Riding the Whirlwind of New Democracy
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 28, 2014
Executive Summary: The outcome of the election remains uncertain. Politicians may still be obsessed with consolidating their blue or green support base, and with Taiwan's northern, central, or southern turf wars. But the common people are now the heart of the new democratic society. The promise that "Tomorrow will be better" will no longer be the monopoly wielded by traditional political authorities. Visionary leaders had better pay attention to this trend. They are riding the whirlwind of the new democracy. They have been given a chance to help Taiwan stand up.
Full Text Below:
Tomorrow is election day. The candidates’ campaigns have reached their last leg. This year’s nine in one elections involved broad segments of society. Local neighborhoods mobilized and participated. The election was characterized as a "skirmish before the 2016 presidential election." The appearance of all sorts of phenomenon during the election hinted at the bigger picture. A “new democracy” with the common man as its center debuted. Younger voices made themselves heard. Internet commentary and information played a new role.
Some people are skeptical about these developments. They may think "water can float a boat, but it can also sink it." In fact, this is one side of a two-sided coin. On the one hand, the convenience and openness of the Internet has given birth to a new democratic movement, one that has become a global trend. Politicians and decision-makers have not overlooked the phenomenon. On the other hand, cyberspace ethics remains primitive and undeveloped. Commentary on persons and issues is often distorted or exaggerated. Netizens have yet to exercise moderation or ensure balance.
We have all gotten an earful about "democracy" in recent years. Taiwan has undergone many ordeals. Democratization is perhaps a sign of progress. Universal suffrage is at its core. Today people regard "one man, one vote" as right and proper. In theory this means equal rights. But the degree to which it has been implement remains in dispute. For example, certain demographics are politically apathetic. Certain underprivileged groups may lack access to information due to their economic circumstances. These silent constituents must not be taken for granted. The feasibility and necessity of absentee balloting remains a bone of contention. The same holds true for voting age restrictions on young people. All affect the right to political participation. During the recent campaign, President Ma said a majority of the public does not support the right of 18 year olds to vote. But even KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung petitioned for the right of 18 year olds to vote. Clearly democratization has shifted the boundaries of political participation and political constituencies. Younger voters are merely a tiny part of the equation.
Democratization in politics has been going on for some time. Technological revolution has imperceptibly brought about “economic democratization," as well as the democratization of everyday life. It has been quietly influencing and changing the conduct of ordinary people. Much attention has been devoted to the problem of Internet speech during this election. The chaos generated warrants concern. Electoral or judicial authorities should clarify the rules. On the other hand, Internet speech has challenged the mainstream media. This is increasingly apparent. Everyone with a PC or a cellphone can now address the public. Recognized print or TV pundits no longer enjoy a media monopoly.
Take the recent "imperial subjects" controversy for example. Hau Pe-tsun later explained that the content of his talk was taken from Wikipedia. If it was in error, he was willing to apologize. Wen-Je Ko then quipped, "Congratulations. Uncle Hao has become a netizen." Set aside ideological differences for the moment. This incident shows the importance of orderly management of the Internet. This is an issue that we must continue to focus on in the future.
The global economy has been weak in recent years. Many regimes have been expressing concern for the "economics of the common man." In fact, technological and market forces popularized and democratized the economy long ago. For example Mainland China has its "Taobao." Who knew when it was established only eleven years ago, how many households it would influence, including those on Taiwan? It did more than turn Alibaba into a massive conglomerate. It is now known as "the world's greatest bazaar." Its business model connects self-employed sellers to distant buyers. People separated by physical distance and social differences can meet in cyberspace and complete their transactions. This interactive model includes the trendy concept of social networking. All these center on links between ordinary people. Naturally the effect will be to spread democratization. How can a traditional politician or authority possibly intervene?
Other examples of the democratization of economic life, They include Sweden’s IKEA, the world’s leading retail furniture manufacturer. Its founder began selling matches in the village when he was only five. He founded the company when he was only 17. The brand is rooted in the Swedish concept of a "People's House." It stresses "democratic design" principles. Another example harks from Japan. In recent years, Softbank president Sun Cheng-yi and clothing company UNIQLO founder Tadashi Yanai have taken turns as Japan’s wealthiest man. This demonstrates the power of today's technology and the popularization of the economics of the common man.
The outcome of the election remains uncertain. Politicians may still be obsessed with consolidating their blue or green support base, and with Taiwan's northern, central, or southern turf wars. But the common people are now the heart of the new democratic society. The promise that "Tomorrow will be better" will no longer be the monopoly wielded by traditional political authorities. Visionary leaders had better pay attention to this trend. They are riding the whirlwind of the new democracy. They have been given a chance to help Taiwan stand up.
2014.11.28 02:13 am