Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From Political Posturing to Problem Solving

From Political Posturing to Problem Solving
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 8, 2012

Summary: Taiwan's democracy is long past the stage of slaying dragons. If politics is to progress, we must get off our high horse. We must use everyday wisdom to solve our problems. The time for political posturing is past. The time for problem solving is here.

Full Text below:

The National Communications Commission (NCC) includes seven commissioners. Three of them hold dissenting views on certain media acquisitions, and have demanded to be recused. Among the other four members, two are under mounting pressure to resign. This has prevented the commission from functioning normally. The NCC is the competent authority for the communications industry. Problems like these have compromised NCC operations. The impact on the quality of the television media on Taiwan can easily be imagined.

The problem is not that individual commission members cannot agree on how to review individual cases. The problem is that a seven member independent commission cannot reach a joint resolution simply by following the law.  Instead, its members play procedural games. They engage in obstructionism and procrastination. This problem is not unique to the NCC. Politics on Taiwan is all about Blue vs. Green. This is now "normal." People are often forced to choose sides. They are forced to declare who they are and where they stand. Two years ago, executives of the Taiwan Broadcasting System found themselves in a stand off. They filed suit against one other. Several days ago, a member of the Executive Yuan Technical Advisory Group for US Beef Imports threatened to quit. These are all results of this political climate.

Political posturing is now the rage. That means rational debate is out of fashion. The reason is the emphasis on "taking a stand." Political posturing is a way to avoid rational debate, even crush dissent. Dissenting views can no longer be expressed. Ultimately it becomes impossible to arrive at rational solutions.

Worst of all, the poseur sees himself as holier than thou. He reduces complex issues to simplistic declarations of "with us" or "against us." This grossly oversimplifies issues. This makes it impossible to contemplate issues in greater depth and breadth. It is akin to demanding true or false answers when issues require multiple choice answers or essay style answers. It prevents clear thinking. It precludes correct answers. In terms of procedure, it contradicts the spirit of democracy. In terms of results, it impedes rational decision making,

Consider the Clenbuterol controversy. Choosing to "defend the health of the nation" is of course the safest short cut to the moral high ground. If one wishes to adopt a zero tolerance policy, then the matter can simply be finalized by the politicians. Why invite experts to provide reasoned advice? Consider media acquisitions. Three members of the commission dissented. They could have raised objections. Instead, they refused to review the case. They blamed the other four members. Meanwhile, they evaded responsibility. Was this fair to the other four members? An independent commission consisting of only seven members could not reach a consensus. Instead, members rushed to apply labels to each other. The political climate is positively McCarthyite. Under these circumstances, expecting 23 million people to unite behind a "Taiwan consensus" is a pipe dream.

The result should be obvious to all. In recent years, rational discussion on Taiwan has become impossible. We have also experienced a massive brain drain. We no longer have  public-minded intellectuals and fair-minded experts and scholars. Make no mistake. The experts and scholars have not defected to the Blue and Green camps. Rather the political climate on Taiwan has degenerated into one in which "you are either with us, or against us." Opinion leaders are tarred with a broad brush. Anyone who ever sided with the Blue Camp on any issue, is immediately tarred as an "apologist for the Blue Camp" by the Green Camp. He is immediately shunned as a pariah. And vice versa. Over time, every expert and scholar has been indelibly tarred with a broad brush. All they can do after that is watch from the sidelines, and hope they are not dragged into the mosh pit. Under these circumstances, the public no longer knows who is objective and neutral. Whenever a major dispute arises, the only thing they have left is the empty promises of populist demagogues.

Taiwan has marched down the path of democracy for over 20 years. It has now fallen into this "if you're not Green then you're Blue" quagmire, This is a major setback for democracy. The public must no longer be swayed by populist demagogues who make pious appeals to sentimentality. Otherwise our once proud civil society will be doomed to failure. Scan the comments section at any Internet news site. It will be inundated, to an alarming degree, with extremist bigotry, arrogant presumption, and ignorant ranting. Is this rage and emotionalism what our political tradition has bequeathed the new generation of Netizens? If so, how can Taiwan expect a better tomorrow?

To re-establish a climate necessary for rational debate is not that difficult. We need merely eschew political posturing. We need merely get back on track. We need merely call a spade a spade. We need merely reclaim our civil society. We will then be close to our goal. We have over 20 years of experience with democracy. We know Rome was not built in a day. If the problems at hand have no perfect solutions, then we must tackle them one at a time. We need time to solve our problems. As long as today is a little better than yesterday, that is progress. That is surely better than adopting a holier than thou attitude. Such an attitude merely makes progress even more difficult.

Taiwan's democracy is long past the stage of slaying dragons. If politics is to progress, we must get off our high horse. We must use everyday wisdom to solve our problems. The time for political posturing is past. The time for problem solving is here.

2012.05.08 02:48 am











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