Democracy and Nonviolence go hand-in-hand

18.12.2015 - Tony Henderson

Democracy and Nonviolence go hand-in-hand
Umbrella Movement, November 2014, Hong Kong (Image by Tony Henderson)

Democracy and Non-Violence go hand-in-hand, or should. In a true democracy there would be no violence and that is the strongest indicator of its presence. Conversely, in situations, whether political or other, non-violence is apparent when everything is running smoothly and political groups and cultural groups are living and working well together.

Non-violence is rather implicit while violence is highly explicit, as with democracy, when it’s working no need to talk about it. Sadly, the term democratic is used very loosely and has long been misused to give an air of legitimacy to institutions, even nations, that know better but cling to outer forms, for whatever reason, hardly ever good ones.

Examples abound revealing the mis-dealings under the name of democracy but to take Hong Kong as a case in point is useful as the territory is a crucible for mixing democracy as the West is claiming it to be, and the different organisational forms in Asia, typified by the Chinese Communist government and Party head-quartered in Beijing, would have it.

In Hong Kong every July 1, the streets throng with noisy parties with their varying opinions clamouring for justice on all kinds of issues, many that are affecting its people concerning the best way ahead. These can be distilled down to, which path to take, a pro-Beijing one that will curtail individual freedoms to an uncertain extent, but nothing that cannot be handled, or, that of opposition to the pro-Beijing administration under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that has so far only resulted in a stalemate in the various facets of development of Hong Kong, from political to economic.

Each year on this day there is the annual come-out-on-the-street protest and groups carry banners for what you will – but largely framed as a voice-out for democracy, the theme of the rally. It is perennially non-violent. This reflects well on both the people and the police.

On this day in 2015 it was reported that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee had voted in support of a new national security law, to be implemented with immediate effect. It highlighted Hong Kong and Macau’s obligations under the law, saying that the two Special Administrative Regions must fulfill their responsibilities!

While the new legislation prohibits acts such as treason, secession and subversion, as well as the theft of state secrets (of course), it also covers everything from food safety to religious activities, and from cyber security to activities in space. However, a spokesman later stressed it would not be applied to Hong Kong as it is not stated in the Basic Law annex – with its particular interpretation of local democracy.

This special day for Hong Kong was born and came out of a special moment in 2003, when opposition to the proposed Article 23 national security law grew so strong that the Civil Human Rights Front was formed to platform opposition views.

The 2003 march was a major event that continues to provide a reference point for the Hong Kong protest movements, whatever your ‘bag’, bring it along. Yet the Civil Human Rights Front has continued to organise the march, while themes vary by the year, they always pivot around human rights and calls for greater democracy. As said before, the event is largely peaceful.

Meanwhile, around the world this very same democracy term is being abused by those wanting to stay in power and by those wanting to undermine the powers-that-be, for hidden ends that have nothing at all to do with democratic participation in the general system and process of government, of managing a people and its economy and the ways and means of doing so.

On the other side, Beijing sees democracy in its wide-ranging selection of people from all strata of Hong Kong society to make up its Chief Executive (CE) nomination committee, for example; while democrats of most persuasions in Hong Kong seem to have a single goal in sight – one-man-one-vote for electing into office the CE.

All of these groups would do well to question why they are wanting to follow in the steps of the old colonialists by having such an ‘el supreme’ at the top of the heap!

Is a ‘leader’ needed; or a co-ordinator and liaison between Hong Kong, the SAR executive officers and thereby the central government in far away Beijing. The CE could be simply a spokesperson, both up and down, at the beck and call of Hong Kongens.

It has been well attested that the way government is run in Hong Kong is like a corporate business body that has an agenda and will implement that agenda despite opposition from any vocal segment of the people no matter how vocal. This is seen in all major decisions from an additional airport runway, the bridge linking Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai, to mass-burning waste incinerators, to non-recycling programmes where the public consultations turn out to be simple ‘what you need to know’ lectures at one-sided government run forums.

In mainland China itself there are social and green movements that have successfully changed things that example more democracy than can be found in Hong Kong, especially with so much wasted hot air between the different protagonists in Hong Kong.

If Hong Kong is to be saved from itself it should get on with the job of sorting everything out and that means involvement in all the institutions, from unions to neighbourhood groups, so they have as many voices – and feet – involved at all the levels and most importantly at the root level where each individual counts. This will be fulfilling Hong Kong’s responsibilities. It will be participatory democracy. Sadly, that’s not the case…

Would, or really, will, an all-encompassing Communist Party with its model of ‘new democracy’ do a better job when it completes its take over in 2047, only thirty-two year’s time? Can the people of Hong Kong afford to wait that long?

Obviously they think not. In September, 2015, the first anniversary of the Umbrella Movement protests, which began on Sept. 28, 2014, and lasted for 79 days, was really ‘not celebrated’ in Hong Kong; which was a general feeling pervaded the mostly younger activists, though over a thousand of them gathered to mull over the issue.

Of these it was admitted almost 200 were against the Occupy phenomenon with some declaring it initiated problems in the economy as Beijing withdrew favours and cancelled business events to indicate displeasure.

Others have suggested that, by raising tensions in Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing, the Umbrella Movement likely made it a tougher task to achieve greater western-style democracy in Hong Kong.

It was a long shot indeed to presume anything happening on the street in Hong Kong would alter Beijing’s plans for the ex-British colony. In Beijing’s view, what is current is democratic in the sense taken by the Communist Party, with the wide strata of representation at the various levels when voting takes place. Universal suffrage in the full western sense was never intended.

Occupy could be seen as a failure because Hong Kong did not get what the protesters originally asked for: universal suffrage. However, it takes another more subtle measure and gauge to give due credit to the Umbrella Movement’s success in raising civil awareness among the citizens.

One activist commented: “We lost the moment, but we’ll win the future.”

Joshua Wong who internationally became for many the face of the Umbrella Movement shared on his Facebook page: “After one year, it is not good for us just to celebrate our “good times” during Occupy, it is the time for us to say goodbye to the feelings of ‘helplessness’ as well as any Chinese cynicism. We should acknowledge that we did not achieve what we asked for, we do not have our popular vote in 2017, but we will not give up, we will think about our future road, to commit further to Hong Kong democratic movements, move on and always stay on the front line.

“We hope one year after, in 2016, we are not going to bring yellow umbrellas back to Admiralty, but we can tell other people, like those standing behind the front line or who keep silence, how we will take action in the following twelve months to change the local political cycle and to expand civil awareness.”

Will the students take any heed at all of the Beijing government’s stance. Or, of Mao Tse-tung – who proved his worth in the art of government and by his arbitration between the founding ideas of Marx-Leninism and their implementation on Chinese soil (for full details see my Humanize Hong Konghttp://www.humanist.org.hk/hhk.html).

Yet, China has the spirit of democracy – this is why Mao spoke of the New Democracy. Ancient Chinese democracy was formed around village self-government with laissez-faire controls from the Central Government. It foundered on mis-education, a class based society, corruption and by the imposition of centralised taxation and control – in effect, by mismanagement.

Things are a great deal further forward today. Also, the possibilities of mass communications are available, if still managed by monopolies for profit and control – in a word – power. But many external things have changed for the good, the problem lies with the attitudes, the behaviour, the internal ‘thing’.

The promise of humanism comes in here, precisely, in the Humanization of Man. Humanize Man and the entirety of associated trappings are humanized. It is the next step to take the New Democracy to pure Communism and the only way the latter will work.

Communism, which places the value of the community – en masse – as the first priority, and labels it The State, has to be modified so the human being is given central value.

In practice this means a co-operative system of economy and of politics. It also means that the human being is recognised whatever the race, creed or colour.

The New Democracy sees a One Earth system, just like the old Chinese Universe but the educated Chinese see beyond their nationalistic tendencies and include the whole of mankind in this One Earth.

It has always been said that Communism has to be a universal system to work, and that holds true. This may not necessarily mean ‘the universe’ ie., the whole planet, it can be ‘their universe’, their part of the planet, but that would mean a permanent situation of tension between the different worlds, just as we have today, more ideally without the ragged edges but there is an answer that overcomes those limitations.

People outside of the Communist brotherhood thought this meant an exclusivity, as did many fellow travellers who never gave active consideration to Communism and how it would work. The answer lay in the notion of a world society envisaged with a common denominator: Man – but Man as human being.

Man, defined in humanism as a socio-historical phenomenon, simply, a product of his or her social and historical conditions, determines the rate of change depending in great degree on the intention.

Then Man becomes sufficiently independent of nature and stands apart and cannot be linked with that unthinking violence seen in the affairs of the jungle, or the desert, where survival is paramount and Madam Fate plays a major role. That was the Dark Ages, with settlement, leading to the Feudal Ages.

The methodology of humanism is active non-violence which works to displace from power every form of violence; whether physical, economical, racial, ideological, religious or cultural.

In the machine-like mentality of an industrial-material society Man is ‘naturally’ violent but the humanist doctrine opposes this, saying that with the intention of non-violence then Man is not violent.

The inhumane systems of all countries, whether Capitalist or Communist, and everything in between, are the direct cause of people’s stress. The pressures and forms of violence openly or discreetly practiced resulting in people’s general violence. It is the violence of the systems that is the problem – the root of the problem – the reaction of people is symptomatic only and
points at that root.

Give anyone the possibility of contentment and a proper education with future and there is no violence! That’s democracy East or West.

The New Democracy was not intended as the final solution, but to lead to peaceful co-existence among all people. To achieve this there has to be a new mentality and only today is the means available; the technology, the communications, the sufficient number of educated, the surpluses, the awareness and the rising power of the young in spirit – that is usually coincident with
the young of age.

In ancient China, in Confucianism, there was the idea of Rule in Virtue, where mankind was taken to be originally pure and non-violent – exemplified by philosopher Wang Yangming – and where the problem was seen to be the environment and the system as agents that sullied. In Buddhism also, the Buddha Mind is originally pure, like a mirror. The effort involved in self-realisation is – once the mirror is cleaned – to keep the mirror free of dust. Bear in mind that the Gautama the Buddha is Man not god.

The Chinese Communist propaganda machine, that made the entire Communist experiment work, now has to be placed at the service of humanizing. Whereas it has been used for the external work of good personal hygiene, birth control and the like in its everyday applications, it also deals with qualification of the entire population of China in regard to the doctrine of Communism, the works of Marx-Leninism, the works and thought of Mao Tse-tung and on, via Deng to Xi Jin-ping. Also, very importantly, to inspire Communists with the fire and brimstone of Communist idealism. Well, a reorientation has to be given.

Of utmost importance is it that the individual trace his or her ‘internal bomb’ of violence to its roots, to at least gain acquaintance with its origins. By this it can be seen that the ‘given situation’, that into which each of us was born, was often enough a raw deal from the start. To clear the patch, to see the conditioning and then see the machine of the system in action, that’s the personal work.

The system – which never accepts responsibility and has a built-in mechanism of reversibility where blame is set squarely on the shoulders of its enclosed parts – is unaccountable. In humanism it has to be made accountable. In so doing, this will destabilise its accomplices.

These accomplices are the very bureaucrats that foul up the works for self-gain, as already stated. The modern compradore – the sudden and so-called ‘Liberal Party’ people in Hong Kong and their willing allies. These latter are the type of people who say, “I only work here, I don’t make the rules.” What they say is true enough, but do they have to work there? If, because of the false economics of the system, the answer seems to be yes, then the revolution starts by providing everyone with alternative non-destructive forms of employment.

Not that it is just those business liberals at the top of the heap that are here fingered, their opportunist minions on whatever level of the social or business scale are similarly guilty. The bureaucrat in any government office who slumps into his or her perpetually filled iron rice bowl. The petty wheeler-dealer in the shop who has your money and plays around instead of just delivering the goods. All of that is within the type.

But this is not just an appeal to the individual but a guide to the humanizing of Communism. For this to work the entire propaganda machine of the Chinese Communist Party has to gear up to act in a different direction. Because, the problem is, just as the problem always has been, one of attitude. It is the how that is wrong, not the what.

Democracy is an aim in both the East and the West, it is just a question of how it is seen, in the former the term is laboured beyond its aspirations while in the latter it is the road seldom mentioned, the via positiva vs the via negitiva, very like the way of spiritual insight that demarcates West and East.

Which ever the route, in a democracy active non-violence is inherent and when active non-violence is used as the means to achieve an end it shows democracy in action.

Categories: Asia, Nonviolence, Opinions
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