A Single Wheelchair Empowers the Disenfranchised
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 22, 2011
Summary: The KMT's list of nominees for legislator without portfolio has been well received. Members of the public are impressed with the candidates' qualifications and appreciate the KMT's willingness to share power. They feel the KMT's move will have a positive impact on the Blue Camp's election prospects. Quantitative change can indeed bring qualitative change. The KMT's list of nominees for legislator without portfolio enhanced the Blue Camp's image. More importantly, by drawing upon the talents of respected experts from all walks of society, it may broaden the government's policy-making horizons.
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The KMT's list of nominees for legislator without portfolio has been well received. Members of the public are impressed with the candidates' qualifications and appreciate the KMT's willingness to share power. They feel the KMT's move will have a positive impact on the Blue Camp's election prospects. Quantitative change can indeed bring qualitative change. The KMT's list of nominees for legislator without portfolio enhanced the Blue Camp's image. More importantly, by drawing upon the talents of respected experts from all walks of society, it may broaden the government's policy-making horizons. Evidence of this can be seen in increased subsidies for elderly farmers and eight major social welfare programs.
Yang Yu-hsin is number four on the Blue Camp's list of nominees for legislator without portfolio, Yang Yu-hsin, known as the "Angel of Patients with Rare Diseases," has urged the KMT to perform an about face. She wants to increase subsidies for elderly farmers. She also wants to increase subsidies for eight major social welfare programs. The Ma administration has gone along with her, partly to extricate itself from a political jam. The Democratic Progressive Party is ridiculing the KMT's about face as "me too policy." But actually the KMT's willingness to increase subsidies for eight major social welfare programs merely underscores how hypocritical and opportunistic the Green Camp has been pandering to the farm vote. It merely underscores the extent to which the Green Camp has neglected other disadvantaged segments of society. Subsidies for the physically and mentally handicapped have not been increased in seven years. Subsidies for low and middle-income seniors and children have not been increased in 15 years. Why did it never occur to the DPP to fight for their rights all that time? And why did the DPP single out elderly farmers?
The subsidies for elderly farmers controversy is a tangled mess. But Yang Yu-hsin viewed the issue from her wheelchair and saw it with perfect clarity. When people are old and sick, the only thing they can count on is a helping hand from the government. Subsidies for elderly farmers have been increased a mere 316 dollars. This increase may be inadequate. But elderly farmers are hardly alone. Every segment of society has handicapped patients and poor families. They too need government assistance. Yang Yu-hsin spoke from her wheelchair. She forced the ruling and opposition parties to shift the focus of their debate from 700,000 elderly farmers to 2.18 million disadvantaged members of society. She untangled the issue and showed the ruling party how to respond.
Consider the change. The KMT is willing to empower disenfranchised segments of society. It is recruiting respected experts and making them candidates for legislator without portfolio. On the one hand, it is improving its image within society. On the other hand, by empowering these experts, it is seeking improved solutions to the problems plaguing society. It is making subsidies for disenfranchised members of society more equitable. It is caring for previously neglected segments of society. What can the opposition DPP do but agree? How can it possibly object? Such an aggressive and novel policy development is rare on Taiwan, and suggests a new, virtuous circle on Taiwan's political stage.
Yang Yu-hsin described what it was like to sit in a wheelchair. She described how she constantly had to look up to dialogue with normal people. The day she was nominated, President Ma met with her and other social welfare groups. He made a point of bending down while talking to her. Yang Yu-hsin was deeply moved. To her way of thinking, the President was willing to lower himself to her level in order to hear what a spokesperson for disenfranchised members of society had to say. This was far from typical. From another perspective, Yang Yu-hsin made her debut as the first handicapped nominee for legislator without portfolio. She succeeded in changing social welfare policy. She benefitted over 2 million disadvantaged members of society. She elevated the debate about how these disadvantaged members of society are treated to a higher plane. The important point was not that the President lowered himself to her level. The important point was that society lowered itself to her level. Suddenly we viewed the world from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair. We adopted an all too rare attitude of humility towards the more vulnerable members of society.
One point in particular deserves mention. The champions of the disadvantaged nominated by the KMT are not your usual political activist types. They are salt of the earth workers from the grass roots. The KMT's "low political coloration" approach should have a positive effect on policy-making and legislation on Taiwan. Take Yang Yu-hsin for example. She may be the Secretary General for the Taiwan Association for Disadvantaged Patients. But her compassion is not confined to those afflicted with rare diseases. She has spoken out for elderly farmers, middle and low income individuals, in addition to the handicapped. In other words, she may be a spokesperson for certain disadvantaged social groups, but she shows no bias toward any particular organization or any particular party, merely because they nominated her. Given Yang Yu-hsin's ranking among the nominees, she is certain to become one of the new legislators without portfolio. She is someone who can transcend Blue vs. Green political struggle. The legislature needs new exemplars. She can help rid Taiwan of vicious political struggles between the ruling and opposition parties.
People who have been in politics most of their lives unwittingly fall victim to behavioral inertia. Even members of the general public are vulnerable. They find it impossible to escape their mental ruts. Subsidies for elderly farmers and subsidies for eight major social welfare programs have been increased. Yang Yu-hsin has helped the Ma administration cut this Gordian Knot. One could say that a single wheelchair has changed the way people view the problem. Lowering oneself to another person's level can help eliminate blind spots, and enable one to see better. If a legislator without portfolio can create a "win/win/win" situation for Taiwan, that will be something we can truly look forward to.
2011.11.22 02:40 am