“Art of the Impossible” — “No, you can’t” v “Yes, we can”

[updated on Feb. 8, 2016]

I do not know if HK protestors are aware of Vaclav Harvel’s “Art of the Impossible.” For 10 years, I have been teaching my students that Contentious Politics is the art of the impossible. In any case, HK protestors have surely been practicing the principle. Once Beijing issued its verdict on the arrangements for election of the chief executive in 2017, commentators have been saying that this is “the reality” that HK people have to live with. Hong Kong students responded with a week-long class boycott on Sep. 22 with the slogan “Resist, Do Not Submit.” The boycott soon evolved into the Umbrella Movement on Sep. 28. See Timeline and Background.

In addition to the Lennon Wall borrowed from Prague, I finally see this video more directly adopting Harvel’s ideas: “DEMOCRACY is not just a dream 1989-2014” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM95Bwwpc7s

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989:  <這一天並不遠了> – The day will come! https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=640307516081506&set=vb.287013041410957&type=2&theater10393945_640142246098033_757762896836828244_n

Lennon’s “I may be a dreamer, but I am not the only one” is a common sight: 10750086_10152928574222448_535840677210228836_o

Inspiration from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152528827156374&set=a.10150907473366374.408285.514056373&type=1&theater)

Joshua Wong’s dictum: 「人定勝天 —— 仿如刺青般畫在我們身上,成了青春的座右銘。我們就是不應向命運低頭,被冷酷無情的命運澆熄了青春的熱情。因為我們堅信,青春就該這樣用。」(https://www.facebook.com/notes/黃之鋒-joshua/抱著你們不懂的青春-放下對政權的恐懼/734504073308770); Protest leader: ‘trying to turn impossible to possible’

The adults among us should not forget this Confucian dictum: 知其不可而為之」: 孔子不因為是否成功才決定做不做,而是因為應該做,就去做。儒家講「無所為而為」的學說:一個人不可能無為,因為每個人都有些他應該做的事。然而他做這些事都是「無所為」,因為做這些事的價值在於做的本身之內,而不是在於外在的結果之內。

GRIT: Why never giving up is a worthwhile goal

“A state of being in the moment is much more fruitful and rewarding than any mind continually striving for the results of tomorrow.” 不問成敗,只要曾努力過/Richard Scotford

[Mar. 30] The high school certificate exam in Chinese had this as the prompt: “A dream/dreams appear/s to be unrealistic but very meaningful” or “A dream/dreams appear/s to be very meaningful but in fact unrealistic.”


Banners and flyers: “Resist, do not submit”


[Dec 26, 2015] How do HK people deal with “learned helplessness”? 我灰到核爆?

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Havel’s Art of the Impossible:


Havel on the Power of the Powerless: http://vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=eseje&val=2_aj_eseje.html&typ=HTML


I watched “Ivory Tower” and learned that students of Cooper Union occupied the president’s office for 63 days in 2013. What the student leader said in the end is reminiscent of what HK students are thinking:

People would tell us “No, you can’t!” I say, “Yes, we can!”


And a post-90s Beijing student Liu Huanhuan says: “I was not born to adapt to the reality, I was born to change the world” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHmtY2zm7Wo


Filed under Umbrella Movement

2 responses to ““Art of the Impossible” — “No, you can’t” v “Yes, we can”

  1. Pingback: Fishball Protests–The Fateful Turn to Violence | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

  2. Pingback: Why the muted outrage? The danger of ‘demobilization’ | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

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