Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Communication, not Confrontation: Reclaiming Our Humanity

Communication, not Confrontation: Reclaiming Our Humanity
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 6, 2007

Nobody who harbors any expectations about freedom and democracy can possibly be satisfied with the state of Taiwan's politics. Leave aside problems of corruption, incompetence, even systemic defects. The most distressing fact is that politicians care only about tooting their own horns, and nothing about listening to other people or even their own consciences. The channels of communication between the ruling regime and the political opposition are blocked. No one listens to the public. Such is politics on Taiwan, where people have lost their humanity.

The flames of Taiwan's politics burn red hot. Politicians' hearts, by contrast, remain as cold as ice. Democracy has become a meaningless label unworthy of the name. Declarations of "Love for Taiwan" have become rote incantations. This did not happen overnight. It is the result of long years of political and social neglect. A minority of politicians have destroyed the simple honesty of Taiwan's rustic culture, but members of the Great Silent Majority merely sit and watch as they are turned into sacrificial offerings. How else is one to explain what is happening?

In early 2004, on the eve of the battle for the presidency, this paper introduced a column called "Relativity." It tried to provide a breath of fresh air in the smoke-filled room of politics. It tried to help readers regain some measure of their humanity. People from all walks of life must cease defining themselves by their occupations, and speak to each other as members of a family, regardless of how little they might know each other. Only when they are indifferent to fame or gain, only when it no longer matters if their comments are witty or pungent, fluent or hesitant, can they touch peoples' hearts. Only then can they experience the warmth that the political realm on Taiwan can never provide. Relativity began by interviewing family members, and went on to interview classmates, teachers, students, and friends. Its goal was to create space for deeper human interaction.

These dialogs between characters offered two pleasures. First, these dialogs offered slices of life one could chew over. Second, many touching scenes do not involve words, but glances that elicit a smile and understanding. Often snatches of dialog contain great emotional depth. What is indispensable is one's humanity. Language is merely one of many forms of communication. Sometimes views stated too plainly come across as calculated, excessive, or superficial.

Politics on Taiwan has been just the opposite. Political tests of strength have become verbal jousts. Humanity has been tossed aside. Dynamic factors such as space and time, cause and effect, have all been milked dry. This is what is so absurd about politics on Taiwan. The ruling regime and opposition parties exchange rhetorical volleys at the drop of a hat, on the assumption that those demonstrating superior rhetoric are the most qualified to rule the nation. Based on such logic, citizens of the ROC have been played for fools by opportunistic politicians spouting endless streams of nonsense.

Without dialog, there is no politics. Without dissent, there is no democracy. Without humanity, politics is but an empty stage, or worse, an execution ground. Over the past several years, Taiwan's politics have brought people more suffering than happiness. That is why "affluence" still gets peddled on campaign sound trucks.

Consider how much Taiwan has lost in recent years. People no longer talk of community or social harmony. The ruling regime no longer talks of reducing prejudice. The ruling and opposition parties no longer talk at all. The island has been divided geographically into north and south, and ideologically into blue and green. As long as the knife of ethnic bigotry remains stuck in the back of Taiwan's society, how can anyone speak of community and nationhood? No matter how high prices climb, they have nothing to do with the ruling regime. People live their lives day by day, as if they were on death row.

Fortunately, even though the political fissures are deeper than ever, the people are learning to heal their own wounds. We no longer see friends and family members being torn apart by political differences. More and more people are refusing to become pawns of the politicians. Society is reclaiming its humanity. But awareness is not enough. The public must transform its awareness into a social movement. Only then can they force politicians to behave like human beings. Only then can they reclaim the core values and concerns that have disappeared from Taiwan's political stage.

Relativity ceases publication today. Its motto was: "From another angle. From another perspective." Each of us values things differently. Dialog can promote mutual understanding by allowing us to see the world through others' eyes. We can broaden our own horizons while helping others discover who we are. The keywords are "humanity" and "understanding." No matter how shrewd a debater a politician might be, if he lacks humanity and understanding, he can never be anything but a tyrant who abuses state power.

The curtain has rung down on Relativity. We now await the debut of social dialog.

2007.11.06 03:36 am



二○○ 四年初,在總統大選前夕的惡戰時刻,本報推出了「相對論」專欄,即希望在漫天政治煙塵中打開一個不同的呼吸空間,幫讀者拾回一些人性的感覺。當各界人物褪去其社會角色,還原為「家人」的身分展開對話,無論親密或恬淡、慧黠或辛辣、暢快或欲言又止,都能喚起人們內心深沉的共鳴,那是台灣公共領域無力再提供的溫暖。相對論後來的訪談對象,從「親人」拓展到同學、師生與知己,目的也在打開更深廣的人性空間。








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