Pragmatism and idealism may both fail Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 June, 2015, 12:13am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 June, 2015, 12:13am

When in doubt, shout pragmatism. That seems to be the modus operandi of the pro-establishment camp. Now that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's electoral reform package looks certain to be shot down and buried this week in the legislature, you can still hear many voices from that camp calling for the need to be pragmatic and pass the package.

Their intellectual mediocrity and mental paralysis in the face of public opposition is astounding. When you are standing in front of a raging bull, you don't try to calm it by waving a big red flag. But you are doing exactly that by asking those youngsters and activists - and their pan-democratic Legco representatives - to be pragmatic.

You are asking them to accept the status quo when that is precisely what they have rejected, never mind the status quo may not really be as bad as they have portrayed it.

When people think of a government, they often don't think about what it is, but how it ought to be. Their idea of good government decides for them their judgment of the current government.

Somehow our young activists have got into their heads that only an idealised Western-style democracy would do for Hong Kong. And it is this ideal against which they measure our government and state of society, which must almost by definition fall short. The constant questioning and challenging of the government weakens the government itself. It becomes the source of all our woes and problems, our leaders are wolves, fools or devils incarnate.

The post-veto state of governance in Hong Kong is not hard to imagine. Our government will become even more illegitimate in the eyes of many. The legislature, mistaken about the government's illegitimacy as a licence to be completely obstructionist, loses what little credibility it has left with the public.

The paralysis of these two arms of government means the judiciary, and other independent bodies such as the ICAC, would be increasingly asked to arbitrate what ought to be the outcomes of a political process. Their independent status is therefore increasingly called into question.

When we get to that point, neither pragmatism nor idealism would save us.