As lawmakers head off for the holidays, Hong Kong badly needs a break from political one-upmanship
Alice Wu appeals to both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps to try to see each other’s points of view, as a basis for building a consensus
Finally, some good news as we wind up the year: the expected canonisation of Mother Teresa. So much whining has dominated the local political scene that it will take a serious intercession by the Blessed Teresa to heal the disruptive politics that has arrested Hong Kong’s development.
READ MORE: Hong Kong religious leaders use Christmas messages to urge end to city’s political conflicts
Speaking of saints, this festive time of the year calls for St Augustine, patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians and, last but not least, the alleviation of sore eyes. It has been painful to watch the circus that has given us another year of dreadful politics. We can all benefit from the wisdom of this medieval saint – that humility is the foundation of all other virtues. The time has come for our arrogant politicians to give humility more than just lip service. This culture of political one-upmanship is unsustainable and simply cannot end well: it does little good and accomplishes even less for the people they serve.
Without humility, our politicians will continue to be blind to their own flaws and to areas in need of improvement. When constant mud-slinging distracts them from the real issues, they deny themselves the quintessential purpose of their existence – to serve the public.
Politics isn’t meant to be reduced to a mere spectator sport. Our lawmakers’ theatrics have become so predictable, their sense of self-righteousness so flagrant, and their ineffectiveness so glaringly obvious, that they have made a mockery of public service. Their politics of pride have rendered meaningful dialogue in political debate impossible.
But, our dismal state of politics doesn’t have to remain thus, if these sworn enemies could just choose to see some good in each other.
The pro-establishment side would be doing themselves a favour if they learn to appreciate the pan-democrats’ strong suits; and, while they may not agree with their political opponents, it would be good to appreciate the pan-democrats for their absolute faith in their convictions.
They are so sure of themselves that they can make judgment calls right off the bat. If we focused on the virtues of conviction politics, we would understand why they can masterfully lead the public agenda, frame public discourse on their own terms and inflame the public consciousness so much more effectively. They hold, in essence, the political starting clock in their hands.
The only way for the pro-establishment camp to overcome reactive politics and avoid being backed into the corner on almost every issue is to find their own political North Star.
In the same vein, the pan-democrats would fare much better if they understood the virtues of consensus politics. It may mean stopping before they have a knee-jerk reaction. At the end of the day, building a consensus is the foundation of giving minority voices and dissenting views the time and space to be articulated. These views should form part of the political process, and be worked into an acceptable political solution.
To counter the dissensus that conviction politics creates and the factions it nurtures, pan-democrats must learn to awaken a conviction for consensus building and unity. The pan-democratic camp has been split into many factions over the years and that has directly contributed to their diminishing power of getting things done.
Striking a careful balance is key to good politicking, and it would do both camps tremendous good if they were to use this Legislative Council winter break to understand the good across the divide, and at the same time, look inward and recognise how they have turned their own assets into weaknesses.
With the Legco election scheduled for next autumn, there is still time for our lawmakers to show the public that they, too, have the conviction to be leaders we can take pride in – leaders who can empathise and serve with humility. There is still time for them to show us that they are capable of sophistication – that they can disagree without shouting, argue without name-calling and work hard for solutions.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA