Why Does the Public on Taiwan Feel So Lost?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
August 20, 2013
Summary: Political and social differences on Taiwan have intensified. Perhaps members of the public should begin with themselves. They should avoid negative language that provokes a negative response. They should minimize differences with their political enemies. They should restore such values as democracy, freedom, and humanity. They must attempt to transcend Blue vs. Green. They must attempt to recover, bit by bit, the middle ground. They must not permit themselves to become mire in collective cynicism and self-pity. That is a lesson the preceding wave of democratization taught us.
Full text below:
Recently UDN TV interviewed Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai. Lung compared today's society to society a decade ago, when she was Chief of the Taipei City Bureau of Culture. She said public trust in government has nearly evaporated. She said the public on Taiwan is much less confident than it was 15 years ago.
We hardly need Lung Ying-tai to remind us. Everyone knows public trust in government has evaporated. Everyone knows we have lost faith in ourselves. These are very real and serious problems. Chart them on a graph. Over the next few years at least, the trend lines will continue to decline. Lung Ying-tai most laments the former. She laments the fact that "Officials are finding it hard to survive." But the latter is far more troubling. The public fears that no solution can be found for its long-term feeling of loss.
The self-deprecating witticism, "Officials are finding it hard to survive" is something officials have been repeating ever since democratization. The government has lost its authority. Officials have failed to keep up with the times. They have failed to change their attitude toward those they serve. Naturally they are finding it hard to win people's trust. From the peoples' perspective, democratization has made them "masters in their own home." It has made them more self-confident. It has made them less afraid to complain to officialdom. It has provided them with more opportunities to express defiance. The result however, has not been improved government efficiency. It has not been better solutions to practical problems. Such a democracy is an illusion. How can people not be disappointed. How can they not feel a sense of loss? How can they not become cynics?
Public loss of confidence in Taiwan, involves three factors. One. A loss of pride in our democracy. In 2000, ruling party change was risky business. People had high hopes for the new political order. People were proud of the fact that the ROC was the forerunner of democracy in Chinese society. Unfortunately this vision was shattered by eight years of DPP policy chaos. Chen Shui-bian family corruption was an even greater betrayal. Together, they shattered the twin myths of democratization and nativization.
Two. The economy has declined. Taiwan had an opportunity to ride the Mainland's coat tails to new economic growth and opportunity. Lee Teng-hui's "avoid haste, exercise patience" policy, and Chen Shui-bian's Closed Door Policy caused Taiwan to miss out. A second ruling party change under Ma Ying-jeou improved cross-Strait relations, but could not make up the lost economic momentum. This includes the 12 i-Taiwan Projects and the four year 500 billion public works program. These involved huge investments of funds, but failed to increase production or employment. This year, economic growth, youth unemployment, pensions, welfare, and other fundamentals, deteriorated. Neighboring countries on the other hand, continued to prosper. People were predictably frustrated.
Three. Any social consensus or sense of shared values has been lost. Under DPP rule, struggles over reunification vs. independence intensified. They became struggles between Blue and Green. Political party struggles intensified political differences within society. People on Taiwan no longer share a common language or common values. Nothing in today's society escapes the Blue vs. Green litmus test. It determines the truth or falsity of everything. This irrational Blue vs. Green conflict has expanded into every corner of society. Taiwan once had a middle ground, in academia, in civil society, and in religion. Now neutral parties remain silent in order to avoid being dragged into the conflict. Opportunists meanwhile, jump on the bandwagon and choose sides. There is no longer any middle ground. Society has lost its sense of proportion. It has lost any respect for democracy, freedom, the rule of law, professionalism, and reason it might have once had.
People on Taiwan today feel a sense of loss. They know that the ROC is sliding downhill. They know that feel-good sentiments cannot hide the truth. They see no force that will slow the ROC's descent into oblivion. Will the Ma administration suddenly wake up and get its act together? Will the next ruling party change made any difference? Will protesters once again have to take to the streets?
Wang Chien-hsuan recently thundered, "The Control Yuan may as well close up shop!" But that was irrational. High officials cannot solve our problems. But when they vent their emotions this way, they merely deepen public cynicism. Government officials must promote public confidence. The public on Taiwan has lost confidence in itself. It is waiting for the government to offer encouragment.
Political and social differences on Taiwan have intensified. One cannot expect people to believe that some high official can address this feeling of impotence. Perhaps members of the public should begin with themselves. They should avoid negative language that provokes a negative response. They should minimize differences with their political enemies. They should restore such values as democracy, freedom, and humanity. They must attempt to transcend Blue vs. Green. They must attempt to recover, bit by bit, the middle ground. They must not permit themselves to become mire in collective cynicism and self-pity. That is a lesson the preceding wave of democratization taught us.
2013.08.20 02:14 am