breitbart, more Buddha.”
The Friday participants know that people who don’t support the mainsteam media’s grimly negative official narrative on China will be labelled “communist puppets” but are unfazed. Vittachi says: “Haters gonna hate, labellers gonna label.”
Herman Hu is entirely upfront about the fact that he has excellent relationships with movers and shakers in both the East and the West. “Confucius said two millennia ago that ‘all people are siblings’,” he pointed out. “We really are.”
The Fridayeveryday.com website will be updated regularly with stories about China, Hong Kong and the region, and the Friday community will next week announce its first forum, a half-day conference on finding better ways to tell China’s story and Hong Kong’s story.
The Friday group chose May 21, the United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity, as the ideal launch date for the new project.
“One of our members looked it up,” Vittachi said. “And found it was a Friday.”