Dictionaries usually define ‘deus ex machina’ as a literary device where a sudden and contrived last-minute twist in the plot brings a story to a neat resolution. They tend to downplay the fact that in most cases it is unconvincing and therefore lame and disappointing. To remind us, we have a letter in today’s South China Morning Post from someone agonizing about how to end the Greatest Impasse of All Time, also known as ‘kids sitting in Hong Kong streets’. After pondering a couple of fairly unlikely options, the writer grandly presents the solution to all our problems: Regina Ip. Or – as if the reader is not sufficiently underwhelmed – Antony Leung.
Now, if the aim were to get more protestors into the tent cities of Admiralty and Mongkok, having either the former Security or Financial Secretary descend onto the stage would make sense. Otherwise, a Broomhead/Lexus solution is a non-starter – turning the clock back to the last time Hong Kong was becoming seriously ungovernable.
Another letter responds to former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s dismal-sounding new ‘think tank’, the Our Hong Kong Foundation. When the group uses the word ‘our’, it means ‘not yours’. Members include the aforementioned Antony Leung, ex-monetary chief Joseph Yam, landlord Allen Zeman and property/casino heiress Pansy Ho – a little Who’s Who of the depressing and stale. The letter-writer takes Zeman to task for wanting us to “get back to the way Hong Kong was” and points out that this is exactly what we don’t need, even if it were possible.
The first letter-writer has a nostalgic yearning for failed politicians of the past, perhaps because, if nothing else, they seemed less disastrous than today’s. Operative words here are ‘if nothing else’. The second writer sees change as inevitable, but can’t name the ‘new blood’ that will lead us to it. The Greatest Impasse of All Time exists largely because the Chinese government is adamant that it will yield nothing to opposition forces in Hong Kong. But even if a fit of pragmatism and conciliation overtook the Communist regime, there would still be a void to be filled. (Star/heart-throb/student-leader Joshua Wong, by the way, will not reach the age of eligibility for Chief Executive until 2036.) This is the sort of impossible situation deus ex machina was designed to fix.
Something else that’s missing: the shrieks and howls of outrage from Beijing’s spokespeople and propaganda organs as Sinner of a Thousand Years ex-Governor Chris ‘Fatty Pang’ Patten wantonly interferes in the internal affairs of the motherland. He gave evidence to the parliamentary committee last night, Celestial Kingdom time. The longer the silence, the more explosive the tantrum and the more deafening the outburst will be.