My Take

In an increasingly complex world, politicians are akin to Neanderthals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 2:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 8:02am

When asked how Hong Kong's political divide could be healed, Robert Chow Yung admitted he had no idea. That's a surprisingly frank answer from the founder of the Silent Majority for Hong Kong and the Alliance for Peace and Democracy.

"I don't think that question can be answered," he said. "You go to the US and Britain; people have never been able to answer it. You turn to politics or religion and there is no answer."

Indeed it's not just us, but a worldwide phenomenon. Everywhere, governments and institutions find themselves on shaky ground. In Hong Kong, we question our political system and government, and forever blame mainland interference for our problems. Citizens in democratic countries complain against theirs. In the Middle East, you have at least three civil wars and any number of armed conflicts.

"Signs of democratic dysfunction are everywhere," said a New York Times special report on democracy in the 21st century yesterday. "A Gallup tracking poll shows that trust in the [US] presidency and in the Supreme Court stands at historic lows, while faith in Congress has plummeted to single digits.

"Some citizens of democracies have become so unhappy with their institutions that they may be tempted to dispense with partisan politics ... Surveys worldwide show that citizens are less likely to endorse the importance of democracy, or to express trust in democratic institutions."

In Europe, nationalists complain about their loss of sovereignty to the European Union. In Asia, critics of Asean countries point to their lack of coherence. In Britain, a Marxist is now the head of the Labour Party. How ironic! More citizens in Western countries are losing faith in their own system of government while many young people in Hong Kong think democracy is a panacea. On mainland China, the legitimacy of the communist state is on the line with declining economic growth rates.

Advanced economies may have become so complex that no traditional category of government is equipped to deal with them. Technology and society have outstripped politics. That's why you have super-smart technologists but Neanderthals for politicians.