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