• Sat
  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 1:25am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 4:30am

Pro-Beijing and pro-democracy sides should seek to 'make love, not war'

Peter Kammerer says no solution to our political stand-off is possible until the opposing camps seek to understand and accept other's beliefs

BIO

Peter Kammerer is a long-time columnist and commentator for the SCMP. He has received recognition for his writing at the Hong Kong news Awards, the annual Human Rights Press Awards and from the Society of Publishing in Asia. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, he worked on newspapers in his native Australia.  
 

A junior high school exam question asks what the most powerful force on earth is. One student, perhaps shaky on the basics of physics, maybe more interested in the opposite sex, answers, "love". The teacher marks him wrong - gravity, I think, is what was required (although having fared poorly in the subject, I can't vouch for that). But take a step out of the classroom and it's plain to see that the student was less incorrect than a genius.

Love is, after all, a power to be reckoned with. It's been a subject of musings since the dawn of critical thinking, the theme of poetry and performance, of fantasy and fiction. But while mention of the word most often brings to mind relationships past or present, it is about much more than emotions. At this time of peace, goodwill and indulgence, our politicians should look to it as inspiration for the coming year: make love, not war.

The phrase is rooted in the anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1960s. Beatle John Lennon claims he coined it - it was the working title of his 1973 peace anthem Mind Games - but claims are also made by a bookstore in Chicago and a University of Oregon student protester. Whoever the originator, though, the term is a variant of a first world war slogan: make peace, not war. Given the path down which Hong Kong's politics has gone, it is a fitting catchphrase for all sides to embrace.

I am not talking about launching 1960s-style love-in protests or bringing back the hippie culture. The thought of arms-linked and flower-wearing members of the scarier elements of the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy movements swaying together to songs such as Give Peace a Chance is disconcerting in the extreme. Rather, common sense and inner power should replace anger and fear.

Whether Beijing, our lawmakers, business interests and those seeking universal suffrage are politically mature enough to make the necessary concessions is another matter, of course. The Beijing and democracy-supporting sides have moved so far apart that any discussion involving the good of our city most often turns to hatred and spite. There is every sense that our young political system with its deep divisions is broken. Few governments are as wealthy or rich with resources and access to expertise, yet there are problems aplenty from high rates of homelessness and poverty to dangerous levels of street-side pollution and waste disposal challenges.

Getting any job done in politics takes compromise. To reach that point requires decision-makers to put aside personal ambitions, greed, arrogance and vested interests; matters that, in legislative processes, put citizens' interests secondary. The government should above all else serve the people. To do otherwise misuses power and erodes trust.

Make love, not war is a well-worn expression. But the in-fighting of our various political forces makes plain that it has either been forgotten or never been heard. This festive season, there is no better gift our political leaders could give one another than love. It doesn't cost anything and only requires understanding and acceptance of others' beliefs.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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caractacus
How can honest people come to love and settle their differences with the corrupt who abuse power and ignore the rule of law?
The basic problem in HK is that certain Hong Kong tycoons, officials and crony political appointees are rotten and unaccountable to the public, but only have to kowtow to a political and economic system which are rotten to the core and to which "loyalty" to the system is the only necessary qualification.
Sadly, the Pan Democratic camp is not immune to the rot. It has some very bright and clever people but also has too many idiots and bigots.
So how and where does Hong Kong find decent people of integrity to govern it?
rsbradbeer
Well said Mr Kammerer. The thought of Emily and Priscilla sharing a joint in Statue Square resonates with someone who was in Haight Ashbury in 1967 and 1968!
bpoon1pc
Conflicts and then a mini-crisis is unavoidable in the coming 12 months in Hong Kong not because different parties do not have love or they have different belief! It is very clear that having the crisis is the Objective in itself in some parties' mind. Besides, they will not stop even Hong Kong has a mini-crisis. It is so sad but also so true. besides, we should not overuse the term "communist" too much to confuse the issue. The only option for us now is to prepare the aftermath after the mini-crisis. Again, it is so sad but also so true. When US economy receover, USD becomes stronger, Asian economy moving down, interest rate starts to go up, what happened in 1997 may happen again, HK property price start to drop by 40-50% again. But we will not be lucky this time as Chinese economy and property will also crash in the next 12-18 months. By then, US and Japan will be in the upper hand to create more conflict with China. We may regret we have wasted all our time on this "disagreement on political reform". Again, it is so sad but also so true.
johnh
The only party seeking war is the pro-Beijing/pro-Communist camp. Democracy activists simply want Hong Kong to be left alone. We don't come from their tradition. Which party has been actively seeking to implant pro-Communist education into our children's brains ever since 1997? Hong Kong may be legally owned by Communist China, but WE ARE NOT COMMUNIST. We know the truth about all the horrors that the CCP is responsible for. The CCP is the worst thing to ever happen to modern China. There's nothing the Communists have done well that we Chinese wouldn't have already done without them, and much sooner. Real Hong Kongers know the difference, and we will NEVER give up our strive from freedom!
ngsw
>>Democracy activists simply want Hong Kong to be left alone.<< ? ? ? ? ? .
It is the democrazy activists that fight to the Final Court for the mainlanders to have CSSA immediately after they have arrived HK, and now they are going further to fight immediate public housing for the migrant mainlanders. These certainly prompt more mainlanders flushing into HK. It is the democrazy activists that are ruining HK. They have failed in the fight for domestic helpers, now they have succeeded with the mainlanders. The middle classes are deemed to pay more tax in future.
johnh
@ngsw
>>The middle classes are deemed to pay more tax in future.<<
So what if Hong Kong becomes a more egalitarian capitalist society? Welcome to the modern world.
jenny@asian-emphasis.com
It is not democracy activists "fighting for mainlanders" - it was a person taking the HK government to court - and it was the court which decided that withholding CSSA was unconstitutional. HK people go on about the rule of law all the time, but when something is a bit awkward for them, they don't want the rule of law. Much of HK's population comes from the mainland either earlier or later than others - you are all the same people.
lucifer
The lesson learned from that episode is that Hong Kong has the rule of law and the Mainland does not. However, when courts make interpretations, the legislature is always free to change, amend or enact laws. Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, there is an extra judicial legislative body in another jurisdiction responsible for Hong Kong constitutional interpretation. The fallacy here is that legislative bodies write the law, if they want a different result they can enact or change laws. Why would you give them interpretive power?

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