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A thought on Pragmatism

2015/1/22 — 12:58

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

(編按:博客 Richard Scotford 以電視節目《百萬富翁》作比喻,指現時的政改方案並不是真正的選擇。)

In the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, there's always two options on the table, pocket the money now, or push forward for bigger prizes. The producers of these shows are not stupid, they understand human nature. If everyone pocketed only a small gain there would be no show worth watching. Instead, many of us are innately hard-wired to strive for a little bit more, even at the risk of losing everything. It's this habit that makes the show and life itself exciting.

Of course, the TV show is created for maximum excitement and we rarely face decisions like this in normal life, so what about applying the choice to something more mundane? Like an exam?

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If we sat you down to do an exam and once you were halfway through the examiner advised you,"Now, you've done well. You've got a pass. The questions are going to get much harder from now on, do you want to pocket the pass or push on for a B or an A Grade? What would you choose?

What if the examiner said, "But I must caution you, if you push-on for more and you fail in the last section, you will lose your pass and go away with nothing." What would you think or say? Would your inner pragmatist take over?

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Give it a moment's thought and come to a clear decision on what you would say.

Now I'll tell you what I'd say.

I'd say the examining body was unfair and I'd question why they would want to impose such an arbitrary rule on me. Is the exam about me or is the exam about them? It may be reasonable to impose a random restriction in a TV show to heighten the drama but not in real life. Why would I accept that?

Of course, you know where this is going next...

Should we pocket the 31/8 Reform Package as set out by the NPC?

Here's the thinking; right now, just 1200 people get to choose who becomes the boss in Hong Kong, whereas Beijing has proposed that every potential voter could be part of the election in 2017. In its simplest form the pocket-it-now idea states that having up to 5 million people choosing the leader has got to be better than anything that has gone before it, so pocket-it!

Are we missing out on a good deal here or what?

We have the chance to go from almost no participation in the election of the chief executive to mass participation. OK, there maybe some problems with who can actually be eligible to run as a candidate but all this could change, maybe, if we're lucky, in time. But Beijing's over riding philosophy is, a journey starts with a single step, get on the road and things may pan out for the better. Right now, we're not even on the road, so how can we ever hope to get anywhere worth while in the future?

Unfortunately, ever the gamers, Beijing has loaded our choice on whether we should take the first tentative footsteps on their road to democracy by introducing a TV style jeopardy to it. But unlike the TV game Millionaire, if we make the wrong choice we don't just lose the jackpot of universal suffrage we could actually be penalised and go home with even less than we started with. So, essentially the choices we are being given is not a pocket something you didn't have before, it is more like, a move forward in this chosen direction or risk having what you already have taken away.

Looking at it like this it's more of a push than a choice. Who would willingly choose to have less than what they started with? Certainly, fewer people would apply for Millionaire if they knew they could end up with a big bill at the end of the show. The appeal of the show is you could win big, but you can't really lose. Unfortunately the CCP isn't so kind when it comes to political reform. The tiny carrot we get for pocketing the package has to be seen in context of the big stick hanging over our heads if we refuse. It's this belief that probably motivates most of the 'pragmatists' in Hong Kong. They're not motivated by the gain the Reform Package is offering, they're not stupid, it's a rubbish deal! Instead they're focused on the loss Hong Kong will suffer if it refuses and dares to ask for more.

Unfortunately, all this discussion is academic. The big stick is coming, we refused the measly carrot on offer and gambled on achieving true universal suffrage with Occupy Central and lost. The pragmatists warned us this would happen. So, is it now time for them to step-in and wittle down the size of that stick we've got coming? Can the pragmatists voice save us from a draconian Article 23, other national security laws, a malign police force and an aloof, Beijing orientated government? Can they get Hong Kong back on track and shield us from the beatings by showing that we're now willing to take that first step on the CCP's prescribed method of universal suffrage? Is it now time for pragmatism to push idealism out of the limelight?

Should the PanDems now pass the Reform Package, so we don't end up democratically-poorer than when we started?

Let's explore this and take one two, ten, twenty steps along that road and see what it looks like.

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Passing the Reform Package - what that might look like.
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After some small initial tinkering and horse trading the nominating committee allows some more preliminary stages where pro-democracy candidates can raise a limited political platform. Maybe even some TV debates, but by the end of the process we will be down to two, maybe three pro-Beijing candidates. No one is under any illusion that these wouldn't be the same candidates if we still had the 1200 election committee, but the point which Beijing will keep pushing is this is an "exercise in democracy" that is moving forward, albeit slowly. It really will be a democratic process as to who wins the final election between the anointed three. The electorate will decide democratically. Beijing will not be able to influence as to whether candidate A, B, or C wins. Up to 5 million people could cast their vote, how can Beijing control this? Hong Kong people will be deciding who the leader is and not just 1200 people. It's a no brainer. It's infinitely better than what we have now, isn't it?

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NO!

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There's one essential criteria that has been conveniently left out of this whole process, that is key to any form of democratic election and that's mandate. The point of democracy is to give those in charge a mandate to rule. Without mandate they have no political capital to get anything done. This is what has plagued CH Tung, Donald Tsang and CY Leung. They have no mandate to be in the job and so are effectively political eunuchs.

The new reform package's principle purpose is designed to give Beijing a pseudo-democratic mandate in Hong Kong. For Beijing, whether 5million or 1200 people vote for their chosen candidates is irrelevant, what's important is the process gives them the mandate to rule.

Look at the havoc CY Leung is causing to Hong Kong now. Imagine a CY Leung with a mandate of 2 million votes? 689 has no credibility to govern, but stick him in a sham election and with a mandate of millions and he would become a political monster that huge swathes of the Hong Kong population would be powerless to fight back against.

How about gifting such a democratic mandate to Regina Ip or some other, as yet unknown, crony eagerly waiting in the wings?

This reform package is in actuality a nuclear-steroid shot in the arm for erstwhile useless Beijing yes-men. The benefit Hong Kong society gets in taking part in a quasi-democratic election is negligible compared to the super-charge any chosen candidate will get politically. They will be able to parade around the world and tout they are the democratically chosen candidate of the Hong Kong people, erstwhile using that same phoney mandate to close down any decent at home. Historians have written lots of books about this kind of practice, it's nothing new. The only sad thing is that people in the name of pragmatism fall for the same political sleight of hand time and time again and civil societies are led willingly to the slaughter by the ring in their noses put their by the so called pragmatists.

This is why the Reform Package can't be passed, because it's not even close to being about having an orderly exercise in democracy. The point, and it's a terrifying one, is this process will hand a form of democratic mandate to people who are wholly unfit to lead. So in actuality, we're not even playing a game of Millionaire, the prize on offer is not even worth chasing after. We truly are better off now than we will be in 2017 if this package is passed. In fact this form of phoney democracy is more dangerous than Beijing just sending us an official from the Mainland to rule over us. At least then there is no pretence or lie to live with.

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