Is Western Democracy at Its Tether?

politicaljokes

Years ago, in my first year of university, I encountered the question: “Social sciences, primarily that of politics, is a science. Agree or disagree?) In light of recent events in the international arena of politics, I began reflecting back on that question. Before you read on, what would your response be, and why?

As a citizen of a democratic nation, it is your duty to keep the place in-check. It is not the government’s responsibility, it is not the government’s shortfalls, and it is not the government’s incompetence, because democracies are ruled by the People.

For a democracy to sustain itself, it needs nation-wide standardised government education to teach following generations to make calculated votes based on conjecture over emotion. Dahl, in his book “Democracy and Its Critics”, writes about how polyarchic democracies can only be sustained “if it possesses a political culture and beliefs, particularly among activists, that support the institutions of polyarchy.

Democracy in itself is traditionally known as “for the people and by the people”. If the People are to rule each other, the does it not stand to reason that the People ought to know what is best for themselves? Yes and no.

People may know what is best for themselves, but not always what is best for the nation. The emotional appeal to people is often the detriment to democracy, because it allows people to vote for who they trust, who they like, who “seems” like a good candidate. It allows voters to become subjective rather than objective, but also takes away their accountability as a democrat. Dahl, however, states that sustaining a polyarchic democracy is possible if – and only if- those who advocate for politics share a united belief. Therefore, once the masses are swayed, it is hard to override the wants of the People in a short period of time. It is through educating the younger generations of voters to keep informed that an educated democratic vote can be made.

Politics once had a dichotomous front – that was to say, East vs. West, North vs. South – but today, with globalisation at its expansion, politics has become a multi-polar game where the aspects traditionally defined as “grey aras” are now the new norm.

With Western liberalism on the rise and the push for humanitarianism toughens, democratic OECD nations have shifted focus from national economy to social justice; however, for Third World Countries or other OECD non-democratic nations, liberalism has been a gradual push through media, education, and travel. Technological advancements have brought the international arena out of the shadows, and it is partially for these reasons that democracies are reaching their limitations.

The gap, which democracies have been yet to fill, is that of cultural flexibility within education: as it stands in today’s era, many institutions structure social sciences as Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts. Politics itself may have been an art, traditionally, if analogised by chess played with words: it was an art, a virtue, a reflection of character and integrity. Nowadays, however, politics has become so systemic that democratic education platforms should consider restructuring political science into a scientific method of studying rather than an artistic one.

Though it has been argued that the volatility of politics makes it hard to be defined as a science, those who have studied the scientific route of politics are well-versed in their ability to see conjecture and formula over emotion and reflection. Information has reached the stage where it is not facts and opinions that are in flux as much as interpretation. Politics has facts, it has opinions, but what it lacks when applied is interpretation.

Critics argue that “interpretation” is subjective; but science is clear in that when a hypothesis is formulated, the variables make up the solution. Conjecture can be formed based on pattern learning, and interpretation is a collection and process of data. (see Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data)  Having studied political science for years, and watched how it plays out in the world, I have come to realise that a gap political scientists need to emphasise more is that of culture. In a globalised world, “culture” is the determinant of how votes take place. Rogoff, in his analysis “Britain’s Democratic Failure” in regards to Brexit, stated that “a country should not be making fundamental, irreversible changes based on a razor-thin minority that might prevail only during a brief window of emotion”.

It is in this regard that nationalism is key to a successful vote, and arguably, nationalism is the antithesis of globalisation. With the information era pushing globalisation at a rate no renowned political scientist could ever predict (due to technological setbacks in the past), it is evident that democratic votes hold higher regard to emotion than cognition. Many democratic votes in this century have been swayed by creating a breeding ground of emotional frenzy whereby the arguments are one sided on both sides.

History shows us examples of where emotive language has succeeded because it catered to those who were not in positions to receive the education required to understand political language. Machiavelli instilled fear in his attitude that “it is better to be feared than loved,” (Cahn, 2005). Napolean Bonaparte moved the revolutionist in the French; Hitler manipulated the minds of the Nazi’s; Churchill, amidst the panic of ideological change during the Cold War. There are also recent examples such as how “Brexit has thrown the U.K’s two major parties into civil war”.[1]  It is evidenced by America with Trump’s appeal to the radical, barbaric, and competitive side of human nature (as philosophised by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Machiavelli), Clinton’s dual-sided arguments appealing to the freedom-hungry, autonomous, as well as self-interested side of human nature (as speculated by Locke, Mill, and Smith).

Yes, politics has become more systemic in the information era, and it is for these reasons that institutions (especially democratic ones) ought to reconsider how the social science courses are implemented, for the art of politics was the “old man’s game”; but today’s forward thinking generation of tomorrow’s world needs balance – the science of politics.

As a citizen of a democratic nation, it is your duty to keep the place in-check. It is not the government’s responsibility, it is not the government’s shortfalls, and it is not the government’s incompetence, because democracies are ruled by the People.

[1] Politics in the last two decades has become so systemic through the information era that it’s inevitable to be “surprised but not surprised” by the Brexit vote. As seen by the results, Brexit has, in itself, created a breeding ground of emotional frenzy whereby the arguments are one sided on both sides.

~Gordan

Analysis on the Umbrella Revolution

CartoonWhat is the Umbrella Revolution?

The Umbrella Revolution is a revolutionary protest organized by students, educators and civilians around Hong Kong to fight for democracy. The name was coined during the final weekend of September in response to the publically deemed “excessive force” exercised by the police when they launched tear gas at unarmed civilians. The police justify their actions by claiming to have been outnumbered by a ratio of 7 angry protesters per 1 cop.

 Why is the Umbrella Revolution taking place?

As per an agreement made between Britain and China in 1984, Hong Kong is to exercise a One Country Two System policy until 2046. This agreement was made to ensure that Hong Kong is entitled to its capitalist free market and independent government. However, in the recent years, China has begun to appoint pro-Chinese government officials to the Hong Kong “Cabinet” so as to secure their hold on Hong Kong before the final handover thirty years from now.

 The People of Hong Kong are now standing up to this government and challenging the ideologies and expectations set out by the Chinese government. Two of the largest issues raised during the protests are universal suffrage and censorship. On Thursday night, 2nd October, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung announced that he would grant Hong Kong five million votes for the 2017 election. Hong Kong is unsatisfied with this response, claiming that it is not the number of votes in concern, but rather who the candidates are. “Giving us the selection of A) Bread with ham and cheese, B) Cheese with bread and ham and C) Ham with cheese and bread is not a real election!” claimed one of the leaders at the Central protests. “We want a true election!” echoed the crowd.

Click here for the definition of True Democracy in Hong Kong.

The realities behind the protests:

All throughout history, Hong Kong has always been a popular hub for international traders. The Imperial Era recognized Hong Kong’s tea, pearl and salt resources, and thus began trade. The Colonial Era then acknowledged Hong Kong’s geographical location, and used Hong Kong as a port between traders. Over the years, Hong Kong has always caught the eye of many stronger civilizations. The 1800s marked the beginning of Hong Kong’s existence under colonial Britain, but by the mid-1900s, Hong Kong’s paradigm was challenged by Japan. The Japanese managed to occupy Hong Kong for just under a decade before Britain took full control in the 1950s.

 1984 was when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, permitting Hong Kong to function with two policies until 2046. 1997 marked the “Handover,” which was when Britain “returned” Hong Kong to China under the terms and conditions listed out in 1984. In 1996, Prime Minister John Major promised Hong Kong that “If in the future there were any suggestion of a breach in the Joint Declaration, we would mobilize the international community and pursue every legal and other avenue open to us. Hong Kong will never have to work alone.” This promise was evidently disregarded in Hong Kong’s fight for True Democracy, but the reason being that the timing within the international arena is not ample.

How timing is severely affecting the outcome of this revolution:

Many sources have made various claims that this plan was set in motion within the last decade, albeit these claims are heavy, but not necessarily inaccurate, conjectures. Democracy has always been a threat to the Chinese government, but Hong Kong has always been open to democracy. Therefore, superpowers who are engaged in spreading democracy can easily use Hong Kong as a hub or pathway into China. However, the timing of this revolution is the greatest weakness of the revolution itself: considering that most of the international focus is on defeating Isis, most superpowers feel that their resources are better spent ridding the world of a concentrated religious paradigm rather than supporting a small city that is one of the top ten contributors to the global economy.

 Further analysis and outcome of responses indicate that Western Superpowers would put more effort into supporting the ideological paradigm had the emphasis not been so heavily concentrated on Isis, but also that the involvement of Western Superpowers would be from a diplomatic standpoint, and not military warfare. China is currently one of the strongest economic powers in the world, and considering that those whose armies are reliant on Chinese money, it is unlikely that their armies would take on the Chinese government in the first place. Conversely, the Chinese government is a threat to Hong Kong’s democracy, which essentially threatens the independent free market on many levels. This threat is partially what is attracting attention in the global arena, and this is the reason why Western Superpowers are even marginally involved.

What will happen?

What the media has failed to accurately portray is that this revolution is not a fight that began just ten days ago. This is not just a “protest by bored people who want to change something.” And the fact that protesters are leaving the scene is not a sign of boredom or defeat, it is a sign that Hong Kong will continue to maintain its solidarity and together, we will come up with a new, more feasible and more realistic method to achieve an outcome. The protest was needed in order to arouse international and national attention, and now that we understand which Superpowers are in unison and for what reasons, perhaps all we need is the correct timing. Whatever happens to this protest, this Revolution, it is evident that these ten days are just the tip of the iceberg, a taste of greater things yet to come. Greater, regardless of the ideological or paradigmatic shifts, but greater in the sense that very soon, big changes will take place in Hong Kong, and these changes are all dependent on how strongly China values their reputation in the International Arena.

This volatility of China is the greatest threat to Hong Kong.
And Hong Kong’s independence and social progression is the greatest threat to the Chinese government.

So, what now?
Click here to read “The next 36 hours could determine the future of Hong Kong.”

McGordan

United We Raise Our Umbrellas

Translation of the popular song going around Hong Kong about the Umbrella Revolution. Please watch the video, even if you don’t understand the lyrics. This accurately depicts what we are going through here. It gives a real feel for the unity and solidarity that Hong Kong is using to shield themselves.

I translated the contextual meaning, not the literal meaning because it’s quite heavy on the metaphor and wouldn’t make sense to be translated literally.

Sitting in this sea of people
I will not be afraid
But with fear instill in us like this
What are we to do?
This is life, and we get to this night
Are we even more afraid to express our cries from the heart?

Standing on the frontlines
Our courage is relentless
What we fear more is the bleak fate
But who wants this?
We must see past the absurdity
For at that moment, you will shed a tear

Together with our umbrellas
Together holding hands
Together, we are not alone
United we raise our umbrellas
United we raise our hands
United we keep our courage
So I ask you, “Are you afraid?”
Even when there is a storm
When we’re at the end of our tethers
Umbrellas are a blossoming flower
Never goes dry and never withers

So for every tomorrow
Please remember tonight
That you and I have faced a miserable reality
But this is life
And if you miss the opportunity tonight
This may be our last chance for
Freedom of Speech.

National Day at The Umbrella Revolution

protest
Walking on the Gloucester Road flyover

Spent the afternoon walking around the Hong Kong Island scene today. Here are some highlights of what the Internet can’t really show you. Parts of the protest you simply have to be there to experience.

The atmosphere was peaceful and calm, quite surreal in the sense that there was so much energy and passion, yet people were so relaxed and driven at the same time. It was inspiring to see, and made me very, very proud to be a part of this. There was even section where student were sorting through recycling and openly collecting rubbish. Others were handing out food and cooling pads.

The activists stood with bullhorns, but everyone had their own section so it wasn’t just a bunch of noise. The activists spoke passionately and convincingly, using relatable analogies and metaphors that are a heavy structure of the Chinese language. Much of what was said can’t be translated literally into English, but most were along the lines of “Universal Suffrage does not mean you give us options, it means we choose our own.

A young ten-year old boy was trying to understand how GoPro Drones work by explaining it to those around him.
A young ten-year old boy was trying to understand how GoPro Drones work by explaining it to those around him.

This little boy was trying to understand how a Go Pro works, so he listened to his father and then relayed the information (in English) to others around him to ensure he understood. Kudos to this kid for his curiosity!

watching
On the left (in Chinese) – Occupy with love and peace On the right (English) – The world is watching

Motivational signs hung all over the protest arena, to remind Hong Kong citizens to keep doing what they’re doing because many are becoming inspired.

tent
Tents set up for overnight protesters

Overnight protesters set up tents to rest and also shelter themselves from the tear gas, should there be another outbreak.

MK Monday
Taken at the Mong Kok protest scene at lunchtime on Monday.

This one was taken on Monday, at the Mong Kok protest, during my lunchbreak.

Hong Kong Rubbish
Rubbish collection – half of which were collected by students and protesters who even stayed behind to sort through recycling. Hong Kong, you’re doing it right!

Not only have government cleaners and the Environmental Protection Department offered their help, but also students and young children were seen actively cleaning and collecting rubbish. Furthermore, dedicated students also sorted through recycling.

Arrogance
Your arrogance keeps us here Solidarity will see us through.

One of the mantras to motivate activists: Your arrogance keeps us here. Solidarity will see us through. Taken with the symbol for the Legislative Council in the top right corner (Chinese Symbol for LegCo, but also means “To Stand For.”)

  fascist democracy damage

View of the crowd from the Admiralty side. Around 18h00
View of the crowd from the Admiralty side. Around 18h00

Stay strong, Hong Kong.
McGordan

Do You Hear The People Sing?

In light of the Umbrella Revolution which started on Friday night, September 26th, 2014, an anthem has been spreading around the networks of Hong Kong. The lyrics are really powerful, and I’ve taken the liberty to translate them to the best of my understanding. If there are any errors, feel free to comment. I will make changes accordingly, thank you.

We are crying to be heard.
We are crying to be heard.

English translation of the anthem:

Ask me who hasn’t spoken up yet
For if not I, then who will defend our city
For we were born with the right to be
So who has the power to play as God?
Who should tolerate their voices being suppressed
Who is ale to remain unaware
Hearing the sounds of freedom echoing all around
Arousing the inevitable fact that you cannot turn your back on such an enlightened response

Why is a beautiful dream still just a dream?
We need grace and mercy to cast its light on the shadow
Why is it only black or white, yes or no?
Why not use right and wrong as a standard?
For the future of our generation
We need to keep our eyes open.

No on has the right to be mundane
And lazily sit there watching the millions around us catch on fire
So ask me again and I’ll raise my hand
To be chosen as one that will help to construct our lives
People are still people with responsibility and freedom to decide our future
For THE FREEDOM OF OUR FUTURE IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY

The Umbrella Revolution

The Umbrella Revolution: How Hong Kong defends itself against itself against its own government. No looting, no burglaries, no fires, no stepping on grass, and no unfinished homework. And how do we plan to win? With love, peace and good morals.

Vision HK
The Umbrella Revolution of Hong Kong, 2014.

Hong Kong’s passionate and unrelenting fight for democracy has begun to set an example for the world in regards to how protests can be fought. If the police force are able to exercise their rationale and let the conscience be their guide, rather than blindly follow inflexible orders, then Hong Kong stands a chance at winning with a ribbon.

And an umbrella.

This all started as a peaceful protest, where students, leaders and activists have gotten together to fight for democracy by way of Scholarism. This is the new-wave education which Hong Kong has been undergoing for the last few years, and in terms of social sciences, one could almost call this Hong Kong’s Enlightenment Period. After years of social suppression, Hong Kong education has finally liberated the minds of its People, and in turn, the People are merely asking for a shot at keeping this newly adopted and evidently welcomed mentality. The fact that the greatest percentage of supporters are university students, it stands to reason that Hong Kong’s education is, actually showing progress intellectually, socially and philosophically. All of these are key fundamentals to Humanism, and although Hong Kong may be decades late in adopting this mindset, this Revolution is an event that HAS to take place.

The French had theirs, as did the Russians. The Civil Rights movement was no different, and this is one of the fastest (not the fastest) spreading revolutions in the last century. Thanks to technology and a set of demographics that work to our advantage, we’ve managed to start a revolution that has been featured as international headlines for three consecutive days and counting. This has aroused global awareness and highly appreciated support from 40 cities and 15 countries. We thank Britain for voicing their concern and extend our gratitude to Chemring for looking into the matter. However, we fear that if Britain no longer distributes the gas to Hong Kong, the city will resort to using gas manufactured in China, which could be lethal.

Alas, we sincerely hope that people are clear on the fact that we are fighting for democracy and protesting police brutality. Contrary to what Ishaan Tharoor states in his report, Hong Kong is not focused on protesting the arrest of student activist Joshua Wong, who was released the next day.

Proud HK

Citizen's concern and understanding towards the cops despite their brutality over the past few days.
Citizen’s concern and understanding towards the cops despite their brutality over the past few days.
The Environmental Protection Department stacks up bottles for recycling.
The Environmental Protection Department stacks up bottles for recycling.

The fact that recycling can still be a concern for the city shows how smoothly and successfully this protest is going. Well done, Hong Kong.

Translation: A Cop with a Conscience
Translation: A Cop with a Conscience

In attempt to regain the city’s trust, cops whose vision is aligned with ours are openly showing their support.

Benny Tai from Occupy Central breaks down for the city.
Benny Tai from Occupy Central breaks down for the city.
We are crying to be heard.
We are crying to be heard.

Hong Kong adopts the tune from Les Misérables “Do You Hear The People Sing?” as the anthem for democracy by changing the lyrics into Cantonese so as to complement the situation.

In the mean time, the streets remain quiet at 11 AM on China’s National Day, October 1st. Many are hoping for the radical irony of Hong Kong Independence Day landing National Day, but until I can physically be present, I will continue to contribute to the protest by translating posts from the Chinese news and posting it onto the unfiltered English live feed here. For the live feed of official (with sources) unfiltered news, please follow this one.

Stay strong Hong Kong.
McGordan