"Do you believe in Democracy?"
This is the question a friend posed to me last night during a dinner. Being a simple person with no political sense, I was first stuck and then tongue-tied, scattered some utterly meaningless words in French: "I don't believe in it. Democrarcy - idea - good, in practice - not good. The Division - three powers - good. Election -in practice - not very good. I choose - democracy." What a disasterous political statement! My friends gave me their startled fish-face expressions: popping eyes with a big wide "O" mouth, then melt into a lenient smile. See, here is the exemplar of HK's non-democratic education system! Students are trained not to take and defend their stance but to repeat words from textbook! Before I could realise what I had had said, they jumped to another topic. Les français!
No one has asked me something like this before, not even in the HKAL examination papers. But given that I am in France, where this kind of questions passes from one dinning table to another, and that as a Chinese, I know I am an easy target for this kind of "How you see the future of China?" "How do you think about the pollution / corruption problem in China?" "What's you comment of factory workers / miners situation in China?" "Is the political freedom improving in China?" "Why the Shanghai mayor renounced the "One-child policy"? "Do you know China is consuming 1/4 of the metal resources of the world?" "Do you support the independence of Tibet?" ... ...
Huh.... Suddenly, I become our Madame la Prime Minister in an international press conference. Then I am in panic. Should I quote some 10-digit figures on this and that like Wen Jiabao to convince them and comfort them? Should I frown and slap on the table to give disapproval for the "misdeeds" of my country like Zu Longji in order to win their sympathy? or should I just shrug my shoulders and tell them I am not from the Mainlands but HK? (this will probably be followed by questions such as "Is there any big change after 1997?" "Why people go to street on 1/7?" "Is HK or Shanghai a better city?" "Why the government cleared the Aberdeen boat peoples?" This is the worst answer then!), or should I simply pretend that I speak "No French!"
So last night, before I went to bed, I asked myself once again, seriously, "Do you believe in democracy?"
Let's now flashback to the dinner table in a Buffalo restaurant opposite Moulin Rouge in the 18eme of Paris. Action! and here comes the script:
"Well, (with a frown) I don't believe in Democracy (yes, be consistent, keep my line here, please!). What's Democracy? (yes, a good anti-question, that makes me sound a scholar!) It's a beautiful concept that people dream to share an approximately equal power among them, that they enjoy freedom and liberty, embracing the "rights & obligation" equation. On ideological level, it's beautiful, but everything is beautiful before they are put into test. Communism is the utopia, Republica is the ideal (oh, please don't ask me what Plato has exactly said of his Republic). But they fail in execution since they all requires a sublime human nature. Power is corruptive (who says this? I can't remember), I don't believe in Democracy because I don't believe in power (is this the only statement I am making here?). We live in a society considered democratic and we believe that we are better than the other, but do we really are? Look, we go to supermarket, we take a trolley and we are free to choose whatever we want. We are given choices, this is a selection process. Like here, we have the menu, we can choose our own combination of food, so we think we enjoy greater freedom and democracy here compared to the canteens where choices are almost non-existing. But is this steak with french fries really the food that you wanted to eat tonight? This is false Democracy (who says this?). Look at the recent farces of presidential elections in the US, in Taiwan, in France. Isn't the system of election becoming absurd? Does “democracy” exist in these elections? Do they really represent the people when they won by 52% to 48%?
In Japan, in India and in the Philippines, for example, people’s power won over the presidents, prime ministers. The rule of the country is in a constant state of changing presidents and PMs. Policies announced today are distinated for replacement tomorrow, leaving the countries in chaos. Long-term social reforms are aborted, politicians shout for votes not for deed. In the West, women are mute, void of political bargaining power.
In those "dictatorial" states, who can say that the people there won't vote for the same dictator if they are given the right? What people are looking for is a "great leader", no matter in monarchy, in dictatorial states, in democracy, in religion, etc... If people in the US, for example, really believe in their "democratic system", there would be no Superman, no Batman, no Spiderman, no Catwoman....
What I believe firmly is the three divisions of power, legislative, executive and judiciary from Montesquieu (don’t forget to give sweets to the French, cultural pride is definitely their favourite dessert). There is no one single system that’s good. Since we are all subjects to choice not to real freedom, I would still choose democracy.”
So my friends will give me the same startled fish-face looks. After a fabulous speech in French as fluent as in English, you still can’t find my stance, simply because I have no stance in politics. This is just my usual statement of negation of everything.
A piece dedicated to my dinner-mates last night who forced me to think twice.