The best history is one which unfolds in front of you.
The last 5 years have been filled with incidents of civil unrest, mass protests and the use of means of discontent expression which have not been so actively used perhaps since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Never before in the last 20-25 years people come together to clean up their respective countries and governments whether it be in Tunisia, Yemen,Egypt, Ukraine or now Hong Kong. The internationalization of domestic troubles by the foot soldiers of democracy, the common people on social media, that is what some believe to be the drivers of this. While others propose that Social Media is agog with these civil and not so civil disruptions because of a tendency of such content to be viral rather than the medium it self being a channel for spreading the discontent. That is to say there is little influence but great homophilly in the #OccupyCentral.
Whether or not that is true, Hong Kong joined the ranks of democracy seekers this monsoon. China’s window into capitalism, Hong Kong has always been a weird animal, torn between two ideologies. The inhabitants are more modern (arguably) and thus by any philosopher’s definition, ripe for choosing their own direction than agreeing to be compliant. When the re election of the area’s Chief Executive came into spotlight, the people led by a few academics demanded the candidates from which they were to choose be selected not by China but by the people. To any dweller in a democracy, the demand seems rational enough. If any elections are meant to be truly representative, the candidates can’t be pre-selected. The displeasure of the mainland being apparent at this the professors took to the streets. Joining them were the slightly more radical Hong Kong Federation of Students & Scholarism. Waves of discontent worldwide in recent times have been led by students and youngsters possibly because of their refusal to accept a system which hasn’t worked for their parents, increased awareness of world politics or a natural immunization to indoctrination via what is inevitably a western influenced education.
While we in our democracies were embroiled in the tough task of career selection at the age of 17-18, here the boys and girls have gone a step further into future determination of their nation. The courage is undeniable but everything else is under a shadow. If there be a purely representative head of governance, how effectively would he be allowed to govern? Given the expressed discontent of commerce groups at the people’s attempt to peacefully determine their future, how likely is Hong Kong to succeed commercially given a shift in political systems? While a complete disassociation from China seems out of the question, the presence of these two such opposing schools of thought in one nation, is it even possible? These questions don’t seem to be raised often enough. With the passing of October, the leading lights of the protest movement have returned to their teaching roles. While the expression of communal discontent generated a lot of media vibe, never has a mass protest been so riddled with camera flashes, what did it achieve? The organized referendums to gauge public sentiment were definitely eye opening as to the people’s efficiency in organizing themselves and mining public opinion.
To someone who has lived life long in a democratic government there is little possibility of not having a skewed view of the situation. After all our elected representatives have failed us more often than not. While on the other hand there is freedom of expression. If you randomly select 4 people from a crowd they are equally likely to be as good or bad at governance as those which were to be elected by that crowd. This is probably not true for small homogeneous numbers. But it seems more plausible for large masses with varied cultural, financial and educational backgrounds. In democracies, the leaders are not the brightest, not the strongest and not the best for the job but their popularity eclipses their shortcomings, making their failures the fault of their electors as much as their own.
So perhaps what the people of Hong Kong and of other government disillusioned parts of the world want is a chance to make their own mistakes.