Contradiction?

June 19, 2011 at 3:53 am (Humans, Politics)

I’ve been involved in the Chinese democratic movement in Hong Kong for quite a while. In fact, I’m a registered member of the League of Social Democrats (whose leaders are mostly famous for throwing bananas at government officials and accusing others of being Communists while wearing Che Guevara shirts themselves[1]). I’ve been to speeches, rallies and gatherings and I’ve had the chance to see almost all of the pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong. Then when I tell my friends that I have absolutely nothing against the Communist Party maintaining their rule and I think they are one of the most competent governments since the history of human civilization, I am always met with blank stares.

Why? I’ve never really understood why most people find it unimaginable to support people who they might disagree with, or the other way round. When I think of whether to support the Communist Party, what I am thinking of is what my support could possibly do to the rest of society. In particular, I wonder whether it would increase the chance of having a better government in China if I did not support the Communist Party. My answer right now is an uncertain no. I do not think a regime change or a transfer of power in China in the next twenty years is likely to benefit society as a whole, and hence I support the Communist Party (or rather, do not actively try to challenge it).

When I think of whether to participate in a democratic rally, I am thinking mostly of whether the act of me participating in a democratic rally will help China in any way. My answer right now is an emphatic yes. I think a stronger democratic movement will pressure the Communist Party to become more liberal politically, perhaps even to the extent of the Kuomintang in Taiwan, that is, having elections. I am not certain of who I would vote for in such an election, the communists or their opponents on the left or on the right, but I do have confidence that such elections will make the government more competent.

So here I have two positions that seem unimaginably contradictory to some, but perfectly natural to me. Perhaps the reason I think like this can be attributed to my “pragmatism”, though I find it silly to give a name to a way of thinking that is as obvious and as natural as this. Sure, I had some feelings about party loyalty and solidarity and political ideals in the past, but that quickly disappeared when I reached the age of 12. Yet somehow very few people seem to understand my position and I am very often accused of being “contradictory”. I would have thought that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the warmongering Liu Xiao-bo would be considered “contradictory”, but most democratic activists in Hong Kong and in the West seem to have absolutely no problem with this.

I know why I think the way I do: I care about the results of my actions. What I don’t really understand is why anyone else would not do so. If I have to guess, I would attribute a significant part of it to optimism. It seems that most people in society think of the world as generally perfect, and that all injustices need to be fought in order to achieve a perfect world. I tend to think of the world as generally corrupt, inhumane and unbelievably silly, and we need to do the best with what little we have.

In other words, people generally think of the world in black-and-white terms, while I don’t. To them, since Liu Xiao-bo is fighting the communists, he must be the good guy. I am sure that most people have realized by the time they were teenagers that there are no clearly-defined goods or evils in their lives, but they don’t seem to be able to apply this to the rest of the world.

Here is a list of other beliefs I have (that I can come up with for the moment) which are often accused of being “contradictory”. If I have the time, I might discuss them individually in the future.

  • It would be good if Libya’s current government steps down; it would be great if they win their war against the Western-backed rebels before they do so.
  • Just about every socialist belief is misguided and not very thought-out; I would vote for the socialist party given the chance to do so in most countries.
  • The Republican Party’s economic policies reflect the fact that it is essentially controlled by self-interested businessmen; the Republican Party’s economic policies have done a lot of good to society.
  • Christianity is silly, juvenile and ridiculous; Christianity is the best thing to be invented by men since the wheel.
  • All languages should be seen as equal; the United States should have English as a national language and impose this on other countries if possible.

Here are also some positions that I do find contradictory, but which other people seem to think is perfectly sensible:

  • One claims to be fighting for human rights in China by supporting ethnic violence against minorities
  • One thinks that global warming is the greatest danger facing mankind, and wants to end nuclear energy
  • One claims to be fighting for the poor; one refuses to consider the effects that minimum wage legislation might have on the poor.

Notes:

^
1. This might be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with the bizarre rivalries between communist sects. Currently the only legislator of the LSD, Leung Kwok-hung, is a self-proclaimed Trotskyist who wears a Che Guevara shirt at all times. Apparently he did not realize that Ernesto Guevara was a hardcore Stalinist during his youth and executed a fair number of Trotskyists. Here is what Guevara proclaimed in response to criticism of the Stalinist purge:

“You cannot be for the revolution and be against the Cuban Communist Party. The Revolution and the Communist Party march together.”

The scene which I mentioned above is here (he is repeatedly shouting “Answer my question, are you a Communist?”. You can see the Che shirt in the beginning).

Leung Kwok-hung’s outburst is not as ridiculous as it sounds, though, considering that the current Communist Party has very little to do with communism. In fact Leung Kwok-hung has made statements criticizing the CPC as being overly capitalistic, so his position is consistent, even if his understanding of history is a bit weak. And, despite his proclamations, he is certainly not a Trotskyist, but a moderate social democrat.

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