Monday, December 17, 2007

Reclaiming a Diverse, Open, and Tolerant Taiwan

Reclaiming a Diverse, Open, and Tolerant Taiwan
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 17, 2007

In order to discern Taiwan's future and promote Taiwan's social and economic development, the China Times Cultural and Educational Foundation convened a two-day long, closed-door seminar for over a dozen scholars and experts from the humanities and social sciences. These scholars and experts asked a wide range of hard questions about Taiwan's political, cultural, economic, and environmental trends. At a moment when election banners have blotted out the sky, some might consider the timing of such questions inopportune. But if the people on Taiwan are to extricate themselves from their current plight, asking such questions is essential.

The people on Taiwan cannot stop the world because they want to get off. They cannot ignore the rapid transformation of the Chinese mainland and East Asia. Taiwan's declining competitiveness and escalating economic polarization is the direct result of this regional and international transformation. Taiwan's society must not be subjected to continual divisions. The collective experiences and shared memories of different generations and different community groups represent Taiwan's precious diversity. They must not be treated as means of dividing people at election time. Furthermore, the moral accountability of a civil society established by democratic reforms must not be trampled under foot by a handful of politicians. These issues directly affect Taiwan's destiny. Yet consideration of such issues is grossly neglected on today's Taiwan.

Many concepts must be restored to their original meanings. Transitional Justice, for example, has been milked for all it is worth on Taiwan. Transitional Justice originally meant "truth and reconciliation." It meant uncovering the truth about the past in order to promote reconciliation in the present, including the truth about the 228 Incident, the White Terror, "Nativization," and the legacy of the Two Chiangs. Transitional Justice was once a serious issue. But a handful of politicians have debased it by turning it into a rationalization for exacting revenge or winning votes. Transitional justice has not been realized. It has been perverted.

With the lifting of martial law and media controls, with the amending of the constitution and the passage of political reforms, democracy on Taiwan earned high marks for safeguarding human rights and upholding the rule of law. But when the time came for democracy to pass its severest test -- regime change -- the new regime's flagrantly anti-democratic proclivities tendencies cast a pall over the landscape. Ominous hints that the new regime might reimpose martial law, "postpone" regular elections, replace duly elected civilian leaders with military commanders, and resort to dirty tricks, filled the air and occupied peoples' thoughts. The new regime incited "ethnic" opposition (more precisely, communal strife), undermined constitutional rule, ignored demands for moral accountability, demonstrated its contempt for due process, pigeonholed citizens according to partisan labels, resorted to populist demagoguery, used coarse language, filling many with dread and leaving them dubious about the viability of Taiwan's democracy.

What role should intellectuals fulfill during such a process? Many intellectuals who championed new thinking during martial law, who midwifed the new political order, have fallen strangely silent and lost all desire to criticize the Nouvelle Regime. As a result, Taiwan's "lively, thriving, vibrant" democracy no longer has any effective checks and balances. Many intellectuals have been bought off and become part of the ruling nomenklatura. Others cannot bring themselves to criticize their erstwhile comrades. The vanishingly small minority that dares to criticize, is subjected to McCarthyite smears. As a result, just when society most desperately needs intellectuals with the courage to speak truth to power, they are conspicuous by their absence. Will intellectuals on Taiwan ever redeem themselves? Will they ever resume their role as society's conscience? That is an excellent question.

Today, election considerations trump all else. Everything we see and hear is motivated by short term expediency. Inciting polarization between "us" and "them" wins votes. Shouting abuses replaces rational debate. Politicians and pundits monopolize the public fora. Concern for the larger historical context, for a global outlook, for the universal values of truth and justice, have all been relegated to the margins. This is what ails Taiwan.

Two days is hardly enough time to find answers for so many perplexing problems, or to arrive at any firm conclusions. But no matter how complex or controversial the issue, rational dialog and mutual respect are essential. A democratic, enduring, open, diverse, and tolerant Taiwan must not remain a hollow dream. It must become an achievable goal.

中國時報  2007.12.17

  為了替台灣下一階段永續經營與社會發展思索方向,時報文教基金會日前特別邀集十數位來自人文、社會科學相關領域的學者專家,閉門舉行為期兩天的研討會,就 台灣當前的政治、經濟、文化、環境等所爭議與糾葛的若干議題,進行深層的反省與廣泛的對話,並嘗試梳理出若干出路。值此選舉喧囂鋪天蓋地的時刻,重拾對這 些問題的關注或許有些不合時宜,但我們始終認為,要讓台灣走出困局,讓相關課題重回公共討論的平台,恐怕是必要踏出的一步。

 要知道,當 下的台灣不可能自外於全球化的浪潮,也不可能完全忽視東亞與中國正在進行的劇烈變革,畢竟台灣的競爭力與社會分配的兩極化,正是與這個外環境的變革糾纏在 一起;同樣的,當下的台灣社會也實在不能再被持續的切割與對立,畢竟不同世代或族群的認同或記憶,該是象徵台灣多樣與多元的珍貴資產,不是在選舉操作中不 斷被用來為撕扯的工具;更有甚者,藉由民主轉型所辛勤打造出的公民社會與責任倫理,實在不能再讓少數政客的操弄與踐踏,就輕易的給摧毀掉了。這些林林總總 的課題,其實都與台灣未來的命運息息相關,但圍繞這些問題的思考與對話,卻在當下的台灣被嚴重忽略。

 我們發現,許多議題在經過對話後, 逐漸就能夠還原其真義。以最近在台灣被過度消費的「轉型正義」為例,在最早被提出時原本旨在正面看待台灣的歷史過往,包括二二八、白色恐怖、本土化、兩蔣 評價等在內,期盼能藉以重建台灣社會的和解與包容,本是具有相當嚴肅時代意義的概念,然而這組理念在被部分政治人物收編為口號之後,很快的就淪為操作政治 報復的廉價修辭,甚至是算計選票多寡的工具。結果「轉型正義」的實踐不僅未見落實,原始的精神卻遭嚴重扭曲與摧毀。

 同樣的,台灣在歷經 解嚴、開放黨禁報禁、修憲等改革進程後,原本在民主、法治、人權保障的成就上已經享有極高的評價,卻在跨過民主化進程最關鍵的門檻│ 政黨輪替後開始面臨嚴酷考驗,包括國族認同的紛歧、憲政體制的紊亂、責任倫理的淪喪、程序正義的破壞、黨派識別的標籤、民粹動員的操作、政治語言的粗 鄙……等都讓許多人對台灣的民主現狀感到不滿,甚至是彌漫著焦慮與畏懼,若干明顯反民主的陰影,如戒嚴、延選、軍管、操作奧步等傳言,已經開始飄浮在台灣 的輿論氛圍中,怎麼重拾台灣社會對民主基本理念的信守,恐怕已是刻不容緩。

 當然在這個過程中,知識分子究竟該扮演怎樣的角色,也值得進 一步的思索。不諱言說,不少原本在戒嚴期間積極扮演觀念啟蒙、改革催生甚至行動參與的知識分子,很弔詭的在政黨輪替後陸續陷入進退維谷的境地,逐漸喪失對 既有體制的批判與制衡能量,甚至根本選擇噤聲不語。結果這股在台灣原本最蓬勃的批判力量,竟然在政黨輪替後逐漸沉寂,導致這種情境的因素有多端,有的是被 收編成為體制內的一部分、有的則是礙於昔日情誼不忍苛責,少數還敢於堅持批判者則被扣上各種帽子,結果在當下最需要知識分子站出來匡正時弊的亂局中,這股 力量卻缺席了。而台灣知識分子究竟該怎麼重拾這股批判力量,絕對是需要嚴肅對待的課題。

 值此選舉考量凌駕一切的時代氛圍中,彌漫於社會 視聽空間的議題,舉目所見皆短線操作、區分敵我、擴大對立、情緒渲染的語言,罵街式叫囂取代了理性的對話,政客與媒體名嘴壟斷了輿論的發言位置,屬於更高 層次的議題,例如對全球化視野之觀照、對大歷史意識的反省、對普世價值的信守、對公義理念追尋等,都被推擠到邊緣的位置上,這種輕忽的本身或許也是台灣的 所面臨的危機之一。


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